Daily Wisdom

January 30, 2008

Global Warming News - Jan 2008

Real News Stories To Share With Global-Warming Skeptics

During the first week of 2008, A bitterly cold winter storm pummeled parts of Europe, according to an article from AP. The storm killed at least three sailors when a ship sank in rough seas, and piled up snow that stranded thousands at airports, on mountain roads and in remote villages.

Authorities in northeastern Bulgaria declared a state of emergency, with the army called in to help civil defense officials clear roads and reach stranded motorists. Some 311 Bulgarian villages were left without electricity and dozens were cut off without food supplies or fresh water, authorities said. The northern Danube municipality of Ruse declared a state of emergency after heavy snow blocked many roads, said Andrei Ivanov, chief of the Balkan country's civil defense service. Temperatures fell to 5 below zero, while snow drifts reached more than 6 feet in parts of the country and hundreds of motorists were trapped on mountain roads.

Wave hits lighthouse at Varna, Bulgaria Jan. 2

At least three crewmen were killed when a Bulgarian ship carrying scrap metal sank during a storm on the Azov Sea between Ukraine and Russia, officials said. The Vanessa was carrying a crew of 10 and a Ukrainian pilot who was guiding the ship as it approached the Kerch Strait, which connects the Azov Sea to the Black Sea, said Sergei Petrov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry for southern Russia. Rescuers pulled one survivor and three bodies from the sea, where waves were as high as 10 feet.

The cold spell also caused problems in neighboring Romania, where Bucharest's two main airports were closed. Thousands of passengers were stranded when the airports were closed due to heavy snowfall. The snow also blocked many roads in the south, forcing the closure of at least one border crossing with Bulgaria and prompting train delays.

Parts of Turkey and Greece, as well as Western Europe, were also affected. In Turkey's capital of Ankara, snow caused traffic jams and accidents, but no injuries were reported. Temperatures in Greece fell to 1 below zero in the north of the country, where snow blanketed roads.

Snowfall & high winds in Greece, Jan. 29

In Western Europe, ice and snow disrupted traffic. The Mont-Blanc tunnel linking France and Italy was closed to trucks because sharp temperature differences between the two sides threatened to disrupt the tunnel's ventilation. A Boeing 737 arriving from Morocco, slid off an icy runway at an airport in Deauville, northern France. The 169 passengers were evacuated unharmed.

Unusually cold weather in northern India has been blamed for at least 46 deaths in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and others in Kashmir and Punjab. Mosques in the valley said special prayers. Schools in Delhi were closed until January 13th because of the weather. More than 1 million children stayed home. The temperatures reported in (the normally warm) low-lying areas were around the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

On January 26, according to a Times of India article, India's financial capital Mumbai reached a low temperature of 10.8 degrees Celsius, the lowest in 45 years. Amritsar was the coldest place in Punjab with the mercury tumbling seven notches below normal to settle at a low of minus 1.6 degrees C. Frigid temperatures in Punjab and Haryana forced residents to light bonfires.

Punjab residents light fires to keep warm

On January 12th, it was reported in the Tehran Times that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad chaired a session, examining ways to solve problems caused by the recent two weeks of unprecedented cold in the northern provinces of the country. Government ministers, the governors of four provinces, as well as a number of other state and military officials were present at the meeting. Ahmadinejad visited the province to look into the problems, including gas supply cuts in certain regions. Mazandaran Province, mostly its central and eastern parts, suffered fuel shortages over a 10 day period.

Snowfall in Tehran, Jan. 28

According to an article in the Gulf Daily News, some areas of Iran saw snow for the first time in years. Officials said a number of people had died from the cold or in traffic accidents caused by the weather. Government offices, schools and universities were closed in some regions to conserve fuel.

During the same period, northern parts of Saudi Arabia were covered with snow. Schools, mosques and administrative bodies were paralyzed, RIA Novosti reported. The oil-rich kingdom was hit with subzero temperatures and snow storms with freezing winds of up to 50 km/h (30mp/h). Some regions experienced problems with water supplies as pipes froze, and livestock died from the cold. Saudi national media said the winter is the coldest in the country for 20 years. Morning and afternoon prayers are being combined in many mosques because of the morning cold.

Snow in Saudi Arabia, Jan. 11

On January 11th, snow fell in Baghdad for the first time in 100 years. Rare snowfalls were also recorded in the west and center of Iraq, plunging temperatures to zero degrees Centigrade (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and even colder. The snow in Baghdad, which melted quickly, began falling before dawn and continued until after 9 am, residents said. Snow also fell in the northern mountainous regions of Iraq, which is not uncommon. "Baghdad has never seen snow falling in living memory," said Dawood Shakir, director of the meteorology department. "These snowfalls are linked to the climate change that is happening everywhere."

First Baghdad snowfall in 100 years, Jan. 11

In the second half of the month, China was hit with the most brutal winter weather to hit the nation in 50 years according to an article in the Times Online. Snow, ice and bitter cold crippled thousands of trains and trucks loaded with coal and food. There were widespread power shortages. More than 800,000 residents in Chenzhou, the main city in Hunan province, had been without power and water supplies for five days (when the article was written). Snow added to energy shortages by halting the supply of coal. Railway tracks were blocked by snow.

Chinese soldiers shovel snow, Jan. 29

VOA News reported that China's leaders were rushing to oversee disaster relief efforts. Heavy snowfalls and freezing temperatures left dozens of people dead, and millions of others stranded who were trying to return home for the main holiday of the year. Some train travelers at the Beijing West Rail Station had been waiting for more than a week to get on a train (when the article was written). The situation was particularly severe in the southern city of Guangzhou, where tens of thousands of people were stranded in and around the main train station.

50,000 stranded at Nanjing Railway Station

The year started off with a cold wave across the USA during the first week of January. The Butane-Propane News (BPN) of California issued a report that said propane inventories fell sharply that week caused by "strong demand".

In Florida, during the same period, citrus growers reported "only minor damage... from a blast of cold air, even as snow flurries fell in at least one part of the Sunshine State." Temperatures in many areas of northern Florida dropped into the 20s.

Citrus grower checks grove, Jan. 3

Upstate New York had single-digit readings and wind chills well below zero. It was 8 degrees below zero in Watertown, NY, with the wind chill making it feel like 20 below. In Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, it was 17 below with calm winds. The lowest reading in Maine was 23 below near Ashland, the National Weather Service said.

Global-warming then abated somewhat as temperatures became milder for the next two weeks. The global-warming skeptics started to gloat and point to this as proof that global-warming was over forever. But the cold weather started to return as arctic air building over the Polar regions of Canada and Siberia, pushed southwards across the U.S. in a phenomenon commonly known as the "Siberian Express". The NFC Championship Game played at Green Bay, Wisconsin on January 20th, was the third coldest playoff game in NFL history.

Green Bay fan at NFC championship game

At the end of January, heavy snow storms hammered the western states from Washington to Arizona, closing schools and government offices, causing widespread havoc on roads and even shutting down one ski resort. On January 28th, a search was under way for three snowmobilers missing in the Colorado mountains. The roofs of several businesses collapsed under the weight of snow in northern Idaho, while avalanches forced the evacuations of dozens of homes. The Navajo Nation declared an emergency on its sprawling reservation. About 20 inches of snow fell around Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho. The San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado were socked with 30 inches of snow and wind gusts as high as 100 mph.

In southeastern and south central Minnesota, a band of snow falling at up to 1 inch per hour was accompanied by winds gusting at 20 to 40 miles per hour on January 28th, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning. The bad weather was followed by bitter cold temperatures according to KSTP.com. The conditions were being driven by the arctic cold front.

In Chicago, a temperature plunge of 50 degrees accompanied by 40 m.p.h. winds, dropped temperatures to zero Fahrenheit with windchills of 40- to 50-degree-below-zero according to the Chicago Tribune. Over the full 138 years of Chicago's official weather records, a comparable plunge occurred just 17 times.

Chicago firefighter in bitter cold, Jan. 29

Much like the U.S., Canada experienced cold temperatures early in the month and then got a respite until late in the month when they were likewise hit by the "Siberian Express". According to a Canada.com article, residents of the Prairies dealt with blustery winds and deadly temperatures dipping into the minus 50s Celsius, while other areas faced blizzard conditions.

Tow truck operator in -32C Saskatchewan, Jan. 29

In Saskatchewan, a three-year-old girl was found frozen to death on January 29th and the search was continuing for her one-year-old baby sister. The father of the children was found suffering from frostbite near his home, approximately 250 kilometres east of Saskatoon where the temperatures were about -35 C. An avalanche hit a popular ski resort south of Calgary; no injuries were reported. In the Maritimes, the weather was not quite as severe, but snow and sleet brought havoc, leaving thousands without power in Prince Edward Island. In Vancouver, heavy snowfalls caused commuter chaos.

Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan (about 1,340 kilometres north of Saskatoon) earned the ignominious distinction of being the coldest place on the continent at -59 C, said Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Cormier. It was followed closely by Aulavik National Park on Banks Island in the Northwest Territories at -57 C. A tiny hamlet in the middle of Alberta, called Dapp, registered -53 C.

On January 16th in Siberia, temperatures were being forecast to hit minus 55 degrees Celsius (minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit). Government agencies were placed on high alert as freezing temperatures had already caused overloading of electricity grids and power interruptions in the regions of Irkutsk and Tomsk because of overused home heaters. At least two deaths and more than 30 frost-bite cases had already been reported in Irkutsk (when the article was written). Average January temperatures in large Siberian cities usually range between minus 15 degrees Celsius and minus 39 degrees Celsius. On Saturday, January 19th, the temperature in Ojmjakon, Siberia actually fell to -60.2C (-76F). Schools were closed down in at least four regions because of the cold.

Temperatures fall to -60C in Siberia

In neighboring Georgia, whose climate is subtropical, temperatures plunged to as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius. Lake Paliastomi in western Georgia froze for the first time in 50 years, reported Rustavi-2 television.

Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, Merited Scientist of Russia and fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, writing for RIA Novosti in Moscow, suggests that Russians should stock up on "bikinis and bermuda shorts". In an excellent article, he explains how the current global-cooling trend has reached its peak, and how global-warming will now begin in earnest.

January 09, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Yesterday, as I was channel-surfing on my car radio, I tuned into National Public Radio's "Morning Edition", just in time to hear a segment come on about the Iraq war. As this is a subject of some interest to me, I decided to pay attention. You can read a transcript of the segment HERE. Guy Raz produced this analysis in the typical liberal-biased fashion of NPR. It attempts to suggest that the "surge" of troops in Iraq has had little to do with the reduction in violence there, and seems to give credit to everyone but the U.S. military. Unfortunately, I found some of the statements in the piece to be clearly misleading, such as the following...

During the first six months of the surge, violence in Iraq reached an all-time high. Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor said, "Up until that point, the surge was simply providing more targets for the insurgents to shoot at."

The implication of this statement (in the context of the segment), is that the troop surge began at the end of 2006, was in place almost immediately, and was totally ineffective. No clear statement is ever given as to when the surge actually began, how it proceeded, or when it was completed. The last previous time reference in the segment was "the end of 2006"; the quote above refers to "the first six months"; and then the very next statement in the piece says...

But then around June, almost too fast for anyone to absorb, the violence began to plummet - a decline that continues (today)...

In other words, the listener is left with the impression that the surge was fully in effect from the end of 2006, accomplished nothing for the "first six months" (except to provide U.S. troops as cannon fodder), but then in June the violence suddenly plummeted (unrelated, one would assume, to the surge).

A more truthful rendition of the situation would have revealed that President Bush ordered the troop surge on January 10, 2007, and that the first surge troops would not start arriving until nearly the end of January. In late April, General Petraeus said: "We're only about two months into the surge. We won't have all the forces on the ground until mid-June." In an article dated June 15, 2007, Reuters reported that "All U.S. troop reinforcements heading to Iraq to help restore security have now arrived, but it could take several more months before their weight is fully felt".

All of which leads of course, to an interesting time juxtaposition. With the arrival of the final surge troops in mid-June, NPR suggests that the violence started to "plummet". Coincidence? Perhaps. But why should a left-leaning radio broadcast bother to provide its listeners with a complete picture, when it can bolster its shoddy analysis with obfuscation?

The segment then goes on to suggest various anecdotal reasons why the surge could not have been responsible for the reduction in violence, and according to General Barry McCaffrey...

The least important aspect of the so-called change in strategy was the surge.

An odd choice of words for McCaffrey, no? He describes it as "the so-called change in strategy". Let's get real here. Is he suggesting that we have made no change in Iraq strategy, and just "pretended" to implement a new strategy? Who is McCaffrey kidding? A change in both strategy and tactics has been well-documented, and the results are clearly evident. If McCaffrey actually believes that no changes have taken place, why should we accept anything else this man has to say?

Now, I will agree with an assessment that the troop surge in and of itself did not cause the violence in Iraq to "plummet". General Petraeus is himself quoted in this piece as saying...

Improvements in security are a result of the greater number of Coalition and Iraqi security forces, AND the strategy that guides the operations we conduct. (emphasis added)

It is not merely a matter of more boots on the ground, but rather a matter of how those boots are being employed. When General Petraeus took command, it was clear that both Baghdad and Anbar Province were major problem areas. The old "light footprint" strategy of keeping our troops off the streets in between the occasional offensive forays was not working. The troops would clear an area of insurgents only to have them return within a short time. It was evident that areas must be cleared and held. But there was no way that could possibly happen without additional troops. The new strategy Petraeus wanted to implement would not have been possible without the surge.

So what does NPR believe caused the violence to plummet?

It could be, in part, exhaustion among Sunnis, tired of fighting and dying. Or also, in part, a cease-fire declared by the largest Shiite militia, others say.

Of course. Why didn't I think of that? Let's not give credit to the U.S. military. Let's give credit to the insurgents. They were simply "exhausted" and gave up. But think for a moment about the absurdity of such a position. If the Sunni insurgents were "tired of fighting and dying", then one can only ask: Who were they fighting? And who was killing them so relentlessly? Was it the U.S. military? Perhaps.

And again, let's not give credit to the U.S. military. Let's give credit to Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of "the largest Shiite militia", who declared a cease-fire on August 29, 2007. But one must ask, why did al-Sadr declare a truce? Didn't al-Sadr flee like a scared rabbit to Iran only days after the first surge troops entered Iraq? And didn't al-Sadr return to Iraq four months later, only when it appeared that his militia was starting to disintegrate? And didn't the al-Sadr truce occur only one day after eight Iranians, including two with diplomatic credentials, were arrested by U.S. forces at a checkpoint in Baghdad? And weren't those eight Iranians arrested on the same day that President Bush accused the Iranian government of meddling in Iraq, including providing weapons to insurgents; the same day that President Bush ordered U.S. diplomats and military personnel to adopt a more forceful stance towards Iranians in Iraq? Coincidence? Perhaps.

The NPR segment then goes on to further "explain" the cause for Iraq's drop in violence...

But another part, and possibly the most significant, can be traced to the end of last May. That month, 126 U.S. troops died; it was the second deadliest month for U.S. forces during the war. Petraeus was under pressure to reduce those casualties. "Petraeus seems to have concluded that it was essential to cut deals with the Sunni insurgents if he was going to succeed in reducing U.S. casualties," Macgregor says.

Ahhh! Now we get to the crux of the matter. General Petraeus was desperate! He was so desperate in fact, that he had to "cut deals" with the Sunni insurgents to get them off his back. They fought so ferociously that he had to buy them out because he couldn't beat them militarily. But, aren't these the same Sunni insurgents who simply gave up because they were tired of fighting and dying? Perhaps.

Let's face it, we now know that deals were made, that is clear. But all deals whether in business, politics, or war, are negotiated. And I would contend that General Petraeus was negotiating from a position of strength and not from desperation. He had both a "carrot" and a "stick". The "carrot" was the promise of U.S. economic assistance, and the promise not to seek out and prosecute those insurgents who had committed violent crimes against the Coalition or the fledgling Government of Iraq. The "stick" was the threat of continued engagement by the U.S. military, increasing U.S. troop levels, and a protracted U.S. military presence in Iraq.

The Sunni insurgents were no doubt indeed tired of fighting and dying. As early as April 2007, General Petraeus was already reporting "the progress in Anbar Province", which he described as "very substantial", citing "the decision by a number of Sunni Arab tribes to join the fight against al Qaeda, saying 'No More' -- they've had it -- and linking arms with the Coalition to take on al Qaeda..." This move by Sunni insurgents to join forces with the Coalition against al-Qaeda has been called (by Sunnis themselves) the "Awakening".

Oddly enough however, this NPR piece fails to speak of the "Awakening" movement at all. Instead, it concentrates on the Concerned Local Citizen (CLC) program, something I have interpreted to be an adjunct effort of the U.S. military. My impression is that the CLC program is an outgrowth or ramification of the "Awakening" movement. This piece seems to portray it as another name for the "Awakening" movement, or as an alternative to the "Awakening" movement on which the U.S. military is pinning its entire hopes. In so doing, I believe it does a great disservice to those brave Sunni sheikhs who have come forward to stand with the Coalition and the Government of Iraq. It suggests that those with whom we have been negotiating are: "you know, five awkward-looking guys with their own AKs standing at a road junction with two magazines of ammunition... being paid $10 a day by the U.S. military".

General Petraeus and the U.S. military in Iraq deserve far greater credit than they are getting from NPR and from the retired military officers who contributed to this radio segment.