And it could get worse if we don’t wise up fast.

MIT News:

A new study by three MIT scholars has found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than real news does — and by a substantial margin.

“We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” says Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings.

“These findings shed new light on fundamental aspects of our online communication ecosystem,” says Deb Roy, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab and director of the Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), who is also a co-author of the study. Roy adds that the researchers were “somewhere between surprised and stunned” at the different trajectories of true and false news on Twitter.

Moreover, the scholars found, the spread of false information is essentially not due to bots that are programmed to disseminate inaccurate stories. Instead, false news speeds faster around Twitter due to people retweeting inaccurate news items.

“When we removed all of the bots in our dataset, [the] differences between the spread of false and true news stood,”says Soroush Vosoughi, a co-author of the new paper and a postdoc at LSM whose PhD research helped give rise to the current study.

The study provides a variety of ways of quantifying this phenomenon: For instance,  false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people. When it comes to Twitter’s “cascades,” or unbroken retweet chains, falsehoods reach a cascade depth of 10 about 20 times faster than facts. And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than true statements at every depth of cascade.

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The number of weather and climate events causing more than $1B each in damages, by year, since 1980. Colored segments of each bar subdivide the total by hazard type. Source:

This season of severe storms is consistent with predictions and observations of the past 3 decades.

Welcome to the rest of our lives.

Deke Arndt of NOAA:

Speaking of shockers, the first quarter of 2018 saw three billion-dollar weather or climate disasters: all of them synoptic weather systems that produced significant snowfall in the Northeast—and one of them produced significant severe weather in the South.

Those three events brought the total number of “billion dollar disasters” since 1980 up from 219 at the end of 2017 to 230.

Wait, what?

The Billion Dollar Disaster list is adjusted for inflation, using the Consumer Price Index. Each year, the master list may take on “new” events from the past, when their inflation-adjusted damages rise above $1B in today’s dollars.

That’s what happened this year. A total of eight events crossed that $1B mark, once 2018 dollars were considered. Which eight events? The ones with an asterisk* in this list (pro tip: sort by cost; obviously, they’re all close to the bottom).

Weather and Climate?

So, these were pretty obviously three weather events. How’s the climate part come in?

One major driver of losses was flooding due to the Nor’easter version of “storm surge.” The Boston area experienced significant flooding in two of the storms.

Onshore flooding is a combination of factors: winds, atmospheric pressure, the tidal phase during an event, infrastructure, and so on. But with all that said, the mean sea level in the Boston area is about half a foot higher than it was 50 years ago.

Here, isolating just severe storms.

2018bill$disas Read the rest of this entry »


Conquering nature.

How’s that working out for you?


The Mississippi River was once thought to be uncontrollable: no feat of engineering could prevent the river from bursting its banks and sending floodwaters across its natural domain. But since the late nineteenth century, an expanding system of levees, floodways and channel modifications (Fig. 1) has gradually brought the river to heel, largely confining its waters to the main channel and accelerating them downstream. In a paper in Nature, Munoz et al.1 conclude that those same control measures have inadvertently raised the threat of flooding in the lower Mississippi to a level that is unprecedented in the past five centuries.

Munoz and colleagues have worked around that limitation by building their own extended record of flooding on the Mississippi, using evidence of high waters preserved by oxbow lakes and trees. An oxbow lake forms when a meander of a river is cut off to form a free-standing body of water. When such lakes are inundated by floods, they act as natural sediment traps for sand and silt carried in floodwaters. As those particles settle, they create a layer of coarse sediment on the bottom of the lake that is distinct from the clay and fine silt left behind when the lake is not hydrologically connected to the main channel5. Prolonged inundation with floodwater can cause some species of tree — particularly oak — to form wood that has abnormal features. The annual growth rings of such trees in the ‘bottomland’ hardwood forest of the Mississippi floodplain therefore contain a natural record of past floods6. By splicing together sedimentary sequences from lakes in Louisiana and Mississippi with ‘flood-ring’ signatures from living and dead trees in southeastern Missouri, the authors assembled a flood chronology for the lower Mississippi that stretches back to the early sixteenth century.

Together, these natural archives have kept a remarkably faithful account of past floods. The tree rings mark the occurrence of the great floods of 1844 and 1927, as well as l’Année des Grandes Eaux (the Year of the Great Waters) in 1785, which destroyed French–Canadian settlements in Illinois and Missouri. It is more difficult to date individual floods in the lake records because of the lower chronological resolution of that archive, but layers of coarse sediment can be matched to the great floods of 1851, 1927 and 2011, as well as to the flood reported by Spanish conquistadors in 1543. Overall, this new palaeoflood record suggests that, although flood hazards have waxed and waned through time, the Mississippi has risen higher and flooded more frequently in the past century than during any other period in the past 500 years.

The authors propose a provocative explanation for this recent hydrological intensification. Since the start of the twentieth century, records gathered using instruments show that the discharge of the Mississippi has slowly risen and fallen in concert with the surface temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean, which has alternated every two or three decades between warm and cold states7. Munoz and colleagues draw on proxy temperature estimates for the North Atlantic8 to demonstrate that this dependency has held steady since the 1500s. Because the spate of major floods in the past century cannot be explained by the observed temperature behaviour of the North Atlantic, the authors conclude that the trend towards larger and more frequent floods is mostly due to the transformation by humans of the Mississippi River and its basin.

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In China – Solar Roads

April 17, 2018


People get really indignant about the possibility of solar roads, but I think, frankly, if China decides there will be solar roads, there will be solar roads.


The road to China’s autonomous-driving future is paved with solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers as the nation tests an “intelligent highway” that could speed the transformation of the global transportation industry.

The technologies will be embedded underneath transparent concrete used to build a 1,080-meter-long (3,540-foot-long) stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan. About 45,000 vehicles barrel over the section every day, and the solar panels inside generate enough electricity to power highway lights and 800 homes, according to builder Qilu Transportation Development Group Co.

Yet Qilu Transportation wants to do more than supply juice to the grid: it wants the road to be just as smart as the vehicles of the future. The government says 10 percent of all cars should be fully self-driving by 2030, and Qilu considers that an opportunity to deliver better traffic updates, more accurate mapping and on-the-go recharging of electric-vehicle batteries—all from the ground up.

“The highways we have been using can only carry vehicles passing by, and they are like the 1.0-generation product,” said Zhou Yong, the company’s general manager. “We’re working on the 2.0 and 3.0 generations by transplanting brains and a nervous system.”

The construction comes as President Xi Jinping’s government pushes ahead with a “Made in China 2025” plan to help the nation become an advanced manufacturing power and not just a supplier of sneakers, clothes and toys for export. The 10 sectors highlighted include new-energy vehicles, information technology and robotics.


In Florida, Kids are ignoring the ban on the words “climate change”.

Inside Climate News:

Eight young Floridians, ages 10 to 19, sued their state and its climate-policy-averse governor on Monday for failing to protect residents from the impacts of a warming climate.

They say they already see signs of climate change around them—from powerful hurricanes to extreme heat waves to tidal flooding that now regularly washes into coastal roads and parks as sea level rises—and they want the state to do something about it.

The lawsuit filed Monday is the latest in a wave of legal cases filed by children against states and the federal government that accuse government of depriving them of the fundamental right to a stable climate.

The Florida plaintiffs accuse the state of violating their constitutional rights by “perpetuating an energy system that is based on fossil fuels.”

“The plaintiffs are asking the state of Florida to adhere to its legal and moral obligation to protect current and future generations from the intensifying impacts of climate change,” the group said in a statement.

Their lawsuit asks that state officials “prepare and implement an enforceable comprehensive” plan to phase out fossil fuel use and “draw down excess atmospheric CO2 through forest and soil protection so as to stabilize the climate system.”


Around nine in 10 millennials understand that the climate is changing, the highest proportion of any age group, while nearly eight in 10 think humankind must work to stem the rise in temperature. That includes a majority of Republicans. Most young Republicans recognize that humans are altering the climate and want the government to tackle the problem.

According to one poll, Republican millennials trust the Democratic Party more than the GOP when it comes climate change, which should alarm party leadership. It is notable that young Republicans are willing to break from conservative elites on this issue, and it speaks to the fact that climate change has more salience for young Americans than it does for their parents or grandparents.

“Millennials may be more likely to accept that climate change is occurring because they’re part of a generation hearing and learning about it in school. There have also been increasing extreme weather events happening around the country and globally in recent years — floods, droughts and hurricanes — that have been making headlines,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, former director of the University of Texas Energy Poll. “And of course, we have more and more data from scientists themselves documenting what’s taking place. In polling, we cannot say what exactly influences changing public attitudes, but I suspect it’s a combination of many of these.”

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MIT Technology Review:

erry Taylor believes he can change the minds of conservative climate skeptics. After all, he helped plant the doubts for many in the first place.

Taylor spent years as a professional climate denier at the Cato Institute, arguing against climate science, regulations, and treaties in op-eds, speeches, and media appearances. But his perspective slowly began to change around the turn of the century, driven by the arguments of several economists and legal scholars laying out the long-tail risks of global warming.

Now he’s president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning Washington, DC, think tank he founded in 2014. He and his colleagues there are trying to build support for the passage of an aggressive federal carbon tax, through discussions with Washington insiders, with a particular focus on Republican legislators and their staff.

Lesson 1: Pick the right targets

Political scientists consistently find that mass opinion doesn’t drive the policy debate so much as the other way around. Partisan divides emerge first among “elites,” including influential advocacy groups, high-profile commentators, and politicians, says Megan Mullin, an associate professor of environmental politics at Duke University.

They, in turn, set the terms of debate in the public mind, spreading the parties’ views through tested and refined sound bites in media appearances, editorials, social media, and other forums.

For the most part, people first align themselves with groups, often political parties, that appeal to them on the basis of their own experiences, demographics, and social networks. They then entrust the recognized leaders of their self-selected tribe to sort out the details of dense policy and science for them, while vigorously rejecting arguments that seem to oppose their ideologies—in part because such arguments also effectively attack their identity.

In fact, political predisposition is by far the most influential factor in determining a person’s “perceptions and attitudes about climate change,” noted Mullin and Patrick Egan, an associate professor of politics at New York University, in a 2017 analysis in the Annual Review of Political Science.

In many ways, the climate-change debate is ensnared in the culture wars that have consumed US politics over the last three decades.

“Positions on climate change have become symbols of whose side you are on in a cultural conflict divorced from science,” Dan Kahan, a Yale professor of law and psychology who has closely studied this issue, has said.

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Above, creative explanation of the Coriolis effect from the Bell Telephone Science hour, 1958.

Co·ri·o·lis ef·fect
ˌkôrēˈōləs iˌfekt
  1. an effect whereby a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a force (the Coriolis force ) acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation. On the earth, the effect tends to deflect moving objects to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern and is important in the formation of cyclonic weather systems.

Below, more contemporary take from PBS. Which works best?