Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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2009 Plane Terrorist Was Released By Bushies & Saudis

The irony of some stories can be too striking to not note.  The Dec 25 terror plot to blow up Northwest Flight 253 is such a story.  In the time period since President Obama has stated that the Guantanamo prison in Cuba needs to be closed and the current detainees moved to U.S. prisons, the Cons have spewed vile attacks against the Commander-in-Chief and his plans.

Among their attacks, they claim that letting terrorists free (a potential result of trials) would endanger America.  It turns out they know the best about this – one of the planners for the Flight 253 attack was released from Guantanamo … by the Bush “administration”.  He was sent to Saudi Arabia for “art therapy rehabilitation” and released into the public.

What the Bushies didn’t do was hold a public trial for him.  The military and the “administration” made the opaque decision to send the man onto Saudi Arabia, the same country where 19 of the 20 9/11 terrorists were born.  Saudi Arabia in turn set the men free.  Yet, there is no word from peeing-in-their-pants Cons about the Saudis releasing this monster back into the public.  Why aren’t John McCain and Joe Lieberman calling for bombing the Saudis?  Because the Saudis enjoy high-level protection from their American lap-dogs.

No, in the Cons’ sick and twisted world-view, those who were directly responsible for endangering Americans (who were the same people who didn’t keep America safe prior to 9/11, btw), continue to shoulder zero blame.  Instead, the half-black Commander-in-Chief gets skewered.  Moreover, keep in mind that these same screw-ups were the ones saying in the Bush years that disagreeing with the President was unpatriotic and traitorous.  They forgot to specify that only applied when the President was a Con and a rich white man.

Among other things, this terror plot, failed or not, points to yet another failure of the Bushies – it is obvious that despite wasting billions of our tax dollars, the Bush “administration” didn’t ensure our intelligence agencies were communicating properly or working together effectively.  An eerily similar trail of clues leading up to this terror plot are quickly becoming apparent.  Further, first responders are in most cases not any closer to possessing the equipment they’ve cited as necessary to respond to attacks on U.S. soil than they were on 9/10/2001.  Guess what, Cons – your man in charge didn’t do enough about that for 7 long years.  Yet today, you’re blaming President Obama.  Why, oh why do Cons hate America so much?


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State of the Arctic (Poles) – 12/30/09

The state of the Arctic sea ice in late December 2009 remains the 2nd worst of any recorded December. The areal extent of sea ice continues to be well below the climatological average, and as it has for most of 2009, significantly below the negative 2nd standard deviation of the 1979-2000 area. The areal extent of Arctic sea ice continues to be anomalously low, as it has for well over a year now. The Hudson Bay has finally iced over. The late freeze this year was due to anomalously warm waters in the Bay in 2009. The Barents Sea remains relatively ice-free for this time of year. Remember, the Arctic Ocean hasn’t seen sun in a couple of months now.

The state of the Antarctic sea ice in late December 2009 is less disturbing. After reaching a high value of ~19 million sq. km. back in late September, the 2009 melt season exceeded that of the 2008 season. That trend shifted slightly as December drew to a close – the areal extent has increased from the 1979-2000 average to the positive 2nd standard deviation. The exact value of areal extent in 2009 remains below the value measured in 2008 by a small amount. The trend found in December is likely due to this year’s storms: both tracks and intensities vary year to year.

Globally, the extent of sea ice in 2009 continued the trend seen throughout the Aught’s: anomalously low extent, as seen in this graph. There were only a handful of times when global ice extent was significantly above the climatological average these past 10 years and none had the magnitude of the record low extents seen in 2007 and 2008. When viewed in the long term, it is clear to see that the state of the poles has shifted in the past 10 years. The majority of that state change has been in the Arctic.

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Are Senate Dems Kicking Climate Legislation To The Curb?

President Barack Obama scored a major victory in the final hours of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, getting a number of nations to agree on a path toward climate action moving forward.  Buttressing the victory was getting China and India to agree to international consultations and analysis of their efforts to curb pollution.  Such a condition is one thing that Senate Cons were supposedly waiting for in order for the U.S. to finally do something meaningful about climate change.  Whether that concern holds true now that the condition has been met by the Obama administration remains to be seen, of course.  In fact, I fully expect the Cons to claim that no such condition was really met or that a new excuse will crop up.

So what about Senate Dems?  How do they view the upcoming climate/energy legislation that Sens. Kerry and Boxer have worked on all year?  Most importantly, how do the same Senate CorporateDems who are responsible for gutting the Senate’s health care legislation (turning it into a health insurance giveaway) view the climate/energy legislation?  Well, if Politico is to be believed (a stretch, I know), some of those same CorporateDems who gave everything to the insurance corporations that they could have been releasing statements saying climate and energy should be put off until after the 2010 elections!

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2009-10 El Niño Warmest Since 1997-98

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s ENSO Wrap-Up, the 2009-2010 El Niño has been characterized as the warmest since the 1997-98 event, the warmest in recorded history.  This El Niño is now stronger than the 2002-03 and 2006-07 events.

Here is ABM’s Nino 3.4 Sea-Surface Temperature Index time series, which measures temperatures over a large patch of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean.  It’s latest weekly value is 1.91C positive anomaly.  In comparison, the 1982-83 and 1997-98 events both had 3C+ anomalies, with the 1997-98 event coming close to a 4C+ anomaly!

Will the 2009-10 event be as strong as the 1997-98 event?  Not likely.  It will be one of the stronger events, by all current appearances and recent forecasts.  What does that mean for 2010?  It means that 2010 has a decent chance at being the all-time warmest year (globally averaged temperatures), beating 2005 by fractions of a degree.  Since global temperatures typically respond to El Niño events 3-6 months later, the current spate of near-record global temperatures have less to do with El Niño than will be the case in 3-6 more months.  That time-frame happens to coincide with the Northern Hemispheric summer.

Despite what might or might not happen in any particular location or state in the U.S. this next year, I expect global temperature records to be set in 2010.  This will happen at the same time that a protracted solar minimum (no/few sunspots) is occurring.  So to all those who try to excuse temperatures to solar activity – your excuse is broken.  Where will you look to next, all the while ignoring the evidence in front of you?

[h/t Climate Progress]


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Health Care – What Did Obama Say?

Did Sen. Obama campaign on a public option or not?  It’s a question that is taking up a lot of pixels online and airtime on radio and TV.  As a motivation to go looking for some answers, I have pondered something for a while about President Obama and other elected officials: How much does every American read into a candidates’ generic statement?  Are we really listening to what they’re saying or are we hearing what we want to hear?  All too often, I fear it is the latter.   That’s one reason why campaigns are so frustrating to many people.  Candidates are purposefully generic because they know everybody will read into their statements what they want to some degree.  Getting elected is all about convincing enough people that you support everybody’s position.  You can’t, of course, but that’s the task.

To begin with, I think I remember then-Sen. Obama campaigning on a public option.  While I knew he wasn’t the most progressive Democratic candidate, he was all I had once Nov. 2008 rolled around.  But did he campaign on something close to what I wanted or didn’t he?  Here is some of what I found:

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2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit News 12/22/09 – Accord & Future Directions

I obviously haven’t posted anything about the Copenhagen Conference for a few days.  Not for lack of desire, but for a lack of time.  So before more time slips away and I lose track of what happened in Copenhagen, here are where things stand, as best as I can determine.

The Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009 wasn’t an abject failure, as too many people continue to profess.  Did the Conference result in the most aggressive actions by every country that the most optimistic could have hoped for?  Of course not.  Anybody who thought that would happen set themselves up for severe disappointment.  Is it the final step in climate action internationally?  Again, of course it isn’t.  What I think happened is a solid step in the general right direction was taken.  The results were actually better than the total gridlock that appeared 1-3 days days prior to the end led observers to believe they would be.  The agent who made the recorded progress available?  The Obama administration.

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2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit News 12/18/09 #1 – UN Draft Analysis

By a twist of chance, I somehow missed the much talked about UN draft text yesterday afternoon, so I’m a little late to this.  A number of bloggers have referred to it as a secret UN analysis.  Most folks are completely up in arms about it.  Until more information comes out from the end of the Copenhagen Conference, I’m going to exercise caution and not jump to conclusions.  I’ll share what details I understand and provide my analysis of what’s gone on.

What is everybody freaking out about?  Supposedly, a “leaked UN report” contained info on cuts offered at Copenhagen and what those cuts would mean for total GHG pollution amounts and associated warming.  It shows a gap of up to 4.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions below the required 2020 level of 44Gt, that is , the level currently thought to be required to stay below a global 2C rise.  That 2C rise has been cited as being critical to keeping catastrophic climate change at bay.  Below that rise, we should be “okay”; above it, we will face severe climatic consequences.

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2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit News 12/17/09 – Slow Movement, Clinton, Kerry & Science Updates

China and the U.S. continue to have a moderate level of disagreement on issues related to verification, namely “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” or MRV as the parlance has developed.  China says it isn’t opposed to MRV for actions that receive international financing, technology or capacity building support, which is actually a good thing.  International monies and projects should be fully transparent and accountable.  The U.S. disagreement stems from the fact that China has already implemented climate change actions since 2005 that are internally funded.  If text currently being debated is put in place, those projects wouldn’t be subject to international scrutiny, which I agree would be a bad thing.  National sovereignty is one aspect of this struggle, but so is international dependencies.  Some nations will literally be swallowed by the seas soon.  Those nations rightfully want to ensure that every other nation is doing what they say they’re doing (and legally bound to do by treaty).

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New Exoplanet Remarkably Earth-like

I have followed with much interest over the years the search for planets outside of our solar system.  Dubbed exoplanets, or extrasolar planets, their numbers have skyrocketed in the past 5 to 10 years.  I remember hearing about debates as a child about the existence of these entities.  After the initial report of an exosolar planet in a highly respected journal, Nature, on October 6, 1995, the pace of discovery has quickened as various techniques for discovery have been tested and implemented and teams of planet-hunters have sprung up across our own world.  The total number is now up to 416.  One of the most unexpected results?  Our solar system is, so far, the odd ball.

An excellent representation of most of them (373) can be seen in this National Geographic graphic.  It’s charts like this that captured my imagination as a kid.  I love seeing the most current concepts of a still-developing science.  If you go look at it, don’t miss the sliding bar about 2/3 of the way down to see the full range of results.

One goal of these searches is obviously a planet like Earth, which is capable of hosting life, or even civilizations on it.  The closest thing yet has been found.

20 light years away, the planet currently known as Gliese 581c has been announced.  I wish the American press would cover these discoveries like the British do.  This article is well worth clicking to, just to see the graphics they have available.  They include a conceptual image of the solar system in question, belonging to Gliese 581, a comparison of the new planet compared to Earth, and a conceptual image of the sky as seen from Gliese 581c.

Spectacular, all around.


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Three Men Who Were Responsible For the Great Recession

I saw this picture in a Meteor Blades diary on dkos and had to comment on it:

Here is a comment made at the end of the post:

[The Time magazine cover photo is of Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers from February 15, 1999, right after Gramm-Leach-Bliley repeal of Glass-Steagall was signed. h/t to Paul Krugman for the reminder.]

Remember how good the economy was doing at the end of the 1990s?  Remember how little growth the economy and families in the U.S. experienced in the next decade as the Bushies ran the country into the ground?  The efforts of these three men, among others to be sure, was to stave off a global economic meltdown for a little while.  Their solutions were temporary and actually made the fundamentals worse than before their tinkering.

What’s the point?  Two of these men – Robert Rubin and Larry Summers – are part of President Obama’s economic team.  Does anybody seriously expect the changes necessary for long-term economic recovery will be made with two of the three Marketeers Mouseketeers back in decision-making positions of power?  Think again.

I realized during the Bush years that the President doesn’t matter so much on most issues that matter to people on a day-to-day basis.  It’s the people they put in power around them that matter.  Think that doesn’t make sense?  Think about Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and dozens of others.  They were around for Nixon’s failed presidency.  What did you expect would happen if the architects of that epic failure were put back in positions of power?

Now think of Obama.  Robert Gates is a holdover from the Bush “administration” – in the Department of War.  Has our approach been significantly altered abroad?  In Iraq, the answer is a tentative yes, but that has more to do with Iraqis exerting control than any desire in the Obama administration or the too-powerful War Industry to leave the 2nd largest proven-oil reserve area without direct control.  In Afghanistan, a surge has been proposed.  So no change there.  Economic policy?  Ben Bernanke, Greenspan’s replacement and the man who stood by while the global economy went down the toilet, has been selected by Obama to serve another term as Fed Chairman.  Two of the clowns in the picture are an integral part of Obama’s team.  Their failed economic ideology gets another chance.

The reforms necessary for full economic recovery will not take place with Rubin and Summers in charge of anything important.  They’re devout believers in the false “Free Market” religion.  It has failed every time it’s been implemented according to leading “Free-Marketeer” dogmatists.  It will fail again – count on it.

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