Where’s Global Warming?

The unusual part, 95% of Canada is sub-zero Fahrenheit. Quoting Bob, “Even for Canada, that’s impressive before “winter” begins.

I can’t stay more than a moment. Snow about to begin. Long day gets started.

My friend Bob just sent me this map from his website, CoolWx.com. It’s temperatures across North America. The unusual part, 95% of Canada is sub-zero Fahrenheit. Quoting Bob, “Even for Canada, that’s impressive before “winter” begins.”


Anna Nicole

As of tonight, I believe I am the only man in North America who never slept with Anna Nicole Smith. Could this story get any weirder?

Global Warming And Me

It is increasingly difficult to be a skeptic when it comes to global warming. That’s not because I am doubting my scientific beliefs, but because it’s more socially acceptable to be fearful of Vanuatu being inundated or Greenland turning green.

I was listening to the Faith Middleton Show today on Connecticut Public Radio. Global Warming was the topic and Dean James Gustave Speth of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies was a guest.

Dean Speth is a heavy hitter on the subject. I could copy his CV here, but I am so overshadowed by his achievements, I’d rather not risk the comparison.

Still, after hearing Dean Speth, I felt I had to send him this note:

Dear Dean Speth,

I listened to your broadcast today with great interest. Though I am skeptical of the harshest global warming pronouncements, I enjoy listening to experts, such as yourself and learning when I can.

Trust me when I say, it would be much easier to be a believer. It is a much more socially acceptable viewpoint to have.

Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to the White House to listen to then Vice President Gore speak on the subject. In spite of all I’d been told, he was a masterful speaker, making scientific points to an audience of meteorologists without benefit of notes or a written script. And yet, I wasn’t won over.

Though it’s purely anecdotal, most of the other meteorologists I spoke with then and speak with now, feel as I do. As operational forecasters, we use computer modeling on a daily basis and understand how weak it can be. We know we can’t always forecast tomorrow’s temperature accurately, much less next month’s or a few decades from now. Heck, we can’t always accurately initialize the models! It’s not for lack of trying.

Long range global modeling makes too many assumptions and takes too many shortcuts to keep me comfortable.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric concerning global warming has gotten so out of hand that lay people are starting to say they notice it! Summers are warmer. Storms are stronger. Winters have less snow.

Last summer and fall, our wild tropical season was attributed by many (Trenberth and Shea as an example) to global warming. Has it abated this year?

If global warming is science and not politics, why is every consequence I hear a negative one? Are there no positives, even in the most dire global warming scenarios? Won’t I save on heating oil? How about road wear and plowing in North America, Europe and parts of Asia? Won’t Siberia and the Great Plains of the US and Canada have a longer growing season?

And if Kyoto is the answer, why are the exclusions that exist in that treaty, and other exclusions which some countries have unilaterally declared (Germany’s removal of coal restrictions) for themselves, never mentioned? You made no mention of these today when declaring all the industrial countries had ratified Kyoto. If I were India or China, I’d ratify a million Kyotos which weaken my competitors and don’t touch me.

Again, it would be so much easier to believe. I am not a political extremist. I believe a clean and pure environment is good in the abstract. I am just scared we’re being sold an expensive bill of goods based on shaky science and strong emotional appeal.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email.


Geoff Fox

Hamden, CT

I don’t expect Dean Speth to read my email and have a Eureka moment. I didn’t expect to be won over when I listened either.

Still, one of us has to be wrong. If it’s me, I’d rather know now than later. I hope he feels the same way.

Cool Image of The Medicane

Late in this past unusual hurricane season, a very unusual hurricane formed. Hurricane Delta went boldly where no hurricane had gone before (at least not in recent memory). By the time the storm had broken up, it was in the Mediterranean, just off the coast of Northern Africa.

I really didn’t pay much attention to Delta My plate was full. It wasn’t a threat to anyone here in North America.

I did mention it on the air once, mentioning Morocco at the same time. In came email from a Moroccan, living in Connecticut who wanted to warn his family. Hurricanes and their winds are unknown in Morocco.

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an amazing picture of another storm in the Mediterranean. If you look closely, you can see it sucking sand from the deserts of Northern Africa. The sand was probably washed back to the ground in a somewhat muddy, tropical rain.

This storm looks tropical in nature, but it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some high powered tropical meteorologists are referring to it as a “Medicane.” That’s more for effect than science. It is very unusual. Very unexpected

Anyway, it’s a neat photo and I thought you might enjoy seeing it.

Why Wilma Scares Me

Just in case you’re counting, Hurricane Wilma is currently 1735 miles southwest of me. That’s ‘as the crow flies’ miles. Because this hurricane is ready to make a sweeping right hand turn, it would have to travel significantly farther.

How can I be worried about something 1735 miles away? It’s easy – I’ve seen this scenario before. I didn’t live it. It predates me. I’ve studied it because it is the benchmark for New England hurricane grief.

Before you feel my pain, let me talk a little about my parents. They’re ensconced in Boynton Beach, FL. Hurricane Wilma is 640 miles south-southwest of them.

As it stands now, the official Hurricane Center prediction takes Wilma right over… or reasonably close to them. Though the storm will be coming over land, it’s swampy land. There’s warm water and low friction in the Everglades. It’s not perfect for a hurricane but it won’t kill it either.

My folks have hurricane shutters and live in a substantial building. I think they’ll be OK, though I’ll revisit this with them later today.

Here’s the one bit of good news. Hurricane Wilma will be ‘booking’ as she passes through Florida. Coast-to-coast will be 10, maybe 12 hours. The faster Hurricane Wilma moves, the sooner the trouble is over.

Nature adapts to this kind of trouble. Palm trees have decidedly less wind resistance than the deciduous trees we have here in Connecticut.

The Hurricane Center forecasts 110 mph winds at landfall in Florida, dropping to 80 mph by the time the storm reemerges in the Atlantic&#185. Even 80 mph, a small hurricane, is substantial if it passes close by. Most of us have never experienced 80 mph winds… and we’ve all seen plenty of wind damage.

The Hurricane Center used to talk about 80 mph storms as minimal hurricanes. They don’t anymore. That’s a change for the better.

I am anticipating moderate to severe damage on the West Coast of Florida with minimal to scattered moderate damage on the East Coast. There will be a much smaller radius of damage in the east.

Once the storm leaves Florida the guessing game begins. It will really accelerate. This is the part that starts resembling the Hurricane of ’38.

From PBS’ American Experience: Within 24 hours, the storm ripped into the New England shore with enough fury to set off seismographs in Sitka, Alaska. Traveling at a shocking 60 miles per hour — three times faster than most tropical storms — it was astonishingly swift and powerful, with peak wind gusts up to 186 m.p.h. The storm without a name turned into one of the most devastating storms recorded in North America. Over 600 people were killed, most by drowning. Another hundred were never found. Property damage was estimated at $300 million — over 8,000 homes were destroyed, 6,000 boats wrecked or damaged.

Though the storm struck Connecticut’s coast in Fairfield County, the strongest damage was experienced at the opposite end of the state and into Rhode Island.

Here’s what’s most troubling. A storm barreling up the East Coast will leave minimal time for warning. Look at the map. Florida to New Jersey in 24 hours! I couldn’t drive it that quickly.

To get a Hurricane Warning out 24 hours in advance would mean alerting most of the Northeast. An error of a few degrees in course could mean Atlantic City versus Boston.

And where would all these people go? Imagine sending everyone in Coastal New England west on I-95!

This is the worst case scenario. A direct hit to New England would cause as much destruction, and possibly as many deaths, as the unpredicted storm in 1938!

The current projections bring Hurricane Wilma far enough east to spare New England. But there is very little margin for error over a five day forecast. I’m certainly not confident in it. Just a few degrees off…

So now we wait and watch. Like I said, there will be lots of phone calls to Florida tomorrow. I want to make sure my parents have every possible advantage. Then we’ll bring the worries closer to home.

Hurricane Wilma scares me to the bone.

&#185 – The Hurricane Center readily admits, of all the things it does, predicting intensity is the thing it does worst.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”

It Could Ruin Your Day

It’s been pretty well established that an asteroid or comet, plunging into the area around the Yucatan Peninsula, was the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs. The ash and dust thrown up by this unfathomable event blotted out enough of the Sun’s energy to change our climate. The dinosaurs and much of the rest of Earth’s living creatures couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive.

In the 4.5 billion years of the Earth’s history, that’s not a terribly unusual event. Unfortunately, it was unusual to the dinosaurs and it would be jarring to us. Our time frame is very different than the Earth’s

I mention this because it’s amazing how close we come from time to time… today, for instance.

Monday, NASA scientists working on NEAT (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) discovered a ‘small’ asteroid, which they named 2004FH. At 60-125 feet in diameter, it is tiny compared to the dinosaur’s nemesis. It’s still pretty darned big.

The 1908 Tunguska explosion, which leveled 750+ square miles of forest in Siberia, came from an asteroid not much larger!

NEAT is actually supposed to look for larger asteroids which might threaten the Earth (not that there’s anything we could do). 2004FH snuck in, despite its size, because of its proximity.

Tonight (March 18th at 5:08 PM EST) this asteroid will pass within 26,500 miles of Earth. Let’s try it another way. Scientists reference distances like this in AU, astronomical units, representing the average distance between Earth and Sun. 2004FH will be only .0003AU away!

If the distance to the Sun was one mile, this asteroid would be 1.5 feet away.

NASA says there’s no cause for alarm. It will pass safely by. Asteroids do all the time, though they’re seldom noticed before hand. This one won’t even be visible in North America.

Here’s how you’ll know if this bad boy really is trouble. If there’s no blog entry tomorrow – 2004FH was a little closer than anticipated..