Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ask Anything: 10 questions for hurricane expert Jamie Rhome

3-D NASA image of Hurricane Fran, which hit the (aptly-named) town of Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 5, 1996 with sustained winds of 115 mph.

If a Cat 5 Hurricane hit our coast and made a bee-line for Raleigh, what kind of damage would we expect to see in Raleigh? – James Radford, Garner

James, since warm waters are the fuel for hurricane and tropical storms, these storms typically weaken as they move inland. The extent of damage from a hurricane moving into the Piedmont of North Carolina would be a function of many things, such as the forward speed of the hurricane, the rate of decay/weakening, and pre-existing conditions.

Thus, it is hard to say for sure exactly how much damage one could expect. People often forget that hurricanes are not just a coastal hazard and produce significant inland damage. We only need to look at two historical hurricanes affecting North Carolina to prove this point.

Hugo (1989) produced significant damage in Charlotte after making landfall in the Charleston, S.C., area as a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Similarly, Fran (1996) downed many trees and produced widespread power outages in the Raleigh/Durham area. Life-threatening flash flooding is also a major hazard and can be worsened if the soil is moist from earlier rain.

For the other 9 (very good) questions at click here.

10 Outrageous Claims

As the House debate heated up, so did the hyperbole.

We already knew that climate action opponents were, shall we say, special.

They've spent years denying the reality of global warming and doing everything possible to delay action. But, last week's floor debate put their tortured reasoning in the Congressional Record.

We've compiled 10 of the most outrageous comments from the floor last week.

Yes, they're bizarre. But, it's important to keep in mind that we are very likely to see much more of this as the bill moves to the Senate.

Read on to see the 10 biggest whoppers. The article written by the Environmental Defense Action Fund is here.

Permafrost melting a growing climate threat - study

SINGAPORE, July 1 (Reuters) - The amount of carbon locked away in frozen soils in the far Northern Hemisphere is double previous estimates and rapid melting could accelerate global warming, a study released on Wednesday says.

Large areas of northern Russia, Canada, Nordic countries and the U.S. state of Alaska have deep layers of frozen soil near the surface called permafrost.

Global warming has already triggered rapid melting of the permafrost in some areas, releasing powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

As the world gets warmer, more of these gases are predicted to be released and could trigger a tipping point in which huge amounts of the gases flood the atmosphere, rapidly driving up temperatures, scientists say.

"Massive amounts of carbon stored in frozen soils at high latitudes are increasingly vulnerable to exposure to the atmosphere," said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project at Australia's state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

"The research shows that the amount of carbon stored in soils surrounding the North Pole has been hugely underestimated."

The complete Reuters article is here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Does the sun have more impact on climate change than humans?

Dear EarthTalk: Don't some scientists point to sunspots and solar wind as having more impact on climate change than human industrial activity?

- David Noss, California, Md.

Sunspots are storms on the sun's surface that are marked by intense magnetic activity and play host to solar flares and hot gassy ejections from the sun's corona. Scientists believe that the number of spots on the sun cycles over time, reaching a peak - the so-called Solar Maximum - every 11 years or so. Some studies indicate that sunspot activity overall has doubled in the last century. The apparent result down here on Earth is that the sun glows brighter by about 0.1 percent now than it did 100 years ago.

Solar wind, according to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, consists of magnetized plasma flares and in some cases is linked to sunspots. It emanates from the sun and influences galactic rays that may in turn affect atmospheric phenomena on Earth, such as cloud cover. But scientists are the first to admit that they have a lot to learn about phenomena like sunspots and solar wind, some of which is visible to humans on Earth in the form of Aurora Borealis and other far flung interplanetary light shows.

Some skeptics of human-induced climate change blame global warming on natural variations in the sun's output due to sunspots and/or solar wind. They say it's no coincidence that an increase in sunspot activity and a run-up of global temperatures on Earth are happening concurrently, and view regulation of carbon emissions as folly with negative ramifications for our economy and tried-and-true energy infrastructure.

The complete article on is here.

VORTEX 2 Bust?

A nearly 12 million dollar, 35 day tornado research project was only able to capture 1 tornado - "The least number of tornadoes in that time period since the early 1990's and only the second time it's happened since WWII" (source: usa today)

Read more on the article here: