Half of the polar ice cap is missing: Arctic sea ice hits a new record low

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:53 PM GMT on September 06, 2012

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Extraordinary melting of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has shattered the all-time low sea ice extent record set in September 2007, and sea ice continues to decline far below what has ever been observed. The new sea ice record was set on August 26, a full three weeks before the usual end of the melting season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Every major scientific institution that tracks Arctic sea ice agrees that new records for low ice area, extent, and volume have been set. These organizations include the University of Washington Polar Science Center (a new record for low ice volume), the Nansen Environmental & Remote Sensing Center in Norway, and the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today. A comprehensive collection of sea ice graphs shows the full story. Satellite records of sea ice extent date back to 1979, though a 2011 study by Kinnard et al. shows that the Arctic hasn't seen a melt like this for at least 1,450 years (see a more detailed article on this over at skepticalscience.com.) The latest September 5, 2012 extent of 3.5 million square kilometers is approximately a 50% reduction in the area of Arctic covered by sea ice, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. The ice continues to melt, and has not reached the low for this year yet.


Figure 1. A sunny, slushy day at the North Pole on September 1, 2012. Webcam image courtesy of the North Pole Environmental Observatory.


Figure 2. Sea ice extent on September 5, 2012, showed that half of the polar ice cap was missing, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Why the Arctic sea ice is important
Arctic sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The polar ice caps help to regulate global temperature by reflecting sunlight back into space. White snow and ice at the poles reflects sunlight, but dark ocean absorbs it. Replacing bright sea ice with dark ocean is a recipe for more and faster global warming. The Autumn air temperature over the Arctic has increased by 4 - 6°F in the past decade, and we could already be seeing the impacts of this warming in the mid-latitudes, by an increase in extreme weather events. Another non-trivial impact of the absence of sea ice is increased melting in Greenland. We already saw an unprecedented melting event in Greenland this year, and as warming continues, the likelihood of these events increase.


Figure 3. August set a new record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.



Figure 4. Arctic sea ice death spiral as plotted by Jim Pettit using data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Huge storm pummels Alaska
A massive low pressure system with a central pressure of 970 mb swept through Alaska on Tuesday, generating hurricane-force wind gusts near Anchorage, Alaska that knocked out power to 55,000 homes. Mighty Alaskan storms like this are common in winter, but rare in summer and early fall. The National Weather Service in Anchorage said in their Wednesday forecast discussion that the forecast wind speeds from this storm were incredibly strong for this time of year--four to six standard anomalies above normal. A four-standard anomaly event occurs once every 43 years, and a five-standard anomaly event is a 1-in-4800 year event. However, a meteorologist I heard from who lives in the Anchorage area characterized the wind damage that actually occurred as a 1-in-10 year event. A few maximum wind gusts recorded on Tuesday during the storm:

McHugh Creek (Turnagain Arm)... ... ..88 mph
Paradise Valley (Potter Marsh)... ... 75 mph
Upper Hillside (1400 ft)... ... ... ... 70 mph
Anchorage port... ... ... ... ... ... ... .63 mph

The storm has weakened to a central pressure of 988 mb today, and is located just north of Alaska. The storm is predicted to bring strong winds of 25 - 35 mph and large waves to the edge of the record-thin and record-small Arctic ice cap, and may add to the unprecedented decline in Arctic sea ice being observed this summer.


Figure 5. An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color mosaic image on Aug. 6, 2012. The center of the storm at that date was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Image credit: NASA.

Arctic storms may be increasing due to climate change
This week's Alaskan storm is the second unusually strong low pressure system to affect the Arctic in the past month. On August 4 - 8, a mighty storm with a central pressure of 963 mb raged through the Arctic, bringing strong winds that helped scatter and break up Arctic sea ice. According to a detailed post at NASA Earth Observatory, that storm was in the top 3 percent for strongest storms ever recorded north of 70 degrees latitude. A study of long-term Arctic cyclone trends authored by a team led by John Walsh and Xiangdong Zhang of the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that number and intensity of Arctic cyclones has increased during the second half of the twentieth century, particularly during the summer. Dr. Zhang explained that climate change has caused sea ice to retreat markedly in recent decades and has also warmed Arctic Ocean temperatures. Such changes may be providing more energy and moisture to support cyclone development and persistence. The strong storms of this week and a month ago would have had far less impact on the ice just a decade ago, when the sea ice was much thicker and more extensive.

A sea ice decline double-whammy
The monster Arctic storms like we've seen this year have sped up the rate of sea ice loss, but increased water temperatures and air temperatures due to human-caused global warming are the dominant reasons for the record melting of the Arctic sea ice. A July 2012 study by Day et al. found that the most influential of the possible natural influences on sea ice loss was the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). The AMO has two phases, negative (cold) and positive (warm), which impact Arctic sea ice. The negative phase tends to create sea surface temperatures in the far north Atlantic that are colder than average. In this study, the AMO only accounted for 5% - 31% of the observed September sea ice decline since 1979. The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Joe Romm has a more in-depth look at the new Arctic sea ice record and what it means for the future over at climateprogess.org.

Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters

Turbulence (katy99780)
Beautiful orographic formations over the mountains on a windy evening.
Turbulence

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Quoting yoboi:



do they have solar panels at the white house??


A history of solar panels at the White House
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Interesting discussion... Thanks.
I hope I did not step on too many toes.
Was not my intention to do that.
Just seeing things from a different perspective here.

See you all tomorrow.
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Quoting Dakster:


Let me play a little devil's advocate here.

China is in a unique situation where it can build a 'green' infrastructure from the ground up - as it ramps up its economy and brings its population into the 'new age' of energy use. Whereas, in the US it will take a lot to take down, modify, and convert its existing/polluting infrastructure and way of life. Plus, the US has a lot of companies invested in this polluting way of life that make the obsolescence of it that much more difficult.

Yes - I know I am being utopian here, but I see a potential and great opportunity to really kick start some alternative and 'green' energies that hopefully we can leverage here in the US as well.

Now, will anyone/company/government do it...? that remains to be seen and at this point I highly doubt it.

That pretty well sums-up the thing.
But the US is a Powerhouse of huge ability.
ANYTHING you guys decide to do AS A NATION, you get it done.
Better than anyone else.
The day that someone comes along that is able to cut through the froth of partisan politics, for the National Good.... BINGO !

Where is that person?
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attitudes need to be changed fundamentally to embrace innovation and sustainability.


pretty much sums it up...
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Damn, powers out. Power trucks riding up and down the street trying, to find where the trip is at. Bad storm rolled through over an hour ago.


Where you located at?
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Quoting wxwonder1:
Im betting on 90L 10% at 2am, if not dropped completely. Absorbed in trough. No convection has fired near the center at all today. Good night.

I wouldn't write it off yet, wait to see for a while if it rebounds but maybe put it at 20%-30%.
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Damn, powers out. Power trucks riding up and down the street trying, to find where the trip is at. Bad storm rolled through over an hour ago.
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Quoting Slamguitar:


You clearly don't know how you use "ignore user" then. I got rid of the ones I seen talking to much politics long ago.

No i dont. Very new to this blog as far as posting but have been a lurker for a very long time.
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Im betting on 90L 10% at 2am, if not dropped completely. Absorbed in trough. No convection has fired near the center at all today. Good night.
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Quoting salgrl:
Is this not a weather blog anymore ? All i'm seeing is politics and global warming .


You clearly don't know how you use "ignore user" then. I got rid of the ones I seen talking too much politics long ago.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
China may steal a march on Europe in fight against climate change
Long accused of inaction, the country has put plans in place to reverse its record on carbon emissions

Rob Elsworth
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 April 2012 12.18 BST

For too long, developed countries have used the excuse there is little point in acting to tackle climate change, if China, now the world's biggest emitter, doesn't act too. Sandbag's new report into the emergence of emissions trading in China shows the speed and extent to which things are changing and we argue that Europe must now increase its own ambitions.

All too often China's size and rapid development leads people to the conclusion that no action is being taken on climate change, that it is a polluting behemoth whose addiction to coal undermines all global efforts to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is certainly true that in terms of addressing climate change few countries matter as much as China. A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that in 2009 China and the US alone accounted for 41%, or 12Gt, of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions. Yet China must be understood in context. It is a rapidly developing superpower with a bewilderingly large population, facing increasing social tension fuelled by, among other things, its environmental limitations.

...


Let me play a little devil's advocate here.

China is in a unique situation where it can build a 'green' infrastructure from the ground up - as it ramps up its economy and brings its population into the 'new age' of energy use. Whereas, in the US it will take a lot to take down, modify, and convert its existing/polluting infrastructure and way of life. Plus, the US has a lot of companies invested in this polluting way of life that make the obsolescence of it that much more difficult.

Yes - I know I am being utopian here, but I see a potential and great opportunity to really kick start some alternative and 'green' energies that hopefully we can leverage here in the US as well.

Now, will anyone/company/government do it...? that remains to be seen and at this point I highly doubt it.
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Quoting wxwonder1:


Hmm the son of Isaac wants to be named Nadine...clearly some form of identity crisis.

However I can prove this meteorologically:


I do see the cloud swirl, but the lack of convection needs to be fixed. The only way for more organized convection is is shear and dry air relax. I think its still possible to see development out of this, but not too likely.
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Right now, unless some changes happen, I don't see Leslie getting any stronger than 95-100mph. I would do a graphical forecast but it is late.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

He wants the vacation and a trip back to the gulf possibly.


Hmm the son of Isaac wants to be named Nadine...clearly some form of identity crisis.

However I can prove this meteorologically:

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Quoting Dakster:


It is... You can still find some weather talk here and there.

Expect the politics and global warming debate to rage on when the good Doc Masters has a post about it.

Pull up a chair and have some popcorn and enjoy the show.

lol i'm not much on politics nor global warming. Going to bed now sounds better to me : )
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China may steal a march on Europe in fight against climate change
Long accused of inaction, the country has put plans in place to reverse its record on carbon emissions

Rob Elsworth
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 24 April 2012 12.18 BST

For too long, developed countries have used the excuse there is little point in acting to tackle climate change, if China, now the world's biggest emitter, doesn't act too. Sandbag's new report into the emergence of emissions trading in China shows the speed and extent to which things are changing and we argue that Europe must now increase its own ambitions.

All too often China's size and rapid development leads people to the conclusion that no action is being taken on climate change, that it is a polluting behemoth whose addiction to coal undermines all global efforts to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is certainly true that in terms of addressing climate change few countries matter as much as China. A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that in 2009 China and the US alone accounted for 41%, or 12Gt, of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions. Yet China must be understood in context. It is a rapidly developing superpower with a bewilderingly large population, facing increasing social tension fuelled by, among other things, its environmental limitations.

...


China is also increasingly conscious that its ability to deal with escalating environmental concerns through traditional command and control measures is becoming increasingly inadequate. China's economy has become too sophisticated to be managed in a traditional style. In 2010, to meet the energy efficiency targets set out in the 11th five-year plan (FYP), old and inefficient factories were ordered to close. Nevertheless the target was narrowly missed. China has realised that alongside command and control measures, attitudes need to be changed fundamentally to embrace innovation and sustainability.

This has caused China, through the adoption of the 12th five-year plan, to pursue a more sustainable economic model, focusing on qualitative economic and social development. The newly adopted plan runs till 2015 and includes prominent energy efficiency and carbon intensity targets. Touted as the greenest FYP ever, it introduces emission trading as one of the innovative new policy tools to be tested. China has already announced pilot projects to be implemented in five municipal areas - Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin - and two provinces - Guangdong and Hubei - from 2013.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/24 /china-climate-change-carbon-emissions
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Quoting salgrl:
Is this not a weather blog anymore ? All i'm seeing is politics and global warming .


It is... You can still find some weather talk here and there.

Expect the politics and global warming debate to rage on when the good Doc Masters has a post about it.

Pull up a chair and have some popcorn and enjoy the show.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting salgrl:
Is this not a weather blog anymore ? All i'm seeing is politics and global warming .

This is a weather blog, climate change is allowed here though when Dr. M. posts about it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Is this not a weather blog anymore ? All i'm seeing is politics and global warming .
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
3 ensemble members have the next storm to come off of the coast of Africa affecting the Northern Leeward Islands:

Keep in mind this is 252 hrs. out and subject to drastic changes.






The next storm also has the possibility of being a major and a US threat, it is too far out to tell.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
3 ensemble members have the next storm to come off of the coast of Africa affecting the Northern Leeward Islands:

Keep in mind this is 252 hrs. out and subject to drastic changes.






Based on these models, I don't really see how this will have any real effect on the islands. It truly does not show the "storm" passing that close to give anything other than streaming clouds and some passing showers.
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Quoting pottery:

50-50.......

This is what I was alluding to, earlier.
Forget the Message.
Don't even try to understand it.
Shoot the Messenger, as he is from the Other Side.


You are right- it's about the 2 party system, and a deeply ingrained dualism that Americans uniquely indulge in. I suppose I can say that, being of those myself. If people could only see that they are not anti-democrat, or women, or immigrant, or religion, or whatever-you-fear, and are really anti- human. We continue to be ruled by fear of "different".
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The trillion dollar question is, have we reached the tipping point in climate change? (whether man made or not)
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All times in GMT. Derived from NHC_ATCF data for HurricaneMichael for 6Sept.12pm
FLW-header :: HOR-Faial :: PIX-Pico :: TER-Terceira :: PDL-SaoMiguel

The westernmost dot on the longest line is H.Michael's most recent position

The longest line is a straightline projection through H.Michael's 2 most recent positions to its closest approach to the Azores
5Sept.06pm: TS.Michael had been headed for passage 32miles(kilometres)WNWest of SaoMiguel (left,top,PDLdumbbell)
6Sept.12am: H.Michael had been headed for passage over Pico (bottom,right,PIXblob)
6Sept.06am: H.Michael had been headed for passage 4.7miles(5.6kilometres)SSEast of Terceira (bottom,right,TERblob)
6Sept.12pm: H.Michael had been headed for passage 4.1miles(6.6kilometres)WNWest of Faial (top,left,HORblob)
6Sept.06pm: H.Michael had been headed for passage 30miles(48kilometres)SEast of Flores (bottom,right,straightline projection blob)
7Sept.12am: H.Michael was heading for passage 27miles(41kilometres)SEast of Flores
(top,left,straightline projection blob)

Copy&paste pdl-37.9n25.822w-38.303n26.108w, pix, 38.429n28.3w, ter-38.643n27.077w, 38.585n27.03w, hor-38.604n28.833w, 38.652n28.878w, flw-39.379n31.165w, 39.064n30.784w, 39.111n30.838w, sma, 28.7n42.9w-29.1n42.4w, 29.1n42.4w-29.4n42.0w, 29.4n42.0w-29.9n41.4w, 29.9n41.4w-30.3n41.0w, 29.9n41.4w-39.064n30.784w, 39.379n31.165w-39.064n30.784w, 30.3n41.0w-30.6n40.7w, 30.3n41.0w-39.111n30.838w, 39.379n31.165w-39.111n30.838w into the GreatCircleMapper for a tree mapping and other information
The previous mapping for comparison
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
For West Palm Beach...


Don't see much evidence of a passing cool/cold front...
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Quoting pottery:

50-50.......

This is what I was alluding to, earlier.
Forget the Message.
Don't even try to understand it.
Shoot the Messenger, as he is from the Other Side.


Your right pottery..it is all vanity now..in Nov. the people have to decide and then live with it..we shall see if the ship can right it's ill gotten course..
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that's 1,000,000,000 bucks!!!

double stacked.

Im pretty sure I can live with that for the rest of my life...
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China is currently the second largest consumer of energy in the world (behind the US) and is projected to overtake the US as the largest consumer by 2015. To meet its growing energy needs, China has made impressive efforts in recent years to expand its renewable energy capacity. This effort was kick-started with the passage of the Renewable Energy Law in 2005. After four years of rapid expansion in China's renewable energy sector, China passed amendments to the Renewable Energy Law on December 26, 2009. While it still remains to be seen what the exact impact of the amendments will be, the amendments illustrate China's continued commitment to expanding its renewable energy supply and overcoming some of the existing barriers to achieving this objective.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bfinamore/china _renews_its_commitment_to.html
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3 ensemble members have the next storm to come off of the coast of Africa affecting the Northern Leeward Islands:

Keep in mind this is 252 hrs. out and subject to drastic changes.





Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:



http://www.forbes.com/sites/jackperkowski/2012/07 /27/china-leads-the-world-in-renewable-energy-inve stment/


China leads the world in *all* energy investment. Renewable, coal, nukes, natural gas. It's all demand driven. 1.5B people with a rapidly growing standard of living *PLUS* being the Mecca for the majority of the world's manufacturing.
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Quoting Dakster:


Son of Isaac wants his Florida vacation too it seems.

He wants the vacation and a trip back to the gulf possibly.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Are you serious?

Just go away Isaac, lol.


Son of Isaac wants his Florida vacation too it seems.
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Quoting mcluvincane:


Look who its coming from... he's good friends with Al Gore lol. Anything that guy (Obama) says is a bald face lie

50-50.......

This is what I was alluding to, earlier.
Forget the Message.
Don't even try to understand it.
Shoot the Messenger, as he is from the Other Side.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting LurkyMcLurkerson:


And last I'll say -- I do actually have to do stuff -- is that I actually do cautiously support nuclear as a piece of getting anywhere with emissions. My main problem is the waste storage, not nearly so much as the direct danger in modern reactor designs.

But I think that yet again, getting that to be politically feasible here would be a tough, tough sell. And, truth be told, after Fukushima, I think there are good reasons to be cautious with safety in extreme conditions. But it certainly isn't a nonstarter for me, anyway.

Absolutely !
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I wonder how levi is doing in alaska wih that storm
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Quoting AussieStorm:

back in the early 00's. The Federal Govt proposed a plan to build 23 nuclear reactors around Australia. There was a massive outcry from people saying, oh not in my back yard or I'm worried about an accident.

Nuclear reactors nowadays are very safe. So I would have no problem with getting rid of the coal and gas fired power stations we have here and replace them with nuclear power plants.


Don't you guys have a big carbon tax on coal miners there now? I heard that *may* get repealed after your next election.
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My ice melted in my icebox, GW for sure
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Quoting pottery:

Personally, I see Nuke plants as a way forward.
Yes, I know all the issues with waste and the potential for bad stuff.
But I can't believe that we cannot build plants that are safe and that we cannot find a solution to the safe disposal of the waste.

It may be a good option to build smaller, more easily maintained plants all over the place rather than huge things with bigger potential for accidents.

It's basically a big kettle for boiling water, with fusion or fission as the heat source.

back in the early 00's. The Australian Federal Govt proposed a plan to build 23 nuclear reactors around Australia. There was a massive outcry from people saying, oh not in my back yard or I'm worried about an accident.

Nuclear reactors nowadays are very safe. So I would have no problem with getting rid of the coal and gas fired power stations we have here and replace them with nuclear power plants.
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Quoting StormHype:


A good root topic for a new blog post would be the rate of change of CO2 emissions of China vs the US. China has 1.5B people, the US has 350M. Chinese are experiencing the most rapid increase of standard of living in history, which means many are buying autos and air-conditioners for the first time. It's that rate of change that we need to pay attention to here, not absolute amounts.

True. Would be interested in seeing that.
I am not denying that China and India in particular are fast becoming Mega Industrialists.
And the resulting co2 and other pollutants will make for big increases overall. Resulting in more climate change.

Interesting time, coming up.....
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...LESLIE REMAINS NEARLY STATIONARY... ...SLOW NORTHWARD MOVEMENT EXPECTED ON FRIDAY...
11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 6
Location: 26.5°N 62.2°W
Moving: Stationary
Min pressure: 985 mb
Max sustained: 75 mph

...MICHAEL CREEPING NORTH-NORTHEASTWARD...
11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 6
Location: 30.8°N 40.8°W
Moving: NNE at 5 mph
Min pressure: 970 mb
Max sustained: 105 mph
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http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/tafb/gridded_marine/ifp/i ndex.php?large&basin=nh2&parm=wind#content s


The two storms look like they are on a collision course
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
CRANKS LOSE COURT CASE AGAINST NZ TEMPERATURE RECORD, NIWA AWARDED COSTS

by GARETH on SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

The attempt by NZ’s merry little band of climate cranks to have the NZ temperature record declared invalid has ended in ignominious defeat. In his ruling [PDF], handed down today, Justice Venning finds:

The plaintiff does not succeed on any of its challenges to the three decisions of NIWA in issue. The application for judicial review is dismissed and judgment entered for the defendant. [and] The defendant is entitled to costs.


Note that last line. (The US is the only country in the world that doesn't have a loser pays *all* court costs policy.)
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Quoting sar2401:


I wondered where all those big lakes came from. :)

Oh, those are formed by denialists scraping the bottom of the barrel so hard that they pierce not only the barrel but the Earth's crust.

Fascinating process to watch.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting StormHype:
I'm curious to see how many climate change activist support the use of nuclear energy. It is the only current practical large scale form of energy that is free of CO2 emissions.

The US hasn't built a nuke plant since getting spooked by 3-mile Island in the last 1970s.

Europe (mainly Germany) got spooked from Japan's accident with their reckless handling of their ancient reactor and said they are phasing out nukes. Europe just signed contracts to buy *record* amounts of coal from the US over the next few years.

China is going full speed ahead building dozens of state-of-the-art pebble bed reactors, along with dozens of coal plants. Their drive is more demand than anything environmental.


And last I'll say -- I do actually have to do stuff -- is that I actually do cautiously support nuclear as a piece of getting anywhere with emissions. My main problem is the waste storage, not nearly so much as the direct danger in modern reactor designs.

But I think that yet again, getting that to be politically feasible here would be a tough, tough sell. And, truth be told, after Fukushima, I think there are good reasons to be cautious with safety in extreme conditions. But it certainly isn't a nonstarter for me, anyway.
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Some of these posts tonight seem to be a bit about getting one up on someone else, and who can swing the biggest proverbial stick. How about we try respect, compassion, and common sence? No matter who "wins" the GW debate, we will still be here spinning around on the same planet. We can at least be nice to each other.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.