The spreading effects of the partial U.S. government shutdown have reached Earth’s melting poles. IceBridge, a decadelong NASA aerial campaign meant to secure a seamless record of ice loss, has had to sacrifice at least half of what was supposed to be its final spring deployment, its scientists say. The shortened mission threatens a crucial plan to collect overlapping data with a new ice-monitoring satellite called the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)-2.

The nearly monthlong spending impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump, “throws a giant wrench into that long-developed plan,” says John Sonntag, an IceBridge mission scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA, among the many research agencies mostly closed by the shutdown, launched IceBridge in 2009 after the failure of ICESat-1, the agency’s first laser-based ice-monitoring satellite. To fill the gap until ICESat-2 was launched, the agency funded annual aircraft flights over the Arctic and Antarctica. IceBridge scientists sought to match the satellite data by flying similar paths over glaciers and sea ice, using the reflected light of a laser altimeter to measure ice and snow height.

This year’s 8-week Arctic campaign was set to start 4 March from Thule Air Base in Greenland. But the shutdown has delayed maintenance and outfitting of the aircraft NASA uses—a low-flying P-3 Orion—forcing a later start date.

Researchers are crestfallen. The measurements are among IceBridge’s most important because they will be simultaneous with those made by ICESat-2, which launched in September 2018. That will help ensure the satellite’s accuracy and calibrate its results with past records. “We expected to be in an ideal position this spring,” Sonntag says. (He can talk to the media, he noted, because he is a NASA contractor who is still getting paid. Many NASA employees on his team are furloughed.)

IceBridge could still lose more time. The flights must take place before the melt season, and the P-3 is already scheduled to move to the Philippines immediately after its polar flights for a monsoon-monitoring experiment. As a result, the delay “could get worse if the shutdown goes on,” says Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a leader of the IceBridge science team.

One bit of good news is that NASA recently allowed maintenance work to begin on the P-3, which is based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Even if that work is done, the science team does not have permission to enter the facility to mount its instruments, including a laser meant to match ICESat-2’s remarkably precise altimeter. In the meantime, NASA’s closure means work on understanding the new ICESat-2 data has slowed to a crawl, says Ben Smith, a glaciologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “One main thing we’re missing right now is the people at NASA who have the big picture, who get everyone to work together.”

The IceBridge and ICESat-2 data sets will be merged even if the spring campaign is canceled, which would be “inexcusable,” adds Beata Csatho, a remote-sensing glaciologist at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system. But Smith says a cancellation could make it harder to fix any systematic errors that crop up in the satellite data. “If you’re planning for the worst,” he says, “you definitely want to get this set of measurements.”


If you’ve been paying attention to the government shutdown, we’re learning a lot about just how close to the edge a lot of “middle class” Americans are, financially.

It’s hard to get people to think of the next hundred years when they’re just struggling to get thru the next month.

Two long vids from the legendary Aussie debunker.

Financial Times (paywalled):

The tragedy is that while the scientists and technologists have won the argument, the climate sceptics and deniers have effectively won the policy debate: we are doing far too little, far too late. It is now essential to transform the discussion from fear of what the carbon-transition will cost to hope for the opportunities it will bring. What is needed now are people and organisations — above all, politicians — able and willing to persuade humanity that a promised land of sustainable prosperity for all is within our collective reach.

Fox Business:

Former Federal Reserve chairs and nearly 30 Nobel Laureate economists have united in a bipartisan support for a carbon tax as way to address climate change.

Ben Bernanke (R), Alan Greenspan (R), Paul Volcker (D), and Janet Yellen (D), are among the 45 economists who signed a statement published in the Wall Street Journal that calls for “immediate national action” to combat climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »

As evidence, uhm, floods in that Florida real estate is being impacted by sea level rise, even the climate deniers like newly elected Florida Guv Ron DeSantis have to respond.

First Street Foundation:

Scientists from the non-profit First Street Foundation find $7.4 billion has been lost in home value across 5 coastal states from 2005 to 2017 due to sea level rise flooding. These findings have been integrated into Flood iQ, a sea level rise flooding prediction tool from First Street Foundation, so individuals can find property-specific value loss and aggregated total city loss.
Steven A. McAlpine, Head of Data Science at First Street Foundation, and Dr. Jeremy R. Porter, a Columbia University professor and First Street Foundation statistical consultant, recently released an academic publication in the journal Population Research and Policy Review proving $465 million was lost in Miami-Dade County real-estate market value from 2005 to 2016 due to sea level rise flooding.

This peer-reviewed analysis was expanded to cover all of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia by analyzing over 5.5 million real estate transactions in these states and extrapolating the results to 12.2 million properties, to find a total home value loss of $7.4 billion since 2005. Lists of the top 250 most impacted cities and ZIP codes have been released.

Previous academic studies have forecasted the negative impact sea level rise will have on the value of coastal properties in the future but “Estimating Recent Local Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on Current Real-Estate Losses: A Housing Market Case Study in Miami-Dade, Florida” is the first to show that depreciation has already taken place.
By identifying the predictors of home value, such as square footage or proximity to amenities, while controlling for economic trends like the 2008 housing recession, the scientists were able to isolate the impact frequent tidal flooding, caused by sea level rise, has had on home value.
“It is one thing to project what the future impacts of sea level rise could be, but it is quite another to know that the market has already responded negatively to this threat,” said McAlpine.

Miami Herald Editorial Board:

After eight years of Gov. Rick Scott degrading science and dismissing climate change, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will appoint a chief science officer to deal with “current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.”

This welcome turnaround came just two days after DeSantis’ swearing-in, in an executive order that also calls for $2.5 billion in Everglades restoration, creates a task force on blue-green toxic algae and instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee.

In addition to the chief science officer’s remit to “coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis” on Florida’s environment, the order also creates an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency charged with corralling scientific research and data “to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.”

This is whole new tone for a governor’s office that told Floridians, basically, that we couldn’t afford to both create jobs and protect the environment. Scott cut millions of dollars from water management district budgets, which meant shedding scientists, engineers and other experts; slashed more than 200 water-monitoring stations; sharply reduced policing of polluters; rolled back growth-management laws.

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Paul Barach in Medium:

The day I learned that Exxon-Mobile knew about climate change in the 1970swas the first time in decades I’d thought of Captain Planet.

Well, excluding this Robot Chicken sketch. (above)

For those of you not familiar with Ted Turner’s brainchild, Captain Planet was a Saturday morning cartoon about five teenagers of broad ethnicities, one of whom had a spider monkey. They were given power rings by a lady ghost named Gaia the Earth Mother who lived under the ground. These teens were known as the Planeteers, and each had a ring that controlled one elemental force: Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Heart (which is not a traditional element, but he could control elephants and tigers so we didn’t question it.) Every Saturday morning on TBS the Planeteers would use their power rings to try and stop supervillians, one of whom was a mutant pig man named Hoggish Greedly, from destroying the environment for their personal gain.

The high schoolers would inevitably fail, but with their powers combined, they would summon a half-naked blue adult with a mullet to punch the mutant pig man in the face.


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Pew Social Trends:

Gen Zers’ views about climate change are virtually identical to those of Millennials and not markedly different from Gen Xers. About half in all three generations say the earth is getting warmer due to human activity. Boomers are somewhat more skeptical of this than Gen Zers or Millennials. Members of the Silent Generation are least likely to say this (38%) and are more likely to say the earth is warming mainly due to natural patterns (28%) than are Gen Zers, Millennials and Gen Xers.

Among Republicans, Gen Z stands out from older generations as the least likely to say the earth is warming because of natural patterns – 18% say this. By comparison, 30% of Millennial, 36% of Gen X and roughly four-in-ten Boomer (42%) and Silent Generation Republicans (41%) say the same. Almost no generation gap exists among Democrats in views on this issue.


The biggest generational gap is visible in the belief that global warming will pose a serious threat in one’s own lifetime. This clearly reflects the different timeframes involved for each age group; the older one gets, the less time in one’s lifetime for global warming’s effects to be realized.

The second-largest age gap comes with the belief that global warming is caused by human activities.

Younger adults are also significantly more likely to think news reports on global warming underestimate the problem. They are more likely to worry about the problem and to believe there is a scientific consensus that global warming is occurring.

Younger and older Americans come closest in agreement in their views that the effects of global warming have already begun, and in self-reports of understanding global warming.

These figures are based on combined data from Gallup’s annual Environment polls from 2015 to 2018. Read the rest of this entry »


You don’t need education if you’re planning for a nation of serfs.

Andrew Dessler on Twitter:

As the shutdown continues to harm U.S. science in myriad ways, I worry a lot that we’re on the cusp of a long-term decline in U.S. science.

U.S. research universities are the envy of the world. These research universities and the research they generate produce enormous economic benefits for us — see, e.g., Silicon Valley, biomedical research …
Our research universities also attract the smartest students from around the world; they all want to come to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies.
This in turn is one of the things that makes our universities so good — we get the world’s smartest students. I note that there are plenty of smart Americans, but there are not enough who want to get a Ph.D. to do all of the research our universities are doing.

Many of these foreign-born students return home after graduation, which is why if you go to China you’ll find their faculty is full of U.S. Ph.D.s. Because they’ve lived in the U.S. for several years, these faculty spread a positive view of the U.S., which is good for us. But here’s the kicker — we keep the very smartest of them. The most productive, most original, most entrepreneurial, etc. get faculty jobs here in the U.S. or jobs at gov’t labs. See @climateofGavin, @khayhoe and many others for examples.

This is the key advantage U.S. science has over other countries. When I worked at NASA Goddard, I marveled that you could walk down the halls and see people who were born all over the world. We’ve taken the smartest people from around the world and they work for us now!
A lot of what Trump has done is diminishing the U.S. lead in science. This shutdown is harming science in numerous ways, and the immigration policies also make it harder and less attractive for very smart people to come to the U.S. e.g.,

At some point, smart people will say, “I don’t want to go there.” Perhaps that will make some Trump supporters happy, but I can assure you it will degrade our scientific enterprise and we will be worse-off for it.
Many other countries would love to take the mantle of science leader away from the U.S. China, for example, is investing huge amounts of money in research and research infrastructure. If we’re not cognizant of these risks, the U.S. will become a 2nd-rate science power.

Below, Dr. Dessler at his best, explaining satellite temperature data. Read the rest of this entry »