First, the House last night passed a campaign-finance package last night on a strict 218-209 party-line vote:
The House approved campaign finance legislation last night that would benefit Republicans by placing strict caps on contributions to nonprofit committees that spent heavily in the last election while removing limits on political parties' spending coordinated with candidates.
Lifting party spending limits would aid Republican candidates because the GOP has consistently raised far more money than the Democratic Party. Similarly, barring "527" committees from accepting large unregulated contributions known as "soft money" would disadvantage Democrats, whose candidates received a disproportionate share of the $424 million spent by nonprofit committees in 2003-2004.
I have a dream that someday, the House of Representatives will represent me. I have another dream involving Angelina Jolie. Which dream do you suppose is more likely to come true?
In other news, the best administration we have (as Molly Ivins likes to say) is once again muzzling climate scientists who dare say there is a link between human activity and climate change. This seems to be because there is a link between human activity and climate change, a link the administration's policies are reinforcing:
Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.
Because if no one talks about it, it isn't really happening, even as the Republic of Kiribati disappears beneath the Pacific...
I'm back in Chicago for the weekend, where today it's 20°C (68°F) and sunny. To some readers in other parts of the world (see, for example, this list) that may not sound like anything interesting, but for me it means I seem to have a number of errands to run in the neighborhood...
The next North American total solar eclipse will be in 2017. Today it's Africa's turn.
This week's Science has a special collection of stories about climate change. The evidence is getting better for a 1–3°C (2–6°F) increase in global average temperatures, with concomitant sea-level rises and significant shifts in local climates:
Recent research papers in Science and elsewhere are pointing to a major acceleration in the loss of mass from the world's great ice sheets. That means that the sensitivity of these giant storehouses of water to climate warming may be far greater than expected—with potentially dire sea level implications during the next several centuries.
Since the current administration doesn't believe in evidence, the new findings aren't likely to spur change here in the U.S. Fortunately, we will have a new administration in less than 1,033 days. One hopes Miami will still be dry by then.
We were in Boston on Saturday. The weather was perfect. So naturally I took a photo of the Massachusetts State House:
My incredibly brave wife got into a Piper Warrior with me today, and we flew from Nashua to Portsmouth, N.H. I last flew in January 2005, also with Anne, so I was excited to get back into the cockpit.
Landing in variable 8-to-12 knot winds—variable, in this context, meaning direct crosswind to tailwind—was not the most fun I've ever had flying. But it was still tons o' fun, and we still got Anne home on time.
Frontal systems can be a lot of fun. A warm front passed through Southern New Hampshire today; see if you can spot when that happened:
|09:51 ET (14:51 UTC)
|12:51 (18:51 UTC)
The cold front following behind won't be quite as dramatic, but it will bring some wind. Gusts are predicted to 81 km/h (45 kts, 54 mph) this afternoon.
I just started reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, which contains a fairly good overview of climate change and how we're making it happen. It's important to understand that climate change has happened rapidly throughout history, meaning changes of 2-4°C (4-7°F) have occurred over decades rather than millennia.
So, having started that book yesterday, I'm warmed (so to speak) by this morning's Washington Postarticle on the shrinking Antarctic ice sheet:
The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet's total mass is shrinking significantly.
The new findings, which are being published today in the journal Science, suggest that global sea level could rise substantially over the next several centuries.
... [T]he amount of water pouring annually from the ice sheet into the ocean—equivalent to the amount of water the United States uses in three months—is causing global sea level to rise by 0.4 millimeters a year.
That may not sound like a lot, but (a) it's not the only ice sheet melting in the world and (b) it equates to a 30 cm (1 ft) rise in sea levels over the next century.
One more time: Global warming is great for Chicago, bad for Miami, disastrous for Bangladesh. And my own children will probably have to decide whether to build seawalls and polders around our coastal cities. The children of my Filipino friends probably won't have that option.
The AP reported today that the President, Secretary Chertoff, and other officials were clearly warned about the likelihood of levee failures three days before Bush went on television claiming otherwise:
Bush didn't ask a single question during the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck on Aug. 29 but assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
Six days of footage and transcripts obtained by The Associated Press show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.
This is information the Administration didn't want published, for the simple reason that it makes them look stupid, just like all the other information they've wanted to keep secret for five years. It kind of makes you wonder what they're holding back on global warming, doesn't it?
In a not-entirely-unrelated vein, I had a conversation with a colleague today who claims to be more worried about the unlikely (but dramatic) possibility of an asteroid strike than the demonstrated (but, barring the occasional flood, humdrum) occurrence of global climate change. People are funny that way.
The city of Eureka, Nunavut, in way-Northern Canada, has its first sunrise of the year today around 11:30 CT (17:30 UTC). Technically the sun never actually gets above the horizon, but a tiny bit of it will scrape along the southern horizon for about an hour before disappearing until tomorrow.
Eureka is typically the northernmost weather station that sends hourly reports to NOAA, and this time of year it's almost always on the world's coldest places list. For example, at this writing, Eureka is -41°C (-42°F)—but it's a dry cold, so you don't feel it as much.