Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Brief Comment On Insults & Apologies

At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Tuesday, when it first emerged that Bibles and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Dover Air Force Base, a large U.S. base near Dover, Delaware.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have apologized for what they said was a mistake in handling the Bibles, but their regrets have not quelled the deadly protests.

I can’t imagine what people might be upset about….  Certainly not bad policy and certainly not failed execution, right?



Plants Demonstrate How Climate Has Already Changed

The USDA recently released new plant hardiness zones – updating maps from 1990.  While some areas look different just because finer details were possible, there are clearly significant differences between the maps that are due to longer growing seasons and warmer nights at the bookends of the growing season.  Those shifts in plant hardiness are an obvious manifestation of shifts that have already occurred in the climate.  More shifts will continue to become apparent in the years ahead.

Where did most of the changes occur?  As the comparison map below shows, at higher latitudes and higher altitudes – in the same locations that have warmed the most to date.


Figure 1. Comparison of the 1990 and 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps. Image credit: USDA and Arbor Day Foundation.

Look at the northern tier and the Rocky Mountains.  Shifts from Zone 3 to 4 up north and from Zone 4 to 5 and Zone 5 to 6 throughout the Rocky Mountains are most apparent.  Other changes can also be seen in smaller regions across the country.

The plants are simply responding to the changes in the climate.  No cosmic rays or long solar minimum precipitated these changes.  Readers should keep a simple fact in mind: these shifts are in response to the climate forcing leading up to the 1980s.  These shifts do not yet represent the forcing of the past 30 years.  How different will the maps of 2100 look?

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Would Romney Run Country Like His Campaign?

If so, we would be in deep trouble financially if he got elected.

For the month of January, Romney’s campaign was negative $12.2 million in funds, which beat … George W Bush’s record in January 2000.

Given the thrashing that Bush did to the U.S. deficit and debt, it’s not a stretch to say we couldn’t afford another Republican President whose campaign spends more than it makes.

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Americans Don’t Think Employer Belief Should Impede Their Access To Insurance Coverage

A solid nominee for the “Duh!” moment of the day: polling shows that Americans think they should have unfettered access to insurance coverage – that procedures and treatments should be available to those who are insured.

Put another way – why should employers get to decide what insured Americans get access to?  The Teabaggers didn’t think that the government should have that ability (not that the recent health insurance legislation ever proposed doing so), so why should it be okay for employers to restrict access, as Republican politicians are advocating?

All that said, this whole thing wouldn’t even be an issue if universal health care was enacted instead of forcing millions of Americans into the for-profit insurance industry.

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What Journalistic Integrity?

When you see graphs like the one below, you realize most journalists and journalism entities are led around to ridiculous lengths.  I’ve seen the graph before but haven’t written about it – until I kept hearing about the nonsensical witch hunts being perpetrated by House Republican Teabaggers like Darrel Issa and Fred Upton.  The activities they pursue would qualify them for immediate removal from office in a country with values.

On a related note, I’m sure glad then-Speaker Pelosi decided not to investigate the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and occupations.  No, investigating that would have destroyed the comity of the House.  Real waste, fraud & abuse?  Swept under the rug by Democrats intent on maintaining power.  Fake waste, fraud & abuse?  Ratcheted up to conspiratorial heights by Republican Teabaggers and abetted by the corporate media.

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Gasoline Usage Still Way Down YoY; Oil Prices Rising

According to NDD at the Bonddad Blog, Year-over-Year gasoline usage in the U.S. remains significantly negative: 8167 M gallons this year vs. 8810 M gallons last year this week.  That’s -7.3%.

Yet oil prices increased this week by over $4 to $103.24 per barrel and gas prices at the pump rose $0.04 to $3.52 (national average).

Let ‘s state this clearly: it’s not American demand driving those prices up.  We can attribute part of the increase to other growing economies.  But as more people are figuring out all the time, a not inconsequential part of it is commodity speculators.  Then there’s tension over Iran that the Republican Teabaggers are trying to inflame – they just love them all the war and conflict they can gin up (as long as their family members aren’t required to actually serve, dont’cha know).  Finally, don’t discount the role of the giant fossil fuel industry here – do you think they’re taking the Keystone pipeline decision in peace?

As the folks at Bonddad Blog state, oil and gas prices this high helped act like a choke collar on the U.S. economy last year.  Given the relative growing health of the economy since, and the similarly growing prospects for Obama’s reelection largely as a result, that collar might be forcefully reapplied (or no action taken by some to remove it) in order to dim his electoral chances.

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Globe’s 19th Warmest January in 2012

January 2012 was the globe’s 19th warmest on record, according to NOAA, which is pretty much what one would expect given the prolonged La Niña conditions dominating the tropical Pacific and the fact that we’re still climbing out of the last solar minimum.  The characterization could be made that despite the cooling being exerted, the globe still ended up being warmer than more than 110 other January’s!

It is useful to keep in mind when reading about these type of circumstances that there are multiple signals occurring at the same time (solar, ENSO, AGW, etc.) and the state of global temperature (or any other variable) at any one point in time is but a snapshot within larger trends.