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Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 43: why do we feel the need to be alarmist? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Mon, 02/20/2012 - 5:45pm
Fukushima_explosion.jpg

Because the situation is alarming.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty about where the melted-down fuel at Fukushima I's reactors is resting. TEPCO and various NPA's have insisted all along that they know where it is, and everything is under control. The most recent information from TEPCO is that the fuel is contained in the containment vessel, but they won't be able to confirm that for ten years when it cools down enough to go have a look. Recent efforts to peek inside the rubble have been hampered. One attempt resulted in very blurry photographs ... apparently the high levels of radiation mess up the camera. An interesting development is afoot: Scientists at Nagoya have a muon camera! Muons are part of the background radiation stuff that is wafting through us and all our matter at a low level all the time. Even though muons can pass through most matter without even noticing it, the densest of matter does absorb some of them. The Nagoya scientist have been using a "muon camera" to photograph the insides of volcanoes. You set up the film, filter out other background radiation, and wait a very long time (weeks, months, etc.) and the muons eventually leave an image. This could be used to detect the very dense nuclear fuel at Fukushima. It may not work because of the high levels of radiation at the crippled plant, but it is probably worth a try. TEPCO so far seems to be ignoring the offer. We have come to the point where we can assume that if a method of analysis could show that things are worse off than TEPCO's rose-colored-glasses version that they will resist using that method, so don't expect the muon camera to be installed any time soon, or ever. Unless, of course, some outside agency simply comes in and takes over.

Speaking of lies and deceit, we also learned of a worst-case scenario report produced after the meltdown that indicated the distinct possibility of large amounts of radiation being spewed over a large area that would have actually required a voluntary evacuation of ... wait for it .... Tokyo. This was a worst-case scenario, and that did not happen, but it was considered plausible. The disturbing part of this is that a small number of officials got hold of it and decided it was too scary to tell anyone about, so it was suppressed. Just like in all those overdone highly implausible science fiction movies.

Water and temperature levels at Fukushima I are still varying in ways that are not understood and that should cause concern.

Thousands of tons of crushed stone was mined from near the Fukushima plant after the meltdowns but before anyone thought to restrict the use of radioactive rock from the area, and has been used to build about 60 homes; another several dozen homes are about to be built with the same stone. Also, radioactive gravel has been used to build walls at an Elementary school and in roads and pathways.

In Nihonmatsu, children wearing dosimeters were found to have been exposed to alarmingly high levels of radiation. When the source of this radiation was discovered, it turned out to be from concrete made with this radioactive gravel. The levels of radiation inside the homes made from this concrete was higher than the radiation levels outside the home. Of the families that had moved into the apartments, many had moved from the Fukushima evacuation zone.

The party line of NPA's regarding Chernobyl is that nothing really bad happened there despite rumors to the contrary. Now we hare hearing that noting really bad happened at Fukushima, but the comparison is being made to Chernobyl ... Everything is fine at Fukushima because unlike Chernobyl, where "...people were dying from huge, high exposures, some of the workers were dying very soon..." nothing like that is happening in Japan. This would be funny if it wasn't so demented.

Meanwhile, at Fukushima, where nothing has gone wrong and everything is fine, researchers have found that bird populations are dwindling as a result of radioactive fallout.

In the first major study of the impact of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, the researchers, from Japan, the US and Denmark, said their analysis of 14 species of bird common to Fukushima and Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city which suffered a similar nuclear meltdown, showed the effect on abundance is worse in the Japanese disaster zone.

One of the effects of increased ambient radiation is reduction in brain size in birds, and it can be safely guessed that this may happen in humans as well. More information about this is here.

A study of mother's milk at Fukushima is starting, and there is now concern over locust consumption ... the edible insects may be sufficiently radioactive that they should be avoided, which is a bummer, because they are rather tasty.

The Japanese have developed a way to plow their fields so that the surface radiation readings are reduced. The radioactive stuff is plowed deeper where it will not be read by surface sensors. We assume plants will still be able to absorb the radioactive elements via their roots. A recent study documented high levels of radiation in earthworm castings in the Fukushima area. We wonder if it is easier to catch radioactive fish with radioactive worms? One study has also shown that the fact that a large percentage of the radioactive fallout from Fukushima fell into the sea, things are better than they otherwise might be. On land. Of course, a month after the multiple meltdown, it is now known that discharge at the plant (into the ocean) had 45,000,000 times the amount of radioactive Cesium-137 than it did before the multiple meltdown. This is not of great immediate concern because the ocean is big and the amount of radiation is small enough to be quickly dispersed, but there is concern that over subsequent months and years persistent radioactive material will be concentrated in fish.

Here's a very very interesting piece by Fairewinds' Arnie Gundersen about Reactor 1. We'll call this the Brunswick Effect:

The significance of this is that a post-Fukushima "fix" on this design of reactor will not be effective. The nuclear power industry appears to be about to blow it. Again. Literally.

Speaking of which, we note that one important source of power at Fukushima, that might have allowed continued collection of data during the crisis, had been turned off and left off months before the earthquake, by mistake. The reason that this is important is because it is a just discovered, uncontrolled goof with consequences (GWC) that is undoubtedly NOT being incorporated into the much touted "post-Fukushima" considerations in new plant design and operation procedure. The nuclear power industry assures us that they've learned everything they can from Fukushima and has incorporated all the appropriate changes in future new construction, design, ongoing procedure and licensing. But they have not considered Arnie's elastic bolts or random GWS's such as this one.

Also from Fairwinds, something on BEIR and health risks to children.

Cancer Risk To Young Children Near Fukushima Daiichi Underestimated from Fairewinds Energy Education on Vimeo.

Oh, and remember "Fukushima II" (the other Fukushima plant)? "One Japanese expert, Hiromitsu Ino, said a Containment Vessel at Fukushima II (Daini) is broken, and they are trying to repair it. It was probably caused by the earthquake, not tsunami."

Ooops

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The wonders of whale poo and what causes whales to stress out [Life Lines]

Thu, 02/16/2012 - 8:55pm

A new study supports the hypothesis that noises from maritime traffic actually do induce stress in whales. For a time after the attack of the Twin Towers in New York City, fewer ships traveled in the area and researchers noticed that the stress levels of whales dropped dramatically. In an article from Discovery News, it was noted that some of the ocean vessels emit the same low-frequency wavelengths as those used by baleen whales to communicate. To adapt, some animals have changed the frequency or volume of their songs.

You might be wondering how in the world they measured stress in whales? They did it by training dogs to sniff out whale feces, which floats. After collecting the feces, researchers measured the levels of a stress hormone called glucocorticoid. They found that levels of this hormone were low following the attacks in New York and that levels began to increase as maritime traffic gradually returned.

In my search for what other things can be found in whale poop, I came across some interesting items. It is an important source of nitrogen and, as such, helps phytoplankton grow therefore benefiting the whole food chain. It also apparently helps to remove carbon from the environment thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gases. Who knew whale poo could be so beneficial? What I found even more surprising though, was that there is a market for whale poop. People will actually search beaches for traces of ambergris (photo below), which is a component of sperm whale poop that has been used to make expensive perfumes and even a mince pie. Ew.

ambergris_49.jpg
Image source:Ambergris.co.nz

Source:
Discovery News

Ambergis: Huffington Post

Phytoplankton: PLoS One

Greenhouse gases:
Discovery News

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The Heartland Documents, Doubt is their Product [denialism blog]

Thu, 02/16/2012 - 11:07am

Everyone is writing about desmogblog's leak of internal documents from the Heartland Institute. But to me I think leaked documents are nothing compared to their fully public, out-in-the-open history of being openly contemptuous of science, funding cranks with advanced degrees (though not in climate) to disparage the field, and their hosting of denialpalooza.

James rightly points out that much hay is being made of a single sentence that, could "easily be the result of sloppy editing, or at perhaps a Freudian slip." This is of course is a sentence describing a curriculum developed by the HI that "shows the topic of climate chance is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective in dissuading teachers from teaching science."

But other aspects of the document instead suggest to me that these people are true believers. Even in context this quote sounds horrible, but I don't think it reflects a conscious desire to deceive. After all, they think their beliefs are true. They are so blinded by ideology they are literally incapable of acknowledging facts that run counter to these core beliefs. I think, if anything, this sentence is interesting because it shows that they are picking up tactics from previous denialist campaigns by those that were intentionally deceptive, such as the DI anti-evolution campaign and tobacco company denial of health effects of smokng. They are not interested in actual science but rather are interested in methods of sowing doubt. Similar to the cigarette company strategy of denying the harm of tobacco smoke, "doubt is their product". We already knew these guys were merchants of doubt, some of them are the very same people that deny tobacco smoke is harmful.

I don't think these documents are going to be a game changer. They've largely told us what we already know. HI is funded by oil interests. They pay cranks with degrees good money (11k a month to Idso - sweet!) to lend legitimacy to denialist pseudoscience. Their overriding goal is to undermine any science that conflicts with free market fundamentalism. They are trying to undermine climate science through sowing doubt and confusion in the public rather than pursuing actual scientific inquiry. To those that think HI is great, they think methods like this are just fine. To those of us who have seen how denialists operate, from the tobacco companies to the Discovery Institute, this is just another confirmation of their overarching strategy - to create doubt where there should be none.

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First Human-Robonaut Handshake in Outer Space [Dean's Corner]

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 3:37pm

This is a feel good story of the day - the world's first human to humanoid robot handshake, in space! The robot even sent out a tweet.

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The meaning of HeartlandGate [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 11:56am

It will take some time before the meaning of HeartlandGate is realized. The released confidential documents are not extensive, but they are current, mainly related to a meeting that happened less than a month before their release. They don't tell us anything that we didn't suspect, but they give details that people outside this science denialist "think" tank did not know. The most important thing about these documents is probably this: We can now say without equivocation that global warming denialism and other science denialism is, at the institutional level, funded by wealthy individuals and the petroleum industry, that it is an explicit anti-science strategy, and that it has nothing to do with differences in interpretation of scientific data. Also, this strategy of claiming that "Global Warming is a Hoax" is bought and paid for.

The other thing we might be able to say, but we'd want to see the corresponding documents from next year's meeting, is that the climate science denialism industry is becoming less well funded over time. Presumably, even corporations, institutions, and individuals who have a self interested reason to deny climate change or damage science education can see, eventually, when it is time to hold off or even give up. Money is money and tossing good money after bad is not wise and the people who underwrite this anti-science effort know this. The crazies (see comment sections here and elsewhere) will be left twisting in the wind like so many Bigfoot hunters and Ghost busters.

Here is a current list of posts that I know of addressing HeartlandGate:



Disclaimer: The Heartland Institute is now claiming that these documents have likely been altered or faked, and are threatening to pursue criminal and civil charges against all bloggers who posted comments on them or links to them.

I can not prove that these documents are real or fake. I will certainly pass on to you any information that comes along about this. Have a look at the documents and make up your own mind (before I am forced by guys in suits to take down the links).

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The Heart(land) of the Denial Campaign [Class M]

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 9:47am

Someone has leaked a treasure trove of insider documents from the Heartland Institute, which until now has been a major source of climate change obfuscation in the U.S. There's plenty of illuminating information to chew on, including detailed budgets and an IRS 990 form. Shades of "climategate" reversed?

Much is being made of one line from a strategy document, a line that could easily be the result of sloppy editing, or at perhaps a Freudian slip. Or maybe not. Here's the entire paragraph, with the offending phrase in bold:

Development of our "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms" project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

It is possible, in my opinion, that the author meant to write "dissuading teachers from teaching climate science" or something similar. That would make sense from the point of view of those of us who believe our students should actually know something about science.

On the other hand, the context is critical here and it could very well be that the phrase means exactly what it says. Again:

His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

This could mean that the author recognizes that teachers, especially of younger students, are wary of teaching any scientific subject that comes with political baggage. The obvious examples are evolution and climatology. So the plan is for the Heartland curriculum to draw attention to the controversial nature of climate science in hopes that teachers would then give it a miss, not to actually dissuade teachers from teaching science in general.

This is still a disingenuous, dishonest and an entirely despicable thing to do. But I, for one, do not want to be accused of taking anything out of context. That's more the Heartland Institute's style.

UPDATE: Heartland claims that "at least" one of the leaked documents is false. But considering that there is nothing in any of the documents that is inconsistent with what we already knew about the Institute, it seems reasonable to remain skeptical about the denial. After all, denying is what the Heartland folks do best.

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HeartlandGate: Anti-Science Institute's Insider Reveals Secrets [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 10:16pm

This seems to be fairly big news. The Heartland Institute is a conservative and libertarian "think" tank that cut its teeth on denying the dangers of cigarette smoking back in the 1990s. These days the Heartland Institute seems to be focused on Anthropogenic Climate Change Denialism and Science Denialism in general.

teachers.jpg
A piece of one of the revealed documents suggesting that the Heartland Institute wants to "dissuade teachers from teaching science."

Well, just a few hours ago, members of the climate change science, journalism, and blogging community received an interesting Valentine's Day gift from someone who must be a Heartland Institute insider: The institute's budget, fundraising plan, climate related strategy, and numerous other things. The story broke here on Desmog Blog.

Here's the details:

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Another Week of GW News, February 12, 2012 [A Few Things Ill Considered]

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 4:35pm

Logging the Onset of The Bottleneck Years
This weekly posting is brought to you courtesy of H. E. Taylor. Happy reading, I hope you enjoy this week's Global Warming news roundup

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Full Speed Ahead? [Page 3.14]

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 12:05pm

On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham reports that scientists have genetically enabled E. coli to digest a sugar found in algae. Bonham writes, "Scientists have been picking this bug's locks for decades, and it's already been engineered to make not just ethanol, but many other useful products as well." With the ability to metabolize sugar from a source as prolific, low-maintenance, and renewable as algae, E. coli could become a much bigger player in biofuel production. Meanwhile, Greg Laden considers the State of the Union address from an environmental perspective. Laden gives President Obama a pass for his pragmatic approach to an incendiary political issue, but admits that some of us might have preferred "a fire and brimstone demand to step up our national efforts to address Global Warming and the other issues related to the high rate of release of fossil Carbon into the atmosphere." Laden says we must first elect a more unified Congress willing to enact science-based policy. In the meantime, the USDA's revised plant hardiness map shows that "all the climate zones have moved north permanently." And in 2012, that's just the tip of the melting iceberg.

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Is climate change a leftist scientific conspiracy to destroy America? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Fri, 02/10/2012 - 2:47pm

According to Rick Santorum, it is.

Strange.

Brad Johnson has context and analysis here.

I think Rick Santorum is trying to destroy America.

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Just in Time for Valentine's Day: The Science Behind the Kiss [USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog]

Fri, 02/10/2012 - 11:00am

photo-LarryBock.jpg
By Larry Bock
Founder and organizer, USA Science & Engineering Festival

It's both funny and remarkable how some of the most simple and natural acts we do each day are teeming in science.

Take for example, the kiss.

A kiss, especially a passionate one, sets off a cascade of emotions and chemical reactions in our brain and body that would surprise most of us if we knew the whole story.

Well, just in time for Valentine's Day, Sheril Kirshenbaum, science writer and author of the recent book, The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, sheds light on exactly what goes on biologically when we lock lips. Kissing basically "acts like a drug by stimulating the natural chemicals in our bodies, yet unlike other human behaviors, science has barely begun to put kissing under the microscope" to study this intriguing evolutionary behavior," says Sheril, who serves as director of the University of Texas Project on Energy Communication and appeared last year as a speaker at TEDGlobal 2011.

This April, as a featured author at the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo and Book Fair hosted by Lockheed Martin, she'll bring insight into the kiss by discussing her book, answering questions and sharing other information that research is revealing about the science of kissing. But in the meantime, for all you sweethearts out there, here's a timely message from Sheril to take to heart. She writes:

On Valentine's Day, many of us will acknowledge those we love with chocolates, flowers, and cards. But the most meaningful messages will be exchanged without spending a dime: It's kisses that leave the most indelible impression of all.

Our lips are packed with sensitive nerve endings so that even the slightest brush sends a flurry of information to our brains that often feels very good. Although we often don't think of them in this way, our lips are the body's most exposed erogenous zone. When they are involved in a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate as our brain receives more oxygen than normal. Our pulse quickens and our breathing can become irregular. Our cheeks flush as our pupils dilate causing many of us to close our eyes. Five of our 12 cranial nerves jump into action as we engage all of OUR senses in interpreting what's going on and anticipating what may happen next.

When there's real chemistry between two individuals, a kiss sparks romance by triggering a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that cascade through our bodies and brains. In this manner, locking lips serves as humanity's most intimate experience because it conveys more than our words can possibly express. It's nature's ultimate litmus test telling us when to pursue a deeper connection with someone special or to step back because we're incompatible with a partner. And understanding the science behind how this happens doesn't take any magic out of the moment. Instead, it provides a better understanding and appreciation of our ourselves and our relationships.
sheril.jpeg
Sheril is one of many intriguing authors who will take the public behind the mystery and wonders of science, engineering and technology April 28-29 at the Festival Expo and Book Fair in Washington, D.C. (the nation's largest celebration of science and engineering). This free-of-charge weekend celebration, scheduled for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, culminates a month-long series of Festival events which will be held nationwide to inspire the next generation of science and technology innovators. The Expo allows kids, their families and others to participate in over 2,500 exciting, interactive activities and see more than 150 live performances by science celebrities, best-selling authors, explorers, innovative entrepreneurs and world-renowned experts.

At the Expo's Book Fair, visitors will get the chance to meet and hear some of the country's most intriguing authors who are regaling readers worldwide through their work. In addition to Sheril Kirshenbaum, these include:

--Astrophysicist and former NASA scientist Jeffrey Bennett who has not only authored best-selling college textbooks in astronomy, astrobiology and mathematics, but is also the author of the award-winning children's books such as, Max Goes to the Moon, Max Goes to Mars and Max Goes to Jupiter.

--Alfredo Quiñones, esteemed neurosurgeon and neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, who in his autobiography Becoming Dr. Q, tells the amazing story of how he rose from an impoverished background as an migrant worker to become one of the most renowned physicians in his field.

>--Robin Cook, a physician and Naval officer, whose string of 30 best-selling books include such medically-based works as Coma and The Year of the Intern.

--Harvard physicist Lisa Randall, whose works such as Knocking on Heaven's Door has made her among the most cited and influential theoretical physicists today.

--Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, whose autobiographical book, Rocket Boys formed the basis of the Hollywood movie October Sky.
seymour simon.jpg
--Seymour Simon, whom the New York Times called "the dean of the [children's science] field," and is the author of more than 250 highly acclaimed science books, more than 75 of which have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the National Science Teachers Association.

Experience these and other authors who never let us forget that, like the wonder of a kiss, science is indeed all around us. Join us in April at the Festival!

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Wild Mississippi [Greg Laden's Blog]

Thu, 02/09/2012 - 10:10pm


A new multi-part special, Wild Mississippi will be first aired on February 12 at 6 Central on National Geographic Wild. I can't watch this when it is on because I don't get the channel on my TV, but I copped a review copy and have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here's the description of the first episode:

Nat Geo WILD travels to the starting point of the mighty Mississippi River -- Lake Itasca in Minnesota, where the 2,350-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico begins. Harsh cannot begin to describe the winter in this region, where temperatures reach 33° below zero. Survival strategies are as numerous as the creatures that live here, such as beavers, bobcats and gray wolves. We'll capture migrating bald eagles as they prepare for the bitter cold and watch a pack of wolves hunt for deer and porcupine, beavers feverishly work to make dens, and the vole, a creature similar to a mouse, create tunnels beneath the snow to scavenge for food. It is truly a test of survival of the fittest in this freezing cold wilderness.

As you know I've written quite a bit about the upper Mississippi headwaters, the lakes, the birds, other things of nature (Here are 40+ posts on the topic, go read them all now!). Our cabin is on a lake that flows via various rivers and other lakes into the Mississippi just a few miles from its source at Itasca; The UMN research station is there and I used to go to an annual conference there (Julia and I have fond memories of our first trip); Recently Amanda has been doing an annual New Graduate Student intake and demonstration thing for the Biology department (and I get to spend that weekend at the research station); I've actually done archaeology right on the lakeside, though it wasn't very interesting; And so on and so forth.

The opening episode depicts, among other things, the very severe winters we get here in Minnesota, and I do not need to be redundant with that presentation, but I can point out a few exceptions to the rule. For instance, there was a nearly snow free year about 12 years ago or so, when I first moved to the area, and various conservation experts were concerned that all those animals that turn white during the winter were, well, not camouflaged. The white bunny rabbits were getting scarfed up by birds of prey and cats, and the white ermines were kind of obvious to their prey, and the white snowy owls were blindingly obvious. This year there's snow but not much, and it's not too cold. And the bobcat is moving north and inching out the lynx and some folks up north are starting to hunt the wolves again. The beavers are doing fine. Damn beavers.

(Then there was the winter of year of Goldilock,a Very Cold Winter Night, And a Strange Sense of Empty-ness and the spring of The Mystery of The Returned Outboard Motor.)

Do have a look at this post for a bit of history of Itasca: What I had for brunch: A Trip to Bitch Lake. That is not a profanity. It is a French word. Honest.

The second hour is described as such:

It's been no ordinary winter. The Mississippi River reached extreme low temperatures, causing an unprecedented deep freeze. Now, spring is in bloom, with all the snow and ice from across the watershed melting, triggering a massive flood of biblical proportions. We'll see how the inhabitants adjust and fight to survive. In the north, the floodwaters bring a new quest for life. Carnivores use high waters to find meals, while a pair of bald eagles patrol the skies snagging small prey flushed out of the riverside. Coyotes also reap the rewards of the flood by preying on rodents and other small evacuees. Spring not only brings a new hunt for food, but babies also begin to make their debut, including wood ducklings that endure a 30-foot jump to find sanctuary in the high tide. Life is beginning to come back along the river as the weather heats up and brings a fresh start.

This is the time of year I wish no one would go to the North Country (except me) because it is when the migratory birds are establishing their nests, and there is a lot of movement among carnivores. Mink and otters have babies so their easier to spot and more likely to come around. If everyone were to stay away the environment would at least seem more pristine when late June and early July came around.

Flooding on the Mississippi shares a characteristic with that on the Minnesota river (see this post) No matter how big the river gets and no matter how much water runs down it, from a certain point around the Twin Cities and on south, the river is always small compared to the Warren River, which formerly ran down the same channel, and was the largest river that ever existed anywhere, ever. (It drained Glacial Lake Agassiz.)

The third hour, which I've not finished watching, focuses on the Delta:

Our romance with the Mississippi River heats up as we head south. The river joins with an even more flooded Ohio River to form a union of destruction that challenges man and wildlife. The water rises at a rate of two inches every hour. Those creatures that can flee, do as fast as they can. Trying to make a last-minute dash to safety, some wild hogs can't make it out. Wide waters force turtles to look beyond their normal sandy nesting grounds for places to lay their eggs, which become vulnerable to predators. Pelicans flock to the swarming fish and work together to round up dinner. And, by night, bats swoop in to collect moths, using their tails like a catcher's mitt to scoop up their prey. Not only animals, but people are also forced from their homes as the Mississippi River expands to more than 25 miles wide. The beautiful and dangerous Mississippi River is both a life giver and a life taker.

The bits I've seen are quite good and you'll enjoy it, I've never been to New Orleans, the nearby Bayou or the Delta, but one of these days I'm going to build myself a raft and head down there for the winter.

(If you are looking for the videos, I've removed them because they were not behaving nicely!)


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Has Global Warming Stopped? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 7:32pm

The following is a short version of the litany of global warming denialists' current rhetoric:

  • "Current pause in global warming"
  • "lack of global warming for well over 10 years now."
  • "There is no credible (statistically significant) data that says global warming is occurring"
  • "fifteen years of warming, then fifteen of cooling"
  • "The last decades "rate of warming" is flat."
  • "Forget global warming...no warming in 15 years."

Are these things true?

Here's Peter Gleick's take on it.

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Melting Ice and Sea Level Rise [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 5:40pm

ResearchBlogging.orgIf all the water currently trapped in all the glaciers across the entire world melted, the sea level would rise far more than most people imagine. Almost everyone living anywhere in the world at an elevation of below about 500 feet with a direct drainage to the sea would be directly affected; The sea level rise itself might be a bit over 300 feet, but oceans tend to migrate horizontally when they rise onto previously uninnundated land surfaces. So if you lived at 500 feet above sea level in most of Maine, you'd have a much shorter walk to the rocky shoreline, but if you lived at 500 feet across much of the Gulf Coast it would only be a matter of time until the eroding sea cliff reached you incorporated you into the offshore sediments.

Having said that, Anthropogenic Global Warming has resulted in only modest sea level rise to date, and it is at this point probably true that warming of the ocean causing thermal expansion has been at the same level of magnitude (or greater) than seas rising because of the influx of melted glacial water.

The problem is, it is very difficult to measure either sea level rise or ice loss very accurately, for a number of reasons. But there is a saving grace. Or should I say, GRACE. GRACE is a NASA project; Twin satellites measure changes in the Earth's gravity field in such a way that it is possible to identify changes in the distribution of water. From the GRACE overview statement:

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Global Warming Affects Albatross Ecology [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:18pm

At the moment, the Wandering Albatross of the Southern Ocean is getting a free ride; Changes in wind patterns due to Global Warming seem to enhance the efficiency of foraging of this pelagic bird. However, as Global Warming continues, this rare case of a positive benefit of anthropocentric climate change will probably reverse. Climatic hormesis, as it were.

Read More.

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So What's A Teacher to Do? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:34pm

There is a guest commentary by Genie Scott at Real Climate:

Imagine you're a middle-school science teacher, and you get to the section of the course where you're to talk about climate change. You mention the "C" words, and two students walk out of the class.

Or you mention global warming and a hand shoots up.

"Mrs. Brown! My dad says global warming is a hoax!"

Or you come to school one morning and the principal wants to see you because a parent of one of your students has accused you of political bias because you taught what scientists agree about: that the Earth is getting warmer, and human actions have had an important role in this warming.

Something like this happened to me once. A student came to me after my lecture on Global Warming and told me his mother did not like my political bias. He also told me his mother was a state Senator and was going to do something about it. Not long after that Michele Bachmann introduced Academic Freedom legislation in the Minnesota Senate. So, I guess one could say that I started Bachmann on her illustrious career. Ooops.

Go ahead and read Genie's commentary. Just in case.

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The Great UN Conspiracy to (gasp) increase green space! [denialism blog]

Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:00am

You heard me. There is a shocking conspiracy, directly from the nefarious leaders of the one world government at the UN and their pawn, Barack Obama to add more public transportation and green space to your neighborhood.

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities. ...

In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions.

...

Fox News has also helped spread the message. In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to "enhance federal engagement with rural communities," Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded "eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order."

...

At a Board of Supervisors meeting in Roanoke in late January, Cher McCoy, a Tea Party member from nearby Lexington, Va., generated sustained applause when she warned: "They get you hooked, and then Agenda 21 takes over. Your rights are stripped one by one."


Echoing other protesters, Ms. McCoy identified smart meters, devices being installed by utility companies to collect information on energy use, as part of the conspiracy. "The real job of smart meters is to spy on you and control you -- when you can and cannot use electrical appliances," she said.

It's true, the blueprints were kept secret until now, but smart monitoring of energy use is designed to turn you into a godless slave of the great beast that is the UN. Using a combination of electromagnetic waves and psychotropic medications released from the devices, it's victims will be turned into mindless, left-wing voting slaves of the beast.

I think the tea party has started electing paranoid schizophrenics to their leadership. You couldn't make this stuff up. This stuff is so great I have to resurrect (drumroll) the Tin Foil Hat!

It would actually make a good counter protest to send this woman tin foil hats. Although she may fail to get the point and incorporate it into yet another paranoid delusion of persecution at the hands of those who promote public transportation, parks, and efficient use of energy. You might get emails in return IN ALL CAPS. The horror. The horror.

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My Autumn's And Winter's Work [Aardvarchaeology]

Mon, 02/06/2012 - 5:56pm

picstones.gif

Dear Reader Fiona asked me to write more about archaeology, which reminded me that I haven't said much about what I've been doing in my study these past months. I find that the last time was actually in late August when I dug in the cave with Margareta and Magdalena.

So, what have I been up to during these months when no Swedish archaeologist wants to do fieldwork? I have:

  • Written the archive reports on my 2011 fieldwork.
  • Checked for fits between some copper alloy fragments we picked up at an Uppland hoard site and the hoard itself in the Historical Museum. We found no fits but two likely candidates for belonging to highly incomplete objects.
  • Distributed my Mead-halls book to colleagues and libraries across northern Europe.
  • Test-lectured for a teaching job that I almost got except they realised at the last moment that they didn't actually have the money to employ anyone.
  • Written a popular account of the cave dig for the Swedish Caving Society's journal.
  • Written two papers on the picture stones of Gotland: one about their re-use in the last phase of Pagan graves before the islanders started to build stone churches in the mid-12th century, and one on how to classify and date a picture stone that has lost its pictures, leaving only its dimensions and outline shape. Then I translated them into Swedish. Unusually, the same symposium report will be published in separate Swedish and English editions at the same time.
  • Edited two issues of Fornvännen.
  • Copy-edited a symposium report on the Swedish/Norwegian province of Jämtland before 1645. This wasn't my own work but it was interesting and paid well.
  • Not done anything about the Bronze Age project lately except some reading.

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