"...According to Dr. Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota, 500,000 people per day in the U.S. lose power for at least two hours..." - if you had any doubt about the fragility of the U.S. power grid you won't after reading a Popular Mechanics article excerpted below. Image credit: National Geographic.
I'm pausing to pay my respects to an enlightened Muslim inventor named Ziryab, the first person to introduce underarm deodorant, back in the 9th century, in what is now northern Spain. According to Wikipedia a Philadelphia man, whose name has been lost to history, was the first entrepreneur to commercialize & patent this miracle product ("Mum"!) in the U.S. back in 1888.
Let us give thanks.
From a tender age we've all been told "It's not the heat, it's the humidity!" It's true. When there's this much water in the air (dew points at or above 70) your body can't cool itself naturally by evaporating sweat off your skin. You can overheat much more rapidly, especially infants, the sick & elderly, and people taking certain medications.
Recent research suggests it's not daytime highs, but consistently warm, 80-degree lows at night that cause the most mortality.
A Heat Advisory is posted into Thursday - it will feel like 100F for this evening's Torchlight Parade. Storms Thursday night mark the arrival of a cooler front in time for the weekend, but long range models show highs from 92-97F the by the middle of next week.
My advice? Slow down, avoid the midday sun, lose the tie, and check in on older friends & neighbors.
Why Do We Sweat More In High Humidity? When there's a lot of water already in the air (days with a dew point above 70F) your body has a much tougher time cooling itself naturally, by evaporating sweat off your skin. You're more likely to overheat, with unpleasant and even dangerous implications. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation of what happens from MIT's School of Engineering: “When it’s humid, I’m drenched,” says Patricia Christie, a lecturer in MIT’s Experimental Studies Group who teaches The Chemistry of Sports. Some research studies do suggest that the human body sweats more as humidity increases, while others suggest that sweat eventually decreases. But what’s really sopping Christie is that the sweat’s just not evaporating as fast. Normally, the body cools itself by opening pores on the skin and releasing water and salts. As the water evaporates, it transfers the body’s heat to the air. Because water has a high latent heat, which is the heat required to change liquid water to vapor, this process usually carries away enough heat to do a good job of cooling the body.”It’s a fabulous system,” says Christie. But the rate at which water—or in this case, sweat—evaporates depends on how much water is already in the air. On dry days, sweat evaporates quickly, which means it also carries away heat faster. On humid days, when the air is already saturated with water, sweat evaporates more slowly..."
Photo credit above: "Blood type, metabolism, exercise, shirt color and even drinking beer can make individuals especially delicious to mosquitoes." Photo by Flickr user Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel.
The Space Race Is On For Climate, Weather Privatization. Yes, let's put all of Earth's monitoring devices in private hands, because there's no question they will look out for all our interests right? Here's a clip from a story at Climate Central: "The latest version of the "Space Race" lacks the Cold War-era drama of the last one, and does not even involve daring feats of manned spaceflight. No, this one is a race to launch a network of increasingly tiny Earth-observing satellites that will change how weather and climate information is gathered and disseminated. And in this race, it is private industry, not the government, leading the charge. Instead of stirring presidential speeches, plans are being hatched in office parks around the country, by companies such as Skybox Imaging, PlanetIQ, and GeoOptics. They are vying to launch fleets of small, advanced, and low-cost satellites that represent a revolution akin to the one that turned computers from room-sized behemoths into things we hold in the palms of our hands..."
Surviving The Inevitable Summer Power Outage. Here's an excerpt of a story at Popular Mechanics with some interesting details and data nuggets: "Summer is blackout season - when heat waves bring on extra air-conditioning use, and extra air-conditioning use taxes the power grid and leads to rolling blackouts. And while the power grid in the U.S. is relatively stable—99.9 percent stable if you factor out weather-related outages, according to the Electric Power Research Institute—power outages are a year-round fact of life. A growing population, along with more homes that cover more area, has meant that hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters impact more people and have led to a staggering increase in power outages. According to Dr. Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota, 500,000 people per day in the U.S. lose power for at least two hours. Between 2005 and 2010 there were 272 power outages that each affected more than 50,000 people. In 2011 alone there were 136 weather-related power outages that snuffed out 178 million meters. The economic toll is equally intense, costing between $80 billion and $188 billion annually..."
This Film Will Convince Every Skeptic That Climate Change Is Real. Maybe not - you have to be open to new data and be willing and able to change your mind. Not everyone is capable of that; their minds are made up and they will cherrypick any and all questionable data to support their views. More facts, more data doesn't necessarily convince them of anything. The man behind the "Chasing Ice" documentary, James Balog, was once a skeptic. Until he saw the impact of climate change on the Arctic with his own eyes. If you're still skeptical and you read one article about climate change in the next year, this should be the one. Here's a clip from Business Insider: "photographer James Balog went from being a climate-change skeptic to documenting our planet's rapidly melting glaciers. In the 2012 film"Chasing Ice" he gathers irrefutable evidence that climate change is real. Until recently, Balog thought climate change was only based on computer models and hyperbole. "I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet," he said in the film. "It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible." The turning point came when Balog was sent to the Arctic on an assignment for National Geographic to capture the Earth's changing landscape. This spawned a bigger project — the Expedition Ice Survey — where Balog and his team used time-lapse cameras pointed at glaciers in Europe and North America to document the effects of climate change..."
Technology As Our Planet's Last Best Hope. People ask if I'm optimistic or pessimistic about climate change. It's a daunting subject - I understand why so many people deny it, or don't want to think about it. Ultimately, in spite of plenty of gloom and doom, I'm optimistic. Technology may not save us, but it will help mitigate some of the worst impacts of a warmer, stormier climate. It may be one of the most complex problems we've ever faced, requiring not only innovation and reinvention but a social movement to point us in the right direction and make sustainability more than a buzzword or catch-phrase. The Guardian has the story; here's the introduction: "There is a new environmental agenda out there. One that is inimical to many traditional conservationists, but which is picking up kudos and converts. It calls itself environmental modernism – which for many is an oxymoron. Wasn't the environmentalism of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Greenpeace's warriors against industrial whaling and the nuclear industry, and efforts to preserve the world's last wild lands, meant to be the antithesis of the modern industrial world? But the prophets of ecological modernism believe technology is the solution and not the problem. They say that harnessing innovation and entrepreneurship can save the planet and that if environmentalists won't buy into that, then their Arcadian sentiments are the problem..."
Photo credit above: "Apollo 8 view of the Earth that was used on the cover of first Whole Earth Catalog." Photograph: NASA.
Beaches and Island Vacations: Ok, this one should be self-evident, since a significant amount of sea-level rise is well understood to be an unavoidable consequence of a warming planet. In addition to the serious and massive threats to lives and property, your beach vacations are also at risk. South Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Florida, Hawaii – all will suffer beach destruction as seas continue to rise.
Chocolate: A detailed study concluded that the areas suitable for growing cocoa in the prime growing areas of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire will substantially decrease by 2050 as warming expands. Other research also suggests risks to cocoa production from temperature and precipitation changes. (Some references here, here –a .pdf, and here )
Coffee: Coffee is one of the world’s most important and valued commodities, worth tens of billions of dollars annually and employing over 25 million people worldwide. There is now evidence that the spread of a deadly coffee fungus is linked to rising global temperatures and research shows that “nearly 100 percent of the world’s Arabica coffee growing regions could become unsuitable for the plant by 2080.” Starbucks is already having to spend money to study and test climate change-resistant coffee varieties....
Image credit above: The Wine Economist.
Methane's Contribution To Global Warming Is Not Just Hot Air. Nice visual huh? Here's a clip from a story at Earth Island Journal and Living Green Magazine: “Methane is 21 times more heat-trapping that carbon dioxide.” If you’re a frequent reader of environmental websites, no doubt you’ve seen some version of that sentence many times. The “twenty-times” figure is the most common way of explaining how methane (or CH4, or uncombusted natural gas) reacts in the atmosphere. Just one problem: It’s not entirely accurate — at least not in the time-scale we should be using to think about how to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. Actually, any CH4 released today is at least 56 times more heat-trapping than a molecule of C02 also released today. And because of the way it reacts in the atmosphere, the number is probably even higher, according to research conducted by Drew Shindell, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center. So why is the 21 times figure the one that gets bandied about? Because methane breaks down much faster than carbon dioxide..."
These Maps Show The Best Places To Put Solar And Wind Power (It's Not Where You Think). Here's an excerpt of a Washington Post story that made me do a triple-take: "At first glance, it might seem obvious where the United States should focus on building more renewable energy. Stick the solar panels in sunny Arizona and hoist up the wind turbines on the gusty Great Plains, right? Well, not necessarily. A recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University offered another way to look at the issue. A solar panel built in cloudy New Jersey can actually offer more overall benefits than one built in Arizona — when you take into account all the carbon dioxide and other pollutants that get reduced. Likewise, a new wind farm in West Virginia can deliver more health benefits than one built in California, at least in the short term..."
Be A Realist. Look At The Whole Picture. Graphic above courtesy of Climate Nexus and Facebook. Greg Laden has more details at scienceblogs.com.
Climate Change And Media Coverage. Here is a portion of a post focused on Reuters and it's coverage of climate change, from an environmental reporter who left Reuters: "The parlous state of Reuters' and environmental coverage is baffling and a massive disservice to paying clients. [New regime brings change of climate at Reuters]. Climate change has become one of the stories of the century and a top economic, political and humanitarian focus for the globe. Financial clients from banks, insurance firms, miners, agricultural giants to central banks and power generators want news on climate change impacts and policy. They want the best analysis on future impacts on changes in weather patterns, sea level rise and impacts on crops - i.e., food security. Climate change touches every facet of human life and every economy. It's a massive business story. Yet some people seem to view it only as a debate between climate scientists and paid-for climate sceptics and oil-industry lobbyists trying to promote business as usual. Reuters' senior managers seem oblivious to the wider picture. Climate change reportage is vital to the public and Reuters' clients, the very people editors should be doing everyting to retain as revenues falter.."
Think Progress has more on Reuters' coverage, or lack of coverage, on climate change issues here.