Monday, January 23, 2012

Does enduring extreme weather make you vote liberal? - On the heels of a disastrous weather year in the USA, and with the long presidential campaign season looming, a new study finds that people who have endured extreme weather events are more likely to support environmental legislation, even if it means restricting individual freedoms. Additionally, the authors write in the study that "our results are consistent with the idea that experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming."
Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards and tropical storms. The study authors report that potentially, weather disasters may hurt conservative candidates more than liberal candidates, because of their positions on environmental policy. Other findings from the study include:
•People who believe that global warming is an important issue are more willing to support regulation that might restrict individual freedom.
•People who consult more news sources and environmentalists are less likely to have their attitudes toward global warming changed by current weather conditions.
•Experiencing extreme weather has the greatest impact on respondents who are less aware or knowledgeable about global warming.

**Only strength can cooperate. Weakness can only beg.**
Dwight D. Eisenhower

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/22/12 -

In the Indian Ocean -
- Tropical cyclone 08s (Funco) was located approximately 610 nm northeast of Maputo, Mozambique.
-Tropical cyclone 07s (Ethel) was located approximately 635 nm southeast of Port Louis. Now a cold core cyclone, the system is forecast to continue accelerating and weakening as it recurves into the mid-latitudes. This is the final warning on this system by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The system will be closely monitored for signs of regeneration.


U.S. - Tornado touches down in Arkansas as storms menace U.S. A twister touched down 70 miles south of the Arkansas state capital late Sunday, as forecasters warned that tornadoes and heavy storms could mete out punishment to several southeast states into Monday. The tornado tore into an area outside of Fordyce, in Dallas County, Ark, around 8:00 p.m. local time, damaging houses and felling trees and power lines as it moved. The potential for severe storms overnight and into Monday stretched from the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi to southern Indiana and Ohio. "A few destructive, long-track tornadoes are quite possible." The severe storms created "an especially dangerous situation given the veil of night."
Heavy rain fell on state capital Little Rock, while parts of the state were pelted by golf-ball sized hailstones and buffeted by winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour. Funnel clouds were spotted within 20 miles of state capital Little Rock. Roughly 11,600 homes were without power across Arkansas as the storms intensified. Roughly one third of Arkansas tornadoes occur at night and are difficult to see in the darkness.
In Alabama, residents were bracing for storms that could hit after dark on Sunday or overnight with a strong cold front from the west combining with warm moist air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico. The weather service said thunderstorms could bring wind gusts up to 80 mph, tornadoes or gulf ball-sized hail in Mississippi. Farther west, the weather service warned of a high fire danger in Texas with wind gusts of up to 50 mph.
A second stormfront expected to hit California late Sunday night will bring significant snowfall to the mountain regions, before rolling into the southern United States later in the week. Parts of central and southern California were under a winter weather warning as a storm system was expected to sweep into the area late Sunday into Monday morning, with the weather service predicting 6 to 12 inches of snow. The Sierras and the Rockies may accumulate as much as 3 feet of snow, the weather service said, and driving in mountain passes will be "very hazardous" due to low visibility, gusting winds and heavy snowfall. In Reno, Nevada, meanwhile, snowfall provided welcome relief to firefighters who were monitoring remaining hotspots from a blaze that raged near the outskirts of the city beginning Thursday, destroying 30 houses and prompting thousands of people to flee their homes. "As long as we keep on getting snow instead of rain, it looks like we'll be okay, at least for the next couple of days." Rain had threatened the area with flash flooding on Friday night. Emergency responders had the blaze 100 percent contained as of Saturday, and all residents have been allowed to return to their homes.
In the upper Midwest, freezing drizzle was expected to make roads and sidewalks slippery from southeastern Minnesota into Wisconsin, changing to snow later Sunday. Up to 4 inches of snow was expected farther north in southeast North Dakota and west central Minnesota. In the northeast United States, a fast-moving storm from central Pennsylvania eastward dropped up to a foot of snow in parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts on Saturday.

AUSTRALIA - Cyclone-strength winds rock Queensland town. Cyclone-strength wind gusts have battered a remote north Queensland township, damaging several homes. Gusts of 170km/h and 70mm of rain lashed Hughenden, about 400 kilometres west of Townsville, yesterday. "We had a few wind gusts, but that was easily the strongest of all of them. Hughenden rocked everyone else. You can compare them to cyclones, but cyclones last for a sustained period of time and these winds lasted about an hour or so. We classify them as a destructive wind." One woman had to be taken to hospital, there were half a dozen calls for help and about three homes were damaged. More storms in the area were possible, but it was unlikely they would again generate such strong winds. "It's QUITE RARE. Usually the range it reaches is 90 to 100km per hour. Getting up to 170 is at the high end of the scale."


Sri Lanka - Nuwara Eliya torn between extreme weather patterns. Warm days and freezing nights play havoc with the lives of girls, boys, fruits, flowers and veggies. The UNUSUAL drop in temperature in Nuwara Eliya has had widespread repercussions, with people finding it difficult to cope with the extreme weather, damage to crops and drop in water levels. Last Monday (16), the temperature in Nuwara Eliya dropped to 2.7 Celsius accompanied by ground frost. In 2009, the temperature dropped to 2.6 Celsius. Similar temperatures were experienced in 1929 and 1953. However, the lowest recorded temperature was on June 30, 1914, when it went down to -3.7 Celsius. Such low temperatures were due to the usual passage of wind through the North-East border during the North-East monsoon, which deviated to a more northerly route, passing over the Himalayas, across the Indian Ocean. This results in cold weather in the morning and night. Though the city seems picturesque, the climatic patterns have severely disrupted the lives of the people in Nuwara-Eliya due to the cold weather. “Due to such extreme weather, crops such as beetroot, potatoes and lettuce were damaged. During the day, the sunlight is very bright and strong, and the streams have dried up." Many foreigners and local tourists are visiting the city to witness the scene. The Wildlife Department staff at Horton Plains said that they were finding it very difficult to carry out their duties in such extreme weather, with last Monday the temperature dropping to 1.5 Celsius at Horton Plains. Extreme weather changes in the district had damaged crops in certain areas in the Ragala-Nuwara Eliya area. “Within four days – January 16 to 19, 50 acres of leeks, beetroot, carrot, potatoes and lettuce cultivation were affected in Kandapola, Galpalama and Aluthpara due to the cold and warm weather fluctuation." Crops covered with frost get burnt when exposed to strong sunlight. Though there was no immediate increase in weather related illnesses, it will take some time for the outcome to manifest itself.“In a short period, the difference in the cases would not be obvious. At least a week’s time is needed to study the consequences. As of now, we don’t see an increase in asthmatic or heart disease cases due to the cold weather." Usually, low temperatures affect asthmatic and elderly heart patients. If the temperature drops below freezing, blood related diseases, headaches and muscle cramps will also occur.
“In such a situation, the elderly should stay indoors very early, before sunset. They should have a wood-fire burning to maintain a warm environment. They should wear warm clothes, gloves and socks. It is advisable to take warm drinks."


Top climate change stories of 2011 - For Earth’s climate system, 2011 was an extraordinarily turbulent year. The United States saw A SERIES OF RECORD-BUSTING EXTREMES, from a devastating tornado season to an epic drought in a vital agricultural region. The fusillade of extreme events kept global warming in the public conversation even as it slipped to the bottom of the public’s list of concerns in the face of a grim economy, and as “climate” became a four-letter word in Washington.
Scientists made tangible progress in the emerging area of extreme event attribution, which aims to answer whether extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change, with two studies that shed new light on how a warmer world is already shifting the odds in favor of heavy precipitation events. These studies, and the push to develop the capabilities necessary to rapidly distinguish global warming’s role in extreme events soon after they occur, top the list of the top climate change stories of 2011:
1. Advances in understanding global warming and extreme weather
Two studies published in February made it a lot clearer that manmade global warming is already playing a tangible role in influencing some types of extreme weather events. One study, led by researchers with Environment Canada, analyzed heavy rainfall events recorded at more than 6,000 sites across the Northern Hemisphere, and found that the growing amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have likely increased the frequency of heavy precipitation events across this region.
The second study demonstrated a new way of analyzing how manmade global warming may have increased the chances for a particular flood that occurred in the U.K. in 2000. The high-resolution computer model used for the study showed that global warming increased the risk of the 2000 flood event by at least 20 percent, with two-thirds of the computer model simulations showing a much larger increase in flood risk, by up to 90 percent.
Climate scientists are moving forward with plans to form an international extreme events attribution group, which will focus on advancing this type of work. Also on the extreme events front, in November, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a “Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.” The report by the United Nations Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change makes clear that warm weather extremes and heavy precipitation events have increased, most likely as a result of manmade climate change. And it projects with a high degree of confidence increasing hot weather and heavy downpours in the future.
2. Surface temperature record holds up to (another) review
For years, global warming skeptics sought to cast doubt on the surface temperature record. Some said warming was an artifact of the urban heat island effect - which can raise temperatures in urban areas compared to rural locations - rather than increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Others pointed to inconsistencies in correcting for gaps or biases in the data. A web-based movement formed, with a small army of volunteers documenting the locations and setup of official weather stations. In response to numerous questions about the surface temperature record, a blue-ribbon panel was organized to find out once and for all if the Earth is really warming, and by how much. The panel was led by a physicist who had expressed skepticism about mainstream climate science findings in the past, and some of the money for the panel came from politically conservative-leaning groups. In the end, though, the Berkeley Earth Study, confirmed what most climate scientists already knew - the surface temperature data is correct in showing a pronounced warming trend. To be specific, the analysis found there has been 0.911 degrees Celsius of land warming (+/- 0.042 C) since the 1950s, or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The team’s analysis strongly refutes claims that the urban heat island effect causes a warm temperature bias in the surface data. The researchers also found that despite the skeptics’ assertions, readings from networks of temperature stations are not compromised by poor data quality from many of the individual stations.
3. “Climategate 2” falls flat
For the thousands of experts who study the climate, 2011 was something of a rebuilding year - a chance to regroup from the turbulence caused by the so-called “climategate” emails scandal. After multiple investigations cleared climate scientists of the most serious allegations of wrongdoing, more emails between a few top climate researchers were released, again purporting to show climate scientists doctoring scientific evidence and conspiring to keep out dissenting voices from peer-reviewed journals. This time, however, the damage to climate science’s street cred was minimal, as the media and the scientific community quickly found the emails to lack much evidence of anything scientifically significant. The unauthorized release of the new batch of emails may have jump-started what seemed to be a dormant investigation into who obtained the emails and posted them on several websites, with actions by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Britain.
4. Congress Nixes National Climate Service
The 2010 midterm elections brought into power a surge of House lawmakers who either strongly questioned or flat out denied the existence of manmade climate change. As a result, the gap between climate scientists and politicians became wide enough to swallow what were once thought of as common sense, bipartisan ideas - such as creating a National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to complement the National Weather Service. Under the proposal, which was originally put forward by the Bush administration, the Climate Service would serve as a one-stop shop for climate info, from El Nino forecasts to projections of what the climate may be like 50 years from now.
The proposal called for realigning NOAA’s offices and functions to meet the increasing demand for climate information from farmers, businesses, investors and others who currently must navigate an alphabet soup of NOAA organizations to find the information they’re looking for, and to develop new climate analysis products and tools. NOAA requested no new money for the move, instead seeking congressional approval to restructure itself. House Republicans blocked the move, and even sought to investigate whether NOAA was moving forward with the plan against its wishes. The death of the Climate Service proposal was presaged by a vote last spring that put House members on record about whether they agree with the scientific evidence showing that the globe is warming, likely due in part to human activities.
The amendment, which was offered to a bill aimed at halting proposed U.S. EPA greenhouse gas regulations, stated: “Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate changes is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.”
The fact that it failed by a vote of 184 to 240 (three Democrats were among those who rejected the amendment; one Republican supported it) signals the depth of the problem that scientists, environmental policy advocates, environmentalists, and others face in pushing for climate change action at the federal level. A majority of one chamber of the Congress just does not agree with the conclusions of most publishing climate scientists. This is a remarkable turn of events, considering that the last Congress narrowly passed a sweeping greenhouse gas regulation bill, which died in the Senate.