Pacific Ocean temperatures predict US heat waves 50 days out

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summer heat waves in the eastern half of the U.S. up to 50 days in advance.

The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water coming up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week — or even on a particular day — can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is.

The findings were published in…Nature Geoscience. The lead author is scientist Karen McKinnon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research…

“Summertime heat waves are among the deadliest weather events, and can have big effects on farming, energy use and other critical aspects of society,” said McKinnon. “If we can give city planners and farmers a heads-up that extreme heat is on the way, we might be able to avoid some of the worst consequences…”

For the study, the scientists divided the country into regions that tend to experience extreme heat at the same time. They then focused on the largest of the resulting blocks: a swath that stretches across much of the Midwest and up the East Coast, encompassing important agricultural areas and heavily populated cities.

The researchers looked for a relationship between global sea surface temperature anomalies — waters warmer or cooler than average — and extreme heat in the eastern half of the U.S.

A pattern popped out in the middle of the Pacific, above a point roughly 20 degrees north latitude. The scientists could find the particular configuration of ocean water temperatures, which they named the Pacific Extreme Pattern, not only when the eastern U.S. was already hot, but also in advance of that heat.

RTFA for beaucoup details of the study. I’m looking forward to someone writing a broader relation of the whole process. Fascinating stuff.

FDA agrees with doctors, not Republicans, on abortion pill.

On Wednesday, the medical abortion pill got a new label from the Food and Drug Administration—one that finally reflects the way doctors have been prescribing it for years. In the process, Republicans lost at least one strategy that they’ve used to block women’s access to abortion.

In the political tug-of-war over this pill — as in most every fight over abortion — legislators have inserted themselves into consummately routine aspects of medical practice. In this case, they interfered with the common and totally legal practice of off-label prescription, in which doctors use the most up-to-date medical information and their own best instincts to dictate how patients should use a drug, deviating from often outdated FDA guidelines. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 1 in 5 prescriptions written are for off-label use. That didn’t stop Republicans from banning it in the case of the abortion pill, mifepristone, when best practice evolved beyond the guidelines that the FDA wrote upon first approving the drug in 2000.

Mifepristone (brand name Mifeprex) terminates pregnancy by blocking the necessary hormones; doctors prescribe it with a second pill, misoprostol, which induces contractions to start what resembles a heavy period. When the FDA originally wrote the protocol for the drug, it specified a dose of 600 milligrams. Over the years, however, doctors have found that a 200-milligram dose is just as effective and causes fewer unpleasant side effects… Republicans…passed laws in six states — still in effect in North Dakota and Ohio—that forced practitioners to stick to the FDA guidelines or stop offering the procedure altogether.

The new FDA guidelines vindicate doctors, embracing the 200-milligram regimen and reflecting several other changes in the way practitioners have been prescribing the drug that broaden women’s access to abortion…

The new label for mifepristone also says that the drug should be “ordered, prescribed and dispensed by or under the supervision of a healthcare provider who prescribes and who meets certain qualifications.” Crucially, the guidelines do not contain the word physician. Here, the FDA has given at least subtle backing to the argument that women’s health groups—and the World Health Organization—have been making for years: that midlevel providers, such as midwives and nurse practitioners, should be able to administer medical abortions….As abortion clinics across the country continue to close because of targeted GOP legislation, expanding the circle of who can prescribe this pill could be invaluable for many women.

Good news for everyone who wants their healthcare to be guided by modern medicine, sound science – instead of Republican politicians, pundits and populists mired in the backwaters of history and hysteria.

Pentagon on the way to wasting a historic amount of taxpayer dollar$


May as well give ’em their own printing press for money…

Waste at the Pentagon is nothing new. But recent revelations suggest that it may be reaching historic levels.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has uncovered scandal after scandal involving U.S. aid to that country, including the creation of private villas for a small number of personnel working for a Pentagon economic development initiative and a series of costly facilities that were never or barely used. An analysis by ProPublica puts the price tag for wasteful and misguided expenditures in Afghanistan at $17 billion, a figure that is higher than the GDP of 80 nations…

It’s not just about Afghanistan, though. Back in the United States, wasteful spending abounds. A Politico report on the Pentagon’s $44 billion Defense Logistics Agency notes that it spent over $7 billion on unneeded equipment. Meanwhile, Congress is doing its part by inserting its own pet projects into the budget, whether or not they are top priorities in terms of defense needs. The most notable example is the F-35 combat aircraft, which at $1.4 trillion over its lifetime is the most expensive weapons project ever undertaken by the Pentagon. Despite the fact that the plane is far from ready for prime time, Congress stuffed 11 additional F-35s into the defense bill that was signed by the president last month…

During the Reagan military buildup of the 1980s, tales of $600 toilet seats and $7,600 coffee makers convinced Congress and the public that the Pentagon had more money than it knew what to do with, and that the time to curb spending had come. But overspending on routine items – such as the Army’s recent expenditure of $8,000 on a gear worth $500 – continues. In fact, because the Pentagon can’t pass an audit, the department doesn’t even know for sure how much it is overpaying on basic items, or how much excess equipment it is purchasing.

The common thread uniting the C-5 scandal of the 1960s, the spare parts scandal of the 1980s and today’s array of wasteful expenditures is that they all came on the heels of major military buildups. When there is too much money to go around and no one is minding the store, spending discipline goes out the window…

What can be done to get the “fat” out of Pentagon spending? For starters, the department needs financial incentives to get its books in order. Members of Congress…have put forward bills designed to press the Pentagon to become audit ready as soon as possible.

But the best management tool is to put the Pentagon on a tighter budget, so it is forced to make some tough choices. No one, hawk or dove, should sit still for the waste of tens of billions of tax dollars. Waste doesn’t defend us. On the contrary, spending too much on the Pentagon just subsidizes bad choices.

It’s time for Congress, the president and the presidential candidates of both parties to speak out about Pentagon waste, and put forward concrete plans for reining it in. Otherwise, our era may have the dubious distinction of being the golden age of Pentagon waste.

Even though I can vote for Bernie or Hillary – one because it’s a good choice, finally – the other because we need at least a centrist defense of the Constitution to protect the rights we’re supposed to have – Bernie’s more likely to come down on the principled side of this question.

In front of most American audiences, the middle ground still plays well. Regardless of material reality. Hillary will stick with historic Liberal Democrat copouts. The kind that brought us everything from VietNam to Iraq.

So be it.

Want a little extra sidebar? Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was a heavy-duty military jock for George W Buch. And has a conscience about it. Read what he has to say.