Volcanoes are dope

Kilauea Is Making Its Own Weather, by Brian Kahn

Despite my tendency to geek out over volcanoes—and because it’s thousands of miles away and I’m busy, alright—I haven’t followed the ongoing Kilauea eruption very closely until today. I wish I had, because what Kilauea is doing right now is quite literally lit. Straight fire. (Some of that fire is blue.)

And now—if I may—it’s getting high af.

After blue flamestowering ash clouds, and gurgling fountains of lava, the fourth horseman of the volcanic apocalypse has arrived at Kilauea: Hawaii’s most active volcano has created its own weather system.

I’ll stop there, but check out the article at Earther for more dope volcano things, like 200-foot lava spouts, volcanic glass named after the Hawaiian god Pele, and most badass name for a cloud of all time: pyrocumulus.





Of Course This Hurricane Season Is Starting Off Weird

Of course.

What’s this subtropical storm thing headed towards the gulf coast? by Brian Kahn

Meet Alberto, the first named storm of the not-quite-technically-here 2018 hurricane season. Alberto is a bit of an oddball. If you’re from the east coast, you’re probably familiar with the three main types of bad weather that arrive here between June and October—tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes—and with the more interestingly named nor’easters that hit my home in New England during the colder months. But Alberto is none of these—it’s a subtropical storm. Weird guy, that Alberto.

But what exactly is a subtropical storm? As Brian Kahn explains,

It borrows some of the characteristics of those tropical systems as well as extratropical storms, which are your nor’easters and what Sandy technically was when it made landfall in New York. Those storms tend to have a cold core and a bigger, less symmetrical wind field than hurricanes.

Someone with little meteorological knowledge (like me) admittedly won’t find much of interest in factors like a “cold core” or “symmetrical wind field.” But these distinctions have serious consequences of their own, and there’s one big reason why storm-weary East Coasters shouldn’t be fooled by the somewhat underwhelming “subtropical” category:

“Thanks to the upper winds, the strongest winds in Alberto are not located around the center…rather they are well removed from it,” Dennis Feltgen, a public affairs officer and meteorologist at NHC, told Earther.

Those peripheral winds—already exceeding 40mph—could slam the Caribbean and Gulf Coasts well before Alberto makes its expected landfall on Monday. The National Hurricane Center has already warned of a possible tropical storm surge watch taking effect in Florida by later tonight from this cold-cored subtropical oddball. So while it might not matter if you know the difference between all these scary summer storms or not, it always helps to pay attention. Especially when things get weird.



Time to take a big sip of my iced coffee through a plastic straw and…

New York City to consider banning plastic straws, by Amanda Holpuch and Oliver Milman

New York City council member announced on Wednesday his plan to ban plastic straws from the city of 8.5 million people, amid a growing effort across the globe to cut back on plastics.

I was just feeling really good about walking six blocks to the coffee shop in today’s humid, 89-degree heat, because emissions. I arrived in my horribly sweat-stained t-shirt, sat down with my large iced coffee, opened twitter dot com, and immediately saw this article. This post’s headline is pretty much how it went down. Now my coffee tastes like guilt.

What this, my most recent environmental self-own, illustrates is why we probably can’t save the planet through eco-conscious individual action alone. We need policy. Fortunately, policy to address the global plastic pollution crisis is having a bit of a moment right now. Dozens of countries and a handful of American cities have begun either banning or restricting the use of plastic bags in the last few years, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a bill to ban plastic bags across the state after vetoing a plastic-bag fee just last February.

Now, New York City and other groups are “cracking down on the humble straw”:

Alaska Airlines on Monday said it would phase out plastic stirrers and straws from its in-flight service. In April, the British government announced plans to ban plastic straws, along with stirrers and cotton buds, by next year. And McDonald’s has said its customers in the UK will have to ask for straws if they want them and has announced a trial of paper straws.

In the US, the west coast cities of Seattle – following a campaign dubbed “Strawless in Seattle” – and Malibu, near Los Angeles, have declared war on straws, while statewide bans of the items are being considered in California and Hawaii.

New York City’s bill, introduced by Councilman Rafael Espinal, would fine restaurants between $100 and $400 for continuing to sell plastic straws, barring exemptions for people who need them due to disabilities or medical conditions. Somewhat surprisingly, a Wildlife Conservation Society petition in support of Espinal’s bill was even backed by industry groups for restaurants, hotels, and bodegas. Less surprising was opposition from perhaps the city’s biggest plastic-straw culprit: coffee shops. It’s a tough habit to kick.


Delicious guilt.


I’m So Tired

Yes, EVs Are Green and Global Warming Is Raising Sea Levels, by Dana Nuccitelli

Great news everyone: Fred Singer’s incoherent sea-level rise op-ed from last week has officially entered the Congressional record. On Wednesday, members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee—which, if you love Congressional House politics as much as I do, is easily the funniest legislative body since the Future Planning Committee—gathered to discuss “Using Technology to Address Climate Change.” They did not disappoint.

During testimony from climate scientist Philip Duffy, the committee’s Republican members took the chance to repeat some of their tried-and-true climate lies—Antarctic ice is growing, we’re actually due for an ice age, etc.—but also offered up some new and truly incredible explanations for rising sea levels, citing Singer’s op-ed as proof. Namely: it’s not global warming, it’s rocks.

From Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks:

What about the White Cliffs of Dover … [and] California, where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines, and time and time again you have the cliffs crashing into the sea? All of that displaces water which forces it to rise, does it not?

Actually, Mo, sir, it does not. From David Titley, director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk:


Never Forget that Canada Sucks

Canada Is Ready to Pay Big Oil to Stick with Controversial Pipeline, by Yessenia Funes

Who among us hasn’t flirted with the idea of moving to Canada? Whomst among us, watching the last year of American politics unfold, hasn’t been tempted to defect to the friendly north? I certainly was. Back in 2016, about a month before E-Day, my brother and I took a spontaneous trip up through Ottawa and Montreal over a long weekend, just to check it out. Just to see what all the fuss was about. You know. In case.

It was the kind of trip you look back on and think, wow, I miss that—not the trip, but who you were when you took it. Back then I was a guy who was certain that Donald Trump would never be his president, but that’s not even what I miss the most. What I really miss is being someone who could always, no matter how bad things got here, look dreamily into whatever direction I believed to be north and think, “why don’t I move to Canada?” I can’t anymore, because Canada sucks.

Canada has been aggressively expanding its tar sands industry (you know about those, right?) since well before the Keystone XL battle—some writers have even begun calling it a petro-state—but its most recent tar sands project, a renovation of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, has brought the country’s addiction to oil into pretty sharp focus. From Earther:

They’re gunning so hard for this archaic crude oil project that Finance Minister Bill Morneau promised Wednesday in a press conference the federal government would cover the dollars developer Kinder Morgan has lost during the current construction suspension due to a local province that just won’t let the pipeline in.

Basically, British Columbia, the “local province,” sided with First Nations communities and environmental activists to halt an expansion of the pipeline that would be used to carry a highly toxic form of crude oil, called bitumen, from the tar sands fields (i.e., formerly pristine boreal forests) in Alberta. This delay has cost pipeline giant Kinder Morgan a lot of money, which the federal government wants to repay with taxpayer dollars. Dope, right?

The good news is that Kinder Morgan, fed up with the delays, has announced it will cancel the pipeline expansion if the two sides don’t reach a solution by May 31st. If the provincial government can hold out for another couple of weeks, environmental activists will have scored a huge win. The federal government, meanwhile, will pay the tab for Kinder Morgan “even if the company decides to leave the project behind.” So maybe not all of Canada, in fact, sucks. Maybe it’s just this guy.

The irony of it all is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has championed himself as both a leader in the fight against climate change and a staunch supporter of indigenous rights. Yet he’s ignoring the pleas of First Nations in favor of further fossil fuel development.



Today Was One of Those Days

The Sea is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change, by longtime climate hack Fred Singer

The Wall Street Journal is back on its climate bullshit with a new op-ed by Fred Singer, credentials listed above. While there’s nothing truly special about seeing climate change denial in a major newspaper’s opinion pages, it’s notable here, and hilarious, that Singer apparently believes he’s writing for a peer-reviewed journal:

I chose to assess the sea-level trend from 1915-45, when a genuine, independently confirmed warming of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius occurred. I note particularly that sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review by Andrew S. Trupin and John Wahr. I therefore conclude—contrary to the general wisdom—that the temperature of sea water has no direct effect on sea-level rise.

One needn’t be particularly literate in climate science (ahem) to have some major questions about Singer’s methodology here. For instance: why leave out all the years after 1945? Why is your most recent cited study 28 years old? And, why are you writing this in an op-ed section? The answer—that Singer is cherry-picking data to appease his Exxon overlords—is explained pretty nicely in a rebuttal over at Mother Jones:

Most of us in the lefty pundit biz have long since taken a pledge not to waste time responding to the Journal’s op-ed page. Virtually every piece is a deliberate attempt to misstate the truth in some way, and once you go down the rabbit hole you could dedicate your entire life to nothing else… Still, every once in a while I see something so dumb that I weaken and feel like I have to respond. Today was one of those days.



We Don’t Deserve Humpback Whales

I found this two-year-old post yesterday and it’s been haunting me the way stories of intense, selfless heroism sometimes do, where I ask myself: would I do that? Am I capable of such bravery? How compassionate and selfless am I, really? And, would I be able to organize every other member of my species in a worldwide effort to save helpless sea creatures from ruthless, scary, freakishly intelligent killer whales?

Probably not.

Scientists are beginning to recognize a pattern in humpback whale behavior around the world, a seemingly intentional effort to rescue animals that are being hunted by killer whales.

Humpback whales are, objectively, the best animals ever. They sing, they dance, they probably talk, and they were easily, easily my favorite animals when I was a kid. Back in the day I had a poster of humpbacks next to my bed, a toy chest full of humpbacks in my TV room, and a coloring book full of humpbacks in my little Crayola-filled art studio, where I’d spend days trying to capture the grace and serenity of their big beautiful bumpy faces. I wonder if it’s this idolization of our heroes that keeps us from living up to their example.

The orcas were able to successfully knock the seal off the ice, and just as they were closing in for the kill, a magnificent humpback whale suddenly rose up out of the water beneath the seal… the whale placed it safely on its upturned belly to keep it out of the water. As the seal slipped down the whale’s side, the humpback appeared to use its flippers to carefully help the seal back aboard.

Humpbacks everywhere are doing this. They’ve rescued seals, dolphins, porpoises, whale calves, and more, in at least 115 documented cases between 1951 and 2012. They’ve even saved humans. Those magnificent sons of bitches.

We don’t deserve humpback whales.


I gotchu