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Date of Issue: January 25, 2007

Sandscript

Beachgoers: Remember 388-5223 for shoreside, real-time news

It’s clean-off-the-desk time again, so this Sandscript will include a bunch of McFactoids.

And, as is often the case, much of the below is about the weather.

 

Wild weather

It snowed in Malibu, Calif., last week. A lot at least, according to news videos, enough to warrant snowplows to scoop up the stuff from the highways of the posh beachside enclave.

It apparently was the first time it’s snowed there in 45 years.

The California cold has pretty much wiped out the citrus crop, from reports, and damaged other truck-farm products. We’ll just have to wait and see how bad it all is when we try to buy fresh produce.

Northern Europe was also hammered last week with freezing rain and hurricane-force winds of 77 mph, including gusts to 118 mph in Germany. The death toll was near 50 as of last weekend, according to wire service reports.

This wicked weather comes on the heels of repeated nightmares around the Rocky Mountains and in the central United States, which had upwards of a half-million people without power due to bad weather.

Meanwhile, we’re basking in unfathomably warm temperatures in Florida. Who would have thought mid-January would feature 80-degree-plus weather, with Gulf water temperatures at 70?

Hey, I’ll take a little fog any time, versus a freeze.

 

Weather needs

A fund-cutting plan offered by the U.S. government has drawn the ire of a committee of more than 50 scientists, who vehemently argue that more, not less, is needed in the form of what is called "Earth-observing missions" or weather satellites.

According to the journal Nature, "The number of earth-observing missions could drop by a third between 2006 and 2010, if funding continues at expected levels. The loss of existing capabilities would leave scientists without data to feed models of climate change perhaps leaving us unprepared to face future climate shifts."

Scientists have recommended that at least 17 new satellites are needed in the next decade, at what is called a "modest" price of $3 billion. Without the data the eyes-in-the-sky provide, climate change information will be set back by decades. In fact, the president of the University Corp. for Atmospheric Research in Colorado has called the lack of information "fatal."

It’s not just new satellites that are needed, but the return of previously planned data collection on ones already within the pipeline that have been cut by budget constraints.

The information being sought runs the gamut from polar ice expansion and contraction to El Nino formation or dissolution.

No word from the feds on whether or not the recommendation will change any current funding program goals.

 

Climate as deadly as nuclear weapons?

You may have caught the snippet in the news last week that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of its Doomsday Clock to five minutes before midnight. Midnight is what has been referred to as the "metaphorical marker of the end of humanity."

The change last week was prompted by not just the October test of nuclear weapons by North Korea it’s usually wars or big bombs that change the clock but also climate change.

The group of Doomsday Clock-smiths, which formed in 1947 as a result of the Manhattan Project, declared that climate change is just as deadly to the planet as a big boom. Again according to the journal Nature, a top scientist said, "When we looked at doomsday, we realized that there were other technologies and trends that we needed to include. After considering several threats, including nanotechnology and bioterrorism, the group decided that the dangers of climate change are almost as dire as those of nuclear weapons."

For a little perspective at just what 11:55 means, the clock was first set at 11:53. It crept to 11:58 in 1953 when both the United States and Russia tested hydrogen bombs. It has been fluctuating back and forth since, with the last setting made in 2002, when it moved forward two minutes post-9/11.

 

Sandscript factoid

Here is a really, really cool phone number to put on your speed dial: a beach conditions hot line.

Sponsored by a slew of state and local governments, as well as Mote Marine Laboratory and Solutions To Avoid Red Tide, the recorded message provides beach conditions twice a day for eight beaches in the Manatee and Sarasota county area. Two are on the Island Coquina and Manatee Public beaches with more sites planned.

Thank our lifeguards and some nifty Blackberry mobile phone devices for providing the reports, which include wind conditions, fish kills, red tide impact and the state of the water.

The number: 941-388-5223.

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