How World War 2 air raids affected the weather

All the rich, earthy smells of the farm fill the air. It’s morning on May 11, 1944, and the bloodshed on the continent seems far away from this quiet field in south east England.

A distant buzz builds into a roar as suddenly it is not the bucolic scent of the soil that fills the air but hundreds of airplanes from the United States Army Air Force. The gigantic B-17 Flying Fortress bombers paint the blue sky white with their contrails. The morning ends up to be chillier than expected, as the bombers soar off to rain death on Germany…

Allied bombing raids leaving from Britain seem to have affected the local climatic conditions. Rob MacKenzie, now at the University of Birmingham, and Roger Timmis of the British Environment Agency looked at weather records from 1943 to 1945 and found that after massive air raids the areas the planes flew over were cooler than similar areas nearby…

In 1943 the United States began basing bombing raids out of England, and there was a tremendous increase in the amount of air traffic in specific and well recorded areas. That made distinguishing airplane-influenced climate data more clearly discernible from unaffected nearby climatic conditions.

For example, on May 11, 1944, a massive number of planes flew through an otherwise clear sky in south east England. A total of 1444 aircraft were recorded. The area they flew over stayed an average .8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees F) cooler than surrounding areas from about 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“This is tantalising evidence that Second World War bombing raids can be used to help us understand processes affecting contemporary climate,” concluded MacKenzie. “By looking back at a time when aviation took place almost entirely in concentrated batches for military purposes, it is easier to separate the aircraft-induced factors from all the other things that affect climate.”

The greater reflectivity of the white contrails was sufficient in and of itself to diminish the amount of warming expected from the sun. Good science. Sound computational analysis derived from good record-keeping.

Farewell messages for Rebekah Brooks from unemployed staff


‘Woman stares wildly at calamity’ was crossword clue

Departing staff at the News of the World appear to have sent a parting message of disgust to former editor Rebekah Brooks in the crossword of the paper’s final edition.

Despite orders allegedly given from the top of News International to ensure to “ensure there were no libels or any hidden mocking messages of the chief executive”, staff appear to have found a way of mocking Mrs Brooks one last time.

Among the clues in the paper’s Quickie puzzle were: “Brook”, “stink”, “catastrophe” and “digital protection”.

The clues for the Cryptic Crossword seemed to cut even closer to the bone, with examples including: “criminal enterprise”, “mix in prison”, “string of recordings” and “will fear new security measure”…

Other answers included: “stench”, “racket” and “tart”…

A source said: “Rebekah tried everything to stop the staff having the last word and she utterly failed. “She brought in two very senior Sun journalists to go though every line on every page with a fine tooth comb to ensure there were no libels or any hidden mocking messages of the chief executive.

But they failed and we’ve had the last laugh.’

Still – I can’t offer unlimited support for the unemployed former staff. Just because you’ve gotten used to the smell doesn’t mean some of the stink isn’t clinging to your ethics.

Though times were desperate for me during the Nixon Recession, I turned down a terrific job offer in the engineering department of an old reputable manufacturing company in my hometown. Their HR director was a man of principle [who, of course, was eventually fired] who took the time in our final interview to let me know they weren’t still focused on consumer goods but were expanding because of their shiny new contract making Claymore anti-personnel mines for the US military.

I thanked him wholeheartedly – and returned to the dole for a long time before finally getting a job where I could hold my head up.

Upset over an invasive species? Try eating it.

With its dark red and black stripes, spotted fins and long venomous black spikes, the lionfish seems better suited for horror films than consumption. But lionfish fritters and filets may be on American tables soon.

An invasive species, the lionfish is devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast and into the Caribbean. Now, an increasing number of environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control it and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers.

“Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”

We’re already at consideration of three questions at this point in the article: 1. Ready access to the invader?; 2. How easy and cost effective is it to harvest? 3. Any cultural barriers to overcome [back to the marketing department folks].

Continue reading

Exit interview with Sheila Bair as she prepares to leave the FDIC

‘They should have let Bear Stearns fail,” Sheila Bair said.

It was midmorning on a crisp June day, and Bair, the 57-year-old outgoing chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — the federal agency that insures bank deposits and winds down failing banks — was sitting on a couch, sipping a Starbucks latte. We were in the first hour of several lengthy on-the-record interviews. She seemed ever-so-slightly nervous.

Long viewed as a bureaucratic backwater, the F.D.I.C. has had a tumultuous five years while being transformed under Bair’s stewardship. Not long after she took charge in June 2006, Bair began sounding the alarm about the dangers posed by the explosive growth of subprime mortgages, which she feared would not only ravage neighborhoods when homeowners began to default — as they inevitably did — but also wreak havoc on the banking system. The F.D.I.C. was the only bank regulator in Washington to do so.

During the financial crisis of 2008, Bair insisted that she and her agency have a seat at the table, where she worked — and fought — with Henry Paulson, then the treasury secretary, and Timothy Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, as they tried to cobble together solutions that would keep the financial system from going over a cliff. She and the F.D.I.C. managed a number of huge failing institutions during the crisis, including IndyMac, Wachovia and Washington Mutual. She was a key player in shaping the Dodd-Frank reform law, especially the part that seeks to forestall future bailouts.

Since the law passed, she has made an immense effort to convince Wall Street and the country that the nation’s giant banks — the same ones that required bailouts in 2008 and became known as “too big to fail” institutions — will never again be bailed out, thanks in part to new powers at the F.D.I.C.

Just a few months ago, she went so far as to send a letter to Standard & Poor’s, the credit-ratings agency, suggesting that its ratings of the big banks were too high because they reflected an expectation of government support. If a too-big-to-fail bank got into trouble, she wrote, the F.D.I.C. would wind it down, not bail it out…

She didn’t spend a lot of time fretting over bank profitability; if banks had to become less profitable, postcrisis, in order to reduce the threat they posed to the system, so be it. (“Our job is to protect bank customers, not banks,” she told me.) And she was a fierce, and often lonely, proponent of widespread mortgage modification, for reasons both compassionate (to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes) and economic (fewer foreclosures would help the troubled housing market recover more quickly).

I’m just giving you a taste of the beginning of this interview. It’s quite long, detailed, and near as I can tell an accurate picture of the individual who acted throughout the crisis of the Great Recession to defend local community banks, the historic integrity of banking regulation – how this was corrupted and almost destroyed along with our national economy – and as an aside, a reminder to younger folks who know only the deceit and corruption of Bush, Cheney, the racism of Nixonian Republicans, the nutballs of the Kool Aid Party – what a traditional American conservative used to sound like.

Geothermal energy production gets a boost in Nevada


Jim Faulds at the Fly Ranch geyser

An ambitious University of Nevada, Reno project to understand and characterize geothermal potential at nearly 500 sites throughout the Great Basin is yielding a bounty of information for the geothermal industry to use in developing resources in Nevada, according to a report to the U.S. Department of Energy…

The research aims to provide a catalogue of favorable structural elements, such as the pattern of faulting and models for geothermal systems and site-specific targeting using innovative techniques for fault analysis.  The project will enhance exploration methodologies and reduce the risk of drilling nonproductive wells.

Jim Faulds, principal investigator for the project, geologist and research professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has a team of six researchers and several graduate students working with him on various aspects of the project.

“Of the 463 geothermal sites to study, we’ve studied and characterized more than 250 in the past year, either using existing records or on-site analyses,” Faulds said. “We’ll continue to study more of the sites so we can develop better methods and tools for geothermal exploration. Most, about two-thirds, of the geothermal resources in the Great Basin are blind – that is, there are no surface expressions, such as hot springs, to indicate what’s perhaps 1,500 feet below the surface…”

The geothermal industry doesn’t have the same depth of knowledge for geothermal exploration as the mineral and oil industries,” he said. “Mineral and oil companies conducted extensive research years ago that helps them to characterize favorable settings and determine where to drill. With geothermal, it’s studies like this that will enhance understanding of what controls hot fluids in the earth’s crust and thus provide an exploration basis for industry to use in discovering and developing resources.”

Faulds and his team have defined a spectrum of favorable structural settings for geothermal systems in the Great Basin and completed a preliminary catalogue that interprets the structural setting of most its geothermal systems…

Bravo. An often overlooked alternative energy source in the United States. Some nations – like Iceland – rely almost completely on geothermal sources for residential and commercial energy requirements. Many other around the world consider this an automatic portion of the energy mix.