Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Billion People

Historic October Northeast storm: Epic. Incredible. Downright ridiculous.

By Andrew Freedman
Perhaps no combination of superlatives could do justice to the historic snowstorm that delivered a crippling wallop to parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast over the weekend. Widely referred to by its social media moniker, “Snowtober,” the storm smashed records that had stood since the beginning of the reliable instrument record in the late 1800s (and in some cases, even longer than that), and upended assumptions about what a fall nor’easter can do. The heavy, wet snow pasted onto trees still bearing foliage in many areas and weighed down power lines, knocking out power to at least three million people in the region.

The paralyzing storm overturned generations of commonly held wisdom that held that the first big snows don’t normally come before Thanksgiving for most areas, certainly not prior to Halloween. Late last week, as computer models began to lock onto a snowy forecast scenario, many meteorologists (including those of us at CWG) struggled with believing what the computers were projecting, given its unprecedented nature.

Coming in the midst of what is already one of the most extreme years in American weather history, the Snowtober event had a greater impact in some states than August’s much-hyped Tropical Storm Irene. It was the snowstorm, not Irene, which caused the largest power outage in Connecticut history, for example.

To put the storm into its proper meteorological context, consider these snowy facts. The storm brought thundersnow to New York City shortly past lunchtime on Saturday, October 29, before the city had even recorded its first freeze. Central Park received 2.9 inches of snow, with up to six inches falling in the Bronx. This was the only time in recorded history that an inch or more of snow has fallen in Central Park during the month of October. The combination of the heavy, wet snow and high winds damaged or destroyed hundreds of trees in the city. The New York Times reported that up to a thousand trees in Central Park could be lost due to storm-related damage. Read More

(Rolling Stone) Wingnut Watch: October Snow Ends Climate Change Debate It's snowing in October – so, sorry, that pretty much sews up the case against climate change. How could the planet be warming if it's getting colder? Thus, the logic of Fox News Eric Bolling, who tweeted ...

Skeptic’s own study finds climate change real, but says scientists should be more critical

from the Washington Post-A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly. The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists. Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. Read More

'Doomsday' Comet Elenin Zips by Earth in Pieces

We can all breathe a sigh of relief: The so-called "doomsday comet" Elenin made its closest flyby of Earth Sunday (Oct. 16), and no cataclysms ensued. Some skywatching soothsayers had predicted that Elenin's approach Sunday would trigger catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis. Others had sounded even more dire alarms, suggesting that Elenin was not a comet at all but a rogue planet called Nibiru whose Earth encounter could usher in the apocalypse. But none of that came to pass, as Elenin zipped by our planet at the safe remove of 22 million miles (35.4 million kilometers) and sped off into deep space. Or crumbs of the comet did, anyway. [Gallery: Comet Elenin in Pictures]

Doomsday Comet Elenin Zips Past Dangerously Close to Earth You may have heard the news: Comet Elenin passed by Earth early Sunday morning. Comet Elenin (also known by its astronomical name C/2010 X1), was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010 by Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, who made the discovery "remotely" using the ISON-NM observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

George Harrison: Living In The Material World

George Harrison: Living in the Material World by Roger Ebert “In my beginning is my end,” T.S. Eliot wrote. For George Harrison, raised in the working class in postwar Liverpool, one of those beginnings must have been his father's vegetable garden. Victory Gardens, they were called during and after the war, and my own father had one, too. All through his life, as money and fame came to him, he found pleasure seeking houses with gardens.

English country houses are known for their gardens, but many of their owners never got their hands dirty. George was obsessed by the physical act of gardening, working with his land every day that he could. When you garden, you imagine its effect for those who will see your garden — for future generations and strangers. It is a gift you give to the land and to others, and it shows love of beauty in a pure form."  Read More

Are Humans Still Evolving?

A recent study suggests that humans aren't exempt from evolutionary pressures. Despite using culture and technology as ways of adapting to new environments, humans, like all other living things on Earth, undergo genetic changes as a response to conditions around them -- or in this case, favorable traits in their genes.
In other words, we're all still evolving.
Most discussion about our evolutionary history focuses on macroevolution, or changes occurring over long periods of time, including why our teeth are smaller when compared with our ancestors' and how our species may have interacted with Neanderthals.
NEWS: What's Punctuated Equilibrium?
Instead, the study's authors provide an example of microevolution, or changes tracked in a few generations. The team, led by Canadian researchers, studied the small island town of Ile aux Coudres, located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Quebec.
Researchers looked at church records from 1799 to 1940, which provided detailed accounts of marriages, births and deaths. Because the vast majority of families have remained on the island with few newcomers arriving, it was possible to build extensive family trees from the demographic data. The team studied the age at which women are capable of giving birth, a trait that's heritable between generations. Read More

The record-breaking Arctic ozone “hole” and global warming

For years, polls have shown that many Americans have conflated two distinct atmospheric calamities – the destruction of the planet’s stratospheric ozone layer, and global warming. A 2010 poll by Yale University found that 21 percent of respondents believe the greenhouse effect refers to the ozone layer, rather than to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, such as carbon dioxide.

Now comes a study that helps describe the possible relationship between the two in a way that will either confuse even more people, or clarify things for anyone who devotes some time to fully digesting the new information.
According to research published in the journal Nature this week, the largest ozone “hole” on record above the Arctic opened up last winter, exposing residents of the Far North to high doses of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts. The area of severe ozone loss extended southward from the Arctic to cover populated areas in northern Russia, Greenland and Norway.
At first glance, you might not find much to be out of the ordinary about that piece of news, since the ozone hole has been in our science textbooks for decades now. But note that I said, “Arctic,” and not “Antarctic.”  Read More