Tornado Amnesia and Tech Overconfidence
What keeps me up at night? Monday marked the anniversary of the 1965 Fridley tornado outbreak that killed 6 and injured 190. Fridley may have been hit by as many as 3 Kansas- strength EF-4 tornadoes, but there were touchdowns from near Glencoe to Lake Minnetonka and the northern suburbs.
What was farmland back in 1965 is now bristling with subdivisions and shopping centers. A similar swarm of tornadoes might very well produce far more destruction and carnage. I worry that we rely too much on technology. “My phone will tell me – the National Weather Service will save me – when I hear the sirens I’ll know what to do!” Perhaps. Tornado Amnesia has given way to overconfidence. At the end of the day, we
all take responsibility for our own personal safety.
Half an inch of rain may fall tonight into Wednesday, arguably the most unpleasant day in sight, with highs in the 40s. A weekend clipper keeps rain showers around, but models predict a real warm front again next week with 60s, maybe 70s.
Think of this as free, Canadian air conditioning.
File image: Fridley, after 2 – possibly 3 separate EF-4 tornadoes on May 6, 1965, courtesy of the Anoka County Historical Society. 6 strong tornadoes, 4 of which were rated F4 on the Fujita Scale, devastate parts of east central Minnesota, including parts of the Twin Cities metro area. 14 people are killed, and 683 are injured. 2 of the F4 tornadoes hit Fridley. Source: National Weather Service.
How to Fix Nature and Avoid Human Misery: UN Report. AFP has a summary of a recently-released U.N. report: “…Up to a million of Earth’s estimated eight million species face extinction, many of them within decades, according to a draft version obtained by AFP. All but seven percent of major marine fish stocks are in decline or exploited to the limit of sustainability. At the same time, humanity dumps up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. Since 1990, Earth has lost 2.9 million hectares — an area more than eight times the size of Germany or Vietnam — of forests that play a critical role in absorbing record-level CO2 emissions…”
1 Million Extinctions On Horizon: Climate Nexus has more perspective: “Human activity is rapidly and drastically transforming the planet, putting “an unprecedented” 1 million plant and animal species at risk of extinction, says a sweeping new report from the UN. The 1,500-page report, released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on Monday, paints an “ominous picture” of how humans are destroying biodiversity through climate change, overfishing, pollution, poaching and land use and how humanity is “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life,” panel chair Robert Watson said in a statement. “Loss of biodiversity is just as important as climate change for the future of mankind,” Watson told reporters Sunday. “The two are highly coupled. You can’t deal with climate change without dealing with biodiversity.” (New York Times $, Washington Post $, AP, NBC, Reuters, BBC, CNN)
USA Becoming More Energy Independent. USA Facts has an encouraging update; here’s a clip: “As of 2017, renewables (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) provided 12.8% of the US power supply, an increase from 8.1% of all power generated in 1980. Biomass is the leading renewable energy source, accounting for 5.1% of 2017 power production. Solar power grew by 12 times since 2007, but only generated 0.9% of power in 2017. Nuclear power provided 8.6% of the nation’s power, up from 3.5% in 1980. Meanwhile, fossil fuels supplied 77.7% of American power in 2017, down from 89.4% in 1980. Petroleum continues to be the largest source of energy consumption, with natural gas being a second and rising source…”
Buzz Aldrin: It’s Time to Focus on the Great Migration of Humankind to Mars. Here’s an excerpt of Mr. Aldrin’s Op-Ed at The Washington Post: “…Meanwhile, another looming orb — the red one — should become a serious focus of U.S. attention. Mars is waiting to be discovered, not by clever robots and rovers — though I support NASA’s unmanned missions — but by living, breathing, walking, talking, caring and daring men and women. To make that happen, members of Congress, the Trump administration and the American public must care enough to make human exploration missions to Mars a national priority. To be clear, I do not mean spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a few hijinks or joy rides, allowing those who return to write books, tweet photos and talk of the novelty. I mean something very different. The United States’ eyes — and our unified commitment — should focus on opening the door, in our time, to the great migration of humankind to Mars…”
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Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?” Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier. Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences. So come with me on an unwelcome walk down memory lane…”
Conspiracy Theores Are More Destructive Than Ever Before. There’s a Reason For That. A post at Mother Jones offers up food for though: “…There are a bunch of reasons for that. One is that statistically, most Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. People who have access to a lot of education or are extremely media savvy are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories, but they’re not immune. So I don’t see myself as particularly different from these people. I like to say that we’re all in the pool, some of us are just in a deeper end of the pool. That was part of the reason to be empathetic. There’s so much writing about conspiracy theories and subcultures that is really snarky, and I just think there’s been enough of that. I don’t think I need to add anything to that genre. Some of it too is that I write about this a lot. I think people who get involved in conspiracy theories are often doing it in response to social and economic inequalities…”
Smart People Change Their Minds (A Lot). So says the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CNBC.com: “...Bezos went on to explain that the smartest people he’s observed were always “revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking,” Fried recalls. In short, smart people (a.k.a. those who are “right a lot”), change their minds — a lot. When asked what trait signified someone who was “wrong a lot” of the time, Fried says Bezos’ answer was “the tendency to be obsessed with details that only support one point of view. If someone can’t climb out of the details, and see the bigger picture from multiple angles, they’re often wrong most of the time...”
Censorship Can’t Be the Only Answer to Disinformation Online. Electronic Frontier Foundation has a timely post: “With measles cases on the rise for the first time in decades and anti-vaccine (or “anti-vax”) memes spreading like wildfire on social media, a number of companies—including Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and GoFundMe—recently banned anti-vax posts. But censorship cannot be the only answer to disinformation online. The anti-vax trend is a bigger problem than censorship can solve. And when tech companies ban an entire category of content like this, they have a history of overcorrecting and censoring accurate, useful speech—or, even worse, reinforcing misinformation with their policies. That’s why platforms that adopt categorical bans must follow the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation to ensure that users are notified when and about why their content has been removed, and that they have the opportunity to appeal…”
The Ultimate American Road Trip: Man Completes 3-Year Quest to Visit All 419 National Park Service Sites. The Washington Post has the story: “Mikah Meyer has spent the past three years hiking, rafting, flying in planes, riding on trains, sailing on boats and mostly driving, driving, driving across every corner of America. He has followed the trail of U.S. history from the Revolution to the civil rights movement, from battlefields to presidents’ homes, from forests to canyons, from shore to shore. As of Monday, Meyer has been to all 419 National Park Service sites — becoming, he believes, the first person to ever complete such a feat in one continuous road trip. Meyer’s three-year trip ended Monday morning with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, his final site. He climbed the steps surrounded by not only friends and family but also by perfect strangers — people who followed Meyer’s epic road trip on Instagram and Facebook and became such fans that they had to come in person to see him finish his journey...”
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A storm chaser in Oklahoma captured incredible footage of a tornado with his drone today, giving a unique perspective on the incredible meteorological phenomenon. Brandon Clement was chasing in Sulphur, Oklahoma earlier today, when he launched his drone to follow the tornado, capturing stunning footage of it as it moved across the landscape and following it all the way until it dissipated. I’m particularly impressed by Clement’s combination of meteorological and flying skills, as the airflow around a violent storm is both very complex and very strong and could easily overwhelm a small drone if the pilot were to stray into the wrong area...”
59 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
67 F. average high on May 6.
77 F. maximum Twin Cities temperature on May 6, 2018.
May 7, 1916: Strong winds sweep across the state and cause dust storms over southern Minnesota. Great damage is done to standing timber in Northern Minnesota. Many fires develop, one of which would destroy 30,000,000 feet of lumber.
TUESDAY: Fading sun. Rain arrives Tuesday night. Winds: NE 7-12. High: 61
WEDNESDAY: Cold rain, heavy at times. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 43. High: 47
THURSDAY: Showers taper, slow PM clearing. Winds: N 15-25. Wake-up: 39. High: 54
FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 41. High: 62
SATURDAY: Unsettled, few showers around. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 47. High: 58
SUNDAY: Patchy clouds, few PM showers. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: 57
MONDAY: Some sun, drying out. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 45. High: 67
Only Markets Can Make the Green New Deal Real. How do we turn up the volume of the low-carbon signal already in the markets and move faster? An Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal over the weekend caught my eye: “The architects of the Green New Deal want to tackle climate change with a World War II-scale mobilization designed to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in as little as a decade. And they think that the federal government, not markets, should determine how. On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled a $5 trillion, 10-year plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through government dictates such as stiffer fuel-efficiency standards. This urge to stop at nothing to find an effective solution is understandable. How can you put a price tag on the future of the planet? But we can, and we must. Weaning the global economy off fossil fuels is such a monumental undertaking that societies won’t even try it unless the price is bearable…”
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The team of social scientists and ecologists from North Carolina State University who authored the report found that children can increase their parents’ level of concern about climate change because, unlike adults, their views on the issue do not generally reflect any entrenched political ideology. Parents also really do care what their children think, even on socially charged issues like climate change or sexual orientation. Postulating that pupils might be ideal influencers, the researchers decided to test how 10-to-14–year-olds’ exposure to climate change coursework might affect, not only the youngsters’ views, but those of their parents. The proposed pass-through effect turned out to be true: teaching a child about the warming climate often raised concerns among parents about the issue...”
Stalled Waves in the Jet Stream Blamed for Last Year’s Extreme Weather Events. Here’s a snippet from an explainer at New Atlas: “…Our study shows that the specific locations and timing of the 2018 summer extremes weren’t random but directly connected to the emergence of a re-occurring pattern in the jet stream that stretches around the entire Northern Hemisphere,” says Kai Kornhuber, lead author of the study. Worryingly, the team says we haven’t seen the last of these extreme events. The stalling wave patterns seem to be getting worse and more common in recent years, and that trend is projected to continue as the climate changes. “[The pattern’s] frequency and duration have in fact increased over the last two decades,” says Dim Coumou, co-author of the study. “In the two decades before 1999, there were no summers that saw a stalling wave pattern lasting for two weeks or more, but since then we have seen already seven such summers…”
File image: NASA.
World’s Largest Ice Shelf “Melting 10 Times Faster Than Previously Thought”. Here’s an excerpt from Sky News: “Scientists claim part of the world’s largest ice shelf, the size of France, is melting 10 times faster than expected because of the sea warming around it. Research suggests the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating slab of Antarctic ice, which is several hundred metres thick, is more vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. Loss of ice shelves removes a barrier to glaciers transporting water to the ocean, allowing sea levels to rise. A four-year study by a team at Cambridge University investigated how the northwest portion of the ice interacted with the ocean beneath it…”
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Extinction Rebellion that paralyzed parts of London, the UK became the first country to declare a “climate emergency.” The declaration, the result of a motion called by the opposition Labour party, was followed by the release of a report from an advisory committee to the UK government that urged it to set a target of getting to “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The committee had refrained, as recently as 2016, from urging the UK to set such a target…”Following the days-long protests by environmental group
Some Are Already Leading a Low-Carbon Life. The Guardian explains: “Some want a clear conscience. Others want to see if they are up to the challenge. But none of them want to wait until 2050 to cut their carbon emissions down to near-zero. Across the country, environmentalists of all ages – from seven to 75 – are taking action now to lead low-carbon lives. Last week, the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, recommended that the UK set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The committee’s report acknowledged that cutting emissions to zero would be challenging and spell the end of petrol and diesel cars, as well as gas boilers. To achieve this target, people will have to fly less, waste less and eat less meat…”
Photo credit: “Harriet Martin with her husband Chris in their garden. Behind them is the pergola fitted with solar panels.” Photograph: Stewart Writtle
In a Switch, Some Republicans Start Citing Climate Change as Driving Their Policies. The New York Times reports: “When John Barrasso, a Republican from oil and uranium-rich Wyoming who has spent years blocking climate change legislation introduced a bill this year to promote nuclear energy, he added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming. Mr. Barrasso’s remarks — “If we are serious about climate change, we must be serious about expanding our use of nuclear energy” — were hardly a clarion call to action. Still they were highly unusual for the lawmaker who, despite decades of support for nuclear power and other policies that would reduce planet-warming emissions, has until recently avoided talking about them in the context of climate change. The comments represent an important shift among Republicans in Congress…”
Photo credit: “John Barrasso, a Republican Senator from uranium-rich Wyoming, with President Trump in 2017. Mr. Barrasso has introduced a bill to promote nuclear power that he frames as a climate solution.” Credit: Alex Brandon/Associated Press.
Charge a Carbon Fee. Let the Market Fix Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Houston Chronicle: “HR 763 is expected to reduce U.S. emissions at least 40 percent over 12 years and 90 percent by 2050. It improves health by reducing pollution and improves average Americans’ financial security by putting money directly into their pockets. But it is also revenue-neutral, because it will not increase the size of the government. The act would create 2.1 million jobs in 10 years and has both Republican and Democrat co-sponsors. In fact, it enjoys a broad range of supporters , from most oil super majors , to conservative leaders such as James A. Baker III and Rex Tillerson, to a range of environmental groups and progressive thought leaders. Thousands of economists across the political spectrum recently affirmed their support in the Wall Street Journal , and a similar program is being enacted in Canada...”
Why Your Brain Doesn’t Register the Words “Climate Change”. Grist explains: “...Climate crisis,” on the other hand, was the Goldilocks of the study — not too weak, not too strong. Among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, it caused a strong emotional reaction without going overboard. That kind of response leads people to pay more attention and encourages a sense of urgency, Gerrol said. And that urgency is key. Much like retirement planning, another messaging problem SPARK Neuro is tackling, climate change requires planning for the future — not exactly a strength for the human brain. Present bias (valuing today more than tomorrow) is just one of many cognitive biases that inhibit us from taking climate change head-on…”