Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

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Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind

April 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm By Roz Potter

From a study funded by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication;  Link  


 In 2011, Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused$1 billion or more in damages, in total costing approximately $53 billion, along with incalculable loss of human life. 

These disasters included severe drought in Texas and the Great Plains, Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard, tornadoes in the Midwest, and massive floods in the Mississippi River Valley. 

In the period of January through March 2012, Americans also experienced record warm temperatures, with temperatures across the contiguous United States 6.0 degrees F above thelong-term average. In March alone, 15,292 warm temperature records were broken across the United States. 

In March 2012 we conducted a nationally representative survey and found that a large majority of  Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year.

Overall, 35 percent of all Americans report that they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these extreme weather events in the past year. Likewise, 37 percent report that someone they know personally was harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year

A majority of Americans also say the weather in the United States is getting worse and many report that extreme weather in their own local area has become more frequent and damaging. Further, large majorities believe that global warming made a number of recent extreme weather events worse. 

 Only about a third of Americans, however, have either a disaster emergency plan or an emergency supply kit in their homes. 

To read more -  


Over 600 dead from Eastern Europe cold

February 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm By Roz Potter

From The Guardian:  Link


More than 600 people have died during a record-breaking cold snap in eastern Europe, authorities say, as officials in the Czech Republic blamed two massive car crashes on blinding snow.

Since the end of January, the region has been pummelled by the deep freeze, which has brought the heaviest blizzards in recent memory. Tens of thousands have been trapped in often-freezing homes and villages by walls of snow and unpassable roads, and officials have struggled to reach the vulnerable with emergency food airlifts.

Authorities in Russia and Ukraine alone reported on Wednesday that more than 300 people had died in the bitter cold.

About 100 damaged cars blocked a major highway in the Czech Republic connecting the capital, Prague, with the eastern part of the country and Slovakia. Seven people were injured in two separate accidents, authorities said, warning it could be hours before the mangled vehicles were cleared.


In Romania, about 23,000 people remain isolated in 225 eastern communities where more than a week of heavy snow has blocked roads and wreaked havoc on the rail network. Residents were worried that their houses could collapse under the heavy snow as authorities struggled to bring them food, water, medicine and wood.

Romanian farmers – faced with up to five metres of snow in some areas this week – are concerned about their sheep, goats, horses and cows. One farmer said he had dug his pigs out of the snow and brought them into his home.

Scientific American: Fracking Would Emit Large Quantities of Greenhouse Gases

January 22, 2012 at 11:07 am By Roz Potter



Add methane emissions to the growing list of environmental risks posed by fracking.

Opposition to the hydraulic fracturing of deep shales to release natural gas rose sharply last year over worries that the large volumes of chemical-laden water used in the operations could contaminate drinking water.

Then, in early January, earthquakes in Ohio were blamed on the disposal of that water in deep underground structures. Yesterday, two Cornell University professors said at a press conference that fracking releases large amounts of natural gas, which consists mostly of methane, directly into the atmosphere—much more than previously thought.

Robert Howarth, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, and Anthony Ingraffea, a civil and environmental engineer, reported that fracked wells leak 40 to 60 percent more methane than conventional natural gas wells. When water with its chemical load is forced down a well to break the shale, it flows back up and is stored in large ponds or tanks. But volumes of methane also flow back up the well at the same time and are released into the atmosphere before they can be captured for use. This giant belch of “fugitive methane” can be seen in infrared videos taken at well sites.

Molecule for molecule, methane traps 20 to 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide. The effect dissipates faster, however: airborne methane remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years before being scrubbed out by ongoing chemical reactions, whereas CO2 lasts 30 to 95 years. Nevertheless, recent data from the two Cornell scientists and others indicate that within the next 20 years, methane will contribute 44 percent of the greenhouse gas load produced by the U.S. Of that portion, 17 percent will come from all natural gas operations.

Currently, pipeline leaks are the main culprit, but fracking is a quickly growing contributor. Ingraffea pointed out that although 25,000 high-volume shale-gas wells are already operating in the U.S., hundreds of thousands are scheduled to go into operation within 20 years, and millions will be operating worldwide, significantly expanding emissions and keeping atmospheric methane levels high despite the 12-year dissipation time.

To read more: Link

Doomsday Clock moves to five minutes to midnight

January 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm By Roz Potter

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,  Link


It is five minutes to midnight. Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.

About the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. They knew about the horrible effects of these new weapons and devoted themselves to warning the public about the consequences of using them. Those early scientists also worried about military secrecy, fearing that leaders might draw their countries into increasingly dangerous nuclear confrontations without the full consent of their citizens.

The Doomsday Clock

In 1947, the Bulletin first displayed the Clock on its magazine cover to convey, through a simple design, the perils posed by nuclear weapons. The Clock evokes both the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero). In 1949, the Clock hand first moved to signal our assessment of world events and trends. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin’s Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences.

Today’s challenges

When we moved the hand of the Clock from 7 to 5 minutes to midnight in January 2007, the Bulletin’s Board of Directors warned about two major sources of potential catastrophe: the perils of 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world, 2,000 of them ready to launch in minutes, and the destruction of human habitats from climate change.

The Bulletin publishes information from leading scientists and security experts who explore the potential for terrible damage to societies from human-made technologies.
We focus as well on ways to prevent catastrophe from the malign or accidental use of nuclear, carbon-based, and biology-based technologies. After all, these technologies are ones that we create; it is in our power to channel them solely for benign purposes.

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