Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KPLU Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KPLU’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices and instructs yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

What is worse: blocking train traffic and the cost it causes to the public good?  Or the effects of climate change, globally and locally?

Those are two issues at the heart of a jury trial taking place in Lynnwood this week – in what is being called a historic case about climate justice.

A group of activists who  have branded themselves “The Delta 5” are in court this week, trying to explain their actions. 

Tim Durkan Photography

What do mid-winter doldrums in western Washington, gunky skies east of us and the extremely wet weather to the south have in common?

All are connected to the very strong El Niño that still reigns over the weather systems that are dousing California and keeping skies over the Cascadia region mostly dry and “very boring” according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. 

Blame El Niño

WSDOT / FLICKR

Environmental groups say there’s really just one priority as lawmakers head back to the to the legislature in Olympia next week: no rollbacks. 

Every legislative session, the broad spectrum of green-minded groups in the state gets together to discuss their main issues and work toward achieving them.

Clifford Traisman is a lobbyist with Washington Conservation Voters and a spokesman for the Environmental Council that sets the priorities. For the early session this year, he says it’s pretty simple. They just don’t want things they’ve accomplished to be undone.

Rick Bowmer / AP

The state Department of Agriculture says last year’s drought will cost farmers and ranchers dearly. The initial assessment of losses to the industry due to water shortages for 2015 is $336 million.

The agency has issued a report that will be updated exactly one year from its initial release date, which was on the last day of 2015. 

AP Images

With recent memories of freezing temps, snowy passes, high winds, flooding and, maybe even a few popsicle toes, it might take a bit of mental stretching to recall the big weather story of 2015. But there’s no question in KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass’s mind that warmer than normal conditions tell it all.

“The key element last year was above-normal temperatures. The winter was warm; the spring was warm, and the summer was warm,” Mass says.

Karelian bear dogs Tuffy, left, and Mishka get ready to run as they're held back by state wildlife biologists Rocky Spencer, right, and Rich Beausoleil during a bear-chasing training session in 2004 at Lake Wenatchee State Park, near Leavenworth, WA.
Elaine Thompson / AP Images

What do drinking water and wildlife have in common? Both benefit from public land set aside by Seattle Public Utilities. You can learn more about all kinds of critters in the Cedar River Watershed by heading to the edge of the protected land in North Bend.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Energy efficiency and water conservation are important factors in keeping rental housing affordable. That’s the idea behind a new program launched in Seattle that’s demonstrating the concept nationwide, with an emphasis on multi-family buildings in high-cost urban areas.

NASA / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Perhaps you remember the long-term forecasts from a while back. Several months ago the rumors started. Then in October, the national weather forecasters at NOAA confirmed their prediction for a very strong El Niño in 2015-16.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

King County’s environmental lab is retiring an old research vessel and getting a new one. The replacement boat is a $1.9 million-dollar custom-designed aluminum catamaran that will be faster and more efficient than the old vessel, Liberty.

The Liberty will remain in service through this spring from its home on a pier in Seattle's canal. It has been a workplace for environmental scientists since it first purchased 38 years ago.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Expect a brief respite on Friday and intermittent breaks this weekend from the extremely wet weather that has doused the Puget Sound region all week.

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says a front is moving through and the lowlands will see showers but not extreme rain. It’s a different story in the mountains, however. Mass says there could be as much as six inches of new snow on Friday, continuing a trend that’s brought huge amounts of the white stuff to the passes and ski areas over the past several days.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s a stretch goal, but it’s the right thing to do. That was the sentiment at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as Alaska Airlines and Boeing joined the Port of Seattle in announcing an ambitious plan for the use of aviation biofuels. 

Alaska Air and Boeing have been working with the port on more sustainable jet fuels for years. In 2011 they demonstrated capability to make aviation biofuels from used cooking oil, with enough to power 75 test flights.  

Ted S. Warren / AP

Keep that rain gear handy and brace yourselves for lots of windy skies over this weekend. The clear and stable air Friday morning is expected to be just a brief respite before the weather revs up again this weekend – though the major flooding appears to be over for now.

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says another big wind storm is headed our way. It won’t be nearly as wet as we’ve experienced in the past week, but the normal stormy weather pattern for this time of year is certainly in place. Beware of mudslides on some area roads as the moisture recedes.

Christophe Ena / AP

As the U.N.’s climate talks wrap up in Paris, protestors here are preparing for a noisy and likely very wet march through downtown Seattle on Saturday. A coalition of groups is pushing for swifter action to curb carbon pollution.   

“It is a critical moment in our time because this year is the last year we really have to do something meaningful to really change climate chaos," said Zarna Joshi.

Gerrit Vyn Photography

Seattle photographer Gerrit Vyn travels the world to capture images of wildlife – and above all, birds. He says they’re powerful indicators of environmental health. He aims to get people to connect with them as individuals, so that we care and want to preserve their habitat. 

Morgen Bell via Creative Commons / Flickr

Rain and gray skies are in the weekend forecast for the Puget Sound region again – a stark contrast to the Thanksgiving holiday, which was characterized by an inversion that kept the clouds away, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.  

“We went from an unusually dry period with clear skies, high pressure and a ridge over us, to one in which a trough is offshore,” said Mass.  The trough is low pressure.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Activists from Seattle got the support of health care professionals and faith leaders in their call for the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.

The announcement of about a thousand new supporters of the divestment campaign came on the same day that Bill Gates made a major statement on climate change.

He joined forces with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and several other business leaders to launch a multi-billion dollar clean energy fund in Paris, where the U.N. climate talks are now underway. It’s an effort to promote things like solar energy and wind power.

Tim Durkan Photography

Enjoy the weather this Thanksgiving weekend. High pressure above us has set up in a stable pattern that will stick around until Monday, keeping rain away until sometime Tuesday. 

"No precipitation (guaranteed), sunny, with little clouds ... a tonic against Seasonal Affective Disorder," says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

Expect clear skies and cooler temps, with highs in the mid-40s and lows down into the 20s or even the teens in western Washington. There might be some fog in a few places and there is a possibility of some air quality issues, as smog builds up.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Microsoft is helping to preserve forests at the foot of Mount Rainier by investing in the potential of trees and restored forests to soak up carbon pollution. The value of absorbed greenhouse gas emissions will be set through California's cap-and-trade exchange and the income used to grow the asset, through new plantings and road removals.

Waugsberg / Wikimedia Creative Commons

Imagine what your Thanksgiving table would look like without any food that is pollinated by bees.  

It’s a challenge issued by the group Environment Washington, which is highlighting the issue with a campaign called “No Bees, No Food.”

Canvassers for the group say if bees die off, then turkey, rolls and potatoes are all  that would be left on the table. Dairy products would be endangered. And you can forget about vegetables or traditional pies.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The holiday season might be just getting underway, but a major cold snap is already here. Ski areas are opening across the region and forecasts are calling for the possibly of lowland snow early next week. Specifically, lowland snow in some areas on Tuesday morning.

But whether that will actually come to pass is still a big question.

“I wouldn’t be the house on it,” says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, “But I would be prepared, either way.”  

Ben Brooks / Flickr

Washington state’s worst-ever wildfire season took center stage once again in Washington, D.C.

Two local fire officials testified before the U.S. Senate’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, appealing to lawmakers for more funding for fire suppression and preparedness.

Gordon Werner via Creative Commons / Flickr

King County has signed into law a climate action plan that many local environmentalists are applauding as one of the boldest in the United States. How communities will meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a big question, as representatives get ready for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris next month.

Bridget Coila via Creative Commons / Flickr

Bonding with a new baby could soon become less financially stressful for King County's more than 14,000 employees.

The county is considering an expansion of its paid parental leave program – allowing its employees up to 12 weeks away from the office after the birth or adoption of a child. 

Right now, new parents who work for King County can cobble together paid leave from accrued sick pay and vacation time to be with their babies.

sea turtle / Flickr via Compfight

Keep that rain gear handy and if you live near a river, watch out for more high water. An extraordinarily long current of moisture known as an “atmospheric river” has been aimed at the Northwest, delivering rain, wind and flooding. And there’s more to come.

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s not the typical "Pineapple Express" we often see at this time of year.

An Extraordinary Constellation

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort

Workers at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort made snow angels and played in the white stuff as Mother Nature added nearly 5 inches to the ski area Tuesday night. With more on the way this week, they’re hoping to be open before Thanksgiving this year.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Even if you don’t like getting your feet wet, the recent heavy rains are still something to celebrate.

Over the past two weeks, there has been so much coming down that the water supply is almost back to normal in all three of the Puget Sound’s major cities.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The University of Washington held its first annual symposium on environmental law last week. The idea is to choose a topic and examine how it fits into current and future regulations. This year’s focus—ocean acidification. 

Morgen Bell / Flickr via Compfight


Another wet weekend is in store as a more normal pattern of November weather has returned to the Northwest, with cooler temperatures and persistent storms coming through every few days, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. There is even the likelihood of a reasonably good ski season this year.

Susan Walsh / AP

Seattle voters are the first in the country to approve a new form of public campaign financing.

Backers of Initiative 122 say it is a local solution to the national problem of big money in politics. The city’s taxpayers will fund so-called “democracy vouchers” that all registered voters can use to support Seattle candidates who agree to take part. 

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

Despite strong leads for all of the incumbents in Seattle’s city council races, the new council will be younger and more diverse than the current one. That’s one likely effect of the new district elections. 

Women will make up the majority of Seattle’s new city council; and it will have two Latinas, one of whom is also Native American.

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