Archive for the ‘Catastrophy’ category

Close. Very Close.

March 3, 2009

Near Miss, Again

Rand Simberg points out that we nearly bought it this morning.

We were just missed by an asteroid this morning, with only three days warning, and well inside the orbit of the moon:

The rock, estimated to be no more than 200 feet wide, zoomed past our planet at an altitude of 40,000 miles at 1:44 p.m. universal time — or 8:44 EST.

Dubbed 2009 DD45, it was discovered only on Friday by Australian astronomers.

“…no more than 200 feet wide…”?

Had it landed on a city, that rock would have caused some major hurt. It was about the same size as the one that hit in the middle of no-where, Siberia, just 100 years ago, knocking down hundreds of square miles of forest and wiping out herds of carribu.

But what’s worrisome isn’t its size, or its speed. What’s scary is the short warning.


There’s Data And There’s Bad Data

February 19, 2009

And Then There’s Lies

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has been at the forefront of research that predicts climatic catastrophy as the polar ice cap melts.  In 2008 they predicted that the artic would be ice free.

Spring has arrived in the Arctic. After peaking at 15.21 million square kilometers (5.87 million square miles) in the second week of March, Arctic sea ice extent has declined through the month of April. April extent has not fallen below the lowest April extent on record, but it is still below the long-term average.
Taken together, an assessment of the available evidence, detailed below, points to another extreme September sea ice minimum. Could the North Pole be ice free this melt season? Given that this region is currently covered with first-year ice, that seems quite possible.

It didn’t quite work out that way, and there was a reason for that – bad data.

As some of our readers have already noticed, there was a significant problem with the daily sea ice data images on February 16. The problem arose from a malfunction of the satellite sensor we use for our daily sea ice products. Upon further investigation, we discovered that starting around early January, an error known as sensor drift caused a slowly growing underestimation of Arctic sea ice extent. The underestimation reached approximately 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) by mid-February. Sensor drift, although infrequent, does occasionally occur and it is one of the things that we account for during quality control measures prior to archiving the data. See below for more details.
We have removed the most recent data and are investigating alternative data sources that will provide correct results. It is not clear when we will have data back online, but we are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Climate research seems unusually prone to these kinds of scientific hicups.

You’ll be seeing more of this today, I’m sure.

More On The Yellowstone Super Volcano

January 4, 2009

The One That’s Coming To Eat You!

dischargeMy! The last post on this was popular. It seems many people want more information. Alan Sullivan at Fresh Bilge is hereby deemed an internet treasure.

Last year there was also an observed increase in water temperature near the lake bottom when measurements were taken in the locality of current quakes. Now rare reader Mark W has found a very intriguing link that suggests more substantial changes.

He’s merely reporting the facts. In this day and age, that’s important.

Check out his links, and the links provided by his commenters.

The End Is Near – Again

January 2, 2009

It’s a Jungle Out There

The apocalyptic story of the day is not global warming (heavens no! We have bigger things to worry about!) or even the Yellowstone Super Volcano that’s going to bury all of North America.  That story is so yesterday.

No, the scare story today making the rounds of the MSM, news sites, science/space sites and even Slashdot is all about the comet that wiped out the Clovis people, who populated North America until they mysteriously and suddenly disappeared some 13,000 years ago.  The current rage-of-an-explanation?  The comet did it!  And it left behind diamonds, too.

Now researchers are reporting that the abrupt cooling – which took place about 12,900 years ago, just as the planet was emerging from an ice age – may have been caused by one or more meteors that slammed into North America.

That could explain the extinction of mammoths, saber-tooth tigers and maybe even the first human inhabitants of the Americas, the scientists report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The hypothesis has been regarded skeptically, but its advocates now report perhaps more convincing residue of impact: a thin layer of microscopic diamonds found in rocks across America and in Europe.

Okay, very small diamonds.  But I still blame George Bush.  Or Dick Chaney.  Or somebody.

Sorry.  Snark key was stuck.

This is not to say that the theory is well founded or universally accepted, mind you.  Early reviewers of the article by Douglas J. Kennett (University of Oregon) et. al., which appeared earlier in Science had reservations.

At least some skeptics are not convinced. “The whole thing still does not make sense, and there are lots of contradictions,” said Christian Koeberl, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Vienna in Austria.

His chief reservation is that there is no crater. “A body of this size does not just blow up without a trace in the atmosphere,” Dr. Koeberl said. “Physics won’t have it.”

Maybe I’ll invest in a hard-hat anyway.  One can never be too careful about these things.

H/T to Rand Simberg for the initial link.

The Atmosphere Ripped Open

December 17, 2008

Sorta, Kinda.  Maybe.

I saw this just the other day at It caught my eye.

The Sun on 17 Dec. 2008

The Sun on 17 Dec. 2008

Scientists have found two large leaks in Earth’s magnetosphere, the region around our planet that shields us from severe solar storms.

The leaks are defying many of scientists’ previous ideas on how the interaction between Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind occurs: The leaks are in an unexpected location, let in solar particles in faster than expected and the whole interaction works in a manner that is completely the opposite of what scientists had thought.

Then I noticed this by Anthony Watts at Watt’s Up With That?

Observations made by NASA instruments onboard an Air Force satellite have shown that the boundary between the Earth’s upper atmosphere and space has moved to extraordinarily low altitudes. These observations were made by the Coupled Ion Neutral Dynamics Investigation (CINDI) instrument suite, which was launched aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite on April 16, 2008.

Watts was one of the first to notice that there have been very, very few sun spots this cycle (the sun’s disk has been almost blank for nearly two years now – click on the photo of the sun to see what it was like on Dec. 17).  Today he follows up with this.

This sounds like a plot of a 1950’s scifi movie. But it is real. From my view, our localized corner of the solar system is now different than it used to be and changes in the magnetic interactions are evident everywhere. First we have the interplanetary magnetic field that took an abrupt dive in October 2005 and has not recovered since and remains at very low level[.]

Then we have the recent discovery that the ionosphere has dropped in altitude to unexpected and unexplained low levels.

We have a solar cycle 24 (driven by the solar magnetic dynamo) which can’t seem to get out of the starting gate, being a year late with forecasts for activity from it being revised again and again.

And finally we have this, this discovery that Earth’s magnetic field can be ripped open and our atmosphere laid bare to the solar wind, much like Mars.

This last comes from NASA News.

NASA’s five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth’s magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to “load up” the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction.”

Yeah – this is the same NASA I called “less than credible” just the day before last.  The difference here, however, is that the article referenced is just a straight forward reporting of the data and of the researcher’s surprise.  If there’s dogma or political opinion in the piece, it’s in the description of older scientific beliefs being overturned as inadequate.

Regardless, something’s up. My gut (and I have no more to go on than that) says that Watts is onto something when he ties together the lack of sunspots, the earth’s ionosphere and the weather (including climate change).

It’s Melting! Panic! Run Away!

December 16, 2008

AP: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

The Associated Press has been going to town on the topic of Global Warming – um – “Climate Change”, quite a bit of late.   From Seth Borenstein

When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, global warming was a slow-moving environmental problem that was easy to ignore. Now it is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can’t avoid.

Since Clinton’s inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton’s second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it.

He uses phrases in the article like “We’re out of time” and “Gore called the situation ‘the equivalent of a five-alarm fire that has to be addressed immediately.'” The sea level is going to rise “immediately”, and Armageddon will be happening decades sooner than “we” expected.

Oh wait.  I made that last one up.   Couldda sworn I saw it in the write-up, though.  Don’t know if that impression came from the AP or from the expertise that was quoted or a combination of both, but I couldda sworn…

Anyway, the AP continues with an article the very next day on the American Geophysical Union conference.

More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of what scientists say is global warming.

I particularly like this quote: I believe you’ll soon find it in your Funk and Wagnall’s under the definition of the word ‘ignorance’.

“The pace of change is starting to outstrip our ability to keep up with it, in terms of our understanding of it,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., a co-author of the Arctic amplification study.

Ahem.  Yes.  We’ll leave aside NASA’s political credibility problems (H/T: Rand Simberg), but it’s harder to ignore the credibility problems in their science, most especially when they intersect.

So what are we to do with this information?  Is it, for instance, confirmed by multiple sources?  How about this from National Geograghic?

With more global warming in store, researchers said, the prognosis is grim for the Arctic’s so-called perennial sea ice, which is the ice that survives through the summer.

At the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, some scientists argued yesterday that the end of the perennial ice is near.

“If this trend persists, the Arctic would be ice-free [in the summer] by 2013,” said Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Looks scary.  In fact, I had to look twice because I thought at first that this was another report from the same meeting at the AGU conference.  They report the same observed effects all right.  I have only one problem with it – look at the dates.  Ohhhhh – another problem.  Correcting Hansen’s mistaken software makes the earlier story less than credible.  Maybe I should use the word wrong.

And the press is recycling the bad information.

And it continues to amaze that they report the AGU meeting so breathlessly in the face of this.

A blast of Arctic air Tuesday morning has much of the nation — from the Great Lakes to Oregon and down to Texas — in its cold, icy grip.

The temperature at International Falls, Minnesota, was 26 below zero at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

To the south in Minneapolis, below-zero temperatures were leaving roadways covered in black ice, sending drivers spinning into numerous accidents, CNN affiliate KARE-TV reported Tuesday.

Black ice, nearly invisible on roads, can form when car exhaust freezes on snow-covered pavement in sub-zero conditions, KARE said. Twin Cities drivers could find a little hope in the day’s forecast high — 4 degrees above zero by the afternoon.

Temperatures hovering as low as 23 below zero have parts of Montana frozen in their tracks, according to CNN affiliate KFBB-TV.

The forecast high Tuesday for Great Falls: 5 degrees.

Maybe the information has outstripped the ability of the press to deal with it.

The Sun Has Gone Out

September 19, 2008

Well Not Quite Out

But as noted by the Instapundit, it has calmed down, somewhat (for extremely broad definitions of the words “calmed down”).

On Tues 23-Sept., NASA will have a media teleconference to discuss findings that the sun’s solar wind is at a 50-year low, which is interesting in and of itself.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at here at this link.