Lakes expanding ‘dangerously’ in Everest glacier

It’s perhaps no surprise, once you read it.  The sad surprise is that so many, even though all the leaves are falling, still proclaim “there is no autumn!  It’s nothing but a hoax.”

“A decade or so ago, there were individual ponds on the Khumbu glacier but in the past five years or so they have begun to get larger and join up,” said Ann Rowan, who led the field study team from the universities of Sheffield and Leeds.

Climate Glacier Melt

Dr Rowan’s team has been studying the behaviour of debris-covered glaciers, focusing on Khumbu.

“Particularly, on the left hand side of the lower reaches of the glacier, there is a series of about seven or eight large ponds that are now starting to link and form a big chain,” she told the BBC.

“There is water flowing from the upper part of the glacier through the series of these ponds and that is going to encourage them to join up.

“At present, the glacier appears to be disintegrating, and may form a few large and potentially hazardous lakes on the glacier surface.”

Not only are the lakes dangerous because of what they signal, but because of what they are becoming — soon large enough to blow through natural and artificial water controls and cause catastrophe to the human communities in the way.

BBC Science and Environment

Why? Because:

 Average levels of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million in the early months of 2015, a rise of 43 percent over pre-industrial levels. according to The World Meteorological Organization, in an annual accounting of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere… WaPo

And besides the glaciers, what is going on?

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. NOAA

Temperatures Going Up, and Up and Up

Climate temps-jan-oct-2015

“Earth’s surface temperature has surged high into uncharted territory, thanks to a record-strength El Niño event combined with the long-term rise in temperatures due to human-caused global warming: October 2015 was Earth’s warmest month on record by a huge margin, according to data released by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Wednesday. October 2015 was the second consecutive month with a new all-time warmest month record: September 2015 previously held the record for the largest positive departure of temperature from average of any month among all 1630 months in the historical record that began in January 1880″

From Jeff Masters at Wunderground...

Thought you’d like to know….

Who is Funding the Killers?

Charles P. Pierce, at Esquire, lays it out:

It’s time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power. Assets from these states [ Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates] should be frozen, all over the west. Money trails should be followed, wherever they lead. People should go to jail, in every country in the world. It should be done state-to-state. Stop funding the murder of our citizens and you can have your money back. Maybe. If we’re satisfied that you’ll stop doing it. And, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – not another bullet will be sold to you, let alone advanced warplanes, until this act gets cleaned up to our satisfaction. If that endangers your political position back home, that’s your problem, not ours. You are no longer trusted allies. Complain, and your diplomats will be going home. Complain more loudly, and your diplomats will be investigated and, if necessary, detained. Retaliate, and you do not want to know what will happen, but it will done with cold, reasoned and, yes, pitiless calculation. It will not be a blind punch. You will not see it coming. It will not be an attack on your faith. It will be an attack on how you conduct your business as sovereign states in a world full of sovereign states.

much more, read all, here.


The Blob — Brewing up Neurotoxins

Headlines all over this week about the warming ocean and the postponement of west coast crab season. A toxin in algae –domoic acid– has grown so fast, and deep that traces are being found in crab, shellfish, sardines and anchovies — and the critters that eat them, including humans.

The poisonous algae, multiplying since April, is now estimated to be 40 miles wide, in some places reaching down as far as two football fields, marine biologists say. It is the biggest and most toxic bloom researchers have ever seen.  SF Chronicle

As the NY Times put it the Pacific Ocean has become a caldron.  A 4 to 6 degree rise in seawater temperatures in large areas, some have dubbed “the blob,’ is having effects not seen in human history.

“The Blob” has been associated, among other effects, with the unusually dry and warm weather in the western United States. Out in the ocean, the nutrient-poor warmer waters of the Blob — about four degrees Fahrenheit higher than average — are disrupting the food web of marine life. Some species of fish are showing up where they are not expected, including tropical sunfish off the Alaska coast, and an unusual number of emaciated sea lion pups and Guadalupe fur seals are being found stranded on California shores.

Climate The Blob

Of course the Atlantic ocean has problems as well — and much the same. The cod populations off the coast of Maine are in serious decline — because of rising ocean temperatures.

Cod populations off New England are collapsing because waters [temperatures] of the Gulf of Maine have been rising 99 percent faster than anywhere else in the world since 2004, researchers say. Earthweek and National Geographic.

We could also go to the Indian Ocean / Gulf of Aden, where Tropical Cyclone Chapala hit Yemen, dumping ten years worth of rain during its passage, and bringing a storm surge into the coastal city, Mukalla, laying waste to large parts of the waterfront. First time in recorded history such a storm has landed here.  Earthweek.


Redistributing the Wealth — Higher and to Fewer

Robert Reich reminds us that all the talk about taxing the wealthy to redistribute downward masks a vital point — the wealthy got that way, in part, by the rigged distribution upward.

Much of the national debate about widening inequality focuses on whether and how much to tax the rich and redistribute their income downward.

But this debate ignores the upward redistributions going on every day, from the rest of us to the rich. These redistributions are hidden inside the market.

… the extra money we’re paying for pharmaceuticals, Internet communications, home mortgages, student loans, airline tickets, food, and health insurance – and you get a hefty portion of the average family’s budget.

Or, in other words, the markets are far from being ‘free,’ as is widely and loudly claimed.  The ideal state for big business is to have captive markets, or shall we call them slave markets, controlled by themselves. Until the conglomerates are broken up, and the purchasing public understands that saving 2% at the big box stores costs 4% in time, transportation and hassle, redistribution up will continue to be the norm.

The Big Melt is Getting Bigger

Several big news dailies featured top-of-the-fold photographs of the most recent evidence of greater than expected ice melt in the arctic, which will lead inexorably to rising oceans and population dislocation of massive proportions.

One story is about new discoveries in the east antarctic.  A major glacier, characterized as the bath plug for much of the continental snow and ice is melting faster than previously known, from below.

Climate Change totten-infographic

Read all in Washington Post

The other story was at the opposite end of the globe, in Greenland where a team of scientists has been dropped in to take measurements of the size and flow of an enormous snow-river

in the  the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, [which] will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.

Very good graphic display of what is happening and why knowing more about it is so important.

The GOP Plan for the Poor: More!

Eduardo Porter of the NY Times, reports on his home state of Arizona, where I happen to be right now.

Arizona, where I was born, in July became the first state to cut poor families’ access to welfare assistance to a maximum of 12 months over a lifetime. That’s a fifth of the time allowed under federal law, and means that 5,000 more people will lose their benefits by next June.

This is only the latest tightening of the screws in Arizona. Last year, about 29,000 poor families received benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, 16,000 fewer than in 2005. In 2009, in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s, benefits were cut by 20 percent.

And of course it’s not just an Arizona problem:

… if Paul Ryan, the Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin who is expected to become speaker of the House, has his way, poor people in many other states can expect similar treatment in the years ahead.

Two forces are driving this very unchristian behavior towards “the least of us”: a deep and misplaced moral punishment ethos, joined with a states rights bias that pretends what “big” government can’t do, “state” government can.  Under this fig leaf the long-ago federal aid to the poor has been replaced by block grants to the states, which then distribute funds intended for the poor anywhere they want.

Even thoughtful Republican policy wonks, and this does not include any of the current candidates for GOP presidential nomination, think what was done, was done badly.

… states were given both incentives and tools to redeploy the money to other priorities. Notably, they could get around the requirement to meet job participation benchmarks simply by reducing the caseloads of beneficiaries — almost a direct instruction to bump people off.

“States did not uphold their end of the bargain,” said Ron Haskins, an expert on welfare who worked for more than a decade for House Republicans. “So why do something like this again?”

It’s well worth a read of Porter’s article to understand just how mean spirited and deceptive this has been, with promises of more such in the wind.

For an earlier article on the myth of welfare’s corrupting influence see here.

For a public apology and detailed analysis of the current policies of block grants see Peter Germanis paper, here.

Economics: Prizing Plain Talk on Inequality

Angus Deaton, variously described as a Scotsman, a Briton and a Princeton economist has just been awarded the The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2015, often called the Nobel Prize for Economics. Leaving aside all the acid and vitriol about the the name, its sponsor and the wishes of the Nobel family (and there is plenty of it) this particular prize should be welcome in a world in which growing wealth inequality is seen as a problem by almost everyone.

For a quick look at what Deaton offers on the subject, I bring you a post, brought to my attention by Paul Krugman’s blog (not the NY Times opinion piece), from Cardiff de Alejo Garcia.

“I’m passing along the most memorable passage on the topic [of inequality] that I’ve come across lately. It’s from Angus Deaton’s excellent The Great Escape: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality, which I just finished and warmly recommend (I’ve embedded links to the studies and books referenced in the excerpt and footnotes):

Books The Great Escape

“There is much to be said for equality of opportunity, and for not penalizing people for the success that comes from their own hard work. Yet, compared with other rich countries, and in spite of the popular belief in the American dream that anyone can succeed, the United States is in fact not particularly good at actually delivering equal opportunities.

One way of measuring equality of opportunity is to look at the correlation between earnings of fathers and sons. In a completely mobile society, with perfect equality of opportunity, your earnings should be unrelated to what your father earned; by contrast, in a hereditary caste society, in which jobs are handed from one generation to the next, the correlation would be 1.

In the United States, the correlation is 0.5, which is the highest of the OECD countries and is exceeded only by those of China and a handful of countries where there appears to be the least equality of opportunity.

[T]here is a danger that the rapid growth of top incomes can become self-reinforcing through the political access that money can bring. Rules are set not in the public interest but in the interest of the rich, who use those rules to become yet richer and more influential.

To worry about these consequences of extreme inequality has nothing to do with being envious of the rich and everything to do with the fear that rapidly growing top incomes are a threat to the wellbeing of everyone else.”

So, congratulations to Angus Deaton, regardless of what the prize should be called. More perceptive detail on the causes and results of inequality, not only on individuals, groups and classes but on democracy itself is a good thing, if understood and acted upon.

Go Green! California Strengthens The Promise

By the end of 2030, half of California’s electricity will come from the wind, the sun and other renewable sources under a new law that sets one of the country’s most ambitious clean-energy targets.

The law, signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, accelerates California’s shift away from fossil fuels as its dominant source of energy and marks another milestone in the state’s fight against climate change.

climate renewable_energy

And despite the loud complaints, and successes of fossil fuel addicts, the changes have brought more jobs to the state.

“It’s not an accident that the clean-vehicle industry is headquartered in California,” said Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, a company that makes electric buses. Formerly based in South Carolina, the company this week celebrated the opening of its new headquarters — in Burlingame.

“California really invented the market, or forced the market, for hybrid technology and electric vehicles,” Popple said. “It’s attracted the kinds of companies that want to work on these technologies.”

SF Gate

Austria, Slipping Down the Slippery Rightward Slope

NY Times starts this way:

VIENNA — As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister.

Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish mancleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget.

Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?

Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment.

But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent.

The Telegraph from the UK shouts louder

Austria’s Right-wing populist party makes huge gains fuelled by migrant crisis fears

Austrian Freedom Party doubles its share of the vote in state of Upper Austria as Vienna expects nearly three times the number of asylum applications received last year

A Right-wing populist party in Austria has made huge gains in regional elections over growing concerns about Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) won 30.4 per cent of the vote in the state of Upper Austria, the country’s industrial heartland, a striking improvement on its performance in the state’s last election in 2009 when it took half as many votes with 15.3 per cent.

This isn’t to say all Austrians are implicated in this surge of anti-immigrant feeling.  Many, many greeted refugees at train stations and in the streets.  It does mean, as in the United States, that divisions are no longer ignored; fear is rising.  And if that’s the tide that will lift all boats, we’d better be thinking about better drainage and stronger barriers.