Friday, July 12, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin wraps up today, and the case goes to the jury. Many pundits believe that Zimmerman will be found not guilty and indeed, the prosecutors asked the judge (who said yes) to allow the jury to consider lesser charges, which indicates they think the case may not be as solid as charged. However, the summation given by the prosecutors yesterday – including a point made about Zimmerman being terrified of Martin, yet knowing he had a gun in his pocket, so he could equalize any confrontation -- was very forceful and punched holes in the story Zimmerman's defense team spun out. I think this is a 70-30 case with a guilty verdict rendered pretty quickly once a few hesitant jurors are persuaded.

Under any circumstance, I think Zimmerman's civil case will be the more damaging to him.

2) It's raining….glass?

3) If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it looks like Duchess Kate's baby will be born over the weekend.

4) The very Catholic Ireland has officially become more sophisticated than Texas.

5) If you were worried about being bored the next sixteen months, I have good news for you: Sarah Palin is running for Senate from Alaska. Assuming she lasts that long. Comedy gold, I tell you.

6) Well, I mean, you know….Mussolini made the trains run on time, too…

7) Frackquake!

8) Don't let the Potomac hit ya where the good lord split ya!

9) Terrorists, global warming, black teens with hoodies, squirrels. What are things Floridians are terrified by? I'll take paranoia for $1,000, Alex.

10) Finally, people putting solar panels on their roofs in Arizona may end up paying more for power supplied by the power company. This is not a typo.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Water, Water, Everywhere

And not a drop to drink. But you may drown:

Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, funded by ice2sea, a European Union project, tackled the question of how both processes will evolve and interact in the future.

This was done with a computer model, which projects the future ice sheet evolution with high accuracy using the latest available techniques and input data.

 They devised a method to generalize projections made in earlier research which concerned just four of Greenland's outlet glaciers. By doing so they could apply the earlier findings to all calving glaciers around the Greenland ice sheet.

Their results indicate a total sea-level contribution from the Greenland ice sheet for an average warming scenario after 100 and 200 years of 7 and 21 cm, respectively.

Well, this all seems…horrible. I mean, 21 cm doesn’t sound like much, not even a foot, but…

So why does it matter what happens to the ice sheets? Well, estimates from the National Snow and Ice Data centre (NSIDC) suggest that total melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets would, between them, release enough fresh water to increase global sea level by approximately 66m, of which Greenland’s contribution would be around 6m (other estimates vary).

Since it seems that the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is proceeding at a pace that outstrips earlier projections, it’s safe to assume scientists here are being more hopeful than helpful. Now, look at those numbers again in that second quote. 6m is roughly 20 feet, so 66m is…about the height of a 20 story building.

I think there might be a problem, and it might be worse than even that:

A massive iceberg, larger than the city of Chicago, broke off of Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier on Monday (July 8), and is now floating freely in the Amundsen Sea, according to a team of German scientists.

The newborn iceberg measures about 278 square miles (720 square kilometers), and was seen by TerraSAR-X, an earth-observing satellite operated by the German Space Agency (DLR). Scientists with NASA's Operation IceBridgefirst discovered a giant crack in the Pine Island Glacier in October 2011, as they were flying over and surveying the sprawling ice sheet.

Keep in mind, it’s the coldest part of the year down there. This calved because of warmer sea water, driven by winds from the north, slid into the cracks and split the berg off. It would have happened eventually, but more likely when it was Antarctic summer.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Leading Indicators

I’m not sure what all this means, but certain events happened over the weekend that could be foreshadows of things to come:

1) Dozens Reported Killed In Egypt – Clashes between pro-Muslim Brotherhood protestors, angered at the ouster of President Mohamed  Morsi, and pro-democracy protestors, supported by the Egyptian military, clashed several times over the past few days. The Obama administration has wisely stayed above the fray, opting to wait and see before picking the wrong side to back.

As Egypt was one of the first of the Arab Spring protests to rise up a few years back, this is indeed troubling, particularly as Egypt (specifically its military) has been a long—standing ally to us in the region.

2) 5 Dead, 40 Missing After Train Explosion – Yes, the XL pipeline will be safe, huh? In case you missed it, a freight train derailed near a town in eastern Quebec province in Canada, leveling a small town. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described it as a “war zone”.

3) Tales of Flying Cinnamon Buns, iPods, and Gaping Exit Holes – How does a Boeing 777 with presumably enough fuel to make the flight and then some, manage to crash flying at less than the minimum speed a jet that size should be descending at?

Given Boeing’s problems with its Dreamliner (the 787) are passengers now beta testing airplanes? Or pilots?

We’re sort of seeing a period of troubling instability across the globe and spanning economics and infrastructure as well as politics. Given the turmoil in the Middle East, including Turkey, and now in South America, it will be hard for anyone to focus on things like ensuring our bridges stay up and the trains and planes run on time safely.

Well, maybe our rescue will come from off-planet…