Tag Archives: coast

Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Much of the eastern United States has been assaulted by brutally cold temperatures over the last week. New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City rang in 2018 in 9 degree weather — the coldest midnight temperature since 1907.

And the worst is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a “bomb cyclone” is expected to batter the East Coast later this week. A weather system only earns that name by dropping in pressure rapidly — at least 24 millibars over 24 hours — in a process called bombogenesis. Winds could kick up to 55 mph just off the coast of New England, a prospect that has prompted local weather stations to warn of hurricane-force winds.

In Boston, which is no stranger to cold weather and has suffered through brutally low temperatures this past week, the National Weather Service forecasts near-blizzard conditions, with just a quarter-mile of visibility.

But the snow won’t be limited to northern states. As far south as Georgia and Florida, forecasters are calling for potentially dangerous winter weather, with several inches of snow in some areas.

In late 2016, Mother Jones reported that climate change may be contributing to such weather events.

The theory — advanced by Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis and other scientists — is that the rapidly warming Arctic is affecting the jet stream in ways that can contribute to bone-chilling weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:

To understand how it works, it first helps to think of the jet stream as a river of air that flows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it much of our weather. Its motion — sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one — is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the North Pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere. “If you were sitting on top of a layer of atmosphere and you were in DC, looking northward, it would be like looking down a hill, because it’s warmer where you are,” explains Francis. The jet stream then flows “downhill,” so to speak, in a northward direction. But it’s also bent by the rotation of the Earth, leading to its continual wavy, eastward motion. As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep.

That shrinking temperature difference is what wreaks havoc on the jet stream. “When the jet stream gets weaker, it meanders more,” explained Francis in an interview this week. “It wanders north and south and when it gets into one of these wandering and wavy patterns, that’s when we see these pools of cold air pulled southward.” Those pools of cold air are what vast parts of the country are experiencing right now.

The bomb cyclone is expected to leave bone-chilling cold in its wake — even colder than the last few weeks. Temperatures will likely drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the Washington Post reports. That means sub-zero in nearly all of New England — and lows reaching down into the 20s, if you can believe it, in Florida.

Seasoned experts over at the National Weather Service have tips for avoiding hypothermia. President Donald Trump simply suggests we “bundle up.”

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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Other Minds – Peter Godfrey-Smith

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Other Minds

The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $3.99

Publish Date: December 6, 2016

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC


Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. In captivity, octopuses have been known to identify individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes. How is it that a creature with such gifts evolved through an evolutionary lineage so radically distant from our own? What does it mean that evolution built minds not once but at least twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter? In Other Minds , Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being—how nature became aware of itself. As Godfrey-Smith stresses, it is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. Tracking the mind’s fitful development, Godfrey-Smith shows how unruly clumps of seaborne cells began living together and became capable of sensing, acting, and signaling. As these primitive organisms became more entangled with others, they grew more complicated. The first nervous systems evolved, probably in ancient relatives of jellyfish; later on, the cephalopods, which began as inconspicuous mollusks, abandoned their shells and rose above the ocean floor, searching for prey and acquiring the greater intelligence needed to do so. Taking an independent route, mammals and birds later began their own evolutionary journeys. But what kind of intelligence do cephalopods possess? Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own scuba-diving adventures, Godfrey-Smith probes the many mysteries that surround the lineage. How did the octopus, a solitary creature with little social life, become so smart? What is it like to have eight tentacles that are so packed with neurons that they virtually “think for themselves”? What happens when some octopuses abandon their hermit-like ways and congregate, as they do in a unique location off the coast of Australia? By tracing the question of inner life back to its roots and comparing human beings with our most remarkable animal relatives, Godfrey-Smith casts crucial new light on the octopus mind—and on our own.

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Other Minds – Peter Godfrey-Smith

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Tesla’s going big — like, 18-wheeler big.

In a long-awaited decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced its vote Monday to approve a tweaked route for the controversial tar sands oil pipeline.

The 3-2 decision is a critical victory for pipeline builder TransCanada after a nearly decade-long fight pitting Nebraska landowners, Native communities, and environmentalists activists against a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

After years of intense pressure, President Obama deemed the project “not in the national interest” in 2015; President Trump quickly reversed that decision earlier this year. But TransCanada couldn’t go forward without an approved route through Nebraska, which was held up by legal and political proceedings.

In the meantime, it’s become unclear whether TransCanada will even try to complete the $8 billion project. The financial viability of tar sands oil — which is expensive to extract and refine — has shifted in the intervening years, and while KXL languished, Canadian oil companies developed other routes to market.

The commission’s decision also opens the door to new litigation and land negotiations. TransCanada will have to secure land rights along the new route; one dissenting commissioner noted that many landowners might not even know the pipeline would potentially cross their property.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, which KXL was meant to supplement, spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Due to a 2011 Nebraska law, the commissioners were unable to consider pipeline safety or the possibility of spills in their decision.

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Tesla’s going big — like, 18-wheeler big.

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News shows ignore the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

The devastation wiped out 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production, according to Puerto Rico’s agriculture secretary, Carlos Flores Ortega. The New York Times visited farmer José A. Rivera after the winds flattened his plantain, yam, and pepper fields.

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” Rivera, told the Times. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”

Food prices will surely rise on the island, although the loss of crops will not necessarily mean people will starve. Puerto Rico imports about 85 percent of its food. Even so, the storm damaged the infrastructure used to distribute imported food, like ports, roads, and stores.

On CNN, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló pleaded for aid from Congress. “We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America,” he said. FEMA and the Coast Guard are working in the territory.

Flores, the agriculture secretary, appeared to be looking for a silver lining. This may be a chance to rebuild the island’s agriculture so that it is more efficient and sustainable, he told the Times.

As climate change accelerates, we can expect the rate of disasters like this to accelerate as well.

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News shows ignore the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

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Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida

One of the strongest storms ever to touch U.S. soil arrived on Sunday morning, crossing near Key West as a Category 4 hurricane. With sustained winds of 130 mph, a storm surge as high as 15 feet, and waves an additional 30 feet on top of that, Irma is expected to lash nearly the entire state for at least 24 hours.

The storm is so huge that tropical storm watches extend as far inland as Atlanta. As of midday Sunday, it yielded around 80 terajoules of energy, more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The biggest worry for meteorologists is Irma’s immense coastal flooding potential, which could perfectly align to create a worst-case scenario for Gulf Coast cities like Naples, Ft. Myers, and Tampa. Nearly 7 million people have fled the path of the storm, the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, photos of complete devastation continue to pour in from the Caribbean. On the island of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, forests were flattened and twisted into mangled messes. In the Bahamas, Irma’s offshore winds were so strong on one beach that they pushed the ocean completely out of sight. Barbuda was so ravaged that the normally lush island appeared brown from space.

And if you’re wondering, climate change is a huge part of the story here. Since 2010, seas have risen in Florida at one of the fastest rates anywhere in the world.

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Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida

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Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys

One of the strongest storms ever to touch U.S. soil  arrived on Sunday morning, crossing near Key West as a Category 4 hurricane. With sustained winds of 130 mph, a storm surge as high as 15 feet, and waves an additional 30 feet on top of that, Irma is expected to lash nearly the entire state for at least 24 hours.

The storm is so huge that tropical storm watches extend as far inland as Atlanta. As of midday Sunday, it yielded around 80 terajoules of energy, more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The biggest worry for meteorologists is Irma’s immense coastal flooding potential, which could perfectly align to create a worst-case scenario for Gulf Coast cities like Naples, Ft. Myers, and Tampa. Nearly 7 million people have fled the path of the storm, the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, photos of complete devastation continue to pour in from the Caribbean. On the island of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, forests were flattened and twisted into mangled messes. In the Bahamas, Irma’s offshore winds were so strong on one beach that they pushed the ocean completely out of sight. Barbuda was so ravaged that the normally lush island appeared brown from space.

And if you’re wondering, climate change is a huge part of the story here. Since 2010, seas have risen in Florida at one of the fastest rates anywhere in the world.

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Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys

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Two Dakota Access protesters say they purposely damaged the pipeline.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Two Dakota Access protesters say they purposely damaged the pipeline.

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

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Good news about CO2: Emissions from the energy sector stayed flat for the third year in a row.

According to the cover article in today’s issue of the journal Nature, the iconic reef off the coast of Australia suffered unprecedented coral die-off after last year’s record-breaking bleaching event. Now, as the Southern Hemisphere hits late summer temperatures, central and southern sections of the reef — areas which avoided the worst of last year’s bleaching — are in trouble.

“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” coral researcher Terry Hughes told the New York Times. Hughes led the team that conducted aerial surveys to document the bleaching last year, as well as subsequent surveys to assess just how much of that bleaching turned into dying.

Bleached corals don’t always turn into dead corals — some are able to recover when temperatures drop. Er, if temperatures drop. If water temperatures stay high and corals stay bleached, they will eventually starve to death. Without coral building reefs, whole ecosystems may disappear, along with the food, tourism, and jobs they support.

Hughes and his coauthors found that even corals in pristine, protected water were likely to be suffering from heat stress, meaning the only thing left to do to protect corals is, you know, address climate change.

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Good news about CO2: Emissions from the energy sector stayed flat for the third year in a row.

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Think you’ve had it rough this past year? You should hear what the Great Barrier Reef is dealing with.

According to the cover article in today’s issue of the journal Nature, the iconic reef off the coast of Australia suffered unprecedented coral die-off after last year’s record-breaking bleaching event. Now, as the Southern Hemisphere hits late summer temperatures, central and southern sections of the reef — areas which avoided the worst of last year’s bleaching — are in trouble.

“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” coral researcher Terry Hughes told the New York Times. Hughes led the team that conducted aerial surveys to document the bleaching last year, as well as subsequent surveys to assess just how much of that bleaching turned into dying.

Bleached corals don’t always turn into dead corals — some are able to recover when temperatures drop. Er, if temperatures drop. If water temperatures stay high and corals stay bleached, they will eventually starve to death. Without coral building reefs, whole ecosystems may disappear, along with the food, tourism, and jobs they support.

Hughes and his coauthors found that even corals in pristine, protected water were likely to be suffering from heat stress, meaning the only thing left to do to protect corals is, you know, address climate change.

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Think you’ve had it rough this past year? You should hear what the Great Barrier Reef is dealing with.

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