Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Humans Are Causing Earth to Wobble

[Popular Mechanics] When the Earth rotates, it doesn’t just spin. The Earth also wobbles on its axis like a top, and now a NASA study has clarified just what causes that wobble. The study identifies three separate causes, and one of those is our fault.
Scientifically, the Earth’s wobble is known as "polar motion." It’s a very small effect and barely noticeable with even sensitive equipment. Over the past century, the Earth’s axis has only moved about 30 feet, and it drifts about 4 inches per year.
According to the recent NASA study, there are three factors that cause this polar motion: mantle convection, glacier rebound, and polar ice loss. Previously, scientists believed that only one of these factors—glacial rebound—was responsible for nearly all polar motion. This new approach from NASA, however, identifies two additional sources, giving scientists a better look at how our planet spins and how humans are affecting that spin.
Mantle convection, one of the newly-identified causes of polar motion, is simply the circulation of Earth’s underground magma currents and the movement of its tectonic plates. Shifting parts of the mantle create unbalanced weight which can throw off the planet’s spin.
Glacial rebound is a little more complex. Essentially, heavy weight on the Earth’s poles, such as from massive glaciers during the last ice age, can actually cause the ground underneath them to be compressed. As those glaciers gradually melted, the Earth springs back to its original position, messing up its rotation slightly in the process.
A somewhat related phenomenon is polar ice loss, which certainly played a factor at the end of the ice age but is also very relevant today. When polar ice melts, the water flows into the oceans and spreads around the globe, destabilizing the planet’s rotation. In modern times, this is a very human-caused effect, as climate change is triggering unprecedented melting at the poles. Read More

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


The World Has Never Seen Anything Like What’s Happening at the Equator Right Now

[Mother Jones] The map looks terrifyingly unfamiliar. Not because of the outlines of the continents; those are comforting in their hooks, tails, splotches, and whorls. It’s the storms. Across the globe’s tropics right now, seven superstorms are swirling over oceans. Hurricane Florence is butting into the Carolinas on North America’s southeastern coast. Tropical storms Helene, Isaac, and Joyce are hovering over the Atlantic like jets stacked on approach to Charlotte. Tropical cyclone Barijat is breaking up as it makes landfall at the Gulf of Tonkin while the Philippines and the rest of southeast Asia girds itself for Super Typhoon Mangkhut.
So, fine, sure, it’s hurricane season. Stormy weather, yes, but climatology said this was going to happen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that science doesn’t know if a warming planet will have more hurricanes, but its assembled researchers do agree that what hurricanes happen will be worse. More intense wind, more rain, parked for longer over coastal cities unprepared for 100-year-storms that now come once every five years instead.
Still, though, a map of a planet with semi-permanent storms around its belt, with a violently churning equator…that starts to look otherworldly. It’s more like the planet-spanning white storms of Saturn, or the swirling atmosphere of Neptune. It’s the sign of a planet in the throes of change, and those changes don’t look good for the future.
Humans are used to the idea of some parts of their homeworld being all but uninhabitable. The arctic regions, even as they lose more and more of their icy expanses to a warmer atmosphere, are essentially no-go regions without intense scientific support. Yes, there are scattered settlements above the Arctic Circle, and some of the bases in Antarctica are technically permanent, in that there are humans there year round, even in the permanent darkness of austral winter. But no human lives in Antarctica, and even temporary visits require protective gear and technical support. Parts of the world’s deserts are all but uninhabited, and researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have argued that some climate change models put the hottest daytime temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa above survivable levels for humans. Read More

Saturday, September 1, 2018

DEW Laser Fires Proven Conclusively...Again & Again & Again

California’s blistering wildfire season has taken a devastating toll

[Think Progess] One of the worst wildfire periods in California’s history is slowly winding down, with the majority of the state’s deadly fires now contained or nearly under control.
Of the 16 wildfires that tore through the state earlier this month, all but five are now contained. That includes the Mendocino Complex fire, which burned for a month and is now the worst wildfire in California’s recorded history. That fire is a complex of two fires, the Ranch fire and the River fire, both of which began burning in July.
According to an August 30 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the Ranch fire is 93 percent contained, with 410,182 acres still impacted. The River fire is limited to 48,920 acres and is 100 percent contained, although smoke and hazy conditions persist around the entire area.
While containment does not mean that a wildfire has finished burning, it does indicate that either a man-made or natural barrier is keeping a fire from spreading. Read More

Here's How America Uses Its Land

[Bloomberg] There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century.
What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.
Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used.
Gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S., and all of the country’s cities and towns would fit neatly in the Northeast. Read More

Presidential Proclamation on National Preparedness Month, 2018

[White House] National Preparedness Month is a time to focus our attention on the importance of preparing our families, homes, businesses, and communities for disasters that threaten our lives, property, and homeland.  During this time, we also honor the brave men and women who selflessly respond to crises and disasters, rendering aid to those in need.  These first responders, who work tirelessly to safeguard our Nation and protect our citizens, deserve our utmost gratitude and appreciation.
Over the past year, communities nationwide and across the Territories have witnessed and endured damage from multiple hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters.  The historic hurricane season of 2017 included three catastrophic storms that made landfall within a month, and was followed by a destructive series of wildfires in California.  Combined, these natural disasters affected 47 million people and tens of thousands were mobilized to provide aid, comfort, and assistance.  We are also especially mindful of those currently affected by ongoing wildfires in California, Oregon, and Colorado.  In spite of tremendous challenges, the resilience of the American people continues to prevail.
Tragedies are somber reminders that preparedness is a shared responsibility and that it is critical to maintain readiness.  All Americans can prepare for potential disasters by developing and practicing a family emergency response plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, signing up for alerts on mobile devices, setting aside emergency savings, and maintaining adequate insurance policies for their homes and businesses.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campaign outlines other important steps to best prepare for a major disaster.
This month, I encourage all Americans to take the opportunity to ensure they have an emergency response plan in place and ready to be properly executed.  Emergencies and disasters test the resilience and strength of families, communities, and our Nation.  It is impossible to avoid every challenge and threat, but we can and must prepare for them.  By doing so, we can help protect our communities and save lives.