Monday, August 29, 2011

August 30: Hurricane Katie Imminent? (more details on "Irene")

Irene is now among the 30 deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history; damage cold top $12 billion. Source: Wall Street Journal.

East Lake Road in Woodstown, New Jersey. Image source.

Greenwich, Connecticut. Image source.

25 Frightening Photos Of Hurricane Irene's Destruction. has a series of photos that tell the story better than any words ever could.

273 roads and bridges damaged in Vermont.
1927. Last year flooding in Vermont was this extensive.
Outer Banks of North Carolina: over 200 roads closed, 21 bridges impacted by Irene; 2,500 local residents cut off by storm surge. (CNN).
38 deaths in 11 states.
Billions of dollars in damage anticipated from Hurricane Irene.
65 major disasters so far this year across the USA where FEMA was activated to help with clean-up efforts (and funds).

Donate. Want to help survivors? Click here for a list of resources, courtesy of

"...The coverage became more a form of entertainment and less of a public resource, said Lise King, a fellow at Harvard University. "The two agendas cannot co-exist, as one serves to lead citizens into calm action and the other is meant, by nature, to drum up emotional responses in order to keep the viewer tuning in," she said." - AP article on Irene. Was coverage overblown? Experts speculate and pontificate below.

"...Usually, says Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, it’s difficult for hurricanes to keep their strength much past North Carolina because ocean temperatures plunge below the 79°F level that can generate those strong winds. Not this year: “Sea surface temperatures 1° to 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York.” In fact, in all the years of record keeping, only one summer has had warmer water—last year."

"...We’ve just never had so much crazy weather all at once. Even before Irene, the U.S. had already set a record in 2011 for the most billion-dollar weather disasters. Recently, JFK airport marked its all-time rainfall record, on the same day that many Southwest cities set new records for most days above 100°. As carbon traps more heat in the atmosphere, it expresses itself in ever more violent weather. If you don’t believe the scientists, then ask the insurance industry. Munich Re, one of the world’s largest insurers, summed up its record payouts from the record-hot year of 2010: “This rise cannot be explained without global warming.” - from a Daily Beast article on Irene below.

Soon-To-Be-Hurricane Katia? "Invest 12" is on the verge of becoming a tropical storm, closer to Africa than the Lesser Antilles, but forecast to become a Category 2 hurricane within 5 days. With any luck steering currents around a Bermuda High will steer the storm away from the east coast. The truth: it's way too early to know - but it wouldn't be a factor for the USA until next week. Map courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather.

Irene Floods Vermont Towns As States Assess Damage. Here's a Star Tribune update on the (historic) flooding across Vermont, probably the worst tropical storm to ever impact much of northern New England: "NEW YORK - The storm that had been Hurricane Irene crossed into Canada overnight but wasn't yet through with the U.S., where flood waters threatened Vermont towns and New Yorkers feared a commuting nightmare as their transit system, shut down ahead of the storm, was slowly restored. The storm left millions without power across much of the Eastern Seaboard, left more than 20 dead and forced airlines to cancel about 9,000 flights. It never became the big-city nightmare forecasters and public officials had warned about, but it still had the ability to surprise. Many of the worst effects arose from rains that fell inland, not the highly anticipated storm surge along the coasts. Residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey nervously watched waters rise as hours' worth of rain funneled into rivers and creeks. Normally narrow ribbons of water turned into raging torrents in Vermont and upstate New York late Sunday, tumbling with tree limbs, cars and parts of bridges. "This is not over," President Barack Obama said from the Rose Garden. Hundreds of Vermonters were told to leave their homes after Irene dumped several inches of rain on the landlocked state. Video posted on Facebook showed a 141-year-old covered bridge in Rockingham swept away by the roiling, muddy Williams River. In another video, an empty car somersaulted down a river in Bennington."

Irene "Just Devastating" In Vermont, Governor Says. Here's an update from CNN: "Brattleboro, Vermont (CNN) -- Floodwaters brought by Tropical Storm Irene began to recede Monday in Vermont, but the governor warned that further flooding and loss of life are likely ahead for the small, rural state. "It's just devastating," Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. "Whole communities under water, businesses, homes, obviously roads and bridges, rail transportation infrustructure. We've lost farmers' crops," he said. "We're tough folks up here but Irene ... really hit us hard." Even the state emergency management headquarters in Waterbury flooded Sunday night, forcing officials to evacuate to Burlington, about 20 miles away. "The storm essentially shut southern Vermont down," state police Capt. Ray Keefe. "It's terrible." Hundreds of people remain trapped in communities cut off by raging floodwaters that washed out or otherwise damaged 263 roads and bridges, Shumlin said. Exactly how many were stranded Monday remained unclear, he said. "It's hard for us to know, frankly, because it's hard for us to get into the communities we need to get to," he said."

Jackson Falls, New Hampshire. Check out this YouTube clip of Jackson Falls (close to Mt. Washington), in the wake of Irene - unbelievable.

"Some Hurricane", New Yorkers Grumble As Danger Passes. Was the storm over-hyped? That's open to debate, and the debate is ongoing. The fact that this hurricane was taking aim at the world's media center, New York City, may have been a big factor in the level of coverage (and the tone of that coverage). The New York Times reports: "On Saturday, when the word was that Hurricane Irene had New York City in its sights, Mike Fenton was proud of himself: “I bought the last loaf of bread on the West Side.” On Sunday, after the storm had delivered something less than a knockout punch to the city, his mood had changed. The two hours he had spent going to three grocery stores to find the bread? He really did not want to talk about it. “With all the preparations and all the hoopla on TV, it was all for naught,” he said. “I feel embarrassed that we made such a to-do.” The city government spent days turning complacent New Yorkers (if complacent is what they are) into worrywarts (if worrywarts are what they became). And then, reverting to type once the danger had blown by and left them alone, they said it was much ado about — maybe not nothing, but surprisingly little. A hurricane? It had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit Coney Island, they said with a certain Seinfeldian glee, for they knew they really had nothing to complain about." (photo credit here).

Irene's Impact (courtesy of Planalytics):

* Irene peaked as a Category 3 major hurricane and made its first U.S. landfall on Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane. In total, Irene impacted 17 states as well as several Canadian cities including Montreal and Halifax. An estimated 80 million consumers were within 200 miles of the eye of the storm at some point over the past week.
* Irene made a second landfall at Little Egg Inlet, NJ on Sunday. It was the first hurricane to make landfall in the state since 1903.
* Irene caused over 4 million power outages, with many in the heavily populated northeast expected to be without power for up to two weeks.
* On the heels of a very wet August in the East (Philadelphia had its wettest month in history before Irene hit), the heavy, record-breaking rain up and down the East coast caused significant and widespread flooding and uprooted trees.
* An estimated 11,000 flights were cancelled, causing severe travel and commerce disruptions. Mass transit in all major cities was either slowed or stopped.
* Social media and smartphones played a significant communication role. This was not only true for individuals, but for businesses alike who provided valuable information and services to their communities, family, friends, and co-workers.

Vignettes From Irene's March Up The East Coast. The AP has a good overview of the impacts of Hurricane Irene, state by state: "VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — In a hurricane that didn't fully deliver on its fearsome forecast for most areas, Casey and Denise Robinson's battered beach house is a terrible testament to the fickle nature of extreme weather. The Robinsons and a crew of friends arrived early Sunday to begin picking up the pieces of the storm-ravaged family getaway snuggled in the dunes of the Sandbridge section of Virginia Beach. A tornado spawned by Irene ripped the roof off their house and clawed through its contents, tossing insulation, shards of glass and splintered wood into trees, dunes and low-slung cactus. "This one's totaled," Casey Robinson said as he hastily gathered up boogie boards and other familiar remnants of the family beach house. "This is the only one on the beach that got hit this hard." The Robinsons went about their salvage work with unexpected cheer, reminiscing about the good times they had with their two children over the six or seven years they had owned the house. "This foosball table's ruined," Denise Robinson said. "We played a lot of tournaments on that." Casey Robinson, who said he and his wife and two teenage children were at their primary residence in Virginia Beach when the beach house was destroyed, summed up their sentiments with a shrug."

Irene: Deaths, Flooding, Power Losses, State by State. Here's another good summary of Irene's impacts from Bloomberg News: "Hurricane Irene killed at least 18 people from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, caused an estimated $3 billion in damage and cut electric power to more than 4 million homes and businesses across the eastern U.S. The deaths were concentrated in Virginia and North Carolina, where at least 10 people were killed. Virginia also sustained the second-largest power outage in state history. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home and auto insurer, reported about 1,600 homeowners claims and almost 500 auto insurance claims in North Carolina and Virginia as of 3:00 p.m. local time. The Bloomington, Illinois insurer is hearing reports of downed trees, siding and roofing materials blown off houses, power outages and “a lot of claims for loss of refrigerated food,” said Jon Hannah, a State Farm spokesman. The storm’s cost to insurers may have fallen to $3 billion in the U.S. as the storm weakened on its path toward New England, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., a firm that predicts the effects of disasters. An earlier estimate was for insured losses of as much as $14 billion. Federal officials are still assessing damage and haven’t released a value on the damage yet, said Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

Outer Banks: "Much Better Than We Had Feared". Here's an update from "OVER THE OUTER BANKS, N.C. — Hurricane Irene has cut off access to the lower portion of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, creating multiple breaches in North Carolina Route 12 south of the Oregon Inlet Bridge. The damage became evident during a storm damage assessment flyover by the Coast Guard, the first such flight along the length of the popular island chain since the huge Category 1 storm blasted ashore early Saturday at Cape Lookout and plowed its way northward. The highway was flooded and broken in at least four sections of the road north of the town of Rodanthe. In Rodanthe itself, water has completely wiped out the road in one section. Nearby, a house was burning, but it’s unknown whether the fire was related to the storm. There did not appear to be an alternate route around the breaks."

How Will FEMA Pay For Hurricane Irene? With the country in a hole, financially, the question keeps coming up: how will the federal government pay for all these increasingly costly storms? There have been 65 major disasters so far this year, nationwide. Here's more information from The Washington Post: "With less than $1 billion currently available for federal disaster assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is temporarily suspending payments to rebuild roads, schools and other structures destroyed during spring tornadoes in Joplin, Mo. and southern states in order to pay for damage caused by Hurricane Irene. FEMA will still pay people eligible for individual storm assistance and some states recouping emergency response costs from previous disasters. But the agency said it will place restrictions on paying for older longer-term public rebuilding and mitigation projects in order to ensure the solvency of the federal disaster relief fund, which pays for emergency management costs and public rebuilding projects. The decision affects the spring tornadoes and disasters dating back several years and “prioritizes the immediate, urgent needs of survivors and states when preparing for or responding to a disaster,” said FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen. The federal government similarly suspended some disaster payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010, according to FEMA."

Photo credit: "A wave crashed over the tidal wall along the boardwalk Saturday as Hurricane Irene approached Ocean City, Md. (Ricky Carioti - Washington Post)"

Anatomy Of A Hurricane. The Iowa Environmental Mesonet has raw data from Morehead City, North Carolina, showing wind direction, speed and barometric pressure. Details: "Hurricane Irene hit the east coast of the US this weekend bringing flooding rains and significant storm surge. The eye of the hurricane came ashore Saturday morning close to Morehead City, North Carolina. The featured chart is of one minute interval ASOS data from airport sensor in town. The one minute interval data was not available after about 11 AM local time. The traces nicely show the change of wind direction as the eye passes overhead along with the decrease in wind speed. This station was chosen for this plot as it had the lowest pressure reported among the automated sensors the IEM collects data from in the area."

Irene's Impact On Nuclear Reactors Out East: (thanks to James Aman from Earth Networks for passing this along).

- Most affected was Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs Nuclear plant in Lusby MD - -
- 1 of 2 reactors automatically shut down, after flying debris shorted out a transformer in the electrical yard:

- Exelon Corp. (EXC)’s Oyster Creek plant near Toms River, New Jersey, was shut down as a precaution.
- Dominion’s two units at Millstone in southeast Connecticut were both reduced to 50% power.

* Photo credit:

Poll: Was Hurricane Irene Over-Hyped? TV Newser has a poll, and here are the results (as of Monday afternoon). What do you think? "We kept you apprised of the many, many hours of extra news coverage that were added this weekend in preparation for Hurricane Irene — from the cable networks, to the broadcast networks, to the business networks, everyone was in overdrive. Now that the dust has settled — and Irene, by all accounts, was much less severe than expected — we want to know: was Hurricane Irene overhyped?"

Did Media Go Overboard Hyping Hurricane Irene? I still believe the fact that Irene was heading directly toward New York City (America's undisputed media capital) made a huge difference in the level and tone of coverage, but some of the storm surge predictions (up to a foot?) were wildly inflated - and probably resulted in a much larger evacuation than was ultimately necessary. In contrast the media probably underestimated the extent of inland flooding from tropical rains falling on saturated soil, from North Carolina to Vermont. THAT was the big story, not the 3-4 foot storm surge in New York Harbor. More from the AP: "NEW YORK (AP) — The clouds from Hurricane Irene had barely dissipated before a chorus of critics began suggesting that television networks had gone overboard hyping the storm before and during its march up the East Coast. For days, The Weather Channel and cable news networks reported on little else. Ultimately, they were affected by the unpredictability that is the nature of tropical storms. Irene largely spared New York City, where much of the media attention had been focused, while causing significant damage in places where it was unanticipated: Who planned for torrents of water in Brattleboro, Vt.? One media critic, Howard Kurtz, of The Daily Beast, called the coverage "a hurricane of hype." Manhattan resident Josh Hull, who left his downtown home to ride out the storm with friends on the Upper East Side, said broadcasters blew the storm way out of proportion. "I get that news is a business, but drumming up ratings at the expense of 28 million people is beyond the pale," Hull said. "My family, who all live in another part of the country, were worried sick all weekend while I slept right through the worst of it." The coverage became more a form of entertainment and less of a public resource, said Lise King, a fellow at Harvard University. "The two agendas cannot co-exist, as one serves to lead citizens into calm action and the other is meant, by nature, to drum up emotional responses in order to keep the viewer tuning in," she said. Media organizations defended their coverage, in some cases angrily. NBC News anchor Brian Williams recalled talking to a meteorologist from The Weather Channel on Wednesday night and said he had "never heard him so dire." Networks took cues from public officials, like when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered unprecedented evacuations and a full-scale public transportation shutdown in the nation's largest city."

Hurricane Irene Could Test Military's Revamped Disaster Response System. The story from AP and the Washington Post: "DENVER — The military’s efforts to help the East Coast recover from the floods and disruption caused by Hurricane Irene could test the Pentagon’s new plan to avoid the chaos that plagued the response to Hurricane Katrina. National Guard officers were appointed over the weekend as “dual-status commanders” to direct both active-duty troops and guardsmen assisting civilian officials in New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Normally, active-duty personnel and state-level guardsmen report up separate chains of command to the president on one side and the state’s governor on the other. That division was blamed for some of the delays, duplications and gaps after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005. The military began training high-level Guard officers last year to command both types of troops so they can call on each side’s specialties and quickly get help where it’s needed."

Photo credit above: (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press) - FILE - This April 18, 2011 photo shows Col. Bill Zieber, center, of the Ohio National Guard as he instructs a Joint Task Force Commander training class at NORAD/Northcom headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. In classes like this the Defense Department is grooming a new type of commander to coordinate the military response to domestic disasters, hoping to save lives by avoiding some of the chaos that plagued the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort. Dual-status commanders have been appointed to lead

Don't Blame The Flood Insurance You Didn't Buy. The story from "In places like southern Florida, where many areas are right at sea level or face special hazards from proximity to the shoreline or canals, the name of the game for homeowners is to avoid taking out flood insurance policies if possible. Those with mortgage loans fight a losing battle against loan servicers if they are in a FEMA-determined special flood hazard area. Those not facing pressure from loan servicers are obviously more concerned about the immediate cost than the potential consequences. All flood insurance policies are subsidized by the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, since flood damage tends to be highly concentrated geographically, making it a challenge for an insurer to turn a profit. The NFIP also isn't cheap. The Government Accountability Office estimated in June that the NFIP still owed the U.S. Treasury $17.8 billion "to cover losses from the 2005 hurricanes." For a $200,000 home (estimated replacement cost) located in a special flood hazard area and "a foot below sea level," the annual premium is "somewhere around $700," according to premium estimates provided by Wayne Cox, of Cox Insurance in Fort Pierce, Fla." (photo credit).

Should The National Weather Service Be Scaled Back? Some thoughts on the proposed 30% cut to NOAA's budget from "During my 40 years as a meteorologist, I have a lot of experience with hurricanes and other major storms. I have observed that hurricanes tend to bring odd ideas to the surface. When you combine an earthquake, the odd ideas – if my email is any indication – really start flowing. Beyond the theories about airplane vapor trails and remote control of earthquakes, perhaps the oddest idea floating around now is that that the U.S. National Weather Service should be shut down or deeply scaled back. Saturday evening, a friend forwarded a Fox News op-ed calling for the NWS to be abolished. That op-ed, if you wish to read it, is here. It is easy to say, “abolish the National Weather Service.” Explaining why that is a bad idea is a bit more complicated, so I hope you will bear with me. The National Weather Service of the United States (NWS) plays a vital role that would be impossible for the private sector to fill. That is due to the unique nature of weather. Because weather does not respect national borders and because the weather moves around the world, all nations must cooperate in order for effective forecasts to be made. Private companies cannot legally conduct foreign policy; that is a role of the federal government. The federal government must create the essential international meteorological infrastructure and data sharing agreements."

You Have To See It To Believe It: Boat Balances on Dock. Check out this video clip from "A large boat in Washington ended up in a near-perfect balancing act after Hurricane Irene moved through. Click full story to see the amazing photos--more added."

Weather Channel Streaker. No, you can't make this stuff up. Huffington Post has the details: "Weather Channel reporter Eric Fisher was giving a live report about Hurricane Irene on Saturday when a streaker disrupted his coverage. Fisher said he was "pretty much speechless" about the swarms of people he saw reveling in the streets of Virginia Beach, even as Hurricane Irene whipped about all around him. Fisher clearly thought people were being foolish and reckless, but said he would "bite his tongue" to avoid being too frank about the situation. As if to prove his point, a group of young men in bathing suits ran past him during the live report he was giving, and one of them even flashed the camera--from behind and in front."

Don't Mock The Weatherguy - Or Else! Yes, forecasting weather, predicting storms, is a thankless task. People assume we know (or SHOULD know) more than we really do. We do the best we can with what we have. Here's an appropriate response from comedian Dean Obeidallah, as reported by CNN. The cries came from mainstream media, social media and even the unsocial streets of New York, where I live: "How can these guys call this a friggin' hurricane?!" Whenever the weathermen/women are the slightest bit off in their forecasts, they instantly became punching bags for the rest of us. People ask: How can the weathermen be wrong so often? Here is the simple answer: They are trying to predict the future! It's a forecast, meaning a prediction about an event yet to happen. And to make it more challenging, they are dealing with the weather, which to me, is a mystical, awe-inspiring creature. How can anyone know for certain what this supernatural beast will do? Yet these climate prognosticators, these weather gurus, these meteorologist psychics, if you will, are continually attacked for not predicting with pinpoint precision that, for example, 3 inches of snow, not 6, will fall from the mass of water droplets, known as clouds, positioned thousands of feet above us.

Doggy-Angst. Yes, even the pugs in North Carolina were a little freaked out about Irene. This photo courtesy of

Steve Jobs Reigned In A Kingdom Of Altered Landscapes. How do you capture the genius of Steve Jobs? Dave Carr from the New York Times does a good job putting the magic into perspective, highlighting Jobs' ability to reinvent whole new business models: "Earlier this year, I wrote a column about the publishing industry’s resistance to the terms Apple was imposing for subscriptions on the iPad. Soon after, an e-mail was followed by a phone call and Steve Jobs was on the line to straighten me out. At the time, publishers were profoundly unhappy. Apple was not only proposing to take a third of the revenues, but it was also requiring that the transaction go through Apple, meaning publishers would get none of the consumer data that had such high value to advertisers. Mr. Jobs was friendly enough — I can recall a less pleasant conversation about the criminal case involving a stolen iPhone prototype — but he thought it was silly for publishers to whine about sales without data. After all, he said, they already did a tremendous business on the physical newsstand that did not provide a lick of data about their buyers."

Traveling Around The World (in One Minute). Gizmodo has a pretty cool video on their site - a lifetime worth of global travel compressed into 60 seconds? "Rick, Tim and Andrew, three ordinary guys, decided to take a trip of a lifetime: 11 countries in 44 days. 18 flights and 38,000 miles later they have three 1-minute videos showing what life is like around the world. They recorded everything off two cameras and ended up with over a terabyte of footage which they cut, mixed and matched into an awesomely seamless blend of every notable place they've been. They broke down their trip into three parts: Move, which shows them walking around, Eat, which shows the delectable food they ate, and Learn, which shows all the amazing things they did. Three movies. One minute a pop. Watch them all. I dare you not to smile (and also dare you not to quit your job and blow all your savings on this type of trip)."

Climate Stories...

Sum Of All Fears

What's a meteorologist's worst nightmare? An EF-4 tornado heading toward a stadium or crowded shopping mall? Maybe a rerun of Hurricane Opal, with an even more terrifying outcome?
October, 1995: Opal is a Category 2 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Floridians go to bed expecting a moderate hurricane; many fail to evacuate their coastal homes. Overnight, Opal mutates into a 150-mph monster, nearly Category 5 strength. Opal speeds up, veering toward Florida - NOT what the computers were predicting. Urgent warnings go out. Over 10,000 frantic motorists became stranded on the interstates, unable to move - sitting ducks. Many abandon their cars and set off, on foot, to higher ground. At the last moment Opal weakens & a catastrophe is narrowly avoided. But the storm's a huge wake-up call. Bottom line: Irene showed what a minimal Category 1 hurricane can do - inland flooding far worse than the coastal "storm surge". I sense a long hurricane season ahead.

Hurricane Irene And Global Warming: A Glimpse Of The Future? Here's a story from The New Yorker: "Nowadays, whenever there’s an Irene-like event—a huge storm, a terrible flood, a killer heat wave—the question is raised: was this caused by global warming? The very frequency with which this question is being asked these days should make people take notice, but the answer that comes back is usually squishy enough to allow them to forget about the issue until the next disaster occurs, at which point the process starts all over again. The problem here, as several commentators have pointed out this weekend, is that the question being posed is not the question we should be asking. The standard answer to the question “Was Irene (or the recent flooding along the Missouri River, or the current record-breaking Texas drought, or [choose your own favorite example]) caused by global warming?” is: No one event can be definitively attributed to climate change (though in some cases, you can get pretty close). Hurricanes fall into the category of “weather,” which is driven partly by large and predictable forces and partly by those that are stochastic, or random. How about posing the question this way: Are more events like Irene what you would expect in a warming world? Here the answer is a straightforward “yes.” In fact, experts have been warning for years that New York will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding as the planet heats up."

Ignore Global Warming At Our Risk. Here's a timely Op-Ed from "Last week, Hurricane Irene focused attention once again on climate change. Irene was only a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which rates storms by wind speed, but it carried a lot of water and dumped it on places that didn’t need it. Scientists in the field of atmospheric research tell us that storms are getting stronger, especially in the Atlantic, and that there is a direct correlation between the temperature of the ocean’s surface and the wind speed of the most powerful storms. For all Category 5 hurricanes the average increase in wind speed is 4.5 miles per hour per degree (Celsius) of increased ocean temperature. For the top ten percent of storms the increase in wind speed is 14.5 miles per hour per degree. Over the past 30 years the oceans’ tropical waters have warmed by half a degree Celsius. On one hand this doesn’t look like much. On the other hand, sustained warming means sustained increase in the power of the largest storms."

Hurricane Politics. Here's an Op-Ed from Bill Mckibben at The Daily Beast: "As Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, I was standing outside the White House with hundreds of others protesting. For seven days we staged daily sit-ins and were hauled away to the police station. I spent two nights at Central Cell Block in D.C. (which is precisely as much fun as it sounds) for the crime of standing on the sidewalk protesting the Keystone Pipeline, which will connect the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico—and in the process spew carbon into the atmosphere. But the largest civil-disobedience protest in the recent history of the environmental movement did take the day off on Sunday. Not because of the police but because of Irene, busily ramming her way up the Eastern Seaboard. When we resume this week (climate star James Hansen plans on getting arrested), it will be with one more reminder of why we must act on climate change. You’d think by now we’d get the message on global warming. We know, of course, it didn’t cause Irene, that it has to do with the spin of the Earth and waves of weather rolling off Africa. But one reason the East Coast went on red alert was that there was unusually warm water all along the Atlantic Seaboard. Usually, says Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, it’s difficult for hurricanes to keep their strength much past North Carolina because ocean temperatures plunge below the 79°F level that can generate those strong winds. Not this year: “Sea surface temperatures 1° to 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York.” In fact, in all the years of record keeping, only one summer has had warmer water—last year."

Shooting The Messenger. Here's an Op-Ed from the Miami Herald: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry stirred up controversy on the campaign trail recently when he dismissed the problem of climate change and accused scientists of basically making up the problem. As a born-and-bred Texan, it's especially disturbing to hear this now, when our state is getting absolutely hammered by heat and drought. I've got to wonder how any resident of Texas - and particularly the governor who not so long ago was asking us to pray for rain - can be so cavalier about climate change. As a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, I can also tell you from the data that the current heat wave and drought in Texas is so bad that calling it "extreme weather" does not do it justice. July was the single hottest month in the observational record, and the 12 months that ended in July were drier than any corresponding period in the record. I know that climate change does not cause any specific weather event. But I also know that humans have warmed the climate over the last century, and that this warming has almost certainly made the heat wave and drought more extreme than it would have otherwise been. I am not alone in these views. There are dozens of atmospheric scientists at Texas institutions like Rice, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M, and none of them dispute the mainstream scientific view of climate change. This is not surprising, since there are only a handful of atmospheric scientists in the entire world who dispute the essential facts - and their ranks are not increasing, as Gov. Perry claimed."

Republicans Against Science. I'm a (recovering) Republican, and this wholesale turning away from climate science troubles me to no end. Apparently I'm not the only one. Here's a New York Times Op-Ed from Paul Krugman: "Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us. To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

The Deniers of Global Warming Are Winning. Here's a blog post at "The House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.”

Apparently these politicians know something that the scientists don’t?

The data of the past few years has shifted the paradigm for GW. What was forecast six years ago to happen in 2050 now is projected for 2020 (some of it is here in 2011).

Freak weather has become the norm: Deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; wildfires have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas; severe droughts in the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon; increased moisture in the air leading to huge snowpacks in some areas — which melt quickly in the summer; massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan; unprecedented heat waves in Russia, Eastern US, Europe and Asia; the fish stocks in the oceans are dying; the glaciers & polar ice caps are disappearing; etc. Not to mention the endless effects of steadily rising sea levels.

All of this is happening with only one degree of global warming. All numerical models that evaluate the effect of increased CO2 predict another degree warming is already in the pipeline, and several more degrees if CO2 continues to increase as it has the past decades. The fingerprints of fossil fuel burning are on the measured CO2.