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Fri, 08 Dec 2023
The World for People who Think

Earth Changes


The Summer of '09: What global warming?

The family and I were supposed to go on vacation in northern Saskatchewan in mid-June. A few days before we were to fly out we received a phone call from the camp's owner who said we'd have to postpone the trip. The lake was covered by four feet of ice!

So, we went there a couple of weeks back. Not surprisingly, the lake still had mammoth sheets of ice floating on it on July 11. Mind you, this was not the tundra. It's a lake that's normally ice-free by the end of May.

That delay to the start to the summer is reminiscent of what has happened on the home front. After a lengthy, very cold winter, most Western New Yorkers were suffering from cabin fever and looking forward to getting outside and enjoying those oh-so-few months of sun and warmth. For many, 2009 has been a real letdown. Our summer has often seemed nonexistent and just a run-off of our spring. By any standard it has been unusually cool with nippy nights and temperate days.

Personally, you won't hear me complaining about 50-degree sleeping weather or daytime highs around 70, but most folks don't dig that. Professionally, though, I don't either; it's hurting my business. Those who find it a little too frigid haven't opened their swimming pools or invested in a hot tub, which in turn has prevented Confer Plastics from selling the products they need to enter those watery retreats from the summer heat. Day-in and day-out we hear from pool and spa professionals in the Northeast and Midwest that this has been one of the coldest summers in recent memory. Because of that, our pool/spa-related sales are down about 7 percent versus last year.


Debunking the Claims Heat Waves are Becoming More Common

Although there has been some high heat in the southern Plains and most recently the southwest, for many areas of the lower 48 states, unless August turns around big time, it may be remembered as "a year without a summer." After some early heat with 92F in April, Central Park peaked at 86F in May, just 84F in June and so far in July 86F.

June was below normal in the southwest and all across the northern tier. July for the first three weeks was exceptionally cold, in many places ranking among the top 5 coldest. More seasonable temperatures the last week of the month (especially in the east) will diminish the anomalies a little but the month will end up cold.
US mean temp 7/2009
© unknown


Amazon Review: Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

Mike Hulme book
© unknown
Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding, Controversy, Inaction And Opportunity

Having participated in the national and international debate over climate change for more than 15 years, I eagerly bought and read this book in the hope that it would examine the ideas and motives of both sides in the global warming debate. But that is not what this book is about.

The author, Mike Hulme, is a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, in the UK. He helped write the influential reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other government agencies that are commonly cited by alarmists in the debate. He has been one of the most prominent scientists declaring that "the debate is over" and that man-made global warming will be a catastrophe.

In this book, Hulme (photo below) comes clean about the uncertain state of scientific knowledge about global warming, something alarmists almost never admit in public. For example, he writes, "the three questions examined above - What is causing climate change? By how much is warming likely to accelerate? What level of warming is dangerous? - represent just three of a number of contested or uncertain areas of knowledge about climate change." (p. 75)
Mike Hulme
© unknown


Hubris in climate change

Hubris in global climate science scares me. As a scientist, I often carry a British coin that bears Isaac Newton's statement "standing on the shoulders of giants" as a reminder of humility. I try to remember that most of what I know and understand comes from the work of others before me and a larger reservoir of existing knowledge. Considering this, and hoping knowledge leads to wisdom, it becomes very important to seek wisdom in the climate-change discussion.

Consider geology. From the recent G8 discussions, it is apparent that we are intent, as humans, to mitigate global climate change. During a recent climate-change forum, I heard a distinguished International Panel on Climate Change scientist state that "113 distinguished scientists" agreed that the earth is warming. This statement was made, rather emphatically, to a room filled with hundreds of geologists who did not react at all. The fact is that geoscientists worldwide, and possibly many archaeologists, would agree.


Bush Fires Blaze Around Southern Europe

Bush fires raged across swathes of southern Europe Friday, with a prolonged spell of hot weather turning woodland around the Mediterranean coastline tinder dry. Hundreds of fires in Spain, France, Italy and Greece have killed at least seven people this week, destroying thousands of hectares of forest and gutting dozens of homes.

Spain has been the worst hit and authorities said Friday thousands of villagers have had to be evacuated to escape wildfires that have killed five firefighters. Thousands of police and soldiers had been drafted in to help combat seven serious fires in the south and east of Spain.


Indonesia: Drought severely hits rice paddies

Months before another El Ni*o, expected to deepen drought around the country, hundreds of rice paddies have already produced failed harvests. Data from the Agriculture Ministry showed that 26,388 hectares of rice paddies suffered from drought in the April to June period due to water shortages.

"However, the figure is still far lower than it was in the 2003 to 2007 period when an average of 82,472 hectares of rice paddies suffered from drought each year," Ati Wasiati, director for the protection of food crops at the Agriculture Ministry told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

She remained optimistic about the target to plant rice in 5 million hectares up until September despite the expected impacts of the El Ni*o phenomenon.


Nature not man responsible for recent global warming

Three Australasian researchers have shown that natural forces are the dominant influence on climate, in a study just published in the highly-regarded Journal of Geophysical Research. According to this study little or none of the late 20th century global warming and cooling can be attributed to human activity.

The research, by Chris de Freitas, a climate scientist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, John McLean (Melbourne) and Bob Carter (James Cook University), finds that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a key indicator of global atmospheric temperatures seven months later. As an additional influence, intermittent volcanic activity injects cooling aerosols into the atmosphere and produces significant cooling.


Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii

© Erin Wilson
Invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii (above, a wasp eats an unidentified insect near another wasp) are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to ring-necked pheasants.
Attacking from nests as big as pickup-truck beds, invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to pheasants, a new study says.

Adult yellowjackets consume only nectar. But they kill or scavenge prey to deliver needed protein to their growing broods.

"They basically just carry it in their mandibles - you see them flying with their balls of meat," said lead study author Erin Wilson, who just finished her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego.

In their native habitat in the western U.S., the wasps die off in winter. But in Hawaii the wasps survive the winter, possibly due to mild year-round temperatures or subtle genetic changes.

Bizarro Earth

5.6 Earthquake Jolts Tibet

An earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale hit Nyima county in Nagqu prefecture, southwestern China's Tibet Autonomous Region, at 11:11 a.m. on Friday, according to the national seismological network.

No casualties have yet been reported.

At a depth of 33 kilometers, the quake struck on the line between Nyima and Coqen county of Nagri prefecture, according to the regional seismological bureau of Tibet.

The epicenter was located at Ceri township in Coqen county, where telecommunication links were cut, the regional bureau said.

Sogrin, deputy head of the bureau, said the quake caused cracks in some houses made of sun-dried mud bricks at the county seat of Coqen, but no tremor was felt at the county seat of Nyima.

Bizarro Earth

West of the United States faces water 'catastrophe'

A new study projects that all reservoirs along the Colorado River -- which provide water for 27 million people in seven Western states, including Utah -- could dry up by 2057 because of climate change and overuse.

If warming led to a 10 percent reduction in the river's flow, it would create a 25 percent chance of depletion, according to the University of Colorado research released this week. Warming resulting in a 20 percent reduction would raise the chance of depletion to 50 percent, the study found.

"In the short term, the risk is relatively low," said Balaji Rajagopalan, associate professor of civil environmental and architectural engineering at the university and lead author on the study, which was accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union.