The numbers are in: 2012, the year of a surreal March heat wave, a severe drought in the Corn Belt and a huge storm that caused broad devastation in the Middle Atlantic States, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.
How hot was it? The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, but last year’s 55.3 degree average demolished the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit.
If that does not sound sufficiently impressive, consider that 34,008 daily high records were set at weather stations across the country, compared with only 6,664 record lows, according to a count maintained by the Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton, using federal temperature records.
That ratio, which was roughly in balance as recently as the 1970s, has been out of whack for decades as the country has warmed, but never by as much as it was last year.
From the New Yorker, James Surowiecki writes:
There is no dearth of promising ideas out there, such as building a seawall beyond the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis has proposed a movable barrier, like the Rotterdam one), burying power lines in vulnerable areas, and elevating buildings and subway entrances. The question is whether we can find the political will to invest in such ideas. Although New York politicians like the City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have called for major new investment in disaster prevention, reports from Washington suggest that Congress will be more willing to spend money on relief than on preparedness. That’s what history would lead you to expect: for the most part, the U.S. has shown a marked bias toward relieving victims of disaster, while underinvesting in prevention. A study by the economist Andrew Healy and the political scientist Neil Malhotra showed that, between 1985 and 2004, the government spent annually, on average, fifteen times as much on disaster relief as on preparedness.
We need to update and expand our nation’s infrastructure for two reasons- to save lives, and to save money. Like, lots of money:
Meaningful disaster-prevention measures will certainly be expensive: estimates for a New York seawall range from ten to twenty billion dollars. That may seem unreasonable at a time when Washington is obsessed with cutting the federal deficit. Yet inaction can be even more expensive—after Katrina, the government had to spend more than a hundred billion dollars on relief and reconstruction—and there are good reasons to believe that disaster-control measures could save money in the long run. The A.S.C.E. estimates that federal spending on levees pays for itself six times over, and studies of other flood-control measures in the developed world find benefit-to-cost ratios of three or four to one. The value for money is even higher in poor countries, where floods obliterate weak infrastructures. And a 2005 independent study of disaster-mitigation grants made by fema found that every dollar in grants ended up saving taxpayers $3.65 in avoided costs.
Whenever I read a story like this, I’m reminded of Japan. Japan was able to become an international power by going abroad and studying how other nations operated, and then copied what worked. If the United States is to remain competitive, then we need to start looking at what other nations are doing, and adapt it to suit our needs.
An unscientific survey of the social networking literature on Sandy reveals an illuminating tweet (you read that correctly) from Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. On Oct. 29, Foley thumbed thusly: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”
In the waning weeks of the North American hurricane season — a time when a superstorm is not expected to cause widespread damage to the eastern coast of the United States — Hurricane Sandy is a grim reminder of the menace of extreme weather events. With the lowest central pressure of the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy may have caused up to $20 billion in damages, making it one of the costliest superstorms in history.
Sandy interacted with a weather system moving toward it from the east, posing difficult challenges for forecasters and nearly unprecedented weather conditions for the region. A similar storm hit New England 20 years ago. But Sandy was worse, delivering hurricane-strength winds, drenching rains, and severe coastal flooding throughout the populous mid-Atlantic and northeast corridor.
Some people will, of course, try to link Sandy with climate change. A similar rush to judgment occurred in the wake of massive tornado outbreaks in the U.S. in recent years, even though the scientific literature does not offer strong support for such a connection. So, from the perspective of climate change, it is best to take a measured view of Sandy, lest hasty reaction harm scientific credibility.
But that is little cause for comfort. According to the giant insurance company Munich Re, weather and climate disasters contributed to more than one-third of a trillion dollars in damage worldwide in 2011, and this year’s total may rival that amount.
There is growing evidence of links between climate change and sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts and rainfall intensity, and, although scientific research on hurricanes and tornadoes is not as conclusive, that may be changing.
The projected storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is a “worst case scenario” with devastating waves and tides predicted for the highly populated New York City metro area, government forecasters said Sunday.
The more they observe it, the more the experts worry about the water — which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes.
In this case, seas will be amped up by giant waves and full-moon-powered high tides. That will combine with drenching rains, triggering inland flooding as the hurricane merges with a winter storm system that will worsen it and hold it in place for days.
Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy’s due east-to-west track into New Jersey, that puts the worst of the storm surge just north in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. “Yes, this is the worst case scenario,” he said.
In a measurement of pure kinetic energy, NOAA’s hurricane research division on Sunday ranked the surge and wave “destruction potential” for Sandy — just the hurricane, not the hybrid storm it will eventually become — at 5.8 on a 0 to 6 scale. The damage expected from winds will be far less, experts said. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters says that surge destruction potential number is a record and it’s due to the storm’s massive size.
The picture above tells the story this afternoon, Sandy is one large storm. Winds of tropical storm force are being felt 3 times further away from the storm than would be typical. The storm is so large that hundreds of miles to the north of where the storm hits, coastal flooding will be the issue and some places along the New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut coast could see historic flooding. Winds around storms move opposite to the hands on a clock, which means the sweeping winds will pile water against the coast north of the storm. To the south of the storm, the winds actually push the water away from land so flooding is not a concern. A storm surge is not a big wave, rather it’s a bubble of water that moves inland over time caused by the wind and pressure configuration of the storm itself. Inlets, bays, and harbors will see water levels rise for many hours and several high tide cycles. I update the forecast often on Twitter at @growingwisdom during the next few days I will be giving you my latest thinking there often. You can also ask me questions about the storm or weather and gardening.
There are all sort of watches and warnings up for this event. Along the coast you have flood watches and warnings, everyone has some sort of warning or watch for the high winds, folks inland have watches for flooding due to the anticipated rain and some folks in West Virginia are bracing for over 2 feet of snow. This storm has something for everyone. Unlike a traditional hurricane where the worst weather is centered around the core, this storm will create high winds and rain over 500 miles from where it hits. This is why people should not focus so much
President Obama and his allies have aired more ads in battleground states this month than Mitt Romney and his supporters, despite being outspent by the Republican nominee and GOP groups, according to a study released Wednesday.
The Obama campaign and its supporters spent $77 million on 112,730 advertisements from Oct. 1 to Oct. 21, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes political ad spending. Romney and his allies, by contrast, spent more money — $87 million — on 15,000 fewer spots than their opponents.
The study also confirmed that 2012 has already shattered previous records for presidential ad spending, with 915,000 ads aired during the general election campaign through Sunday — a 44.5 percent increase compared with the same period four years ago.
The findings suggest that Obama and the Democrats may be able to weather a storm of Republican advertising purchases aimed at knocking the incumbent off balance in the final weeks of the election. One Republican media buyer calculates that GOP groups are outspending Democrats in this week by nearly 2 to 1.
But Obama has a key advantage over Romney by raising the bulk of his money through his campaign committee, which qualifies for discounted ad rates under federal election laws. That can allow Obama to pay much less for the same ads compared with conservative super PACs and other outside groups, which don’t qualify for such rates.
If you have the bandwidth, watch in full screen and 1080 HD
These exquisite images are a must see at full resolution. Space imagery from NASA’s Conceptual Image Lab. An elegant interaction powers the sun, producing the light and energy that makes life possible. That interaction is called fusion, and it naturally occurs when two atoms are heated and compressed so intensely that their nuclei merge into a new element. This process often leads to the creation of a photon, the particles of light that are released from the sun.
However, before exiting our star, each photon must first undergo a long journey. Over the course of 40,000 years it will be absorbed by other atoms and emitted repeatedly until reaching the sun’s surface. Once there, the photons stream out, illuminating Earth, the solar system and beyond. The number released from the surface every second is so vast that it is more than a billion billion times greater than the number of grains of sand on our planet.
This movie takes us on a space weather journey from the center of the sun to solar eruptions in the sun’s atmosphere all the way to the effects of that activity near Earth. The view starts in the core of the sun where atoms fuse together to create light and energy. Next we travel toward the sun’s surface, watching loops of magnetic fields rise up to break through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
In the corona is where we witness giant bursts of radiation and energy known as solar flares, as well as gigantic eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections or CMEs. The movie follows one of these CME’s toward Earth where it impacts and compresses Earth’s own protective magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere. As energy and particles from the sun funnel along magnetic field lines near Earth, they ultimately produce aurora at Earth’s poles.
Mitt Romney’s remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press earlier this month rankled environmental activists hoping for a bipartisan approach to climate change. “I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet,” the Republican presidential nominee told David Gregory. “I’m in this race to help the American people.”
The comment was meant as a dig at some of President Obama’s more high-flying rhetoric from the 2008 campaign, but it also laid bare a significant difference in outlook between the parties: When it comes to the issue of climate change, Republicans have taken a decidedly unrealistic tack.
The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests that climate change is real; that extreme weather events are increasing, likely due to climate change; and that this dynamic will have an impact on American national-security interests, if it hasn’t already. This year’s curiously hot summer was accompanied by the worst drought that the U.S. has experienced in 50 years — a phenomenon that not only hurts Americans, but is having ripple effects throughout the world as crops wither and food prices increase in nations that can barely afford the price shocks. But the GOP’s leading political figures have not been raising the alarm about the connection.
That’s unfortunate — both for the GOP and for America. While the GOP has traditionally held an electoral advantage on national-security issues — something that apparently will not be the case in this year’s election — its stance on environmental issues also could have a decidedly negative impact on American national security.
Climate change denialism remains a powerful current within the Republican party, and is a stance honored by most of the candidates who sought this year’s GOP presidential nomination. Though Romney argued for reductions in carbon emissions when he governed Massachusetts, he changed his tune on the campaign trail. He said at one point that he thought the world was getting hotter, but added, “I don’t know that, but I think that it is.” As to human contributions, Romney allowed, “It could be a little. It could be a lot.” On another occasion, Romney stated outright, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”