Northwest Passage- open.

"The North-West Passage – the sea route running along the Arctic coastline of North America, normally perilously clogged with thick ice – is nearly ice-free for the first time since records began." LINK


The models are turning north.

From a post on the nola forums (New Orleans local), in response to a discussion about why their local news isn't all over Dean:

"2843. I agree with you by ladyadvocate, 8/16/07 13:32 ET

I remember the same thing. The Thursday b4 Katrina, I remember Bob Breck saying that we have absolutely nothing to worry about with Katrina and we could go to be and sleep soundly not having to worry about that storm. I looked at the weather tracking system that he was looking at and I was like, what the hell? I could cleary see that Katrina was aimed at New Orleans or LA. I wondered what was he looking at. Since then I have been very leery when it comes to local meteorologist forecasts. In fact, a few months back when that tornado struck the Westwego area, he did the same thing. The night before he said that we have nothing to worry about. The next morning it seemed like most of Westwego was torn up and so was the Carrollton area. I don't trust those local news guys. They don't know anything. "

this is why I have this blog.

Human arrogance vs. the Great Lakes. And the loser is....


"Study: Man-Made 'Drain Hole' Slowly Emptying Lake Michigan
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A "drain hole" in the St. Clair River caused by dredging and other commercial projects is costing Lakes Huron and Michigan a combined 2.5 billion gallons of water each day, according to a Canadian study released Tuesday.

That exceeds the amount diverted from Lake Michigan to provide Chicago's daily water supply.

The drainage hole has caused an overall water level decline of nearly 2 feet since 1970, the study said. The outflow goes into Lake Erie, then east to Lake Ontario and eventually through the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean." LINK

hot hot heat

"Southern heat wave blamed for 33 deaths
Drought worsens as much of South sees 10th day of 100-degree weather

The heat wave sweeping through the South has been blamed for at least 33 deaths this month and created potentially ruinous drought conditions.

...Alabama officials were considering alternatives to transporting students to schools on un-air-conditioned buses. The temperature inside one bus registered 122 degrees as it returned from its route Thursday afternoon in Montgomery, where the official high was 102.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that drought conditions had reached an “exceptional” level across Alabama, western Georgia, southern Tennessee and northern Alabama.

Alabama was worst-hit, NBC affiliate WPMI of Huntsville reported. Dusty, dry conditions created by the drought covered more than 73 percent of the state from the Florida to the Tennessee state lines.

NOAA forecast that the drought would persist in northern and central Alabama through November and warned that it could spread as far north as Ohio and as far west as Missouri. "

scary stuff, for sure.

This sounds like a scene out of Bonnie and Clyde.

"Anxious customers jammed the phone lines and website of Countrywide Bank and crowded its branch offices to pull out their savings because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest home-loan company in the nation, sought Thursday to assure depositors and the financial industry that both it and its bank were fiscally stable. And federal regulators said they weren't alarmed by the volume of withdrawals from the bank.

The mortgage lender said it would further tighten its loan standards and make fewer large mortgages. Those moves could make it harder to get a home loan and further depress the housing market in California and other states.

The rush to withdraw money -- by depositors that included a former Los Angeles Kings star hockey player and an executive of a rival home-loan company -- came a day after fears arose that Countrywide Financial could file for bankruptcy protection because of a worsening credit crunch stemming from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

At Countrywide Bank offices, in a scene rare since the U.S. savings-and-loan crisis ended in the early '90s, so many people showed up to take out some or all of their money that in some cases they had to leave their names.

In West Los Angeles, a Countrywide supervisor brought in from another office served coffee to more than 25 people waiting calmly for their turn with the one clerk who could help them." LINK

Dean to be a major hurricane

"All the models show Dean moving through the Caribbean, passing over or just south of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Sunday or Monday, then into the western Caribbean. At that point, the models diverge. The NOGAPS model has the southernmost solution, taking Dean into northern Belize/Southern Mexico. The GFDL takes Dean through the Yucatan Channel and northwestward, towards western Louisiana. The other models are in between, with both the HWRF and UKMET nudging their tracks more to the north, grazing the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. The GFDL and HWRF intensity forecasts both project Dean will be a Category 5 hurricane when it nears the Yucatan Peninsula. " LINK to Dr Master's awesome blog

Extra double sweet christ, on the rocks please.

It truly is the end of days. When has the NYT EVER acccepted "and" as the start of a sentence?????????????? Holy mackerel, this is it. Watch for the 4 horsemen around noon. And (ha ha!) wear you best raingear. This could get messy.

"Global Markets Tumble Amid Mortgage Crisis
Published: August 16, 2007

SINGAPORE, Aug. 16 — Stocks in Asia continued their downward spiral today amid the widening fallout from the United States’ subprime mortgage crisis. The decline was led by shares in South Korea, as local investors returned from a national holiday there and joined the stampede by foreign investors trying to sell.

Across Europe, markets were also sustaining heavy losses in early trading.

And markets in the United States were expected to open lower again today. Stock index futures fell sharply following the latest sign that the Federal Reserve is reluctant to cut rates in the midst of the markets’ turbulence, Reuters reported. “It’s a kind of a panic among individual investors,” said Cho Hong Rae, head of research at Korea Investment & Securities in Seoul, adding that domestic retail investors had up until today generally been buying shares as they declined." link

Sweet Christ, this is shaping up to be an interesting day

"TOKYO - Asian stocks fell to their lowest in months Thursday — and European stocks followed in early trade — battered by persistent jitters over U.S. housing loan problems and their possible damage to global financial markets.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down nearly 2 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange after falling below the key 16,000-point mark the first time since November. South Korea’s main benchmark fell 6.9 percent to its lowest finish since May, and Hong Kong’s blue chip Hang Seng Index was down 3.9 percent late afternoon." LINK


"(CNN) -- A 7.9-magnitude earthquake centered off Peru's coast killed at least 337 people and left another 1,350 hurt, the nation's Health Ministry said Thursday." LINK



The plastic bag.

Great article from Salon about the ubiquitous plastic bag.

"...The most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, the lowly plastic bag is an environmental scourge like none other, sapping the life out of our oceans and thwarting our attempts to recycle it."
LINK to article- read it, it's very good, and goes into the paper/plastic thing with all the info you need to smackdown the next fool who claims that plastic bags ger recycled, or claims that they're less damaging than paper bags. Annoyingly, article also mentions those damn "I am not a plastic bag" bags. People got trampled trying to buy those damn things. Dead, for trying to be trendy. Yeah. Argh.

Record shattering July Arctic sea ice loss

Warning: this is seriously scary stuff. Now might be the time to close your eyes, cover your ears, and start gently singing 'la-la-la-la-la'. Really.

"Sea ice extent in the Arctic in July 2007 set a record low, posting a large 7% decline compared to July 2006. July marked the third month this year that a record monthly low was set. Arctic sea ice coverage in July has declined by about 26% since measurements began in 1979 (Figure 1). The trailing end of Figure 1 shows a very striking drop, so it's worth investigating this decline in more detail.
Sea ice in July over the past 28 years has shown a steady decline, punctuated by ups and downs characteristic of year-to-year natural variability in the weather patterns over the Arctic. The steady decline is largely due to increasing temperatures in the Arctic from global warming, but a significant portion is due to changing wind patterns." LINK to the always amazing Dr. Master's blog.

Major air pollution episode right now across US

Right here, it isn't too hot. But looking at the weather across the country, damn. The heat wave is beastly to be sure, but Dr. Jeff Masters is calling it worse than that on his always fantastic blog.

"What may be the most deadly weather event to affect the U.S. this year is underway across large portions of the central and eastern U.S. A large area of high pressure with light winds has settled over the region, bringing unhealthful levels of ozone and fine particulate matter to many major cities. High pressure systems are regions where the air gradually sinks, warming as it approaches the surface. This warming, sinking air creates a layer of air aloft (typically near 3000 feet in altitude) that is warmer than the air beneath it. This "upper air inversion" acts as a lid on the atmosphere, keeping pollutants trapped near the surface. Updrafts carrying surface air into the inversion suddenly encounter air that is warmer and less dense, so the updraft dies and the pollutants that they were trying to carry aloft settle back down towards the surface. If the high pressure region is large, an extensive area of light winds at the surface will exist, keeping the pollutants trapped under the inversion from being blown away horizontally. If the high pressure system stays in place for several days, pollutants will accumulate day by day, reaching levels harmful to human health and triggering a sharp rise in the death rate. "Particulate matter," also known as particle pollution or PM, is the pollutant that causes the largest rise in the death rate. Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5) is particularly harmful to the lungs. A double-whammy dose of ozone pollution is also occurring this week, since temperatures are warm enough to drive the chemical reactions that form ozone."

NYC extreme weather

Crikey- flood + 100 degree weather + New Yorkers? Doom, dude.

"Morning rush hour became a quagmire Wednesday as subways, buses and even cabs were slowed by flooding from torrential overnight rains.

The flooding has disrupted service for commuter trains and the metro as well.
"Due to severe flooding throughout the subway system, there are extensive delays on all subway lines," said a statement from the Metro Transit Authority (MTA). "Customers are advised when at all possible to use bus service." LINK

Oh the humanity.

The Asian floods are leaving tragedy in their wake.

"The United Nations is warning of a massive "health crisis" in southern Asia, where 30 million people have been overwhelmed by the monsoonal rains and flash flooding sweeping across India, Nepal and Bangladesh." LINK

Saddam's dam is doomed, damn it!

"Disaster looms as 'Saddam dam' struggles to hold back the Tigris"
By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul
Published: 08 August 2007
As world attention focuses on the daily slaughter in Iraq, a devastating disaster is impending in the north of the country, where the wall of a dam holding back the Tigris river north of Mosul city is in danger of imminent collapse.

"It could go at any minute," says a senior aid worker who has knowledge of the struggle by US and Iraqi engineers to save the dam. "The potential for disaster is very great."

If the dam does fail, a wall of water will sweep into Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with a population of 1.7 million, 20 miles to the south. Experts say the flood waters could destroy 70 per cent of Mosul and inflict heavy damage 190 miles downstream along the Tigris."

Wait, what????? Rewind. "As world attention focuses on the daily slaughter in Iraq..."

World attention?

Not here in Uhmerhika, where we have better things to do with our time than think about some dusty heathens getting shot, bombed, or having their infrastructure fail! Geez, I reckon we might have to be tryin' to figger out how to fix those dad-burned bridges and such back here at home. Why, you might almost think that all our doggone taxes are going somewhere else, like, mebbee, for killin' heathens, for all the guvment keeps talkin' like it's far to pricey to fix up those levees'n'such. Uh'm just not sure, see. Mebbee I'll jest have me a Big Mac and put lil' Billy in front of one of those baby genius video shows.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

""We found no association with language acquisition and TV watching -- even adult programming seemed to have no effect," Zimmerman tells WebMD. "But there was one quite large effect -- from baby videos like the Baby Einstein and Baby Genius products. These kids were 17% slower in language development than the kids who didn't watch such videos.""
LINK to story re: 'baby genius' videos decreasing vocabulary for every hour spent watching.
LINK to story re: the failing dam- this is serious, sad shit.

LINK to story re: how kids think everything (even carrots, milk) taste better in a McD wrapper

China threatens to collapse the U.S. economy.


"He Fan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went even further today, letting it be known that Beijing had the power to set off a dollar collapse if it choose to do so.

"China has accumulated a large sum of US dollars. Such a big sum, of which a considerable portion is in US treasury bonds, contributes a great deal to maintaining the position of the dollar as a reserve currency. Russia, Switzerland, and several other countries have reduced the their dollar holdings.

"China is unlikely to follow suit as long as the yuan's exchange rate is stable against the dollar. The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell dollars once the yuan appreciated dramatically, which might lead to a mass depreciation of the dollar," he told China Daily." LINK

Christ almighty.

"Around the globe, 2007 is on track to be a year of extreme weather

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Extreme weather has plagued the globe this year, a U.N. agency says, causing some of the highest temperatures on record.

The World Meteorological Organization said "global land surface temperatures for January and April will likely be ranked as the warmest since records began in 1880," according to the United Nations.

WMO said temperatures were 1.89 degrees Celsius (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average for January and 1.37 degrees C (2.45 degrees F) higher than average for April.
The agency found that climate warming was unequivocal and most likely "due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels."

Here are some of the extreme instances the United Nations cites:

Four monsoon depressions, double the normal number, caused heavy flooding in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. On Monday, floodwaters receded in parts of South Asia, but the death toll rose to 347, officials said.

Millions remain displaced and homeless, and authorities fear waterborne disease could spread. Indian officials say more than 1,200 people have died in their country alone since monsoon season began in June.

England and Wales have experienced their wettest May-to-July period since record-keeping started in 1766. In late July, swollen rivers threatened to burst their banks. At least eight people died during weeks of torrential rain, and thousands were without tap water.

Late last month in Sudan, floods and heavy rain caused 23,000 mud brick homes to collapse, killing at least 62 people. The rainfall was abnormally heavy and early for this time of the year.

In May, swell waves up to 15 feet high swept into 68 islands in the Maldives, causing severe flooding and damage. Also in May, a heat wave swept across Russia.

Southeastern Europe did not escape the unusual weather. The area suffered record-breaking heat in June and July.

An unusual cold southern winter brought wind, blizzards and rare snowfall to various parts of South America, with temperatures reaching as low as 7 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-22 degrees Celsius) in Argentina and 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) in Chile in July.

In June, South Africa had its first significant snowfall since 1981, as almost 10 inches (25 centimeters) of the white stuff fell in some parts of the country.

And in the United States, temperatures climbed into the triple digits this week in Midwestern states." LINK

Europe on fire

"Forests fires that have ravaged southern Europe during the past month were some of the worst on record, the European Commission has said.

More than 3,000 sq km (1,200 sq miles) of forest had already burned this year, almost as much as in the whole of 2006, the commission said.

It warned of more fires in the days ahead, with Spain and Portugal, where temperatures are soaring, most at risk.

Most recently, fires in the Canary Islands have forced thousands to flee.

The normal fire season in Europe has only just started but blistering heat and hot dry winds have already fanned wildfires across parts of southern Europe.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Italy have all been affected, as well as countries like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Turkey." LINK

Welcome to the future- a place with armed robots! Oh, screw this.

"Robots have been roaming the streets of Iraq, since shortly after the war began. Now, for the first time -- the first time in any warzone -- the machines are carrying guns.
After years of development, three "special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system" (SWORDS) robots have deployed, armed with M249 machine guns. The 'bots "haven't fired their weapons yet," Michael Zecca, the SWORDS program manager, tells Danger Room. "But that'll be happening soon." LINK

So damn awful. Floods in India.

"At least 198 people have been killed in India and neighboring Bangladesh and 19 million driven from their homes in recent days, according to government figures." LINK

'What are we going to do tommorow night Brain?' 'The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world!!'

Interesting development under the North Pole.

"MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Russia staked a symbolic claim to the resource-rich Arctic on Thursday when a submersible dived beneath the ice directly under the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed.

Under international law, the five states with territory inside the Arctic Circle -- Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark via its control of Greenland -- have a 320 km (200 mile) economic zone around the north of their coastline.

But Russia is claiming a larger slice extending as far as the pole because, Moscow says, the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by one continental shelf." LINK

Crumbling Infrastructure. Tragedy.

Once again, this is a tragedy that absolutely everybody saw coming.

"A 2001 study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found "several fatigue problems" in the bridge's approach spans and "poor fatigue details" on the main truss." LINK

"The American Society of Civil Engineers has warned of corroding bridges and other US infrastructure, saying in a 2003 report that 27 per cent of US bridges were structurally deficient or "functionally obsolete" due to outdated designs." LINK