Marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos

Oz mangrove die-off
Click to enlargeNorm Duke/James Cook University

Mangrove die-off from diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures – Australia

First seabirds started falling out of the sky, washing up on beaches from California to Canada…Then emaciated and dehydrated sea lion pups began showing up, stranded and on the brink of death…A surge in dead whales was reported in the same region, and that was followed by the largest toxic algal bloom in history seen along the Californian coast. Mixed among all that there were population booms of several marine species that normally aren’t seen surging in the same year.

Plague, famine, pestilence and death was sweeping the northern Pacific Ocean between 2014 and 2015.

This chaos was caused by a single massive heatwave, unlike anything ever seen before. But it was not the sort of heatwave we are used to thinking about, where the air gets thick with warmth. This occurred in the ocean, where the effects are normally hidden from view.

Nicknamed “the blob”, it was arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen. It may have been the worst but wide-scale disruption from marine heatwaves is increasingly being seen all around the globe, with regions such as Australia seemingly being hit with more than their fair share…

It was in the study of a marine heatwave in south-west Australia that the term was coined just five years ago. In a report that still used the term “marine heatwave” in scare quotes, scientists from the West Australian department of fisheries found the heatwave off the state’s coast was “a major temperature anomaly superimposed on the underlying long-term ocean-warming trend”.

That year, the researchers found, Western Australia had an unprecedented surge of hot water along its coast. Surface temperatures were up to 5C higher than the usual seasonal temperature. The pool of warm water stretched more than 1,500km from Ningaloo to the southern tip of the continent at Cape Leeuwin, and it extended more than 200km offshore. Unlike a terrestrial heatwave that will normally last a couple of weeks at most, this persisted for more than 10 weeks.

…Five years later the full impact of that marine heatwave have are beginning to be more fully understood.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – still hasn’t been through a complete gamut of peer review – but, keep your brain cells up-to-date on some of the latest findings on climate change. You need to know especially since many of our politicians fear that happening.

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Scientific American slams Donald Trump in op-ed

It’s not just disillusioned Republican lawmakers who are coming out against Donald Trump…Scientific American, the popular science magazine, has published an op-ed denouncing the GOP presidential nominee’s stances on a variety of science-related issues.

When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

The magazine also takes to task a political system in which it says facts, scientific and otherwise, “have become an undervalued commodity” and in which hostility to science can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. Those are relatively old gripes, but they’ve taken on new resonance this election season.

Science has not played nearly as prominent a role as it should in informing debates over the labeling of genetically modified foods, end of life care and energy policy, among many issues.

The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.

There’s more to come from Scientific American as the US presidential election unfolds, the publication says. “In October, as we did four years previously, we will assemble answers from the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees on the public policy questions that touch on science, technology and public health and then publish them online.”

I’ll second that emotion.

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The United States as 100 people

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

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Hypocrite Louisiana Republicans demand flood aid — voted against Hurricane Sandy relief for the Northeast


Steve Scalise, Republican hypocrite-in-chiefAP

Call it logrolling or one hand washing the other, a generally recognized fact in Washington is that if you want something for your district, it pays to agree to the same thing for another guy’s district.

That point may have been lost on three Louisiana congressmen when they voted against a $50.5-billion relief package for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. The 2012 storm ravaged coastal communities in New Jersey and New York. Now they’re in the position of needing the same sort of aid for their own state. How will that play out?

The three lawmakers, all Republicans, are Rep. Steve Scalise (currently the House majority whip); Bill Cassidy, who moved up to the Senate last year; and John Fleming. They’re all likely exemplars of another Washington truism: fiscal responsibility is great, until it’s your own district that’s getting fiscally hammered. Then Job One becomes working to “help the residents of the threatened areas in their time of need.”…

No one is saying that the flood-stricken communities of Louisiana don’t deserve all the assistance that the U.S. government can provide them. But so did the residents of the Sandy zone.

Indeed, the funds made available through the emergency declaration are likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to what ultimately will be needed in Louisiana. FEMA will spend several million dollars on emergency housing and other aid. But the final toll could be well into the tens of billions. Initial estimates in Baton Rouge, covering about half of the parishes hit by the flooding, are that 110,000 homes worth a total $20 billion have been damaged. Business losses and reconstruction costs will come to much more.

These are the categories covered by the Sandy appropriation that Louisiana’s lawmakers voted down.

I’m waiting for the Republican Party to claim a patent on hypocrisy. They surely own it in practice.

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Ask real economists – Trump isn’t even second best

NABE econ:pres survey

Professional economists have such low regard for the Republican presidential candidate that a survey found Donald Trump wasn’t even considered the second best candidate in the race.

A survey of 414 economists by the National Association for Business Economics released Monday found 55% thought Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would do the best job of managing the economy. The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, narrowly beat out Trump, 15% to 14%, with another 15% saying they don’t know.

The professional economists say uncertainty about the election is holding back growth, with 62% saying so.

There’s a bit more on commerce, immigration in the article.

Here’s a link to a .pdf of the whole economics survey. Actually, a lot of interesting commentary about many topics. If you’re an economics geek in addition to everything else. :)

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Texas Republicans lead in the War on Women — kill more pregnant mothers than any developed nation

The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths…rose…about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”…

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

At the same time, Texas eliminated all Planned Parenthood clinics – whether or not they provided abortion services – from the state program that provides poor women with preventive healthcare. Previously, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas offered cancer screenings and contraception to more than 130,000 women…

The report comes just as public health advocates are raising questions about Texas’s ability to prepare for the Zika virus, which is transmitted by a common species of mosquito and has been linked to severe birth defects. The World Health Organization has advised women in areas of local transmission to delay pregnancy.

Texas is one of several southern states where health officials say there is a risk of a local outbreak. But about half the state lacks ready access to OB-GYN care, making it difficult for women to obtain contraception or for pregnant women to confirm the health of their babies. Just this month, Texas’s health department drew fire for allocating $1.6m of the $18m the state budgets for low-income women’s family planning to an anti-abortion group that does not provide basic health services.

It is truly hard for me to react politely to the politics of these miserable low-life scumbags. Every now and then I step back and reconsider condemning bible-thumping fundamentalists for the crimes committed in the name of some invisible white guy up in the clouds. Then, a report like this comes along and pisses me off more than ever. Superstition and holier-than-thou smugness provides the votes for every level of support for the War on Women that today’s Republicans justify as essential to class warfare.

They couldn’t care less about clinics closing down that serve poor and middle-income women, white, Latino and Black. These are families that shouldn’t be allowed any political power in the eyes of the Republican Party. Working folks in Texas exist only to serve the comfort and needs of the Oil Patch Boys,
local flunkies for military industrial corporations with factories and forts in the state – and that’s about it. Democracy, equal opportunity, constitutional rights are good for election campaign slogans and meaningless the rest of the time.

Republicans and the voters who elect and re-elect them are as responsible for the deaths of these women as any terrorist, foreign or domestic. Their crusade has different names. That’s all.

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Prevention-based food safety works — and soon to be the law


iStock

A food company recently issued a recall of hot dogs and corn dogs after its facility tested positive for Listeria.

On July 19, Oklahoma’s Bar-S Foods Co. issued a recall of more than 370,000 pounds of chicken and pork hot dogs and corn dogs. Bar-S Foods made the decision after multiple samples taken throughout its facility tested positive for Listeria. As of July 22, no illnesses have been linked to its hot dogs.

This is a prevention-based food safety approach in action. When routine tests of the facility environment suggested that the hot dogs might be contaminated, Bar-S Foods made immediate and decisive moves to protect consumers. The company’s response was consistent with the comprehensive guidance for controlling Listeria issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. FSIS regulates meat, poultry, and egg products — approximately 20 percent of the U.S. food supply. In addition to regulations, the agency publishes guidance documents such as the one addressing Listeria, which spells out what concrete steps for companies should take to test for Listeria contamination and what they should do if they find it.

Enforcement of FDA’s preventive controls rule — mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act — will begin in September. These prevention-based regulations require that processing facilities under FDA’s purview develop a food safety plan that identifies hazards, requires measures to minimize them, and establishes procedures to monitor the hazards, correcting them if they prove ineffective. Moreover, FDA’s regulations indicate that environmental testing for a pathogen such as Listeria monocytogenes or an indicator organism, such as Listeria species, should be done if contamination of a ready-to-eat food by this pathogen is likely.

Beyond the preventive controls rule, however, FDA should follow the example of FSIS and provide the food companies it regulates with information on when and how to sample and test ready-to-eat products and processing facilities for Listeria. Such a detailed guidance document would hopefully lead to fewer recalls and outbreaks—the ultimate goal of FSMA.

Hey, it’s only been a century or so since regulatory oversight for the American food industry was proposed. You just can’t rush into policies that save lives. Profits come first.

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A rose by any other name…


Click to enlarge

NGC 7129 is a fascinating and terribly lovely object. It’s a stellar nursery, a site of active star formation, buried deep within an invisible cloud of very cold molecular gas and dust…

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope sees in the infrared, and detects dust. Some of this dust defines the blister in the larger cloud (red), while some is coming from the stars ejecting material (green). The overall effect makes NGC 7129 look like a closed rose bud.

Wow!

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Eurofurence 22 in Berlin — Europe’s largest furry convention


Click to enlargeCarsten Koall/Getty

More than 2,500 people have gathered in Berlin for Eurofurence, a convention for “furries” – lovers of anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Many of those attending Europe’s largest “furry” convention wear life-sized fantasy animal costumes, while others are fans of those who wear fursuits.

Members of the furry fandom often create their own “fursona” – an animal character. This avatar allows them to express characteristics quite different from their own personalities. Although around 80% of furries are male, many of their avatars are of a different gender.

Hope the weather ain’t too hot for furry suits.

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Mexico’s human rights agency says police murdered 22 at ranch

Federal police killed at least 22 people on a ranch last year, then moved bodies and planted guns to corroborate the official account that the deaths happened in a gunbattle, Mexico’s human rights commission said Thursday.

One police officer was killed in the confrontation in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The government has said the dead were drug cartel suspects who were hiding out on the ranch in Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state.

The National Human Rights Commission said there were also two cases of torture and four more deaths caused by excessive force. It said it could not establish satisfactorily the circumstances of 15 others who were shot to death…

Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales, who oversees the federal police, denied the accusations, holding his own news conference before the rights commission had finished its own…

“The use of weapons was necessary and proportional against the real and imminent and unlawful aggression,” Sales said. “That is to say, in our minds they acted in legitimate defense.”

Thirteen of the 22 people the commission said were killed had been shot in the back…

Law and order in our southern neighbor. A police state is a police state – even when they’re killing criminal suspects – without a trial.

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