The Oldspeak Journal A Global War On Nature & The Politics Of Extinction- An Introduction To The Most Beautiful Animal You’ll Never See

The saola, one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on the planet. In 2010, villagers in Bolikhamxay captured a saola, but the animal subsequently died.

Oldspeak: “Where is the madness which you should be cleansed?  Behold I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that madness!… When Zarathustra had spoken these words he again looked at the people and was silent.  There they stand (said he to his heart), there they laugh: they understand me not; I am not the mouth for these ears.  Must one first batter their ears that they may learn to hear with their eyes?  must one rumble like drums and Lenten preachers?  Or do they only believe those who stammer?  They have something of which they are proud.  What do they call it that which makes them proud?  Culture they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.  They therefore dislike having the word ‘contempt’ said of them.  So I will appeal to their pride.  I will speak to them of the most contemptible man: and that is the Ultimate Man!”  And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people: It is time for man to fix his goal.  It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope.  His soil is still rich enough for it.  But this soil will one day be poor and exhausted; no lofty tree will be able to grow from it.  Alas!  The time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond mankind— and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to twang!  I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star.  I tell you: you have still chaos in you.  Alas!  The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars.  Alas!  The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.  Behold!  I show you The Ultimate Man.  “What is love?  What is creation?  What is longing?  What is a star?”  – asks the Ultimate Man and blinks.  The earth has then become small and on it there hops the Ultimate Man who makes everything small.  His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the Ultimate Man lives longest.  “We have discovered happiness”— say the Ultimate Men and blink.  They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth.  One still loves one’s neighbour and rubs again him; for one needs warmth.  Sickness and mistrust they consider sinful: they walk warily.  He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or over men!  A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams.  And a lot of poison at the end for a pleasant death.  One still works for work is a pastime.  But they take care that this pastime does not weary them.  No-one becomes poor or rich anymore; both are too wearying.  Who still wants to rule?  Who still wants to obey?  Both are too much of a burden.  No herdsman and one herd!  Everyone wants the same, everyone is the same: whoever thinks otherwise goes voluntarily into the madhouse.  “Before, the whole world was mad”— say the cleverest amongst them and blink.  They are clever and know all that has ever happened: so there is no end to their mockery.  People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled— otherwise indigestion would result.  They have their little pleasures for the day and their little pleasures for the night: but they respect health.  “We have discovered happiness “— say the Ultimate Men and blink.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

“Behold! The Madness Of Men… I have no words, but much Grief. *Blink* ” -OSJ

By Tom Engelhardt &William deBuys @ Tomsdispatch:

In her bestselling book The Sixth Extinction, the New Yorker‘s superb environmental journalist, Elizabeth Kolbert, reports on an event, already unfolding in the present moment, the likes of which may only have been experienced five other times in the distant history of life on this planet. As she writes, “It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion. The losses are occurring all over: in the South Pacific and in the North Atlantic, in the Arctic and the Sahel, in lakes and on islands, on mountaintops and in valleys. If you know how to look, you can probably find signs of the current extinction event in your own backyard.”

Scientists believe that this round of mass extinction is accelerating, and one way or another, it all traces back to us, whether thanks to the way we are changing the planet’s atmosphere or to what Kolbert terms a human-induced, often disastrous “intercontinental reshuffling of species.” But of all the ways in which that mass extinction is being pushed forward, none is more straightforwardly obvious than the quite literal slaughter that constitutes the illegal animal trade.  In recent years, environmentalist and TomDispatch regular William deBuys set out to see the results of that aspect of mass extinction for himself, and what a grisly spectacle it proved to be.  In the process, he penetrated deep into the jungles of Laos in search of a deer-like creature you’ve undoubtedly never heard of that may — or may not — still exist.

It was an adventure of the first order, which deBuys depicts in his remarkable new book, The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures. He captures both the grimness of what’s happening to animals of every sort in the distant forests of a land we’ve paid no attention to since the Vietnam War ended and the glorious beauty of the species we humans are indeed destroying. The result is both a personal adventure story and a missive from a planet undergoing a rare form of destruction. Today at this site, he offers us all a look at one of what could be the final “achievements” of humankind: the ability to devastate this planet in a way no other creature would be capable of.

Kolbert ends her book on a question that any mass extinction on planet Earth would naturally have to bring up sooner or later: What about us?  In extinction terms, could we potentially be just another form of rhinoceros? Are we, in fact, capable not just of creating civilizations but engaging in a kind of species suicide? This is, of course, a question that can’t be answered, but she adds, “The anthropologist Richard Leakey has warned that ‘Homo Sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims.’ A sign in the Hall of Biodiversity [at the American Museum of Natural History in New York] offers a quote from the Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: ‘In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.’” Take a moment, then, with deBuys to experience what that sawing-off process is like, up close and personal. –Tom

The Politics of Extinction
An Introduction to the Most Beautiful Animal You’ll Never See
By William deBuys

Maybe baby steps will help, but the world needs a lot more than either the United States or China is offering to combat the illegal traffic in wildlife, a nearly $20-billion-a-year business that adds up to a global war against nature. As the headlines tell us, the trade has pushed various rhinoceros species to the point of extinction and motivated poachers to kill more than 100,000 elephants since 2010.

Last month China announced that it would ban ivory imports for a year, while it “evaluates” the effectiveness of the ban in reducing internal demand for ivory carvings on the current slaughter of approximately 100 African elephants per day. The promise, however, rings hollow following a report in November (hotly denied by China) that Chinese diplomats used President Xi Jinping’s presidential plane to smuggle thousands of pounds of poached elephant tusks out of Tanzania.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has launched its own well-meaning but distinctly inadequate initiative to curb the trade. Even if you missed the roll-out of that policy, you probably know that current trends are leading us toward a planetary animal dystopia, a most un-Disneyesque world in which the great forests and savannas of the planet will bid farewell to the species earlier generations referred to as their “royalty.” No more King of the Jungle, while Dorothy’s “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” will truly be over the rainbow. And that’s just for starters.

The even grimmer news that rarely makes the headlines is that the lesser subjects of that old royalty are vanishing, too. Though largely unacknowledged, the current war is far redder in tooth and claw than anything nature has to offer. It threatens not just charismatic species like elephants, gibbons, and rhinos, but countless others with permanent oblivion.

If current trends hold, one day not so very long from now our children may think of the T. rex and the tiger as co-occupants of a single Lost World, accessible only in dreams, storybooks, and the movies. Sure, some of the planet’s present megafauna will be bred in zoos for as long as society produces enough luxury to maintain such institutions. Even the best zoo, however, is but a faint simulacrum of wild habitat and its captives are ghosts of their free-roaming forebears.

That’s why the Obama administration deserves some credit for highlighting the urgent need to curb the wildlife trade. Its plan calls for using assets of the National Intelligence Council to advance enforcement efforts. Unfortunately, the administration proposes boosting the enforcement budget of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with primary responsibility in this area, by only $8 million. Such an increase would lift its force of inspectors just slightly above the levels of 30 years ago when the illicit trade in wildlife was far smaller.

To grasp the breadth of the carnage now going on, it’s essential to realize that the war against nature is being waged on an almost infinite number of planetary fronts, affecting hundreds of species, and that the toll is already devastating. Among the battlefields, none may be bloodier than the forests of Southeast Asia, for they lie closest to China, the world’s most ravenous (and lucrative) market for wildlife and wildlife parts.

China’s taste for wildlife penetrates even the least visited corners of the region, where professional poachers industriously gather live porcupines and turtles, all manner of venison, monkey hands, python fat, pangolin scales, otter skins, gall bladders, antlers, horns, bones, and hundreds of other items. These goods, dead or alive, are smuggled to markets in China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, an expanding economy enables ever more millions of people to purchase expensive animal commodities they believe might stave off disease or provide the fancy restaurant meals that will impress in-laws and business associates.

To put the present war in perspective, think of it this way: every year, more and more money chases fewer and fewer creatures.

Slaughter at the Ground Level

In a typical forest in Southeast Asia you might encounter a snare line stretching a kilometer or more along a mountain ridge or running down one side of a canyon and all the way up the other. These barriers are waist-high walls of chopped brush, with gaps every few meters. They are hedges of death.

Almost any mammal traveling in this landscape, if larger than a tree shrew (which would fit in a modest handbag), sooner or later will have to pass through one of these gaps, and in each a snare awaits. Powered by a bent-over sapling, it lies beneath a camouflage of leaves and hides a loop of bicycle brake cable — or truck winch cable for larger animals like tigers. The trigger controlling each snare is made of small sticks and can be astonishingly sensitive. I’ve seen snares set for deer and wild pig that were no less capable of capturing creatures as light of foot as a jungle fowl, the wild cousin of the domestic chicken, or a silver pheasant, the males of which shimmer in the dusky forest like bundles of fallen moonbeams.

On an expedition to central Laos, my companions and I made our way into a forest distinguished mainly by its remoteness. The Vietnamese border lay perhaps a dozen kilometers to the east, closer by far than the nearest village, four days’ hard march away, where we’d recruited the guides and porters traveling with us. That village, in turn, lay two days by foot and motorized pirogue from the end of the nearest road. The head of our expedition, conservation biologist William Robichaud, the only other westerner in our group of 14, told me that, unless a distressed American pilot had parachuted into the sprawling watershed that lay before us during the Vietnam War, ours were the first blue eyes that had glimpsed it.

Isolation, however, failed to protect the canyons and ridges we surveyed. Evidence lay everywhere of commercial poachers who had crossed the mountains from Vietnam to feed the Chinese market. In a matter of days, we collected wires from almost a thousand snares. In them, we found the decaying carcasses of ferret badgers, hog badgers, mongooses, various species of birds, and several critically endangered large-antlered muntjacs, a species of barking deer, one of which, in its struggle to free itself, had pulled off its own foot before dying nearby.

We camped by fish-rich rivers that had been stripped of their otters and saw the remains of dozens of poachers’ camps, some elaborately equipped with butchering tables and smoking racks. Saddest of all was the sight of a red-shanked douc (also called a douc langur), perhaps the most beautiful monkey in the world, dangling upside down at the end of a snare pole, having succumbed to as slow and cruel a death as might be imagined.

The indiscriminant wastefulness of this massive trapping enterprise is hard to absorb even when you see it yourself. Poachers check their snare lines haphazardly and leave them armed when they depart the area. This means the killing goes on indefinitely, no matter if the bodies languish and rot.

A Unicorn Still in the Wild?

Though we were in that forest in part to remove snares and assess the nature of the ongoing damage, our main goal was to find a unicorn — or actually an animal almost as rare, a creature that might indeed have already moved, or might soon move, from Earth’s natural realms to the realm of mythology. We were searching for any sign of saola(Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), one of the rarest large mammals on the planet. Its very existence, though known to locals, was revealed to science only in 1992, when researchers spotted a strange set of horns on the wall of a hunter’s shack high in the mountains of Vietnam.

Saola proved to be much more than a new species. It represented a new genus, possibly even a new taxonomic tribe, although the jury is still out on that. A kind of bovid, a ruminant with cloven hooves, its nearest evolutionary relatives appear to be wild cattle, yet it looks nothing like a cow or bison. A saola stands a little higher than a carousel pony. Deer-like, but thicker in form, its powerful build helps it push through the densest vegetation. Its muzzle is splashed with camo patterns of white, and its tri-colored tail — white, chocolate brown, and black — blends with similar bands of color on its rump. Its long, nearly straight horns are elegantly tapered, and in profile they seem to blend into a single horn, giving the creature the otherworldly look of a unicorn.

At best, the existing population of saola numbers between a few dozen and a few hundred, making it nearly as rare and hard to find as a unicorn. Even stranger, its disposition, except when the animal is directly threatened, appears to be as gentle as that of the unicorns of medieval European lore.

In 1996, Robichaud spent two weeks in a rough crossroads town in central Laos observing a captive saola. The unfortunate creature did not survive long in the menagerie in which it was held — no saola has lasted more than a few months in confinement and none is held anywhere today — but he had ample opportunity to note that it reacted alertly, even violently, to the presence of a dog outside its enclosure. (Wild dogs, or dholes, are among its natural enemies.)

Eerily, however, the saola was calm in the presence of humans — far more so than the barking deer or the serow (a species of mountain goat) in nearby cages, even though they had been in the menagerie far longer. Captured in the wild just before Robichaud arrived, the saola proved calmer than any domestic goat, sheep, or cow he had known from farms in his native Wisconsin. The captive saola even let him pick ticks from its ears. Local information buttressed Robichaud’s sense of the creature’s almost unearthly serenity. A Buddhist monk from a nearby temple told him that people in the area had dubbed the creature “sat souphap,” which translates roughly as “the polite animal.”

Today, no one knows if the clock of extinction for the species stands at two minutes before midnight or two minutes after. The greatest threat to its survival is the kind of snaring we witnessed on our expedition, which is doubly tragic, for saola do not appear to be a target of the poachers. In spite of its exotic horns, the animal is unknown in traditional Chinese medicine. (Its omission from that medical tradition’s encyclopedic command of Asian fauna and flora testifies to its profound isolation from the rest of the world.) Rather, the last living remnants of the species risk being taken as by-catch, like sea turtles in a shrimper’s net.

The Politics of Extinction

The situation may be terrible, but at least there are parks and protected areas in Southeast Asia where wild creatures are safe, right?

Alas, wrong. Our travels took place in an official National Protected Area in Laos where snaring of the kind we witnessed is blatantly illegal. Yet the deadly harvest continues, there and elsewhere, thanks to insufficient investment in protection and law enforcement, not to mention insufficient political will in countries whose overriding priority is economic development. Last year in the protected area of more than 4,000 square kilometers (1,544 square miles) that we visited, a small number of government patrols removed nearly 14,000 snares, undoubtedly a small fraction of what’s there.

The same is true elsewhere. According to the Saola Working Group, a committee sponsored by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, patrols that its members help to fund and supervise in just five protected areas in Laos and Vietnam (including the one in which we traveled) have destroyed more than 90,000 snares since 2011. And yet that, too, is just a drop in the bucket of the wildlife trade.While the trade’s reach is global, the stakes may be highest in Southeast Asia (including Indonesia and the Philippines). About half the world’s people live there or in the adjacent countries of China, Bangladesh, and India. The region leads the world in the proportion of its birds and mammals that are endemic; that is, found nowhere else. Unfortunately, it also leads in the proportion in imminent danger of extinction, due in large measure to the wildlife trade. Worse yet, no country in Southeast Asia possesses a tradition of effective biological conservation.

Already many forests that once were rich in tigers, leopards, gaur, banteng, and gibbons are devoid of any mammals larger than a cocker spaniel. If the rest of the world truly wants to protect the planet’s endangered biodiversity, assisting the governments and NGOs of Southeast Asia in safeguarding their region’s natural heritage needs to be a global priority.

Critics often point out that the West is hypocritical in urging the East to do what it failed to accomplish in its own grim history of development. Indeed, the present sacking of Asian forests is analogous to the stripping of beaver from western American streams and the subsequent extirpation of bison herds in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, if the West has learned one thing, it’s that conservation in advance of calamity costs much less than repairs after the fact and that it is the only way to prevent irreparable mistakes. No matter what moral ground you stand on, the facts in the field are simple: our best chance to avert catastrophe lies before us, right now.

Other critics complacently observe that extinction has always been part of evolution and that other epochs have seen similar waves of species loss. New species, they say, will emerge to take the places of those we destroy. Such a view may be technically correct, but it commits an error of scale.

Evolution will continue; it cannot not continue. But the inexorable emergence of what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” proceeds at a nearly geological pace. By comparison, our human tenancy of Earth is a fleeting breath. Within the time frame of what we call civilization, the extinctions we cause are as eternal as any human accomplishment.

A Loneliness That Could Stretch to Infinity

The essential conservation task before the world is to protect key habitats and wildlife populations long enough for generational attitudes to change in China and its neighbors. At least in part, this means meeting the war on nature with a martial response. Whether protecting elephants in Kenya, mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a cause movingly depicted in the documentary film Virunga), tigers in Thailand, or saola in Laos, one has to prepare, quite literally, to meet fire with fire.

In the case of our expedition in Laos, three of our guides doubled as militia and carried AK-47s. The weapons were not for show. Poachers are generally similarly armed. On one occasion, such a band, traveling in the dead of night, nearly walked into our camp, only to melt back into the forest when they realized they’d been discovered.

Good news, however, glimmers amid the bad. Although the shift will take time, cultural values in Asia are beginning to change. Witness the recent abandonment of shark fin soup by Chinese consumers. The San Francisco-based NGO WildAid reports that sales of shark fins have plummeted 82% in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), the hub of the shark trade, and that two-thirds of the respondents to a recent poll cited public “awareness campaigns” against the global destruction of shark populations as a reason for ending their consumption.

Only by rising to the challenge of species protection — not “eventually,” but now — can we ensure that nature’s most magnificent creations will persist in the wild to delight future generations. Only through generous cooperation with Asian partners, boosting both law enforcement and political resolve, can we preserve the stunning, often cacophonous, and always mysterious diversity of a large share of the planet’s most biologically productive ecosystems.

The dystopian alternative is terrible to consider. Uncounted species — not just tigers, gibbons, rhinos, and saola, but vast numbers of smaller mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles — are being pressed to the brink. We’ve hardly met them and yet, within the vastness of the universe, they and the rest of Earth’s biota are our only known companions. Without them, our loneliness would stretch to infinity.

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William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of eight books. His latest, just published, is The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). His website is williamdebuys.com.

via The Oldspeak Journal http://ift.tt/1NEZY8D

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The Oldspeak Journal Climate Change Driving Decline In Arctic Sea Ice Coverage; Results In Record Low Extent For Winter. Ice Retreat Proceeding Faster Than Models Expect

Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014. Alaska lies to the east in this image, and Russia to the west. The Bering Strait, covered with ice, lies between to two. South of the Bering Strait, the waters are known as the Bering Sea. To the north lies the Chukchi Sea. Melting sea ice off western Alaska, on February 4, 2014

Melting sea ice off western Alaska. Photograph: MODIS/Aqua/NASA

Oldspeak: This seems to be a recurring theme in the scientific analysis of this ever-accelerating extinction event. The rate of change is underestimated by climate models. Probably due to the fact that the models don’t include all the factors that are contributing to the changes. In all probability, there are factors we have no idea about that are yielding impacts that are unknown to us. Considering this in the context that “We are experiencing change 200 to 300 times faster than any of the previous major extinction events.“, makes this reality all the more dire, uncertain and unpredictable. In my view, the Achilles Heel in our scientific analysis of this event is attempting to study everything separately. Failing to account for the interconnectedness of All. Using the same science and technology that created the problem in an attempt to understand it. An exercise in futility, when it all comes down to it.” -OSJ

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

The peak occurred on 25 February, which the NSIDC’s senior research scientist Ted Scambos said was “very early but not unprecedented”.

Climate change is driving declining ice coverage in the Arctic, with a recent study finding it has also become significantly thinner, down 65% since 1975.

Scambos said northern oceans have progressively warmed because of climate change. This winter, the warmer seas combined with mild weather to create exceptionally poor conditions for the annual freeze.

“[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate,” said Scambos. “In general, sea ice retreat has proceeded faster than modelling expects in the Arctic, although models are catching up.”

Bob Ward, at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said: “This is further evidence that global warming and its impacts have not stopped despite the inaccurate and misleading claims of climate change ‘sceptics’.

“Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the amount of misinformation from climate change ‘sceptics’ in the UK and elsewhere which is intended to mislead the public and policy-makers into believing that the effects of global warming on the polar regions are absent or negligible.”

The most pronounced deviation from the 1981-2010 average cover was in the Bering and Okhotsk seas in the northern Pacific. There, the ice edge was 100-200km further north than in a normal year.

After March the summer thaw will begin, with the ice retreating towards its summer minimum, which usually occurs in September. The summer ice cover in the Arctic is also on a long-term decline, although Scambos says a low winter maximum does not necessarily indicate a low minimum is on the way.

The loss of ice from the Arctic has raised questions over when the region will experience its first ice-free summer. Scambos said he expects the summer minimum to dip below 1m sq km (386,100 sq miles) within the next 15 years. At this stage, he said, the Arctic will be profoundly changed.

“A less than 1m sq km summer would mean that the north pole would be open water, that a broad seaway would exist north of Siberia and that major ecosystems and fauna would be severely impacted. My own guess is that we will reach this level around 2030.”

The absence of sea ice and abnormally mild weather affects communities and wildlife in the Arctic circle, which are adapted to extreme conditions.

In Svalbard, Kim Holmén, the international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, said the fjords there remained unfrozen and instead of the normal snowfall the island experienced rain which froze when it hit the ground.

“Much of Svalbard is covered with ice on land, which is a fatal state for the reindeer. When the landscape is covered by ice they can’t move around and they can’t eat.”

Too much ice on the land and none in the sea has also made life difficult for the 2,600 people who live on Svalbard.

“This iced landscape is miserable to travel across on your snowmobile and your skis,” said Holmén. “We can’t ride our snowmobiles across the fjord so there are places where people want to go that they can’t go. We have had tragic events with avalanches. Living in Svalbard we’ve always had avalanches but we’ve had one casualty this winter. Some of the risks are changing because we have more icing events.”

He said this type of weather is expected to become normal under a changing climate.

“This winter is an example of what we believe will become more common and has profound influence on the reindeer and the ptarmigan [a species of bird] and other creatures that roam the land,” he said.

This week, on the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean, Alaska’s Iditarod sled race was forced to shift its start 362km (225 miles) further north due to a lack of snow. This has only happened once before in the race’s 43-year history, in 2003.

Meanwhile, the NSIDC said ice floes surrounding Antarctica reached a relatively high summer minimum on 20 February. The extent of ice was 1.38m sq km, the fourth largest on record. Antarctic sea ice has confounded some scientific modelling by growing in recent years. There are several theories why the extent of the ice is growing despite a general warming trend across the southern continent.

“This is a matter of considerable debate,” said Scambos. “The important thing to say is that the Antarctic is most definitely seeing the effects of warming and circulation changes – it is participating in ‘global warming’ in its own way. There are several effects in play. Primarily it seems that increased strength in low-pressure areas near the Ross and Weddell seas are pushing ice outward from the continent.”

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The Oldspeak Journal 63.5°F In Antarctica: Warmest Temperature Ever Recorded; 14 Years Of Rain In 1 Day In Chile

Argentina’s Esperanza Base on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula: the hottest place in Antarctica. Image credit: Wikipedia.

Oldspeak: “How bout that. 63 degrees at the south fucking pole 45 degrees in New York on March 24th, 2015. And a desert in Chile got a 14 years worth of rain in 24 hours. Whew. With each passing day, bizzaro world continues to manifest in all its life extinguishing splendor, with heat records being set world-wide… The canaries in the coal mine that are the Arctic and Antarctic are disintergrating faster and faster, yet ignored by all but a few. At some point, ignoring will be impossible. Interesting times we live in eh? Only Love remains.” -OSJ

By Jeff Masters & Bob Henson @ Weather Underground:

The warmest temperature ever recorded on the continent of Antarctica may have occurred on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, when the mercury shot up to 63.5°F (17.5°C) at Argentina’s Esperanza Base on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. According to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, the previous hottest temperature recorded in Antarctica was 63.3°F (17.4°C) set just one day previously at Argentina’s Marambio Base, on a small islet just off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Prior to this week’s remarkable heat wave, the hottest known temperature in Antarctica was the 62.8°F (17.1°C) recorded at Esperanza Base on April 24, 1961. (The World Meteorological Organization—WMO—has not yet certified that this week’s temperatures are all-time weather records for Antarctica, though the Argentinian weather service has verified that the temperatures measured at Esperanza Base and Marambio Base were the highest ever measured at each site.) A new all-time temperature record for an entire continent is a rare event, and Weather Underground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has full details in his latest post.

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming spots on Earth. A 2012 Climate Central post by Michael Lemonick documented how while the Earth as a whole warmed up by 1.3°F between 1900 and 2011, the Antarctic Peninsula warmed by 5°, forcing massive ice shelves to disintegrate and penguin colonies to collapse. A 2012 paper in Nature found that the recent warming is faster than 99.7% of any other given 100-year period in the last 2000 years.

New all-time national and territorial heat records set or tied in 2015
So far in 2015, five nations or territories have tied or set all-time records for their hottest temperature in recorded history. For comparison, only two nations or territories did so in 2014, and nine did in 2013. The most all-time national heat records in a year was nineteen in 2010 (21 records at the time, but two have been broken since.) Since 2010, 46 nations or territories (out of a total of 235) have set or tied all-time heat records, and four have set all-time cold temperature records. Since each of those years ranked as one of the top twelve warmest years in Earth’s recorded history, this sort of disparity in national heat and cold records is to be expected. Most nations do not maintain official databases of extreme temperature records, so the national temperature records reported here are in many cases not official. I use as my source for international weather records Maximiliano Herrera, one of the world’s top climatologists, who maintains a comprehensive list of extreme temperature records for every nation in the world on his website. If you reproduce this list of extremes, please cite Maximiliano Herrera as the primary source of the weather records. Wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt maintains a database of these national heat and cold records for 235 nations and territories on wunderground.com’s extremes page. Here are the national heat and cold records set so far in 2015:

Antarctica set a new territorial heat record of 17.5°C (63.5°F) at Esperanza Base on March 24. Previous record: 17.4°C (63.3°F) at Marambio Base, set the previous day.
Equatorial Guinea set a new national heat record of 35.5°C (95.9°F) at Bata on March 17. Previous record:  35.3°C (95.5°F) at Malabo in February 1957.
Ghana tied the national record of highest temperature with 43.0°C (109.4°F)  at Navrongo on February 12.
Wallis and Futuna Territory (France) set a new territorial heat record with 35.5°C (95.9°F) on January 19 at Futuna Airport.
Samoa tied its national heat record with 36.5°C (97.7°F) on January 20 at Asau. Previously record: same location, in December 1977.

Residents watch the rising flood waters of the Copiapo River, in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Unusually heavy thunderstorms and torrential rains that began on Tuesday have caused destructive flooding that has killed seven and left nineteen others missing. (AP Photo/Aton Chile)

Amazing rains in the Chilean desert
Unwelcome rains fell this week in Earth’s driest place–Chile’s Atacama Desert–causing destructive flooding that has left seven people dead and at nineteen others missing. Antofagasta, which averaged just 3.8 mm of precipitation per year between 1970 – 2000, and has a long-term average of 1.7 mm of precipitation per year, received a deluge of 24.4 mm (0.96 inches) during the 24 hour period ending at 8 am EDT March 26. That’s over fourteen years of rain in one day! The rains were due to an unusually strong and persistent “cut-off” low pressure system that was trapped over Chile by the exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure that brought the warmest temperatures on record to Antarctica early in the week. A cold front associated with the cut-off low hit the Andes Mountains, dumping rains over soils with very little vegetation (due to the dry climate.) Unusually warm ocean temperatures approximately 1°C (1.8°F) above average off of the coast meant that high amounts of water vapor were available to fuel the storm and generate exceptionally heavy rains. Heavy precipitation events are common in Chile during El Niño events, like we are experiencing now. El Niño brings warmer than average waters to the Pacific coast of South America where Chile lies.

via The Oldspeak Journal http://ift.tt/1C2BHR9

Owen Jones: Simon Danczuk MP has watched porn – why should we care? | Owen Jones

He’s a flawed human being but so are we all. We shouldn’t expect perfection from our politicians when it’s their judgment that counts

Simon Danczuk has watched porn, as have virtually all men. In one of the most important and closely fought elections in a generation, this apparently qualifies as a news story. Rochdale’s Labour MP has aroused much attention because of his Twitter habits: the deeply controversial backbencher blames a faulty iPhone for his account favouriting hardcore pornography. Accident or not, Danczuk “admits” – as his titillated critics describe it, though they really mean “confesses” as though an ungodly sin has been committed – to having watched porn. “I am a man of the world,” he protests. “I wouldn’t deny that sort of thing. I think we should not be too sanctimonious about this.”

A little disclaimer: Danczuk is not my No 1 fan, having once castigated me for hailing from the “posh part of Stockport”. There is no shortage of reasons for me to criticise Danczuk: our views on social security and immigration differ to say the least; though I note he is currently battling uber-troll K*tie H*pkins for stirring up racial hatred against British Pakistanis.

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Dave Hill | The Guardian: Labour leads in London but could the Tories make gains too?

A new opinion poll suggests Lib Dem woes could provide the Tories with consolation in the capital, but it might not be that simple

The latest bespoke London opinion poll gives Labour a big lead over the Conservatives. The survey by ComRes for ITV News London, which was conducted before the gruesome Battle For Number 10 TV “event”, gives Ed Milband’s party 46% of the capital’s intended vote compared with 32% for David Cameron’s. That’s a vast margin compared with the neck-and-neck national picture and, largely in line with other recent London polling, suggests Labour will gain at least six seats in the capital and maybe as many as nine. They already hold 38 out of 73.

But is it all doom and gloom for metropolitan blues? As ITV’s Simon Harris writes, the hard numbers indicate that they could take three seats from the Liberal Democrats. The poll shows Nick Clegg’s crew scoring just 8%, putting them in an unhappy fourth place behind, of all people in this city, UKIP on 9%. The Greens, having finished third in the 2012 London mayoral contest, will be disappointed to be trailing on only 4%. But it’s the yellows who could be feeling the most depressed come the morning of May 8.

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via Dave Hill | The Guardian http://ift.tt/1xsQmtF