‚Heat… Fire… Disaster‘: What Climate Change Looks Like | Common Dreams

‚Heat… Fire… Disaster‘: What Climate Change Looks Like | Common Dreams.

Western US fires are being driven by extreme temperatures, which are consistent with IPCC projections
– Common Dreams staff

People watch a giant smoke plume rising from the Waldo Canyon Fire during sunset, west of Colorado Springs, June 24, 2012. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)“What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, referring to raging wildfires in the US west, in a press briefing on Thursday. „It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster… This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.“

Oppenheimer, speaking alongside other scientists, argued that shorters winters with less snow, coupled with earlier Springs, and extreme summer heat — all contributors for the fires burning in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico — were also conditions that he and his colleagues at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted would result from carbon-induced climate change.

According to “Heat Waves and Climate Change,” a new report from Climate Communication, a nonprofit science outreach group which, along with Climate Nexus, coordinated the conference call with Oppenheimer and others, the „remarkable run of record-shattering heat waves in recent years, from the Russian heat wave of 2010 that set forests ablaze to the historic heat wave in Texas in 2011 and the “Summer in March” in the U.S. Midwest in 2012 all typify the ongoing trend driven by climate change.Homes are destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire in the Mountain Shadows area of Colorado Springs. Scientists say the fires offer a preview into the kind of disaters that climate change could bring. (Photograph: Jerilee Bennett/AP)

The stage was set for these fires when winter snowpack was lighter than usual, said Dr. Steven Running, a forest ecologist at the University of Montana, reports Reuters. Mountain snows melted an average of two weeks earlier than normal this year, Running said. „That just sets us up for a longer, dryer summer. Then all you need is an ignition source and wind.“

„Now we have a lot of dead trees to burn … it’s not even July yet,“ he said. Trying to stop such blazes driven by high winds is a bit like to trying to stop a hurricane, Running said: „There is nothing to stop that kind of holocaust.“

Since 1950 the number of heat waves worldwide has increased, and heat waves have become longer, according to the new report. In the most recent years, it continues, „the global area hit by extremely unusual hot summertime temperatures has increased 50-fold. Over the contiguous United States, new record high temperatures over the past decade have consistently outnumbered new record lows by a ratio of 2:1. In 2012, the ratio for the year through June 18 stands at more than 9:1. Though this ratio is not expected to remain at that level for the rest of the year, it illustrates how unusual 2012 has been, and how these types of extremes are becoming more likely.“

Dr. Running, quoted by the New York Times,  said that with human-induced climate change, extreme events will become ever more prevalent.

“We’re just upping the odds that wildfire activity is going to accelerate every year with the warming trends we see,” he said.

Cosmic Inflation

Cosmic Inflation.

Cosmic Inflation

June 28, 2012

In our last tour of the universe, you learned about the afterglow of the Big Bang, more properly called the cosmic microwave background (CMB). These microwaves, which come from all directions, sprayed forth about 380,000 years after the Big Bang when protons and electrons settled down to form hydrogen, allowing light to travel freely through space. The CMB started out as visible and infrared light, but has since been stretched into microwaves by the relentless expansion of space itself.


There’s an amazing feature of the cosmic microwave background… it is extremely smooth and uniform.  In fact, across the entire sky, the CMB is exactly the same to better than 1 part in 10,000.  Why?  Is there any reason for the universe to appear so smooth on such a large scale? Or is it just a coincidence?

As it turns out, it is not a coincidence. But until 1980, it was impossible to explain. That’s because the standard theory of the Big Bang said that a tiny, hot, region expanded to form all of space and all the matter and energy in the universe, and it continued to expand until the present day. But if this is true, then the bits and pieces of the universe on one side of the very early universe flew apart too quickly to ever come in contact with the bits and pieces on the other side. That made it hard to explain why all parts of the universe appear to look the same on a large scale, and how all parts of the universe could have the same physical laws. It was a big puzzle.

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An illustration of the sudden „inflation“ of the universe during its earliest moment.

A solution came from the imagination of the American physicist Alan Guth. He speculated that space itself expanded at a tremendously accelerated rate after the Big Bang for a very short period of time. This exponential expansion, or “inflation”, caused space to expand by a factor of 1078 almost instantaneously until the entire universe was almost perfectly flat and smooth. (Note: If a single proton expanded to the size of the Milky Way, that’s only a factor of 1035).  After this “inflationary epoch”, suggested Guth, the matter and energy of the universe precipitated like snowflakes out of a cold small region whose parts were physically connected. All of this matter and energy then began expanding into the smooth and flat universe at the much slower rate we see today, with the same temperature, shape, and physical laws.

The “inflation hypothesis”, as it’s now called, was an astonishing insight and it explained, in theory, why the universe is so smooth and uniform on a large scale. But surely this hypothesis is just a crazy idea, right? I mean, no one could ever show that such a thing as inflation happened, could they?

As a matter of fact, they could. You see, like all good scientific theories, the inflation hypothesis made specific predictions, predictions that could be verified by careful observation. And just ten years ago, a NASA satellite named WMAP (see image at top) began making a series of remarkable observations which suggest inflation did take place in the earliest time of our universe.

But my time is up. So let’s leave the tale of WMAP and its cascade of important discoveries for another day…

My Blog InCaseofInnocence

Solitary WatchNews from a Nation

             Controversy Over Kids in Solitary Confinement in Texas June 8, 2012 tags: children, Grits for Breakfast, solitary confinement, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, youthby Jean Casella and James Ridgeway .Not to be missed (though we did, initially) is a recent post on the Texas criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast, titled Solitary Confinement at Texas Youth Prisons: A Brief History.

As blogger Scott Henson points out, every time violence increases in the youth prisons under the management of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, elected officials begin calling for an expanded use of solitary confinement–which in Texas goes under the euphemism of “behavioral management plans.”

The latest round in this battle concerns the opening of a new block of solitary confinement cells for violent and disruptive teenagers. To its credit, the leadership of the TJJD appears to be opposing the move, arguing that it will disrupt…

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New post on Solitary Watch

 A Day in the Life of Three Prisoners in Solitary Confinement

 by Sal Rodriguez

Below are glimpses into the daily lives of three inmates held in isolation. Each has been in isolation for at least five years. Their reasons for being held in solitary vary–one was validated for gang membership, another for an escape attempt, and another for assaults on correctional officers. Their reasons for incarceration vary, from attempted murder to drug law violations.

There are some commonalities in their experiences: none of them have reported meaningful programming opportunities and there is a crippling monotony to their lives. All have reported feelings of frustration–both as an emotional response to their circumstances, but also due to the absence of foreseeable release from isolation.

California Inmate M. has been in the Pelican Bay SHU for five years, a validated Hispanic gang member. He describes his cell as…

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Más luto indígena por la muerte de una bebé Dolor. El país quedó conmocionado ayer por el fallecimiento de una criatura de seis meses, cuya madre sufrió los efectos del gas pimienta cuando reprimieron el jueves a los marchistas del Tipnis en La Paz Pablo Ortiz. La Paz Había sido un regalo de Navidad para Marcia y Rosauro. Una niña morena, sanita, había nacido el 23 de diciembre en Santa María del Tipnis y le pusieron nombre de gitana: Karen Yesenia Fabricano Gutiérrez. Ahora, su cuerpo pequeño está envuelto en una bandera de patujú. Marcia y Rosauro lloran a su lado y no quieren creer que su lucha para defender el Tipnis les haya pedido un sacrificio tan grande.

 Karen Yesenia tenía solo cuatro meses cuando la marcha salió de Trinidad y Marcia estaba contenta porque era uno de los pocos bebés de la columna que se había mantenido sanito…

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