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Hey — everyone can get into national parks for free on Monday.

Here’s the idea: Build underwater barriers in front of the glaciers most vulnerable to collapse, keeping warm ocean water from sloshing in to melt them.

Princeton glaciology postdoc Michael Wolovick presented this concept at the American Geophysical Union conference in December, as the Atlantic reports.

The Antarctic glaciers Wolovick studies are subject to disastrous feedback loops: The more they melt, the more they are exposed to melt-inducing seawater. Recent studies have suggested these massive stores of ice could collapse much faster than previously thought, potentially raising sea levels by 5 to 15 feet by the end of the century (that’s seriously bad news for coastal cities).

Wolovick has been researching the feasibility of slowing that collapse with ‘sills’ constructed out of sand and rock along the fronts of these vulnerable glaciers. Unlike a seawall, they would be entirely underwater, but would keep warm ocean water from reaching a glacier’s vulnerable base.

That could stall glacial retreat dramatically, and maybe even reverse it. In Wolovick’s virtual experiments, even the least successful version of the sills slowed a glacier’s collapse by 400 or 500 years.

It’s all still a huge if, Wolovick admits, that requires more research. But if it works, it could buy some crucial time against sea-level rise.

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Hey — everyone can get into national parks for free on Monday.

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Modoc – Ralph Helfer

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Modoc
True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived
Ralph Helfer

Genre: Nature

Price: $8.99

Publish Date: October 13, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books

Seller: HarperCollins


Spanning several decades and three continents, Modoc is one of the most amazing true animal stories ever told. Raised together in a small German circus town, a boy and an elephant formed a bond that would last their entire lives, and would be tested time and again; through a near-fatal shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, an apprenticeship with the legendary Mahout elephant trainers in the Indian teak forests, and their eventual rise to circus stardom in 1940s New York City. Modoc is a captivating true story of loyalty, friendship, and high adventure, to be treasured by animal lovers everywhere.

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Modoc – Ralph Helfer

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We just got our disaster bill and it was $306 billion

Highways turned into rivers with white-capped waves in Texas. Wildfire smoke reddened the sky in California. And the country’s signature “amber waves of grain” were parched by drought, leaving farmers with fields of gray, cracked soil in Montana.

In all, the United States was hit by 16 weather events last year that cost more than $1 billion each, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated. Piece them together, and you get the story of a climate transformed by human activity — and a country racked by wild weather that cost us a record-shattering $306 billion.

That price tag is four times more than average over the past decade, adjusted for inflation. It was nearly off the charts.

2008, 2011, 2012, and 2017 experienced one or more tropical cyclones.Grist / Amelia Bates / NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Last year blew past the previous record for disasters, $215 billion, set in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. The priciest natural disasters tend to be hurricanes, which explains why 2017 was so different. Harvey, Irma, and Maria were three of the five most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history, and they all hit in one year. The three accounted for 87 percent of the bill. 

Western wildfires racked up $18 billion in damages, tripling the price tag of the previous worst wildfire year, 1991.

Severe storms, flooding and drought afflicted people across the country. But the Northeast was the only region spared from a disaster that caused $1 billion or more in damages.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Given how much time we’ve devoted to talking about climate change’s fingerprints on everything, you’d suspect its criminal record would be well-documented. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how climate change affects a particular storm or heatwave, scientists are getting better at untangling the connection. For example, researchers calculated that the chances of a Harvey-esque storm hitting Texas was made six times more likely because of climate change.

Oh, and did we mention that last year was the third-hottest on record? Thank goodness it’s over. But don’t get excited — extreme weather is already creeping in to the new year. In just the first nine days of 2018, the weather has already dealt us deadly mudslides and a bomb cyclone.

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We just got our disaster bill and it was $306 billion

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Patient H.M. – Luke Dittrich

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Patient H.M. – Luke Dittrich

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Heavens on Earth – Michael Shermer

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Heavens on Earth – Michael Shermer

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

Now that one of the strongest nor’easters on record has swirled off to Canada, it’s time to talk about what everyone was thinking during the storm: Is this just what happens now?

Short answer: yes. Get used to it. Wild storms like this week’s massive coastal cyclone will be part of winters in the Anthropocene.

This storm’s frightening name — the “bomb cyclone” — was derived from an obscure meteorological term and caught on after President Donald Trump’s terrifying tweet about nuclear weapons. The storm wasn’t as scary as all that, obviously, but it still spread havoc.

The storm ravaged a swath of the country from Florida to Maine. In South Carolina, rare snow blanketed downtown Charleston. In South Florida, stunned iguanas fell from the trees.

Boston also witnessed its largest coastal flood in history. Amid the usual scenes of buried cars and cute dogs playing in the snow, we also saw waves crashing through a seawall into homes and fire trucks plowing through flooded streets on their way to high-water rescues. At one point, the National Weather Service in Boston warned people not to ride the icebergs that were floating in on the high tide. That’s … unusual.

Storms like this one have always threatened to flood coasts. Seven of New York City’s 10 worst coastal floods on record have been from nor’easters. With rising seas and warming wintertime oceans juicing the power of cyclones, there’s good reason to expect that huge winter storms will pose an increasingly severe risk to coastal communities in the Northeast. In fact, it’s exactly what we expect will happen with climate change.

It’s normal for winter storms to gather strength in a hurry — dozens of them do so every year around the world. But the “bomb cyclone” intensified at a rate far exceeding any storm to come close to the East Coast since the advent of weather satellites in the 1970s. After a day of searching, the National Weather Service found a similar storm from 1989 about 600 miles off the coast that didn’t affect land.

Meteorologists and weather geeks spent the storm marveling at the view from space, but as with every big storm of our new era, this one felt like a harbinger.

Atlantic Ocean temperatures right offshore were as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal for early January, causing hurricane-force winds and snow squalls so intense they fired off lightning bolts over parts of New York and Rhode Island. Forecasters dispatched a Hurricane Hunter airplane to investigate the storm.

All this atmospheric drama overshadowed two other storms underway at the same time. A sprawling cyclone even stronger than the “bomb cyclone” plowed past Alaska, where the ocean should be covered in ice this time of year. In Europe, a powerful ocean storm made landfall in the British Isles. It arrived with a cold front whose strong winds fanned midwinter wildfires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and closed down ski slopes in the Alps for fear of avalanches.

For some, all this evidence of an overheating world is too much to accept.

In comments on the Senate floor this week, Senator James Inhofe of snowball fame, riffed on another recent presidential tweet in the context of the current cold snap. “Where is global warming when we need it?” he said. “We sure needed it this last week.”

Increasingly, it seems like the only time you hear a climate denier talk about climate change is when a snowstorm hits. Hey, look! It’s really cold outside. This snowball sure isn’t warm; therefore the world isn’t warming.

Winter may be the last refuge of climate deniers, so it makes sense that they’ll work harder to seize on cold-weather storms. It’s a window into their view of the world. Appearance is enough evidence. It’s all that really matters. Given what’s at stake in the oceans and on land, such views should be seen for what they are: a threat to our safety, just as real as any bomb.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

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The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far – Lawrence M. Krauss

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The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far – Lawrence M. Krauss

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Pennsylvania stopped construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

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Pennsylvania stopped construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

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Don’t fall for news stories about chocolate going extinct.

After long days of reading about the dismantling of the EPA, I wanted to think about anything but politics. Samin Nosrat’s wonderful cookbook provided plenty of fodder.

Nosrat breaks cooking into its key elements; food science becomes clear and usable. For example: Roast chicken should get a hearty dose of kosher or sea salt the day before going in the oven. In a wild and woolly year, apolitical facts such as these were a godsend, and they actually got me to cook more.

Take dinner with a friend (and former Grist fellow) who was guest-writing the excellent newsletter WTF Just Happened Today. He got up early every day to sort through Trump administration noise and summarize the real news. He was, as you might expect, questioning everything. A distillation of our conversation:

Him: “All of this has me thinking about printing press capitalism’s link to the rise of nationalism. And with that, how international news has expanded our idea of community despite our inherent lack of agency. How about that?”

*Throws ingredients into soup*

Me: “What kind of salt you using over there, big guy?”

One night, I used the cookbook to make buttermilk chicken for this friend and others. They filtered in, various degrees of flustered and wide-eyed. I placed the skillet on the table and our manners and worries melted away. We ripped meat off the bones and gestured that yes, you should really just grab a handful of potatoes to scoop up the sauce. 

The world was still going batshit outside my door, but we could ignore it for a little while. We laughed and chatted as the salt and fat dripped down our chins.

Darby Minow Smith is the senior managing editor at Grist.

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Don’t fall for news stories about chocolate going extinct.

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