WXXI AM News

Nathan Rott

The forests of today will not be the forests of tomorrow.

Rising temperatures, deforestation, development and climate-induced disasters are transforming the very makeup of Earth's forests, new research published in the journal Science finds.

Older, bigger trees — stalwarts in their respective ecosystems — are being lost at an alarming rate, making the planet's collective forests shorter and younger.

As health officials across the country try to slow the coronavirus pandemic, a growing body of evidence and research suggests the virus may have been silently spreading in different parts of the country far earlier than initially believed and officially reported.

It's a situation nobody wants to imagine: a major earthquake, flood, fire or other natural disaster strikes while the U.S. is grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Severe weather season, flooding — those things don't stop because we're responding to COVID-19," says Joyce Flinn, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Nestled in the mountains of eastern Australia are fragments of an ancient world. Damp, dark and lush, they are some of the oldest ecosystems on Earth: temperate rainforests that have persisted since the days of supercontinents and dinosaurs.

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia — and the hundreds of rare species that call them home — are the ultimate survivors, clinging to wet, wild patches of a continent that's increasingly developed and dry.

But even these forests could not escape the country's unprecedented fire season unscathed.

California has reached a deal with several financial institutions, including four of the country's five largest banks, to provide relief to homeowners affected by the coronavirus by suspending foreclosures and delaying mortgage payments, the governor announced Wednesday.

The news comes as unemployment claims in the state are soaring.

More than one million residents have filed for unemployment insurance since March 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom says, as workers continue to struggle with job losses and reduced hours, as the state looks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The nation's most-populated state is telling its residents to stay home except for essential travel. California Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement Thursday night, saying that more than half of the state's 40 million residents could become infected by the coronavirus if efforts aren't taken to slow its spread.

The order is the strongest statewide restriction in the country, but it exempts essential travel to grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations and will rely heavily on "social pressure" for enforcement, Newsom says.

Updated on March 17 at 9:02 p.m. ET

In the back corner of a burned lot in Australia's fire-ravaged South Coast stands a torched tree. It's uppermost branches reach into a cloudless sky, brittle and bare. Against its charred trunk rests half-burned rubble, remains from the gift shop it used to shade.

But that's not where local resident Claire Polach is pointing. She gestures to the middle part of the tree, where lime green leaves sprout from blackened bark, as if the tree is wearing a shaggy sweater.

A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by nearly two dozen young people aimed at forcing the federal government to take bolder action on climate change, saying the courts were not the appropriate place to address the issue.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Friday the young plaintiffs had "made a compelling case that action is needed," but they did not have legal standing to bring the case.

Smoke from the ongoing firestorm in Australia is obscuring skies halfway around the world. Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show a haze from the deadly fires spreading over South America. The swirling plume is nearly the size of the continental United States.

All fires emit smoke — a combination of thousands of compounds, including climate-warming greenhouse gases. But the sheer scale of the emissions, and the severity of the fires causing them, are concerning climate scientists around the world.

On "good" bad days, the shells lie open at the bottom of the river, shimmering in the refracted sunlight. Their insides, pearl white and picked clean of flesh, flicker against the dark riverbed like a beacon, alerting the world above to a problem below.

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