Annals of Global Warming: 2016 looks to be hottest year ever

November 19, 2016

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month's temperature and each month before it

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month’s temperature and each month before it

Earth is nearing the end of the the third record-breaking hot year in a row. 2014 was the hottest year ever, but was beaten by 2015. Now 2015’s heat takes second place to 2016’s heat.

2016’s record-breaking heat too fuel in part from an El Nino through the first nine months of the year; with a La Nina weather pattern developing now, there will be some cooling, but the cooling will not be enough to keep 2016 from being the warmest year ever recorded in human history.

Notes on this milestone can be found in several places; Climate Central’s explanation covers it succinctly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its temperature data through the end of October on Thursday and found that for the year-to-date, the global average temperature is 1.75°F above the 20th century average of 57.4°F. That puts the year 0.18°F ahead of last year, the current hottest year titleholder, with just two months to go.

“It’s likely that we will end up as record warmest,” Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said during a press teleconference.

October itself tied as the third warmest in 136 years of record-keeping, coming in at 1.31°F (0.73°C) above the 20th century average of 57.1°F, according to NOAA. (NASA, which uses a different baseline and slightly different methods, put October in second place.)

September was the first month of the year to not be record warm (it came in second place), as temperatures began to cool slightly with the demise of El Niño and the move toward La Niña. It ended a streak of 16 consecutive record-setting months, itself a record.

Maybe more shocking, it’s been 115 years since we had a record cold year, according to Climate Central.

In fact, global temperatures have been above-average for 382 months in a row by NOAA’s reckoning, going all the way back to the Reagan administration. To find a record cold month requires going all the way back to February 1929. The last record-cold year was even further back, in 1911.

382 months. Anyone under the age of 31 has never experienced a single month of temperatures as low as the 20th century average, in their lifetime. A generation has been raised with global warming climate change as the norm. How will that affect voting patterns and public opinion to change government policies?

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Caption from Discover Magazine's ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)

Caption from Discover Magazine’s ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)


Global Warming is on the ballot; Bill Nye urges voting wisely

November 2, 2016

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

No secret that Bill Nye wants governments to act to slow and stop global warming.

Nothing if not hopeful, Nye explained to Mother Jones earlier that electing a president dedicated to making change could push Congress off the dime:

Electing a climate-friendly president is key, Nye says, because it could inject new life into Congress’ long-stagnant climate debate. “There are…many very reasonable people in Congress who are playing the hand they are dealt with these gerrymandered congressional districts,” he adds. “They have to please an extraordinary minority.” With the right leadership and timing, he says, the politicians just might take action.

A candidate rational about science and climate change is likely to be rational on other issues, too.

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Night shot, Kolob Reservoir Road (Zion National Park)

October 20, 2016

Cousin Amanda Holland sends snapshots from her science work.

“Evening drive along Kolob Reservoir Road, west end of Zion NP.” Photo by Amanda Holland; used with some permission, all rights reserved

Scientists in the field find beauty denied the casual visitor or even serious tourist — which is one of the great attractions of a science job, in the field.

Another view of why we love the American West, why we love the mountains, why we love the deserts.


Why we need war on the mosquito, the deadliest animal – Bill Gates

October 16, 2016

World's Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

World’s Deadliest Animals, Gates Foundation

One could quibble, and point out that it’s the malaria parasite that does the dirty work, more than the mosquito; but it’s only a quibble.

Short film from Bill Gates explaining why he helps wage war on the lowly mosquito. Use of science to find ways to defeat mosquito-borne disease transmission is especially important in the post-DDT world, since DDT resistance now aids every mosquito on Earth.

GatesNotes said:

There are about a dozen different diseases that are spread to humans by mosquito bites including dengue, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and malaria. This little mosquito actually kills more humans than any other thing.

Learn more at: http://b-gat.es/2cUd9Ff


DDT FAIL: Mosquito-borne diseases deplete medical care in DDT’s world capital

September 15, 2016

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

In the western world, libertarians, so-called conservatives and anti-science people call for a “return” of DDT to fight Zika virus spread.

But in the world’s DDT capital, India, where DDT is still made and more DDT is applied than in the rest of the world combined, DDT’s failures stand out. News reports say health care in key Indian cities is hamstrung by doctors and nurses getting mosquito-borne diseases.

Why don’t they just use “the magic powder,” DDT, to wipe out mosquitoes? Oh, Dear Reader, India has used DDT extensively, for everything, for 60 years. Mosquitoes that carry disease, and all other mosquitoes, and many other insect pests, developed resistance and immunity to DDT from that use.

Apart from the fact that DDT would be the WRONG pesticide to use for anything other than malaria-carrying mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles, it simply does not work.

If DDT advocates paid attention to news and history, they’d not call for more DDT anywhere for any reason.

India Today detailed the simmering crisis in Delhi in a story headlined, “Dengue-chinkungunya outbreak takes down doctor, nurses and sanitation workers”:

Subhead:

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

As outcry over an onslaught of viral diseases in the Capital reaches fever pitch and hospitals struggle in the face of an unrelenting tide of patients, the men in white too have started calling in sick.

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

Malaria is carried almost always by Anopheles, but chikungunya is carried by two species of Aedes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes also carry dengue fever and Yellow fever. A. aegypti is the principal carrier of the Zika virus, worldwide. Health workers being felled by dengue and chikungunya tells us the area would also be fertile territory for the spread of Zika virus, if it were introduced there.

Careful watchers, therefore, will understand that DDT has worn out its usefulness against a wide variety of mosquito-borne diseases including Zika.

“In our hospital, 10 per cent of the staff is currently down with fever,” said Dr Ramesh Chugh, medical superintendent of Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Hospital in south Delhi. “We have over 100 doctors, and currently 7-8 doctors are down with fever.”

Experts say heavier than usual rainfall, a large number of construction projects and scores of open drains in Delhi are allowing mosquitoes to breed in stagnant water.

Far too many commenters fail to understand that DDT was never the chief tool in fighting malaria, or any other disease. Instead, DDT was used to knock down local populations of mosquitoes, temporarily, so health care and better housing and other measures could cure humans of the diseases and remove mosquito breeding areas from areas around human homes and human activities. India’s failure to provide good sewage drainage, good storm sewage drainage, and otherwise plug up potholes and even tiny water catching places allows mosquitoes almost free rein. India relied too long on poisoning everything with DDT, instead of building a mosquito-resistant urban area.

At Lok Nayak Hospital in central Delhi, 18 doctors are on leave. “Either the doctors are down with fever or somebody in their family is ill. The doctors are taking leave for at least 4-5 days. We have had cases where physicians were ill but returned to work early seeing the number of patients,” said a senior doctor.

NURSES AND SANITATION WORKERS ALSO ON LEAVE

In east Delhi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, 18 members of the medical staff, including doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, are absent. “In a staff of nearly 1200, 10-15 doctors are on leave due to viral illnesses,” said Dr Punita Mahajan, medical superintendent of Baba Ambedkar Hospital in northwest Delhi. “We are not exerting pressure on the doctors to continue if they feel slightly unwell as it is very important for the hospital to ensure that they remain healthy.”

The Delhi government has asked hospitals to ensure that dengue and chikungunya patients are treated without distress.

Officials say the health department has already dedicated an additional 1,000 beds for those suffering from fever at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Janakpuri Super Speciality Hospital and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital.

These institutes have been designated nodal hospitals for fever in the city. All hospitals- government and private – in the National Capital Territory have been directed to increase their surge capacity.

“While doctors are trying their best to remain on duty till the effect of vector-borne diseases recedes the city, the shortage in staff and the new directions from the government would add to the existing burden,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.

The Delhi government says it is fully prepared to battle with the onslaught of diseases and has denied in the city high court claims that the Capital is facing its worst dengue crisis.

In an affidavit filed in the court, it said strict surveillance of preparedness and impact of these diseases has been carried out for taking further preventive measures as, due to environmental conditions, the number of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria shows an upswing during July to October.

India continues to learn that DDT is not magic, not often useful, and sometimes detrimental to disease control efforts.

Will the rest of the world watch and learn? No, DDT will not and cannot help in the fight against Zika virus’s spread to humans. Waste no more time wondering, but get on with the hard work of draining mosquito breeding places, improving houses with window screens and other improvements, and developing vaccines and other medicines. Now.

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Annals of Global Warming: XKCD explains warming over the eons

September 13, 2016

XKCD often makes us think; the strip’s forays into science and social policy often rank near the top of my personal list of salient and clear educational devices on tough issues.

Here’s a timeline of Earth’s average atmospheric temperature, going back a few years before your mother was born (though she was born a long, long time ago!).

See where this is headed? No one else has done it much better.

I did wonder when I saw this earlier, on September 12: Did the creator of XKCD learn this stuff in Edward Tufte’s course?

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

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Remembering when government gave humanity hope for the future: A giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969

July 20, 2016

It’s a day to remember history.  Do you remember that day, the first time humans set foot on the Moon?

Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff, worth missing school.

By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Earthrise from Apollo 11, before the Moon landing

Moonrise from Apollo 11 prior to Moon landing.

Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.”), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.

The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again. Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.

The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.

By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 schedule for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.

But, then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer — out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.

Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA had decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.

And so it was that on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,” was what he meant to say in a transmission that was famously garbled (at least he didn’t say anything about jelly doughnuts).

NASA provided a video compilation for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009:

P. Z. Myers says he remembers a lawnmower going somewhere. It must have been very bright in Seattle. (Thanks for the reminder, P.Z., and a tip of the old scrub brush to you.)

2016 marks the 47th anniversary.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) lists 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers add the end of the Cold War, 1981; I usually include Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)

* Why 1968 was such a tough year, in roughly chronological order: 1968 produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot-out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot-out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!

More, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

And even more:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


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