Thursday, December 31, 2015


Cataclysms from the North Pole to South America

[Washington Post] From the top of the world to near the bottom, freakish and unprecedented weather has sent temperatures soaring across the Arctic, whipped the United Kingdom with hurricane-force winds and spawned massive flooding in South America.
The same storm that slammed the southern United States with deadly tornadoes and swamped the Midwest, causing even greater loss of life, continued on to the Arctic. Sub-tropical air pulled there is now sitting over Iceland, and at what should be a deeply sub-zero North Pole, temperatures on Wednesday appeared to reach the melting point — more than 50 degrees above normal. That was warmer than Chicago.
Only twice before has the Arctic been so warm in winter. Residents of Iceland are bracing for conditions to grow much worse as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded blasts through the North Atlantic. This rare “bomb cyclone” arrived with sudden winds of 70 miles per hour and waves that lashed the coast.
Thousands of miles south, in the center of Latin America, downpours fueled by the Pacific Ocean’s giant El Niño pattern have drenched regions of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
In what’s described as the worst flooding in a half-century, more than 160,000 people have fled their homes. The Paraguay River in that nation is within inches of topping its banks, and the Uruguay River in Argentina is 46 feet above normal, according to a BBC News report.
The dramatic storms are ending a year of record-setting weather globally, with July measured as the hottest month ever and 2015 set to be the warmest year.
Up and down the U.S. East Coast, this month will close as the hottest December ever. In much of the Northeast into Canada, temperatures on Christmas rose into the 70s — tricking bushes and trees into bloom in many locations. In the Washington area, forsythia, azaleas and even cherry blossoms were suddenly in full color.
“I see this as a double whammy,” Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University, said in an email. “El Niño . . . is one factor, human-caused climate change and global warming is another. You put the two together, and you get dramatic increases in certain types of extreme weather events.”
The impact is more and more devastating.
In rain-soaked Missouri, where more than a dozen people have died because of the flooding, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has declared a state of emergency.
Almost two dozen levees along the Mississippi River are considered at risk, and forecasts are calling for record or near-record crests of the river and tributaries that feed it. Nearly 450 river gauges have hit flood stage since Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
From Illinois to Texas, 6 to 12 inches of rain have fallen since Dec. 26. Dozens of new precipitation marks were set last weekend, in some cases doubling or even tripling old records. Read More

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In Wild Winter, Warm North Pole Storm Chills U.S. Forecast as Flooding Threatens Levees

[New York Times] What a season it has been for demonstrating how severe weather in the United States is shaped by, and shapes, conditions elsewhere around the planet. Of course, the main event is the still-growing El Niño warmup of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which has worldwide impacts — particularly in poor countries. For a primer, see this helpful explanatory video and article from The Times, and a great update from Capital Weather Gang.
Below, I’ll discuss the growing prospect of record-breaking flooding along the Mississippi River, fueled in part by the Pacific Ocean pattern. Jeff Masters has a worrisome piece on his Wunderground blog noting that such flooding has never been experienced at this time of year. My focus will be on how vulnerable levees may raise the odds of disaster.
But first let’s look north.
Justin Gillis filed an excellent report tonight on factors behind severe weather around the world, stressing that El Niño is hardly the only player: “This winter, a climate pattern called the Arctic Oscillation is also keeping cold air bottled up in the high north, allowing heat and moisture to accumulate in the middle latitudes."
You almost assuredly saw at least one story about how the potent storm that triggered deadly tornado outbreaks and flooding across the South and Midwest in recent days carried so much warm air to the North Pole that temperatures over the sea ice, normally well below zero through the dark boreal winter, briefly hitting 33 degrees Fahrenheit today.*
(If you didn’t, click back to the Capital Weather Gang and Andrew Freedman’s coverage for starters.)
The storm system (named Storm Frank by British forecasters), inspired overheated headlines describing how the “North Pole [is] Set to Unfreeze as Temperature Soars” and the like. It’s not, as the WeatherBELL meteorologist Ryan Maue pointed out on Twitter today, writing, “Hope you enjoyed the North Pole heat wave — now back to normal programming down to -25°F … warm up next week.” Read More

Monday, December 21, 2015

Can electric signals in Earth’s atmosphere predict earthquakes?

[ScienceMag] Ask seismologists when they’ll be able to predict earthquakes, and the answer is generally: sometime between the distant future and never. Although there have been some promising leads over the years, the history of earthquake forecasting is littered with false starts and pseudoscience. However, some scientists think that Earth’s crust may give hints before it ruptures, in the form of electromagnetic anomalies in the ground and atmosphere that occur minutes to days before an earthquake. Last week, here at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, researchers shared their evolving understanding of these phenomena—and how they might be used to predict deadly quakes.
Kosuke Heki, a geophysicist at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, first got interested in the subject when he spotted an increase in the total electron content of the ionosphere—the charged outermost layer of the atmosphere—above Tohoku about 40 minutes before the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck in 2011. Heki had long used GPS data to study ionospheric responses to earthquakes, which occur when the sudden movement of Earth’s crust reverberates through the atmosphere. Ionospheric disturbances interfere with the communication between GPS satellites and receivers, leaving a fingerprint at specific radio frequencies that researchers can tease out.
In 2011, Heki was skeptical of electromagnetic precursors. But since then, he has used the world’s growing array of GPS stations to identify similar signals before nine other major earthquakes, he explained at the meeting. In addition, Heki has found that earlier anomalies precede stronger earthquakes, potentially reflecting the longer time needed to initiate rupture along larger segments of a fault. Now, he says he’s convinced there’s really something going on: “Seeing is believing.” Read More

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: The Shambhala Principle and the Good Life

Climate Change Is Heating Lakes Rapidly

[Discovery] When we talk about global warming, the number that everyone usually focuses on is that of the atmosphere, though the world’s oceans also are absorbing heat as well. Now, it turns out, lakes may be faring even worse.
According to a new study, climate change is warming lakes even faster than the atmosphere or oceans, and it could pose a significant future threat to the habitats for fish and other aquatic animals, as well as drinking water for millions of people.
The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that lakes are warming at an average of 0.61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.
Over the next century, it could be enough to increase algal blooms by 20 percent, including a 5 percent boost in toxic blooms. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to present a hazard to both aquatic life and to the cleanliness of water supplies.
“We found that ice–covered lakes, including Canadian lakes, are warming twice as fast as air temperatures and the North American Great Lakes are among the fastest warming lakes in the world,”  biologist Sapna Sharma, a biologist at Canada’s York University, said in a press release.
The study focused upon 236 lakes, which contain more than half of the world’s freshwater supply. They were monitored over a 25-year period. Read More

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shamballa - Om Namah Shivaya

Enormous Christmas Eve Asteroid Sparks Fears: 'Potentially Hazardous' Space Rock Could Cause Earthquakes, Wake Dormant Volcanoes

[Star Pulse] A massive asteroid flying by Earth on 2015 Christmas Eve has scientists on edge. While NASA is downplaying the threat to human life and property, conspiracy theorists and several experts say space rock 2003 SD220 is larger than believed and has the potential to cause deadly earthquakes and eruptions from dormant volcanoes.

According to a Sun report, the Christmas Eve asteroid is one of at least 10 rocky bodies in space that are considered "potentially hazardous" to Earth. According to an internal report, NASA officials say it measures about 1.5 miles wide and is moving at 5 miles per second.

"Little is known about the remaining 10 high-priority targets other than the absolute magnitudes and their heliocentric orbits that make six of them potentially hazardous to Earth."

In a separate report, Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, issued a statement on the widespread rumors.

"There is no scientific basis -- not one shred of evidence -- that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates.

"If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now.

Sources say the asteroid flyby on Christmas Eve poses little threat as it will only come within 6.7 million miles to the planet. By comparison, that's 28 times the distance from here to the moon. Further, you'll need a telescope to view the chunky body.

Extraterrestrial collusion theorists who believe in a Planet X or Nibiru, are not convinced of the recent announcement that downplays potential threats of an impact. Read More

Monday, December 14, 2015

How Trees Try to Cope With Climate Change

[Discovery] Imagine that you’re lost in a desert, or some other inhospitable environment. You’ve got two choices. One is to stay in place and conserve supplies and water, in order to make them last. The other is to push on tenaciously and hope that you find a way out of your predicament.
As it turns out, trees are like that too, when it comes to coping with the hotter, drier environment created by climate change. In a new article in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Washington researchers studied two common tree species in southwestern Colorado, and found that each had developed a different survival strategy.
“We really wanted to identify the entire suite of strategies that a plant can use to grow in drier environments, as well as which of these strategies each tree would employ,” UW biology professor  Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, who co-authored the article with graduate student Leander Anderegg, said in a press release.
In the summer of 2014, the two researchers studied the slopes of the La Plata Mountains in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, where a drought-ravaged ecosystem that’s become 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter over the past 30 years is putting stress on trees.
One of the species under pressure is the ponderosa pine, whose habitat at the lower levels overlaps with that of the trembling aspens, a tree that predominates further up the mountainside. Read More

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

[New York Times] ‘‘Bolt heavy objects to the wall,’’ says Ross S. Stein, a geophysicist who teaches at Stanford University. Loose things cause many earthquake injuries; broken bottles cut feet, falling armoires and flying televisions break bones. So fix your bookshelves in place and hang framed art with quake-­proof mountings. Latch cupboards containing breakables like glassware. Keep a headlamp by your bed, because there will probably be a power failure. ‘‘These are the easy, cheap fixes,’’ says Stein, who studied earthquakes and their aftershocks for more than 30 years as a senior scientist with the United States Geological Survey. Last year, he introduced, a website and app that enables users to calculate their seismic exposure.

Even in quake-­prone regions like the San Francisco Peninsula — where Stein lives, three miles from the San Andreas fault — buildings end up with fundamental vulnerabilities that require more expensive fixes. If you live near a fault, make sure your house is fastened to its foundation. Buildings tend to be cube-­shaped, and cubes, Stein says, ‘‘have no structural integrity’’: When jolted, they collapse into parallelograms. Strengthen your cube (or press your landlord to do so) with materials like crisscrossing cables or plywood bracing.

Because our homes generally aren’t built to handle shaking, Stein stores a crowbar under his bed in case he needs to jimmy a damaged door. He keeps extra propane for cooking and a solar-­powered cellphone charger. His surgical mask, work gloves and shovel are always accessible (‘‘be ready to rescue someone’’); three-­gallon bottles of distilled water are stored in his garage. Everyone in his family has an orange emergency whistle.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Scientists may have just solved one of the most troubling mysteries about sea-level rise

Interesting story that explains how melting ice can change the rotation of Earth. This matches the I AM America information. - Lori

[Washington Post] Scientists have announced a potential solution to a tantalizing puzzle about sea-level rise that’s remained unsolved for more than a decade. In doing so, they’ve helped confirm scientists’ latest estimates of 20th-century glacial melting and our understanding of how sea-level rise fundamentally affects the planet — down to the way it spins on its axis.
At issue is a scientific quandary known as “Munk’s enigma,” which was introduced by famed oceanographer Walter Munk in a 2002 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The enigma refers to a key discrepancy between the amount of sea-level rise believed to have occurred during the 20th century and the effects it should have produced on the planet — specifically, on the Earth’s rotation.
That’s right — in addition to all the devastating and obvious effects sea-level rise will produce on the planet, such as flooding and erosion, sea-level rise also has the more subtle, but nonetheless mind-boggling ability to alter the way the Earth rotates on its axis.
“If you melt ice sheets or glaciers, which happen to be close to to the poles, and all of that mass moves from the poles toward the equators, that movement is very similar [to] a figure skater who puts her arms out,” said the new paper’s lead author, Jerry Mitrovica, a professor of geophysics at Harvard University. “The melting of glaciers acts to slow the spin of the Earth in a measurable way.”
Additionally, glacial melt can also cause the Earth’s rotation to wobble a little, since “the melting of glaciers isn’t perfectly symmetrical, and the water will move more in some parts of the Earth than others,” Mitrovica said.
Theoretically, one should be able to look at calculations of how the Earth’s rotation has changed over the years, compare these changes with the amount of glacial melting believed to have occurred in the same time frame, and find that the two measurements reinforce each other. Read More

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New Map of Earth's Groundwater Supply

[Live Science] A new map of Earth's groundwater supply shows where on the planet water is locked up and "hidden" underground.  
The map — the first of its kind — provides a visual representation of Earth's groundwater resources and estimates that the planet's total groundwater supply stands at approximately 5.5 million cubic miles (about 23 million cubic kilometers).
Groundwater is the source of the world's second-largest collection of freshwater, according to the National Ground Water Association. (The planet's primary source of fresh water comes from glaciers and ice caps.) Groundwater is collected from rainfall that seeps underground into aquifers and reservoirs beneath the land surface, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points]
Groundwater is important for energy and food security, human health and healthy ecosystems, but it's also a resource that is at risk from overuse and human pollution, researchers said in a new study published online Nov. 16 in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The scientists obtained measurements of tritium, a radioactive version of the hydrogen molecule, and water flow models that used properties of water and its interaction with different types of rock to estimate how much groundwater the world possesses, where it is distributed and the age of the water in these underground reservoirs.
The researchers calculated that of the 5.5 million cubic miles of total groundwater in the uppermost 1.2 miles (2 km) of the continental crust, only between 24,000 to 129,500 cubic miles (100,000 to 540,000 cubic km) is young (modern) groundwater, which is less than 100 years old.
But, why is it important to know the age of groundwater? It turns out that young and old groundwater are fundamentally different in how they interact with the rest of the water and climate cycle, according to the study. Read More

China's Latest 'Airpocalypse' Seen from Space

[Live Science] Severe air pollution is choking China with thick veils of smog, and yesterday (Dec. 7), Beijing issued a red alert — the highest possible — due to poor air quality in the Chinese capital city. Recent satellite images of the country show large hazy clouds covering portions of northeastern China that are so thick they can be seen from space.
The images, taken by NASA's Earth-watching Suomi NPP satellite on Nov. 30, show some of the most severe pollution that cities in eastern China, including Beijing, have seen this year.
Shortly after the satellite photos were taken, country officials issued a code orange air pollution alert, which is the third tier of the four-tiered alert system that indicates "heavy" pollution or an Air Quality Index (AQI) reading between 201 and 300. On Monday, however,  the country's authorities  upgraded the alert to  a "code red," the highest level of alarm. It's the first time China has ever issued a code red air pollution alert, which indicates more than three days of air pollution levels with an AQI greater than 300. Officials have advised millions of the country’s citizens to stay indoors, implemented restrictions on driving and put a ban on outdoor barbeque until the smog dissipates, according to news reports. Read More

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Core of North American continent is 'extremely deformed'

[Daily Mail] Researchers have found that the Earth's continents really aren't as solid as a rock.
A groundbreaking new study found that cratons, the cores of continents, are less stable than thought.
They discovered the craton beneath the North American continent is extremely deformed, and has moved 850 kilometres - but they don't know why, or when.
They says its root is shifted relative to the center of the craton by 850 kilometers towards the west-southwest. 
It was assumed that cratons are stable because of their especially solid structure due to relatively low temperatures compared to the surrounding mantle.
A team of German-American scientists now discovered that these cratons that were assumed to be 'as solid as a rock' are not that solid after all. 
The team lead by Dr. Mikhail Kaban from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences now discovered that the craton beneath the North American continent is extremely deformed: its root is shifted relative to the center of the craton by 850 kilometers towards the west-southwest.
This fact is in contrast to the prevailing assumptions that these continental roots did not undergo substantial changes after their formation 2.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. 
The study that appears in the latest online publication of Nature Geoscience contradicts this traditional view. Read More

Sadhguru on Spirituality and Awakening Consciousness

We can tackle climate change by cleaning up our cities

[The Guardian] With more than 190 countries gathering in Paris this week the world still has a chance to avoid dangerous global warming – but only just. Already more than 160 countries have submitted pledges to reduce or limit their emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025 or 2030. Collectively these represent a substantial improvement on “business as usual”, but they are some way from a path that offers a reasonable probability of restricting the rise in global average temperature above its pre-industrial level to no more than 2C.
There is a serious emissions gap over the next 15 years: under the current pledges, emissions will go on rising until at least 2030. Warming of about 2C creates deeply worrying risks of triggering the kind of consequences – such as rapid sea level rise or the release of methane from gas hydrates in the ocean – that could prove catastrophic, potentially causing hundreds of millions of people to move from receding coastlines and more extreme weather. That will mean more migration, more refugees, more conflict and a world without peace and prosperity. That is why the world community, via the UNFCCC, regards warming above 2C as dangerous.
In Paris countries are expected to commit themselves to more ambitious emissions cuts, but there is no room for further delay. Already we are seeing the impact of climate change growing around the world, with more heatwaves, more record rainfall events and more intense droughts. There are signs that the major land-based ice sheets on Greenland and west Antarctica may be becoming unstable. Together they hold enough water to raise global sea levels by about 13 metres. The climate warning signals are all around us.
Governments around the world now acknowledge these dangers, and have started moving to low-carbon economies. Some have made more progress than others; some are more ambitious. But the direction of travel is clear.
One of the most crucial recent developments is that countries increasingly recognise the compatibility of action to tackle climate change with efforts to overcome poverty and raise living standards. These aims are intertwined and reinforce, rather than compete, with each other. Read More

As Big Food Feels Threat Of Climate Change, Companies Speak Up

[NPR] Chances are, you've picked up some chatter about the new global talks on climate change. If you can't quite see how it matters to you, personally, you might want to take a peek inside your pantry. Or your candy jar. Because it might just affect your access to everything from cheese to chocolate.
"It's very clear now that a changing climate will have a profound effect on agriculture," says Molly Brown, a geographer at the University of Maryland.
Take one simple example, she says: Vermont.
Farmers in this state used to count on being able to plant corn in May, she says. But weather patterns are shifting. The month of May is now typically cold and wet, "so they're really not able to plant their corn until the middle of June. That delays its harvest. And then we might have an early frost."
The result is less corn for Vermont's cows, and less local milk for the state's dairies. "It really changes the economic structure of how dairy products are produced in Vermont," Brown says.
This kind of thing is happening all over the world, sometimes with life-changing consequences.
In Ethiopia, Brown says, the country's traditional center of farming now isn't getting enough rain for its crops. Meanwhile, rain is falling in another region, in the northern part of Ethiopia, where few people live because it used to be really dry. "So the question is, do people move up north? Can they simply move the way they farm to that new region?"
Most farmers can't really see the the big global patterns of climate change, and certainly can't change what's happening.
But big multinational companies can see it, because they buy shiploads of farm products from all over the world.
Take, for example, Mars, Inc., maker of Mars bars, M&M's, Snickers, Skittles and more. Read More