What California wildlife tells us about ‘Godzilla’ El Niño – November 10, 2015



While California communities await the worst, El Niño is already taking a toll on local wildlife

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at Nov 15, 2015 2.29

As West Coast communities brace for what many are calling “Godzilla” El Niño, scientists are looking beneath the waves to learn more about the upcoming storm season. And if this year’s wildlife anomalies are any indication, this El Niño could be the strongest in decades. In this America Tonight excerpt, Joie Chen looks at what could be the strongest El Niño on record.


This Cheat Sheet Will Make You Win Every Climate Argument —By James West

“I don’t see what all those environmentalists are worried about,” sneers your Great Uncle Joe. “Carbon dioxide is harmless, and great for plants!”

Okay. Take a deep breath. If you’re not careful, comments like this can result in dinner-table screaming matches. Luckily, we have a secret weapon: A flowchart that will help you calmly slay even the most outlandish and annoying of climate-denying arguments:

Climate argument flowchart

Alice Bows-Larkin: Climate change is happening. Here’s how we adapt – Filmed June 2015 at TEDGlobalLondon

Imagine the hottest day you’ve ever experienced. Now imagine it’s six, 10 or 12 degrees hotter. According to climate researcher Alice Bows-Larkin, that’s the type of future in store for us if we don’t significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions now. She suggests that it’s time we do things differently—a whole system change, in fact—and seriously consider trading economic growth for climate stability.

The Battle for the Weather Channel Is Over, and the Weather Nerds Won – By Eric Holthaus SEPT. 10 2015 4:26 PM

For years now, there’s been a storm brewing at the Weather Channel.

The forecast for the Weather Channel is increasingly sunny. Here, David Clark, president of the Weather Company's TV division. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The forecast for the Weather Channel is increasingly sunny. Here, David Clark, president of the Weather Company’s TV division.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Its viewers, a fair percentage of whom we can safely stereotype as bored Baby Boomers on vacation in Branson, Missouri, now greatly skew away from the key 18-49 demographic. In recent years, the network has tried to staunch the bleeding by launching a series of “weather-adjacent” reality shows. Diehard viewers revolted, and so did television providers. Since last year, the Weather Channel has been dropped by both DirecTV and Verizon FiOS—both citing the decline of live weather programming in their decisions—and Dish Network may be next. The Weather Channel responded with a harsh war of words, yet continued to air footage of hippos swimming.

More than a year ago, in my very first article for Slate, I spoke with the Weather Company’s CEO, David Kenny, about this troubling trend. At the time, he told me he thought people reacted so strongly to the network’s experiment with reality programming because they “feel like they have part ownership of the Weather Channel. They grew up with it.” Now, Weather Channel executives seem to have finally given in: The weather nerds have emerged victorious.

In a series of sweeping changes on Wednesday, the network has decided to phase out “original nonweather entertainment programming”, commit to changing roles for high-profile weather anchors Sam Champion and Al Roker, and will now feature more frequent on-air deep dives into the science behind the weather.

This week’s announcement means that, with surprising rapidity, the Weather Channel has morphed from aspiring reality-show juggernautback to its scientific roots: all weather, all the time. On a day-to-day basis, the restructuring means shows like Fat Guys in the Woods are getting the ax, and the just-launched, science-heavy new primetime show Weather Underground will become a model for future programming.

As more and more millennials cut the cord and opt out of cable service, the landscape of television is quickly changing. The days of 600-plus channel bundles appear to be numbered, and the economics of the enterprise are fundamentally changing. With this week’s news that Apple has finally created an Internet-native, on-demand TV box it’s not ashamed of, it’s an open question as to how long legacy cable networks can thrive.

At the top of that heap is the Weather Channel. The network and its holding company are for sale, with industry analysts saying its owners may be forced to split the TV channel from the rest of the business—mostly because no one seems to want it. Weather.com—that bastion of clickbait—seems to be the crown jewel, as well as smaller divisions of the company that specialize in, among other things, mining huge amounts of weather data for trends in retail consumer behavior. Kenny admitted as much in an interview with CNN this week: “we’re now a technology company that owns a TV channel, not a TV company.”

With billions of dollars of economic activity hinging on small-scale weather fluctuations every day, and with climate change throwing an extra wrench into the system, analytics and general meteorological nerdery appears to be the 21st century profit center the Weather Company has its sights set on. If a newly geeky Weather Channel can help inspire a new generation of scientists, all the better.


On The Line: Robert Eshelman Discusses This Year’s Record-Breaking Temperatures – Vice News Published on Sep 7, 2015

On Thursday at 12pm EDT VICE News environment editor Robert Eshelman (https://twitter.com/RobertSEshelman) joins On The Line to discuss this year’s record-breaking temperatures, as well as the Obama administration’s response to climate change.

Read: Obama Is Heading to Alaska to Highlight Climate Change — Despite Arctic Drilling Approval – http://bit.ly/1VwdyPJ

In Photos: Deadly Heat Waves Scorch Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – http://bit.ly/1fV3tvw

VICE News and On The Line want to hear from you! Let us know your questions for Rob on Twitter with the hashtag #ontheline, or send us a video message on Skype.

To leave a Skype video message, follow the instructions here: http://bit.ly/1Fpn9lC

Louisiana’s Disappearing Island (Excerpt from ‘Oil and Water’) – Vice News Published on Sep 4, 2015

Louisiana is currently losing around a football field’s worth of land every hour to the encroaching ocean. The erosion is due to an array of factors, from an ill-conceived historic levee system, the legacy of oil and gas drilling and, of course, the area’s susceptibility to hurricanes.

VICE News travels to the site of one of the largest man-made environmental and economic disasters in US history to see what can be done as the situation continues to deteriorate.

In this excerpt, VICE News heads to Isle de Jean Charles, an island in Louisiana considered by many to be beyond saving from the rising tide.

Read: Ten Years After Katrina, Here’s What’s Happening to Louisiana’s Coastline – http://bit.ly/1Vk25Ct

Some Moved On, Some Moved In And Made A New New Orleans – Greg Allen AUGUST 26, 2015 4:28 PM ET

hurricane katrina: 10 years of recovery and reflection

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans today is smaller than when the storm hit, with 110,000 fewer people than the nearly half-million who had lived there. But the city’s recovery is a story that varies with each neighborhood. In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward, many residents never returned. Others, like the French Quarter, have seen many newcomers and now have more households than they did in 2005.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

In some neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward (bottom), many residents never returned after Hurricane Katrina. Others, like the French Quarter (top), have seen an influx of newcomers.

David Gilkey/NPR

With new residents, a different mix of people now calls the city home than before the storm. Proportionately, the number of whites has risen while the number of black residents has gone down. There are 100,000 fewer black residents in New Orleans than before Katrina. African-Americans now account for less than 60 percent of the population. That’s down from two-thirds.

And that has changed the culture of the city. “You can’t even hear the same dialect that you used to hear,” says Stan Norwood, a barber and leader of a community group in the Freret neighborhood. After spending so much time in Houston after evacuating during Katrina, Norwood says he’s even lost some of the city’s distinctive drawl. “The drag? The New Orleans drag? It’s hard to find,” he says.

After Katrina, Norwood says, many elderly were unable to return to flooded homes. Because the schools were in disarray, some families with children moved to other cities and decided to stay. Others found, even with federal assistance, they didn’t have enough to return and rebuild. And now, Norwood says, those who still want to return to the old neighborhood find houses have been priced out of reach. “Put it like this,” he says. “If you don’t own a property by now and you’re originally from this city and you’re from Uptown and you haven’t had one by now, your chances of getting one are slim to none.”

Article continues:


Antarctica Recorded Its Hottest Temperature Ever This Week – by Ari Phillips Posted on March 28, 2015 at 10:48 am Updated: March 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

`The coldest place on Earth just got warmer than has ever been recorded.

According to the weather blog Weather Underground, on Tuesday, March 24, the temperature in Antarctica rose to 63.5°F (17.5C) — a record for the polar continent. Part of a longer heat wave, the record high came just a day after the previous record was set at 63.3°F.

Tuesday’s temperature was taken at the Argentina’s Esperanza Base, located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Monday record was from Marambio Base, about 60 miles southeast of Esperanza. Both are records for the locations, however the World Meteorological Organization is yet to certify that the temperatures are all-time weather records for Antarctica. Before these two chart-toppers, the highest recorded temperature from these outposts was 62.8°F in 1961.

Setting a new all-time temperature record for an entire continent is rare and requires the synthesizing of a lot of data. As Weather Underground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, explains, there is debate over what exactly is included in the continent Antarctica, and by the narrowest interpretation, which would include only sites south of the Antarctic Circle, Esperanza would not be part of the continent.

According to the WMO, the official keeper of global temperature records, the all-time high temperature for Antarctica was 59°F in 1974. As Mashable reports, the verification process for these new records could take months as the readings must be checked for accuracy.

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How the polar vortex is affecting the American south – Eric Klinenberg Saturday 21 February 2015 11.28 EST

 Pedestrians make their way along ice covered sidewalks and streets in Nashville, Tennessee, after winter storm Octavia moved across the southern US earlier this week. Photograph: Eric England/EPA

Pedestrians make their way along ice covered sidewalks and streets in Nashville, Tennessee, after winter storm Octavia moved across the southern US earlier this week. Photograph: Eric England/EPA

This week Americans are learning firsthand about a paradox of global warming: it will generate colder, snowier weather systems, even in places unaccustomed to deep freezes. The new, man-made climate, which scientists call the Anthropocene, is ushering in an age of extremes.

The polar vortex that’s now delivering Arctic air into the United States has produced some scary, spectacular images: the mountains of snow in Boston, the ice blocks on the shores of Chicago, the frozen Niagara Falls. The residents of these places are suffering from the dangerous cold snap, particularly the homeless but also very impoverished old people, whose economic insecurity sometimes prevents them from using the heat.

And they’re likely to see more treacherous cold in coming years, because the long-term forecast for the north-east and midwest calls for a spike in damaging winter storms. That means more stress on the aging, dilapidated infrastructure of older cities and suburbs; more maintenance costs for home-owners and service costs for municipalities; more disruptions of school and business schedules; more automobile accidents; more aching all around.

But in the cold calculus of climate change, people in the midwest and north-east may well be better off than those in the south, because they already have local governments that know how to handle extreme winter weather and an ample supply of insulated buildings that can hold the heat. When the same Arctic air hits Boston, Baltimore and Biloxi, those furthest South will be least prepared, and less able to adapt.

Consider the early death tolls from this week’s record-setting cold snap (albeit with caution, since official mortality counts during disasters are inconsistent and sometimes unreliable). As of Friday, Tennessee had reported eleven deaths, six from hypothermia, which is greater than the early toll in Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts, combined. Investigators are also examining several possible cold fatalities in Kentucky and Maryland, and now another ice storm is on the way.

According to research by the geographers Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter, between 1970 and 2004 extreme cold was the second most lethal form of severe weather in the United States, ranking just behind heat waves. In those decades, unsurprisingly, cold deaths were concentrated in the Northern-most regions of the country. And they probably will continue to cluster there, since scientists expect the North to get colder winters while the South gets generally warmer as the climate changes. But that’s not the whole story: As this week’s weather reminds us, the volatile conditions associated with the Anthropocene may lead to more frequent outbursts of weird winter weather in places that don’t normally get them. And it’s notoriously difficult to protect people from extreme events that don’t seem to belong where they are.

Preparing for extreme weather isn’t only about raising awareness and changing citizen behavior. It also requires building an appropriate, resilient infrastructure for housing, transit, electricity, fuel, and communications. That’s an expensive endeavor.

Begin with the most basic way we protect ourselves from the elements: putting up four walls and a roof. In regions where residents are accustomed to cold winters, developers build well-insulated walls, install thick windows, and use powerful heating systems. In the south, where keeping the indoors cool has always been a major challenge, many houses aren’t made to withstand ferocious cold and recurrent ice storms.

Southern transit networks are also ill-equipped for whiteout conditions, as every New Englander who gets incredulous when a light wintry mix cripples Washington DC knows. City governments don’t have fleets of snowplows and tons of salt on alert throughout the winter. Motorists don’t have ice scrapers for their windshields, let alone snow tires or skills for navigating icy roads.

There are ripple effects when winter weather shuts down schools and businesses. Millions of children throughout the south depend on school for a warm daily meal, sometimes two. For them snow days are also days of hunger or malnutrition, and for their parents they are days without childcare, which can mean sinking further into poverty or getting into trouble at work. The same is true when shops and offices shut down, particularly if there is an extended crisis due to road closures or loss of electricity. We don’t have good ways to measure these impacts of extreme weather, but as the climate changes we will probably need to develop them.

First, though, we will need to do a better job naming and identifying these major winter weather events as genuine social disasters. Hurricanes get names and, if they’re significant, stories. Earthquakes get numbers on a Richter scale. Even heat waves, our great, invisible killer, are usually discrete events. But freezing weather bleeds us slowly, taking its toll over a long season of dull pain. How many people will die in this week’s record-breaking cold snap? We may never know the answer. How will we protect people from the winter storms to come, or, better, begin reversing the damage we’ve done to the environment? It’s long past time to figure that out.

Eric Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU. He’s the author of Heat Wave, and he tweets at @ericklinenberg.