Friday, February 20, 2015

Bill O'Reillly Thinks He's Better Than Brian Williams

I didn't watch Brian Williams very much. But NBC News has been better than Fox News though negligent like other news shows when it comes to the news Americans need to hear. At least I could watch Brian Williams without rolling my eyes. But Bill O'Reilly engages in so much fiction in his news stories that he's difficult to watch.

Obviously Brian Williams should not have fictionalized his war experiences. However, unlike Bill O'Reilly, Williams has actually been in war zones reporting for NBC News.

Bill O'Reilly wants to pretend he was in the Falkland War in the 1980s, but he was hundreds of miles from the action. For some unfathomable reason, O'Reilly has decided to call watching a political demonstration equivalent to being in war. It's a ridiculous claim by a ridiculous man.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Arctic — Global Warming Is Happening Now

(The top map shows surface temperatures, such as the cold purple areas in the Arctic and far north. The bottom map show temperature anomalies, such as the above average temperatures in Alaska and the abnormally low temperatures in Eastern Canada.)

This is the cold, dark part of the year and close to the time when the Arctic ice reaches its maximum size for the next twelve months. By middle to late March, the Arctic will definitely be shrinking as it always does around that time.

For years now, the Arctic has been shrinking. Records going back over a hundred years makes it clear that the Arctic has been in a long period of declining size, in both area and volume. The National Snow & Ice Data Center has been keeping quality satellite records and posts the numbers daily for area, going back to 1979.

Most people who understand global warming know that it's measured by decades rather by years. There are a number of smaller cycles and year to year variations that mean the measures we see are rarely in a straight line. That is to say, there are variations.

One way to see the variations is to go to the interactive visual called the "Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph." The easy to use graph allows you to see the variations by year since 1979. If you use the chart, and start back in 1979 and go one year at at time, you can see how the melting and the freezing of the Arctic varies year by year. And you can easily see that on average, decade by decade, the Arctic in the late summer is getting smaller and smaller. And you can also notice that year by year, the Arctic in late winter, when it reaches its largest extent, is slowly, on average, reaching a smaller and smaller maximum.

Right now, in the last few days, the Arctic is very close to the four smallest maximums on record. Only 2014, 2011, 2006 and 2005 have been as small or smaller. No one knows for sure what will happen in the next three weeks. Right now, the Arctic is still growing but losing ground day by day compared to other years. If the trend continues, always a big if, the lowest maximum record will be set.

In the meantime, the cold air of the Arctic continues to spill out of the Arctic and large patches of warmer than normal surface temperatures are being recorded. The dynamics are not well understood. In the last few years, Alaska and sometimes the Yukon have frequently experienced much higher than normal temperatures in the winter. And eastern Canada and the Eastern United States have been experiencing unusual winter time lows. Somewhat unpredictably, the Arctic at times has patches of higher than normal temperatures that sometime rise as high as 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

 It's not clear yet whether new seasonal patterns in the far north are developing. Probably not. For one thing, Siberia also has cold air that spills out of the Arctic but the cold air spills out in a wider range of locations. Another issue is that the jet stream in the winter is far more erratic and variable than it was ten to twenty years ago. For now, scientists are studying the changes and it will probably take time to understand. But one thing is not changing: the temperatures are rising, more energy is pouring into the systems of the Earth, and many changes are taking place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Bob Dylan Connection

It took awhile for me to get Bob Dylan. My middle brother discovered him before I did back in the 1960s. He tried to show me what Dylan was about but all I heard the first couple of times was a guy who couldn't sing, though I did sort of liked the songs he wrote. I was hard-of-hearing and the thing I didn't understand for years is that it would take longer than usual for me to "get" a wide range of things. I was lucky. I kept meeting people who gave me second, third and fourth chances to figure out the world. Of course, no one ever really figures it out. In time, in fact, what you figure out is that you have to help keep it going.

Keeping the music going is one part of what some of us do.

Three years after my brother introduced me to Bob Dylan's music, an English teacher started off the senior year of high school giving us the words to Dylan all typed out. The words....they made all the difference in the world. And the feeling, which came by way of the music of that voice I finally understood.

And I spent some time writing my own words.

A blog called Talking Points Memo found a transcript of Bob Dylan's recent talk. He must have talked close to a half hour, giving a free seminar on his view of music, and his reminder of the last fifty years. Here's the link:

There are times when I think music descends into hype, but it can always be found around somewhere. The music is there. And it's worth looking for.