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The Rough Guide to Climate Change: A book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:47 PM GMT on January 29, 2008

If you're bewildered by the complexity of the climate change/global warming issue, and want a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide that presents an unbiased view of the important issues, look no further than Robert Henson's Rough Guide to Climate Change. In fact, we've found the Rough Guide to Climate Change so helpful and well written, that wunderground has licensed a copy of the introductory chapter and featured it on our Climate Change web page. This chapter is a "sneak preview" of the Second Edition, which is scheduled to be released February 4. If I were teaching a course on climate change at the high school or introductory college level, this would be the text.

However, the Rough Guide does not read like a textbook. It presents the key issues in a straightforward, clear, and conversational manner. The author, Robert Henson, is a meteorologist and journalist who works as a writer/editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He organizes his book into four sections: "The basics"--global warming in a nutshell; "The symptoms"--what's happening now, and what might happen in the future; "The science"--how we know what we know about climate change; and "Debates & solutions"--from spats and spin to saving the planet. The book has information current up to September 2007, and discusses the major climate change event so far this century--the record melting of the Arctic's sea ice that peaked in September 2007, opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history.

Helpful graphics and interesting sidebars are interspersed throughout the text. Some of the more interesting sidebars include an interview with James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis that treats Earth as a living being; "The Nights Chicago Fried", an account of the deadly 1999 heat wave in Chicago; and "The Fast-Disappearing Snows of Kilimanjaro", discussing the controversy over why Mt. Kilimanjaro's ice is disappearing. My favorite sidebar is "Climate Change and the Cinema", where we learn that the first movie to discuss artificial climate change was probably Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952), which featured a young Leonard Nimoy as part of a gang of Martians bent on exploding Earth from its orbit so Mars can move sunward and benefit from a warmer climate. The sidebar also discusses the impact of movies like The Day After Tomorrow and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

The 2006 first edition of the Rough Guide is my favorite climate change reference book, and I highly recommend purchasing the second edition when it comes out February 4. You can preorder a copy of the second edition from amazon.com ($16.99, softcover). Overall rating: four stars out of four.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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53. Bonedog
1:28 PM EST on January 30, 2008
hey folks :) good news I am now part of the CoCoRaHS network.

NJ-PS-2 is my station number :)

Oh happy days :)
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50. NorthPix
12:07 PM CST on January 30, 2008
Another fact from Earth Geology is that during the ice ages the north or outh pole had no ice. In Antartica scientists have drilled into a forest far under the ice. If the ice that is melting is 5000 yrs olds it must be that before that the ice was not there.
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49. moonlightcowboy
6:10 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
45. GulfScotsman 5:51 PM GMT on January 30,
Be honest about the POLITICS of this new religion. Open your hearts... ( and wallets ) to the gardians not of wisdom... but another dose of snake oil,... how about being honest and salute P.T. Barnum.....

....uuuuummmm, that sums it up fairly well I think! Good post GSM!
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46. moonlightcowboy
4:35 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
What happened to fact? Has it gotten lost in assumption? When did fact become just an extension of one's belief? What happened to the scientific process? Controls? And verification? It seems these days that "fact" is marred by contradiction of other "facts!" Some examples related to the current GW issue:

1. Temp inaccuracy. Satellites have only been up recording temperatures a few years. There is no credible record of temps prior. At least not credible in that equal controls were used to determine accurate readings. Yet, the IPCC has based their entire conclusions on these inaccurate temperatures. Is it "fact" that temps have risen? There's no compelling answer.

2. Ice melt. In Dr. Master's own blog header he states the NW Passage has been open for the first time in recorded history. Yet, in another post there are several accounts just in the past 100 years where the passage has been successfully navigated. Fact? What and who does one believe?

3. ACO2. There is claim that man-made CO2 is causing temperatures to rise. Yet, there is also data that shows rising temperatures do not correlate with rising CO2, but actually correlate with cycles of the sun. Data also supports that there have been times in Earth's atmospheric history when CO2 has been considerably higher than now. Where are the facts? Obviously, that thwarts the idea of "man-made" CO2 caused by the industrial age imperiling the planet.

4. Warming/Cooling. Only a few years ago scientists said the planet was in danger of a new approaching ice age. What happened to that? Did they just ignore the facts, but now, have suddenly found them? Now we're going to catch the planet on fire and civilization will struggle to exist, unless of course, we tax the developed nations. That one is hard to ingest. Sunspot cycle #24 has begun and there is now a forecast that temperatures may plummet again for the next 50 years. So, which is it? Where are the facts? The "jelly-of-the-month" club seemingly has more stability and credibility than science has at predicting the Earth's future.

5. IPCC conclusions. Now, there's a body of fact! (not) Their conclusions have been based on faulty surface temperature readings. While some of its members still proclaim the "science is in" - other members who participated in the initial process, have since refuted the conclusions as wrong and manipulated to fit the desired outcome. Clearly, the science is not in. Yet, the IPCC and the UN wants to place CO2 restrictions and tax the developed countries in order to save the planet. And, in the same solution, allows developing countries to continue to produce CO2 unchecked and untaxed. So, again, there is no "fact." Their own solution contradicts their conclusions.

-- What has happened to fact? Has "assumption" been substituted in order to validate lack of knowledge and credible science? In the drive to find answers has science abandoned the true process of scientific research based on controls and verifiability? An assumption is only a guess. When did assumption replace fact? Sure, there are many unknowns; but, to interject guessing into conclusions in a way to force a specific outcome and use as a platform for redistributing wealth and control is, in my opinion, unconscionable! And the "fear tactics" being used is even more ridiculous.
-- This good Earth has been around for a very long time. It has seen and endured just about every climatic weather pattern ever imagined. Some have been catastrophic and man had little or nothing to do with the weather pattern. CO2 is a tiny player in the greenhouse gas scenario anyway. Whether man produces more is moot in comparison to CO2 levels the planet has endured in the past. The fact is some warming would be a good thing. More people die each year from cold temperatures than warm temperatures. Agriculture would likely be more productive with warmer temperatures, and energy needs such as for heating would find some relief.
-- Fact? It seems to me that fact is really just a matter of opinion, especially when the so-called professionals can't agree on what is happening. Fact appears now to be a matter of discernment, rather than real scientifically tried and proven processes. The new important and politically correct word is "assumption." And, we've all heard what happens when we (ass-u-me) something! It's time for science to stop covering its _ss and raise an intelligent head. Otherwise, science will lose any credibility it has past enjoyed and impressed us.

..."Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the other, to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to find the other: given the upper, to find the under side."

"Every known fact in natural science was divined by the presentiment of somebody, before it was actually verified."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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44. NorthPix
11:31 AM CST on January 30, 2008

2 Charts are in my photo
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43. NorthPix
10:55 AM CST on January 30, 2008
I believe that CO2 Global Warming alarmist data is flawed. They use mostly weather data from the last century and cherry-pick what fits their agenda. Consensus not science fact.
Geology provides us with temp and CO2 data from million o f years ago.

CO2 follows temp by about 100 years in recent and all over the map in previous centuries. Our present temps are not the highest than previous centuries. In fact it was a lot higher during ice ages. During simular temps CO2 was twice as high as now. Are we deficient in CO2 now? 80% of the increase of co2 IN THE LAST 100 YEARS occured during the 1940's and early 50's. Only a few 10ths of a degree since.
CO2 is a very small amount in our air and is hard to believe that it would be that critical.
CO2 is heavier than air and oxygen and mostly concentrated on the surface. The amount in the upper atmosphere is a lot less. Look how thin oxygen is at 10,000 feet, CO2 is a lot thinner at higher elevations. CO2 is an invisible gas. It's used as a fire extinguiser
because it sinks to the ground and surrpresses the oxygen. How could the plants use CO2 if it was lighter. Try putting it in a ballon, it will sink not float as helium does. This is also how oceans absorb it because it sinks. It only rises if wind blows it up.
It will take more than the Inconsistant Truth to convince me that CO2 is the problem.

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42. lawntonlookers
5:03 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
The storm that went through the North East has created a storm surge on Lake Erie. Here is an article from the Buffalo, NY newspaper about the storm that went through this morning. They say it is the worst storm in years as far as extrems. They also refer to a seiche that is interesting to read about.

Buffalo News

Here is the gauge readings at Buffalo and Toledo that show the seiche where it lowered the water in Toledo and raised it in Buffalo. Note the drop at Toledo which is at the Western edge of Lake Erie and the rise at Buffalo on the Eastern Edge.

Toledo Gauge

Buffalo Gauge

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38. benirica
4:16 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
global WARMING?
global cooling is more like it!
really weird cold temperatures in Puerto Rico this season.
Down to 43F in Aibonito! NOT normal at all!
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36. cchsweatherman
2:56 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
I have begun gathering data and info for my 2008 Hurricane Season predictions that will come out on March 1. They will be posted on my site and I will host a blog here with those predictions and my explanations for deriving my predictions. If anyone has any information or comments that they feel would help me create these predictions, please feel free to send me your input. If you do send me your input and I do use your information, I will credit you in the report.
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33. Weather456
1:43 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
Looking over a beach in South

Bloubergstrand Beach Boulevard, Cape Town

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32. cchsweatherman
8:44 AM EST on January 30, 2008
I have just finished updating my site. I have been asked to create a National Weather page on my site and I have completed that page. I will have more additions to my site in the coming weeks that will make understanding weather much easier and will provide all with the most accurate information I can bring. Maybe I'll even have a blog on my site, especially for when hurricane season comes around. Please leave a comment on my site so that I know how I am doing.
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31. Weather456
1:42 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
Snow in middle east

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30. Weather456
1:17 PM GMT on January 30, 2008
boy it does feel refreshing
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29. cchsweatherman
7:44 AM EST on January 30, 2008
Good morning all! I've been very busy with college and now a job, so I haven't had time to come on in quite a while. I hope that you all are doing well.

I will have a full update on my site today, so feel free to stop by and check it out.

That was an excellent book review Dr. Masters and I may just purchase the book. This climate change topic is such a controversial one with evidence that supports both the skeptics and the believers of global warming that noone can be considered incorrect in their beliefs. Recently, there has been evidence supporting the fact that global warming has slowed down and the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk considerably over the past several years. The bottomline is that you cannot say someone is incorrect on their viewpoints on global warming, so please stop arguing and bickering over whose right and whose wrong.

Take it easy all and let me know how you are all doing. Just send me a message since I will be now updating my site.

CCHS Weatherman

PS 456, that is so cool (no pun intended) that you guys in the Caribbean are experiencing a cold front. Must feel very nice.
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28. Weather456
7:49 AM AST on January 30, 2008


A well define cold front extends across the Southeastern United Sates and dips across the Gulf of Mexico to the Mexican coast at 24N-97W. The frontal boundary south of 26N and the surrounding area remain relatively inactive due to the stable upper level environment. North of 25N, divergence in the upper levels is producing scattered moderate to strong cloudiness and showers across the Southeast United States and Northern Florida. Meanwhile, the associated 1023 mb high-pressure system is established over the Deep South, producing fair weather and gale force winds over the Northeast Gulf behind the front as indicated by surface observations ad QuikSCAT.

Mainly low shallow clouds dominate the Western Atlantic with the exception of 28N-35N/65W to the East Coast, where moisture associated with the approaching frontal boundary is invading the area. A transitory anticyclone is situated 1021 mb at 28N/71W. In the meantime, an upper trough as its axis along 62W. The converging flow at 200 hpa west of the trough is further supporting subsidence in the surface anticyclone. Cold air overcast to broken low clouds covers the area from South Florida to 60W, which includes the Bahamas, the Atlantic shores of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands.


Cold weather in the Caribbean? A cold front is currently pushing across the Eastern Caribbean extending from 14N-65W across the Island of Dominica and into the Atlantic through 20N/61W 30N/64W. Some unseasonably cold air with temperatures well below average accompanies the frontal boundary. The front lies within a confluent environment and thus shower activity remains light, scattered to isolated. This is truly my first cold front in memory. Elsewhere...Mid-upper level dry covers most of the Caribbean Basin above low-level tradewind moisture. These patches of shallow cloudiness will pass over some of islands inducing periods of light to moderate showers. These should be heavier as they move ashore and rise along the Central American Terrain.

by W456
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27. sullivanweather
2:28 AM EST on January 30, 2008

Pretty much...

I read the national headlines coming from the southern California fires. Most of them initially reported these fires to be result of global warming.

"Warming climate contributes to socal fires"
"Socal wildfires, is global warming to blame"

A hundred other headlines all outlined the same story.

Then reports came in attributing most fires to arsonists.

Could the fires have been worse due to the fact that they were following the driest water year on record following a very wet winter the prior season? Most likely...

Would the total acreage burned not been as high as it was due to arson, of course.

Perhaps better zoning management would have prevented some housing developments from being built in environmentally sensitive areas, such as those you describe above. Building housing in the middle of brush fields, chaparral, etc. isn't smart planning. This is what happens when developers are trying to maximize their profits and you never see any opposition to such developments.

Just reading Ricky's post shows that the media has a hidden agenda. They want to create this global warming hysteria (which is why we have 'environmental journalists' now, people whose job it is to write global warming stories everyday). There's dozens of 'global warming' stories daily. Whether its a story about some future prediction, or some weather event that hasn't happened in 10, 30, 50, 100 years, it's all called global warming in the media, or now, climate change (since we can now include cold snaps such as the one occuring over Asia currently within the whole global warming/climate change hysteria.)

When you start to read articles such as this:

China weather chaos a sign of things to come: experts



The inclement weather and ensuing problems merely highlight the country's increasing vulnerability to the extreme weather swings characteristic of global climate change, experts say, and is likely to be repeated in future years.

With climate change gaining pace and the planet generally warming up, the social, economic and political impact on China will rise along with the mercury, experts said.


When one can take a cold snap and twist it into a story about global warming, we all know that something is wrong in the media.
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26. sp34n119w
10:57 PM PST on January 29, 2008
sullivanweather, are you saying that the media said that global warming caused the trees and brush in Cali to spontaneously combust? Because you seem to be implying that arson being the cause of ignition negates any connection to the influence of climate on the severity of a fire and that's not so. Climate defines the areas where the big burns happen out west. Weather sometimes causes (as lightning) and usually contributes (think Santa Ana winds) to those burns.

I think what you may have seen is people looking for a possible connection between excessive drought, extreme winds, and GW - and that's certainly open for and worthy of debate, don't you think? It's more data and more data is good, imo.
I live in SoCal and most of the media discussion I saw was about how much worse these fires are now that the areas where they burn are so built up - it leads to higher economic losses and more displaced people. But, hey, maybe I just missed the other stories.
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25. Skyepony (Mod)
4:57 AM GMT on January 30, 2008
Thanks for the review Dr Masters.

I got to agree with Michael about La Niña causing all the wild winter in China as well as across the northern US. It's why I said this past fall~ that those up there that been wanting to see their snow was gonna see plenty this year. The corrilation between La Niña & expected weather is pretty well studied.
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24. sullivanweather
11:35 PM EST on January 29, 2008
It's a shame that weather reporting in the news media has become this global warming fear factory.

It makes some sense when one considers the political circus that global warming has become. All of a sudden every weather anomaly is due to global warming, even though these events have precedent. Usually you'll hear that such and such event hasn't occured for such and such years. Well if it has occured before then it isn't such a shock that it would occur again. But now since global warming has become a hot topic, especially in the media, not one weather anomaly will ever pass again without a reference to global warming.

We saw it all this previous autumn with the southern California wildfires. Suddenly the fires were result of global warming. Media members even sought out climatologists to ask them if the fires were result of global warming. In other words, they're seeking out the news articles due to preconceived notions. Ricky mentioned in his blog that a couple of media agencies contacted him to ask him whether or not those fires were global warming induced. He didn't give them the answer they were hoping for, but judging from some of the articles in the days following the fires they got the answer they were looking for from other folks ready to raise the global warming banner to these stories.

As it turns out more than 90% of those fires were found be a result of arson in the weeks that followed and it made a lot of people look very silly.
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21. sebastianjer
11:19 PM EST on January 29, 2008
Excerpts from this article

Don't tell the thousands of Chinese stuck at railway stations or airports, but the chaos caused by a vicious cold spell afflicting much of China could be just a taste of things to come, experts say.

"There is no doubt (climate change is to blame) for such weather events," Wang Qiwei, a climatologist with the China Meteorological Administration, wrote in an online forum set up to answer public questions about the cold weather

Average 2006 temperatures in China were the warmest in 55 years, while last year saw some of the worst regional droughts in decades, leaving huge swathes of farmland withered and rivers at record low levels.

OMG 55 years ago! I wasn't even born yet! Of course I did not hear about the lake in Russia that froze over for the first time in 50 years, which also must be caused by global warming, oh excuse me climate change

Well that does it, I'm going to find a new planet, Global warming is causing record cold spells. That my friends is from a climatologist! Please would someone wake me up when the world starts laughing at this stuff.
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20. sebastianjer
10:43 PM EST on January 29, 2008
What Lat?
Do you think science and facts are being subverted by some agenda? Please say it ain't so, my heart is broken, I came here, as a charter member, to learn about weather, oh well I'm sure getting a lesson for sure.
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19. latitude25
1:52 AM GMT on January 30, 2008
and discusses the major climate change event so far this century--the record melting of the Arctic's sea ice that peaked in September 2007, opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history.

It's time for this big fat lie to stop.

First, recorded history is only for the past 30 years, since 1978.
That's only 30 years of recorded history.
No where near a century.

The Canadian police patrol boat, the St Roch II, passed throgh the Northwest Passage and found it wide open in the fall of 2000.


RCMP vessel St Roch sailed the Northwest passage west to east, then turned around and sailed it back, east to west in 1940, 1942, and 1944.


Roald Amundsen became the first person to sail the entire Passage from east to west and that was in 1906.

A Dutch businessman, Willy de Roos, 56, made a solo voyage through the Northwest Passage in 1977

Mike Beedell and Jeffrey MacInnis, sailed through the Northwest Passage using a catamaran with wind power only in 1988.

The M.V. Lindblad, a Swedish tourist ship, traveled through the Northwest Passage in 1984. They did it with luxurious food and in comfort. The trip was a 40 day trip from Newfoundland to Japan via the Passage and cost the tourists $16,000 to $22,000. In 1984.
The Lindblad made a second trip through the Passage in 1988.


In 1977 another Canadian ship, with four Canadians, made the trip through the Passage as well. At one point of their trip they sailed together with the Dutch businessman who was making the solo trip.


What's most interesting about those late 1970's crossing is that is the same time that climatologists were predicting the coming of the next ice age

because there was supposed to be too much ice........

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18. listenerVT
7:26 PM EST on January 29, 2008
That's some wild weather system in the midwest!
Tornado 12 mi W of Indy moving NE at 65mph, winds to 80mph in the area...!

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17. taistelutipu
2:21 AM EET on January 30, 2008
I wish we had some snow here in Finland. Just north of latitude 60N no snow by the end of January?! This is not normal. About a week ago we had a mini snowstorm which brought not even 3" of snow. It has all melted away by now and the neverending drizzle is back.
Normally we should have more than twice as much snow and temperatures around 0F but currently we are close to the 40s. In previous winters I could walk over the frozen sea to college from January until the end of March. It seems now that I won't be able to do that this year.
This winter is even worse than last year when the normal stable winter weather set in around January 20th with said conditions. Still the sea was frozen for only about one month.
I guess the reason is a warmer North Atlantic for more than a year now resulting in a strong stream of moist and mild air which influences the weather here since November. Second, the Baltic Sea, the sea around Finland, is warmer than average.

Given the extreme winter weather events elsewhere on the globe the term global warming doesn't seem to fit but Scandinavian warming would hit the target *lol* Some places in Lapland in the North (around 65-70N) had an anomaly of 7-9F over average for this autumn.
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13. sebastianjer
6:10 PM EST on January 29, 2008
From Above by Dr. M.

-the record melting of the Arctic's sea ice that peaked in September 2007,opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history.


Between 1940 and 1942 St. Roch navigated the Northwest Passage, arriving in Halifax harbor on October 11, 1942.



The Swedish explorer Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskjold (1832-1901) was the first to complete a voyage through the Northeast Passage along the northern coast of Europe and Asia.

Travelling in the steamship Vega, he started in 1878 from Tromso, Norway. He almost made it through the entire passage, but just short of the Bering Strait and the ice-free water of the Pacific Ocean, the ship became ice-bound for the winter. He completed the Atlantic to Pacific voyage the following spring.

I reckon they didn't get the memo. I imagine any boat currently there is also icebound for the winter. To bad they didn't have a little faster boats. The record referred to going back to when?

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12. Weather456
4:33 PM AST on January 29, 2008
Excellent and well define curve band pattern being displayed by Gene in the SW Pacific

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11. Weather456
4:26 PM AST on January 29, 2008
Weather and Economics

The recent snow events in China have been the worst in 50 yrs. This has led to many factories in China to shut down due difficulties in transporting raw materials. As a result, output fell in China in the recent weeks. This is just addding to the economic crisis in the U.S.

Where is Global Warming?

Try this.....name all places in the N Hemisphere that were affected by winter weather in some way this winter. Name all the places in the N Hemisphere that received snow or unseasonably cold weather. I know you cant draw conlusions on January alone or by one region but when u look at it...this winter was unusual.
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9. MacLorry
7:07 PM GMT on January 29, 2008
"...the record melting of the Arctic's sea ice that peaked in September 2007, opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history."

Of course recorded history in the Arctic only goes back to the 1600’s, which is after the little ice age was well under way. Not only the Northwest Passage could have been open, the arctic may have been ice-free during the medieval warm period and during the Roman warm period as well.
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8. adb42
4:37 PM GMT on January 29, 2008
Slightly off-topic for the post subject, but just to point to Tropical Cyclone 14S / Gula, which is about to bear down on Mauritius and La Reunion on Thursday. Winds expected to be 80 - 90 knots near the centre.
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5. aspectre
3:22 PM GMT on January 29, 2008
"Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate."

"An Associated Press analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines."
"Currently, nuclear power costs between $5 to $7 to produce a megawatt hour...It would cost 10 times that amount that if you had to buy replacement power -- especially during the summer."

Under computer-modeled GlobalWarming scenarios, that SouthEast drought is expected to become (closer to) the new norm replacing the historical average of yearly precipitation.
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4. Altestic
9:16 AM EST on January 29, 2008
Nice late finish to the 2007 hurricane season.
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3. Beachfoxx
8:11 AM CST on January 29, 2008
Thanks Dr. Masters, Looks like a good, interesting read.
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