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Three tropical cyclones churned the waters around Australia on March 11, 2015, including Pam, which reached category 5 and devastated the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu.
Three tropical cyclones churned the waters around Australia on March 11, 2015, including Pam, which reached category 5 and devastated the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu.
In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific from Indonesian waters bringing an outbreak of 3 tropical cyclones, including deadly category 5 Pam which ravaged the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu. This extreme outburst of tropical storms and organized thunderstorms pulled strong westerly winds across the equator, unleashing a huge surge of warm water below the ocean surface. Normally, trade winds blow warm water across the Pacific from the Americas to Australia and Indonesia, pushing up sea level in the west Pacific. When the trade winds suddenly reversed to strong westerlies, it was as if a dam burst, but on the scale of the earth's largest ocean, the Pacific. The front edge of that massive equatorial wave, called a Kelvin wave, is now coming ashore on the Americas.
A huge surge of warm water from an enormous deep equatorial wave called a Kelvin wave is now hitting the west coast of the Americas. A wave of similar size struck last year bring a massive marine die off to the west coast, but this year's marine die offs will likely be worse because climate models are predicting it will trigger a super El Nino.
Detailed research in California has found that nutrient upwelling was at a minimum in the El Nino year of 1992 and the super El Nino year of 1998. A huge surge of warm water from an enormous deep equatorial wave called a Kelvin wave is now hitting the west coast of the Americas. A wave of similar size struck last year brought a massive marine die off to the west coast, but this year's die offs will likely be global because climate models are predicting a super El Nino. Credit NOAA.
Last year the largest Kelvin wave ever seen in the Pacific ocean developed in February. After it came ashore and the surge of warm water moved up the Pacific coast, the upwelling of nutrient rich cold water dramatically slowed, and marine life began starving up and down the coast of north America. As the warm water moved north from the equator it merged with an enormous mass of warm stagnant water dubbed "the blob" which had built up in the central north Pacific ocean under the mound of high barometric pressure known as the Pacific high. Because the Pacific high had expanded north of its normal position, possibly because of climate change, warm, stagnant low nutrient water covered a large percentage of the surface of the north Pacific ocean. That stagnant water came ashore on the coast of the Pacific northwest and Alaska as the surge of warm water from the Kelvin wave moved up the California coast. The warm stagnant water lacked nutrients to support the growth of krill and copepods which are at the bottom of the food chain. Species that fed on krill and copepods had little to eat. Juvenile birds were the first to be affected by the lack of food. The west coast marine die off is already a crisis but it's likely to get much worse this summer and fall as  the surge of warm water moves up the coast from the huge Kelvin wave now coming ashore.
"The Pacific Coast saw record numbers of dead Cassin’s Auklets this winter. " Audubon.
10,000 baby sea lions dead on one California island — Experts: “It’s getting crazy… This is a crisis… Never seen anything like it… Very difficult to see so much death” — TV: “Numbers skyrocketing at alarming rates”
An unprecedented number of auklets, a tiny sea bird that dives for plankton, were found dead in fall 2014, apparently of starvation, along the west coast from California to Canada. Nutrient poor warm waters are the probable cause of the lack of food.
Last year, beginning about Halloween, thousands of juvenile auklets started washing ashore dead from California's Farallon Islands to Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) off central British Columbia. Since then the deaths haven't stopped. Researchers are wondering if the die-off might spread to other birds or even fish.

"This is just massive, massive, unprecedented," said Julia Parrish, a University of Washington seabird ecologist who oversees the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a program that has tracked West Coast seabird deaths for almost 20 years. "We may be talking about 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. So far."

The warming that last year's huge Kelvin wave brought started a global coral bleaching event is likely to get much worse after this year's huge wave of warm water spreads up and down the coasts of north and south America.
“It started in 2014 – we had severe bleaching from July to October in the northern Marianas, bad bleaching in Guam, really severe bleaching in the north western Hawaiian Islands, and the first ever mass bleaching in the main Hawaiian Islands,” said said Mark Eakin, Noaa’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator.

“It then moved south, with severe bleaching in the Marshall Islands and it has moved south into many of the areas in the western south Pacific. Bleaching just now is starting in American Samoa. In Fiji we’re starting to see some, the Solomon Islands have seen some. We’ve already seen a big event."

Bleaching takes place when corals are stressed due to changes in light, nutrients or temperature – though only the latter can cause events of this magnitude. This causes them to release algae, lose their colour and in some cases die off. It is a relatively rare occurrence. Large-scale bleaching was recorded in 1983, followed by the first global scale event in 1998. A second global wave came in 2010.

NOAA's CFSv2 model is forecasting a strong El Nino event will develop this summer and continue through 2015. Warm water along the west coast, combined with weaker than normal winds caused by El Nino will prevent nutrient rich cold water from welling up along the coast. Species that depend on nutrient upwelling will face starvation. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has an excellent El Nino forecasting model which is also predicting a strong El Nino. Because the jet stream has already gone into an El Nino pattern by moving south over the eastern Pacific ocean and Mexico and further north than normal over the eastern Atlantic ocean, the likelihood of El Nino failing to strengthen is small. Last year's Kelvin wave failed to bring on a strong El Nino because trade winds in the south Pacific didn't weaken but this year they have and waters along the west coast of south America have already warmed. The south Pacific has moved out of the cool mode it was in a year ago.
NOAA forecast of the departure from normal of Pacific ocean sea surface temperatures.
NOAA forecast of the departure from normal of Pacific ocean sea surface temperatures. NOAA's CFSv2 model predicts a strong El Nino with much above normal sea surface temperatures along the west coasts of south and north America up to January, 2016.
The forecast of a strong El Nino brings good news to California. NOAA's CFSv2 model is forecasting above well above normal precipitation for October through December, 2015. Because models are forecasting El Nino conditions to continue through January 2016 there is a good chance that heavy winter rains will break the California drought. The downside will be massive landslides and flooding in areas that have been affected by recent wild fires.
NOAA's CFSv2 model predicts heavy rains will fall in California in October to December 2015.
California is likely to get relief from the drought in November and December 2015.
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California snow water content as of 23March15 is 9% of normal, a record low, and an absolute disaster for California's water supplies.
California snow water content as of March, 23 2015 is 9% of normal for April 1, a record low, and an absolute disaster for California's water supplies.
California's can expect no water for its drought depleted reservoirs from melting snow in the high Sierra. On March 23, one week from the April 1 date used by water forecasters to predict summer run off from melting snow, the Sierra Nevada's snow water content was a record low 9% of normal. Near record warmth is forecast in the coming week and little precipitation is forecast in the next 10 days going into the long, hot, summer dry season. Melting snow normally constitutes one third of California's water supplies and acts to lengthen the spring season. This year summer will come early. Reservoirs and groundwater levels will begin to fall months earlier than normal because of the lack of mountain snow melt this spring.
California Snowpack Water % of April 1 Normal. Record low snowpack at 9% of normal with high temperatures and very light precipitation forecast in the next 10 days.
California's mountain snow pack was a record low 9% of normal for April 1, and melting. April 1 is the day used by water managers to predict summer water supplies.
El Nino, an event in the Pacific ocean that brings warm tropical water from the western equatorial Pacific to American shores, often brings heavy precipitation to California. This year, El Nino did bring some rain, but the atmosphere was so warm than almost no snow fell in the mountains. Reduced snowfall in the southwestern north America is one of the predictions of climate models that is verifying in real time. The effect on western regional water supplies is disastrous. Water supply conditions in California are dire.
The 2014-2015 winter season has recorded the smallest Sierra Nevada snow pack ever measured. A record low is a near certainty because forecasts predict continued warm and dry weather.
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Sea level has jumped off the east coast of north America since March, 2013. The warmest and saltiest water ever seen in the northwest Atlantic is mixing with icy water drained from the Arctic ocean and sinking to the bottom of the Labrador Sea.

AVISO's global map of sea sufrace height departure from normal shows a huge rise in sea level off the east coast of north America. This water has the highest levels of heat and salt ever measured in this region.
AVISO's global map of sea sufrace height departure from normal for March 14, 2015 shows a huge rise in sea level off the east coast of north America. This water has the highest levels of heat and salt ever measured in this region.
Sea surface heights were relatively low off the east coast on March14, 2013 when the polar vortex split and the thermohaline circulation in the Labrador Sea collapsed. Arctic sea ice staged a major recovery because cold fresh water stayed in the Arctic and the Gulf Steam and Norwegian currents weakened.
Sea surface heights were relatively low off the east coast on March14, 2013 when the polar vortex split and deep water formation in the Labrador Sea collapsed. Arctic sea ice staged a major recovery because cold fresh water stayed in the Arctic and the Gulf Steam and Norwegian currents weakened.
March 1995 had the most similar sea surface height pattern to 2015 in AVISO's 22 year on line record. March 1995 was when deep water formation in the Labrador sea was at a 50 year maximum.
March 1995 had the most similar sea surface height pattern to 2015 in AVISO's 22 year on line record. March 1995 was when deep water formation in the Labrador sea was at a 50 year maximum
Sea surface heights offshore of north America's east coast have risen to the highest levels ever measured in March when it is usually at an annual minimum because the water column is at its coldest.  The saltiest and warmest waters ever found in this region have spawned a series of extreme storms which have spun up both the polar vortex and the north Atlantic ocean's currents and deep water formation. Cold, relatively fresh water is draining from the Canadian side of the Arctic and sinking in the Labrador sea as it mixes in the stormy waters with dense salty Gulf Stream water cooled by Arctic air.

The sudden return to active deep water formation in the Labrador sea has profound implications for northern hemispheric weather and Arctic sea ice. The strong deep convection in the 1990's led to the rapid north Atlantic and Arctic ocean warming which occurred in the following decade. Moreover, strong Labrador sea deep convection brings cold air down from the Arctic into eastern north America and brings warm Atlantic ocean air to the coastal areas of Europe. And it brings very intense storms to the east coasts of north America and Greenland. This pattern explains the very severe weather the U.S. east coast went through in February, 2015. The east coast of north America was the only continental area on earth colder than normal in February. Western Europe, and western north America were very warm.

After the very weak polar vortex year of 2013, when a sudden stratospheric warming split the polar vortex in two and deep convection failed to start in the Labrador sea, the polar vortex has strengthened and storminess in the western north Atlantic has intensified. Cooling began in 2014 in the Labrador sea while water temperatures rose to record levels in the Gulf of Maine and adjacent north American waters. The polar vortex and Labrador sea deep convection grew stronger in late winter 2015 after an incipient stratospheric warming formed an anticyclone high over the subtropical north Atlantic. This anticyclone  in the stratosphere disrupted the westward movement of atmospheric waves across the Atlantic, directing them northeastwards towards Norway and the Arctic ocean. This block in the flow intensified the polar vortex and strengthened storms over the north Atlantic.

Strong polar vortex and Labrador Sea deep convection pattern.
Strong polar vortex and Labrador Sea deep convection pattern. This strong polar vortex, strong deep convection pattern described by Reichler and others in Nature Geoscience fits this March's sea surface height pattern exactly. "Shown are composite anomalies averaged from day 0 to 60 following the strong vortex events of Fig. 2. Sea-level pressure anomalies are contoured at positive and negative 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4 hPa; red and blue lines indicate positive and negative values, respectively. Shading shows the sum of latent and sensible heat flux anomalies (inWm^-2), with positive and negative anomalies indicating oceanic heat gain and loss, respectively. Vectors represent the magnitude and direction of surface wind stress anomalies."
The flow of warm salty water from the Gulf Stream has sped up off the coast of Norway driven by strong southwesterly winds. The extent of sea ice on the European side of the Arctic began to drop in mid-February, a month early in response to the intrusion of warm air and water. The National Snow and Ice Data Center has announced a very early record low winter maximum sea ice extent apparently occurred on February 25. Japanese high precision measurements of sea ice extent apparently reached a record early and record low maximum on February 15, 2015.
The lowest winter maximum sea ice extent on record may have happened on February 25, 2015.
Preliminary NSIDC figures show that a record minimum winter sea ice maximum extent was reached on Feb. 25, 2015. "Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for February 25, 2015 was 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1981 to 2010 median extent for that day."
On February 25, 2015 Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles). This year’s maximum ice extent was the lowest in the satellite record, with below-average ice conditions everywhere except in the Labrador Sea and Davis Strait. The maximum extent is 1.10 million square kilometers (425,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles) and 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles) below the previous lowest maximum that occurred in 2011. This year’s maximum occurred 15 days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average date of March 12. The date of the maximum has varied considerably over the years, occurring as early as February 24 in 1996 and as late as April 2 in 2010.
The outlook for Arctic sea ice this summer is poor because warmer than normal water is surging up the coast of Norway into the Arctic while cold water which has been stored for years in the Arctic ocean is draining through the Canadian passages into the Labrador sea. Moreover, stratospheric and Arctic patterns can reverse with the seasons so a strong winter polar vortex may be followed by high pressure and warm sunny weather in the late spring. The Arctic sea ice recovery of 2013 is very likely over. Summer sea ice appears to be back on the long downward trend towards zero.
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Triumph of Death Wall Painting, ca. 1448, Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo. This is one of many representations of the black plague in art.
Triumph of Death Wall Painting, ca. 1448, Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, Italy.
The black death killed thirty to fifty percent of the people of Europe in six years starting in 1347. Plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, ravaged Europe in wave after wave for over 300 years, then slowly faded to black after the Great Plague of London in 1665-1666. This, the second plague pandemic, has long been blamed on rats harboring fleas which were the cause of the third plague pandemic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that climate changes in Asia preceded plagues in Europe by 15 years. The researchers then tracked the progression of plague on the Silk road and other trade routes from Asia to Europe.
Plague, triggered by droughts in a wet climate period in central Asia, was carried to Europe by traders on the Silk Road.
Plague, triggered by droughts in a wet climate period in central Asia, was carried to Europe by traders on the Silk Road.
The scientists first tried to find a relationship between plague outbreaks in Europe with weather and climate events in Europe. If European rats were the plague vector then conditions that favored growth in European rat and rodent populations would be expected to correlate with plague outbreaks, but no correlations were found. The cool wet climate in Europe from 1350 to 1700 was unfavorable for maintaining large rodent populations. The warm and dry steppes of central Asia are known today as a plague reservoir. From 1350 to 1750 these steppes went through cycles of wet and dry, which caused cycles of boom and bust in local rodent populations. When the rodent populations collapsed in the drought years, the fleas jumped from dying rodents to anything that moved including humans. Traders then inadvertently transported rodents and plague bearing fleas along the silk road towards Europe. Plague was then spread to the ports of Europe by maritime trade.
"This chart shows these climate fluctuations in Central Asia preceded the Black Death in 1347, the Italian plague of 1629, and the Great Plague of Marseille a century later, but notably not the London plague of 1665 or the outbreak in Vienna the following decade."
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Commissioners of Lee County, North Carolina voted 5 to 2 late Monday to rescind a resolution passed in 2012 supporting the extraction of natural gas by fracking (hydro-fracturing).  Next they passed a resolution opposing fracking and the 120 proposed fracking rules and regulations proposed by the NC Mining and Energy Commission. The Republican dominated NC legislature is expected to approve those rules drafted by the commission they created in the next few months. Chairwoman of the Lee County Commissioners, Amy Dalrymple, explained that Monday's resolution against fracking was taken because the proposed rules do not protect local interests.

"The 2012 [resolution] that we just rescinded was to encourage the General Assembly and the Mining and Energy Commission to look after the localities, the counties and the cities impacted by fracking," Dalrymple said. "Now that the rules have been completed ... they do not protect local interests, and so that is the genesis of this resolution."
The vote was along strict party lines with the 2 Republicans voting no. The key change between 2012 and 2015 was not the nature of the rules, however. It was the election in Lee County that replaced Republicans that supported fracking with Democrats who supported local property rights, safe water, clean air and healthy communities. Lee County voters said no to fracking at the polls.

Hard work by local environmental activists and the local Democratic party turned the tide, but fracking will continue to be an issue, because these local votes will not stop it. However, the drop in natural gas and oil prices has undermined the financing of all new fracking projects. Because Lee County's gas deposits are low grade and economically marginal at high gas prices, no one is likely to propose to begin drilling until prices go much higher.

The public is learning about the potential dangers of fracking and the harm it does to communities. Hard work by local activists, like me, is paying off. I was very pleasantly surprised when my statement before the commissioners received good coverage from our local paper, the Sanford Herald because it leans conservative. I believe that our message is receiving support from conservatives
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But Sanford resident George Birchard, a retired nuclear waste project manager, said he supported the commissioners' action Monday because states that have been fracking for years now are experiencing problems.

"Just about six months ago, the state of Pennsylvania finally came out with a delayed, partial report of hundreds of cases of water contamination. They're admitting they weren't ready for it," he said. "This is not a safe place to do gas development — fracking. We need to take a proactive stop to say 'no.'"

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This is not your father's blizzard. This is your father's blizzard on steroids. Weather records show that winter storms are stronger than they used to be.

Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s, and their tracks have shifted northward over the United States.
The extraordinarily increase in heat content of the north Atlantic ocean along the east coast is providing the energy to make the blizzard of January 2015 an extremely intense and dangerous winter storm. This is climate change. This is what happens when Gulf Stream eddies jump northwards past previous limits providing vast amounts of heat to winter storms that derive much of their strength from the ocean's heat.
High risk of prolonged power outages caused by forecast hurricane force winds in blizzard conditions.
The Boston office of the National Weather Service has issued a warning for hurricane force winds on the Cape Cod that will blow down trees and power lines, causing prolonged power outages under blizzard conditions. The NWS warns that new inlets may form on barrier islands making some areas inaccessible. This is an extremely dangerous situation.

Snowfall could exceed 36 inches in some locations according to NWS Boston.

NWS Boston snow forecast - possibly more than 36 inches.
NWS Boston is warning that more than 36 inches of snow could fall in a north south band west of Cape Cod and in a parallel band in western Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The stronger the contrast between cold Arctic air and warm Atlantic water, all else kept equal, the stronger the noreaster. The developing blizzard is pulling warm air from the southeast over waters that are much warmer than normal. One large eddy is about 15 °F above normal (anomaly greater than 8°C). This record high amount of ocean heat may fuel this blizzard to intensify to historic proportions.
Western north Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies. The ocean waters off of north America are much warmer than normal.
North Atlantic ocean sea surface temperatures are extraordinarily high for January off the coast of north America.
The very abnormally warm water extends to 300 feet deep and greater. Thus strong winds may continue to pull heat and water vapor from these waters for days. These waters are one of the earth's regions where the earth has been storing large amounts heat that has been added to the earth's climate system by increasing levels of greenhouse gases. The Gulf Stream has taken heat from tropical waters into the temperate zone, expanding the "Atlantic warm pool". This expanded pool of warm water is fueling stronger winter storms and gave hurricane Sandy its exceptional strength as a hybrid storm with a mix of tropical and winter storm characteristics.
Gulf stream & eddies at 92m depth (about 300 ft. deep). The water is extraordinarily warm.
Water as warm as 70°F is found at 40°N at 300 feet depth on January 26, 2015. This is extraordinary.
Skeptics may scoff at the idea that warmer ocean waters may cause heavier snows, but they don't understand how snow storms work. The heaviest snowfall is generally found near where temperatures are just below the freezing point, 0°C (32°F). Warm humid air from the warm marine side of the storm rises up over the cold air that pulls down into storm along the coast. Because warmer water evaporates more vapor into the air than cooler water, warmer waters produce a warmer, wetter warm wedge of air. The warm air rises up over the dense cold wedge of Arctic air then freezes producing snow. In mid-winter the Arctic air is cold enough to produce copious amounts of snow if a storm stays offshore, pulling the wedge of Arctic air over coastal waters. The warming north Atlantic ocean has shortened the winter season in New England while is has intensified mid-winter storms. This developing blizzard may become, like Sandy, an example of the new normal in the age of climate change.
Sea surface height anomalies 20Jan15
The expansion of the deep pool of warm water has caused sea surface heights to rise rapidly in the Atlantic ocean  off eastern north America.
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2014 was the warmest year in NOAA's 135 year record.
2014 was the hottest on year record according to NOAA, NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency. The high temperatures were not associated with a strong El Nino or a strong solar maximum. There is no credible scientific explanation for the record high temperatures except record high levels of greenhouse gases. CO2 levels hit the 400ppm milestone, a level not seen in millions of years when the climate was much warmer, in spring 2014. About the same time the solar maximum apparently was reached, but it was the weakest since the first decade of the twentieth century. The peak of solar activity was reached  in the mid twentieth century and has been declining ever since. Man-made climate change, not natural solar cycles explain the record high temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 levels broke the 400parts per million milestone in spring 2014 at NOAA's Mauna Loa observatory. Levels started 2014 above 400ppm, the first new year's in human history above 400ppm CO2.
Global highlights: Calendar Year 2014
For extended analysis of global climate patterns, please see our full Annual report

    During 2014, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 135 years in the 1880–2014 record, surpassing the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.07°F (0.04°C).

Record warmth was spread around the world, including Far East Russia into western Alaska, the western United States, parts of interior South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia, much of the northeastern Pacific around the Gulf of Alaska, the central to western equatorial Pacific, large swaths of northwestern and southeastern Atlantic, most of the Norwegian Sea, and parts of the central to southern Indian Ocean.

    2014 Temperature Outcome Scenarios

    Global temperature time series: land and ocean components. From 2014 Global Report Supplemental Information.

    During 2014, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 1.80°F (1.00°C) above the 20th century average. This was the fourth highest among all years in the 1880–2014 record.

    During 2014, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.03°F (0.57°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2014 record, surpassing the previous records of 1998 and 2003 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).

The solar maximum apparently reached in April, 2014, is the peak of the weakest solar cycle in 100 years.
The current prediction for Sunspot Cycle 24 gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 72 in late 2013. The smoothed sunspot number reached a peak of 81.9 in April 2014. This will probably become the official maximum. This second peak surpassed the level of the first peak (66.9 in February 2012). Many cycles are double peaked but this is the first in which the second peak in sunspot number was larger than the first. We are currently over six years into Cycle 24. The current predicted and observed size makes this the smallest sunspot cycle since Cycle 14 which had a maximum of 64.2 in February of 1906.
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The northwestern Atlantic ocean is extraordinarily warm along the coasts of Canada and the U.S. from the U.S. mid Atlantic to Newfoundland. The extremely warm water is devastating marine ecosystems, fisheries and baby puffins.
The new poster child for climate change had his coming-out party in June 2012, when Petey the puffin chick first went live into thousands of homes and schools all over the world. The "Puffin Cam" capturing baby Petey's every chirp had been set up on Maine's Seal Island by Stephen Kress, "The Puffin Man," who founded the Audubon Society's Project Puffin in 1973. Puffins, whose orange bills and furrowed eyes make them look like penguins dressed as sad clowns, used to nest on many islands off the Maine coast, but 300 years of hunting for their meat, eggs, and feathers nearly wiped them out. Project Puffin transplanted young puffins from Newfoundland to several islands in Maine, and after years of effort the colonies were reestablished and the project became one of Audubon's great success stories. By 2013, about 1,000 puffin pairs were nesting in Maine.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, the Puffin Cam offered new opportunities for research and outreach. Puffin parents dote on their single chick, sheltering it in a two-foot burrow beneath rocky ledges and bringing it piles of small fish each day. Researchers would get to watch live puffin feeding behavior for the first time, and schoolkids around the world would be falling for Petey.

But Kress soon noticed that something was wrong. Puffins dine primarily on hake and herring, two teardrop-shaped fish that have always been abundant in the Gulf of Maine. But Petey's parents brought him mostly butterfish, which are shaped more like saucers. Kress watched Petey repeatedly pick up butterfish and try to swallow them. The video is absurd and tragic, because the butterfish is wider than the little gray fluff ball, who keeps tossing his head back, trying to choke down the fish, only to drop it, shaking with the effort.

-Videos and story continue after the break.-
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North Carolina early voting through the next to last day. Democratic turn out 124% of 2010 compared to 103% for Republicans.
North Carolina early voting through the next to last day. Democratic votes are 124% of 2010 vs 103% for Republicans.
Reverend Barber's Moral Monday Movement has fired up the Democratic base in North Carolina and registered a new wave of black voters who have been motivated to vote by new laws passed by NC Republicans to keep them from voting. The early voting numbers in North Carolina have exceeded the wildest expectations of NC Dems. Democratic votes, as of yesterday, the next to last day of voting, were 124% of 2010 compared to 103% for Republicans. This is a huge turnaround from the disappointment of 2010. Moreover the jump in Democratic votes is from voters who didn't vote in 2010, not the early turn out of Dems who voted on election day in 2010.
Twenty four percent of the early black voters did not vote in 2010.
24% of the early black voters did not vote in 2010. This stunning improvement reflects strong Democratic voter registration drives in 2012 and this year.
The big jump in Democratic early voting this year was driven by a big jump in off year black voter turn out. 24% of black early voters did not vote in 2010.
My wife, who is involved with the Butler (Dem) for Sheriff campaign in Sampson county, reports that turn out from Democratic precincts there has far exceeded the expectations of the Democrats running for office in Sampson county. African Americans, the Democratic base in Sampson county, have apparently voted early in record numbers for an off year election. Sampson county candidates celebrated the early voting success at breakfast this morning and prepared for the final push to get out the vote on Tuesday. The great early turnout will lessen the burden on Democratic canvassers and callers on Tuesday.

Please read Prof. Michael Bitzer's blog for all the encouraging details. His analysis is meticulous, accurate and professional. Democratic votes are crushing Republican votes  48.5% to 31.2% with over one million votes accepted.

"North Carolina has reached over a million accepted ballots (or votes) cast before Election Day, through the combination of mail-in and in-person early voting. "
Turn out for independents, who lean younger than average, is also way up. There is deep anger among women and minorities at the extreme anti-woman and anti-minority laws passed by the Republican state legislature, led by Senate candidate Thom Tillis. 55% of early voters were women. This is great news for Kay Hagan and devastating news for Thom Tillis.

 I strongly believe that the Moral Monday protests, led by Reverend Barber, empowered women and minority voters to turn out this year. His focus on social justice exposed the immorality and bigotry in the extreme legislation passed by the Republican legislature. The Moral Monday movement got the media to focus on the damage the extremist Republican legislation was doing to North Carolina. Before 2010 North Carolina Republicans had a reputation of being moderate. The Moral Monday Movement exposed how extreme the Republican party is today and mobilized decent people to rise up against it. Reverend Barber has built a model for effectively fighting Republican extremism in red and purple states. The key to his effectiveness can be seen today in the high percentage of new early, women, black and Democratic voters. Thank you, Reverend Barber.

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Population growth of Africa and Europe projected to 2100 by the UN population division.
A new study of population growth published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed UN projection of population growth to the year 2100. Explosive human population growth in Africa will endanger populations of large charismatic African mammals and the ecosystems they inhabit.
Biologists, experienced in modeling wildlife populations, found that human population growth will expand to 10 billion people even if large mortality events, similar to the 1918 influenza outbreak, kill half a billion people. Human population growth has so much momentum that it's almost impossible to stop in this century. The only ways found to keep the human population below 10 billion are to eliminate unwanted pregnancies (which are presently 16% of all pregnancies) and establish a global one child policy. There is no practical way to make and enforce a global one child policy, so empowering women to control their fertility is the only possible way to keep the human population below 10 billion to avert severe loss of biodiversity, and severe ecosystem decline, in Africa and Asia.

If women don't strictly limit their fertility, mass mortality events of half a billion to two billion people will not stop the human population from expanding to levels likely to cause severe ecosystem decline.

The inexorable demographic momentum of the global human population is rapidly eroding Earth’s life-support system. There are consequently more frequent calls to address environmental problems by advocating further reductions in human fertility. To examine how quickly this could lead to a smaller human population, we used scenario-based matrix modeling to project the global population to the year 2100. Assuming a continuation of current trends in mortality reduction, even a rapid transition to a worldwide one-child policy leads to a population similar to today’s by 2100. Even a catastrophic mass mortality event of 2 billion deaths over a hypothetical 5-y window in the mid-21st century would still yield around 8.5 billion people by 2100. In the absence of catastrophe or large fertility reductions (to fewer than two children per female worldwide), the greatest threats to ecosystems—as measured by regional projections within the 35 global Biodiversity Hotspots—indicate that Africa and South Asia will experience the greatest human pressures on future ecosystems.
Conservative economists have asserted that cutting population growth will cause economic decline, but this study found that assertion is false because the benefits of fewer children offset the burdens of caring for the increased percentage of the elderly. Shrinking populations can support elderly adults.
Some economists argue that shrinking populations create an unsupportable burden of elderly dependents that leads to economic collapse. But the team’s model showed otherwise. When the population is growing, more of the dependents are children, and when the population is shrinking, more are older adults, the model indicates. A dependent is always supported by 1.5 to two workers. The idea that shrinking populations cannot support older adults is a “fallacy,” Bradshaw says.

Two factors did have an impact on human population growth: eliminating unwanted pregnancies, which make up about 16% of all live births, and adopting a global one-child policy. Eliminating those births year after year resulted in population sizes in 2050 and 2100 that are comparable to those produced with a global one-child policy—about 8 billion and 7 billion, respectively.

Because human population growth will be so hard to slow down the best way to avert systemic ecological collapse will be to rapidly transition to sustainable technologies and lifestyles. The highly unsustainable fossil fuel based  consumptive lifestyle advocated by today's Republicans will inevitably lead to an catastrophes of unimaginable proportions. Fertility and natural resource consumption must be rapidly reduced to avert ecological collapse.
Brook, now at the University of Tasmania, said policymakers needed to discuss population growth more, but warned that the inexorable momentum of the global human population ruled out any demographic quick fixes to our sustainability problems.

“Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term,” he said. “Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”

Bradshaw added: “The corollary of these findings is that society’s efforts towards sustainability would be directed more productively towards reducing our impact as much as possible through technological and social innovation.”

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North Carolina Senate candidate Tom Tillis, pushed through a deal, while Republcian leader of NC's House, to make lanes on I-77 near Charlotte into a toll road and use millions of state dollars added for this privatization project to reward campaign contributors. Developers of a large project had requested a new interchange to give interstate access to their development. Before this toll road deal went through they would have had to pay millions to the state to build the interchange. With the Tillis toll deal, the state will pay for the new interchange and the developers will save millions. The day after the deal went through Tillis' senate campaign received a large check from one of the developers. And then he got more through a developers front group. Christie had his bridegate, and Tillis has his tollgate.

Of course, local residents and Charlotte commuters hate this because they will have to pay tolls for an interstate that was already paid for by the federal government and state gas taxes or get stuck in very heavy traffic in the slow lanes. People living in lower cost housing in the exurbs have protested in public meetings. This just might stick a fork in Tillis' chances in November and Republican chances of taking the Senate. He already showed that he was a rude sexist jerk in his debate with Kay Hagan. Now he has shown Charlotte that he's a crook who raised tolls on them to benefit crooked developers. The U.S. Attorney needs to investigate this now. It appears to be bribery.

Hat tip to BlueNC

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Gheorghe,Pungesi, Romania villager defies Chevron and Romanian state police to save his way of life from fracking.
“They can kill me but I won’t give up. What right do the Americans have to come here and poison our lands? I’ll protest every day if I have to. The cops might as well beat us ‘till they tire. They beat me and my boy. We got used to cops beating us. I’m 83 years, 4 months old. That’s 29234 days, counting today. All I want is for the machines to go back where came from, to America." - Gheorghe

"Is the Earth Fucked" is the most provocative title I have ever seen for a presentation at the staid American Geophysical Union annual fall meeting. I attended many AGU meetings as a young scientist where I spoke about my research on earthquakes and listened to highly technical talks with titles that needed to be translated into common English to be understood by the general public. But all the technical science and professional communication has failed to translate the urgency of climate change and environmental degradation to political leaders and the public. The best and the brightest have failed and the scientists who do environmental research know it. Their feelings of powerlessness led to the provocative title. I know that feeling well. I can hardly write because of that feeling.

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