Is coal going the way of the dinosaurs?

Implosion and dis-mantling of the coal-powered Navajo Generating Station in December 2020. Photo credit: Adrian Herder/Tó Nizhóní Ání In the midst of the most bitter election battle ever, you might not have noticed a really significant news item. On December 18, 2020, the stacks at the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) were imploded as part of the dis-mantling of what once was one of the largest…


If Science Eludes Us, So Does Democracy: 2021 version!

If Science Eludes Us, So Does Democracy Thirty-four years ago, I wrote an op-ed with the same title as this one.  At the time, I was a grad student at UW.   This article was published in the Seattle Times on 8/17/1986. You can click here to see my old and yellowed copy of this. sci_eludes_1986-1Download Or if you are a Times subscriber, you…


Did climate change contribute to the recent (2020) wildfires in the Western U.S.?

The New York Times (NYT) published an excellent story today about the massive 2020 fires on the West Coast. You can read the story here. This article does a great job of documenting the dramatic rise in fires in the western states. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they quoted me in the story…. A recent story in the Seattle Times documents that…


Update on MERV-13 and masks for wildfire smoke

First, my heart goes out to so many people who have lost their homes or loved ones during this crazy wildfire season. It’s so hard to predict when a fire will blow and get out of control. For this reason, anyone who lives in the West really needs to be prepared for this type of disaster at any time. And climate change is…


Out, out damn smoke!

Starting in mid-August, smoke was affecting a large chunk of the country.  There are hundreds of fires burning right now, with large fires being reported in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Currently the National Interagency Fire Center ( is reporting 4.7 million acres burned as of 9/8/2020 for wildland fires, so it looks like 2020 is on…


It’s time to announce our new cartoon caption contest..

I am trying to keep these posts lively and make them fun and interesting. So with Arielle’s help we are doing some new original cartoons. Sometimes we have the caption, sometimes, just the idea and we need your help. So here is the cartoon that goes with this week’s post on smoke and indoor air quality: What is he saying?    Are they puzzled…

Copyright Joel Pett


Hi and thanks for your interest in I started this blog in August 2020 with the goal to help the non-scientific public understand science, what it is, and why it’s important. When I thought about this, I asked myself a simple question: does the world need another blog?! I decided the answer was yes because I see so much mis-understanding and mis-use…

Read more about the article Baby it’s hot out… and it’s gonna get hotter if we don’t do something about it!
Temperature map for August 16th, 2020. Courtesy of Weather Underground (

Baby it’s hot out… and it’s gonna get hotter if we don’t do something about it!

As I write this blog today (8/16/2020, Seattle, WA), the weather app on my phone is telling me it's 98°F outside. The U.S. weather service is saying 95°F.  Either way, that’s pretty damn warm. I start to melt when the temps get into the 80s! But I suppose I shouldn’t complain. All across the west, we are seeing temperatures maxing out in the high 90s and…


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