Daily Archives: February 8, 2013

Remember the Blizzard of ’78

I wasn’t living in Boston yet; Albany, instead. But at the time I was actually travelling by car out to California, and was in Texas when this particular storm caught up with me. Texas got iced over, the Rio Grande froze, the citrus crop was destroyed and I spent two nights in Big Spring. Two months later there were still semi’s littering the roadside on Route 40 and elsewhere. This storm was the end of coastal residential development in New England. Between this storm and a few bad coastal storms that came over the next few years, thousands of homes were destroyed without being rebuilt, because the coast had already been rebuilt.

Now, I have a warning for your climate science denialists: Don’t tell me that “global warming isn’t real because 1978!!!” I’m not even going to explain why that is stupid. Just #STFU.

Anyway, here’s a blast from the past for you:

Extreme Weather in the US Northeast and Climate Change

This graph shows the extremes in one-day precipitation in a given month relative to the amount of precip in that month for the Northeastern US. So, if the green bar is at 30%, that means that that 30% of month’s precip fell in one event. The way this is computed is a little complicated because it is hard to define an “event” in time and space in relation to the time and space coordinates (as it were) we normally use. Check the source of the graph for a more detailed explanation. The point of this graph is that the opposite is true from what many expect: It isn’t the case that the snow was deeper back when you were a kid. It’s deeper now! (Check out this blog post for an explanation for why you may have misremembered your childhood.) There are a number of contributing factors to a pattern like this, with increasing extreme events, but the best way to think of this may be as an increase in the bimodality of the water cycle. Dry events are dryer (you may have noticed widespread drought) and wet events are wetter (as shown in this graph).

Northeastern US extreme precip events; more extreme rain and snow storms in more recent times.
From NOAA National Climatic Data Center.

Welcome Peter Gleick, Significant Figures Blog

Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute joins Scienceblogs.com, and here is his introductory post!

Welcome to the first post in my new National Geographic ScienceBlogs column “Significant Figures.” I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on a wide range of environmental science-related issues, data, and people, and to a productive and constructive interaction….

If you’ve hear me mention something about “something cool about to happen on the blogs” lately, this is it. Welcome Peter!

Galileoscope. 400 years in development, only about 50 bucks.

The #LearningSpace Google Hangout was talking today about the Galileoscope project. Galileo invented (I’m sure the story is more complex) the telescope and all that, and the Galileoscope project is HERE.

The Galileoscope is a high-quality, low-cost telescope kit developed by a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers, and science educators. No matter where you live, with this easy-to-assemble, 50-mm (2-inch) diameter, 25- to 50-power achromatic refractor, you can see the celestial wonders that Galileo Galilei first glimpsed 400 years ago and that still delight stargazers today. These include lunar craters and mountains, four moons circling Jupiter, the phases of Venus, Saturn’s rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye.

You buy a Galileoscope Kit and build it. I’m told it is not hard, and in fact, you can take it apart and put it back together again repeatedly. For that matter, you can

If you want, you can go to the Galileoscope project and pick a teacher somewhere, like your local grade school, and send them one. Check out your own workplace first to see if they match donations; you can send TWO galileoscopes to your local school. Or, just buy one and have fun.

If you point your PHS camera into the Galileoscope while it is looking at saturn, you can do this:

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 6.36.46 PM

Kit Photo Credit: druid labs via Compfight cc

The perfect gift for anyone who does not have … a banana slicer

… which I imagine is a lot of people. It is brilliant. Yellow, so you can find it among your other utensils and remember that it is for bananas. Banana shaped, which makes it godly, almost, as you all know. Safer than a knife. But what is most wonderful about the Hutzler 571 are the product reviews on Amazon’s site, which rival (almost) the product reviews for Bic’s “pens for her” (remember that?). Check it out!

CNN has not done a good job reporting climate change…

… but this can change, according to a report from Media Matters.

CNN founder Ted Turner said in 2011 that climate change is “probably the most serious … problem that humanity has ever faced,” adding that we need to “increase the amount of the debate” to motivate people to take action.

Unfortunately, the network he created has often failed to live up to that goal, devoting minimal time to the issue even while reporting on its consequences. A recent study by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage found that environmental stories accounted for only 0.36% of CNN’s news headlines between January 2011 and May 2012, the lowest of any major TV news network. And when CNN does mention climate change, it too often ignores the role of human emissions and treats the science as a subject for debate.

But big changes are coming to CNN…

CNN is getting new leadership, and Media Matters has a number of suggestions as to how the important news network might do right by it’s viewers and the planet. Check it out.