Thursday, January 08, 2009

Twelve dead as winter weather freezes Europe

A blast of frigid weather has claimed up to a dozen lives in Europe as temperatures tumbled below freezing overnight in what weather officials today dubbed the coldest night of winter. Polish police said the latest victims who froze to death yesterday included a 68-year-old homeless man found in an abandoned house in the southeast town of Jozefow, and a 51-year-old man who lived alone in central Eligiow and died a few steps away from his home. Five other deaths across Europe have also been blamed on the harsh blast of wintry weather, including that of a man in Milan who died when a canopy collapsed on him under the weight of snowfall. Temperatures in Poland dropped as low as -25deg Celsius. According to Interior Ministry data, hypothermia has been blamed for 76 deaths in Poland since November 2008.

Snowfalls disrupted air traffic across Europe, shutting down airports in Italy for several hours and paralysing TGV high-speed trains in France. Milan's two airports Malpensa and Linate, as well as the airports in Turin and Bergamo, were closed all morning after snow reached up to 30cm. The French weather service called it "the coldest night of winter'' so far with temperatures ranging for minus nine degress in Paris - the coldest since 1997 - and minus 20 degrees in the northern Ardennes region. The rare sight of snow was seen in the southern Mediterranean port of Marseille, closing the local airport and leaving some 12,000 households in the region without electricity.

Demand for power for heating has soared and raised the risk of power cuts, especially in Brittany and the southeast. Heavy snow has forced the closing of the mountainous French-Italian border since last night.

In Germany, where earlier this week a 77-year-old mentally ill woman froze to death, temperatures plummeted overnight with many areas recording record lows. The coldest place was Dippoldiswalde-Reinberg near Dresden in the east where the mercury plunged to -27.7deg. "Temperatures like this suggest that in certain places in the region the lowpoint must have been under the minus 30 mark,'' the German weather office said in a statement.

The freezing weather is expected to last through the week due to a stable mass of cold air coming from Scandanavia and Siberia, the French weather service said.


UK starts paying subsidies for record cold

"Arctic conditions" have gripped Great Britain and parts of Europe, and it has gotten bad enough that the British government has had to pay heating-bill subsidies for Londoners for the first time ever. The temperature hasn't gotten cold enough in southern England in the ten years of the subsidy program for the government to pay out the 25 pound checks.

In fact, as Fausta points out, the seas have begun to freeze in the north:
Cold weather payouts for pensioners and the vulnerable reached record levels today after Britain's deep freeze plunged temperatures as low as minus 11C. Forecasters warned that tonight will be even colder. The Government's bill will rise over 100 million as Londoners become eligible for the payment for the first time since the scheme was introduced a decade ago.

This morning, the thermometer reached minus 10C in Farnborough, Hampshire and minus 11C in parts of Scotland, which is colder than areas of Greenland and the Antarctic. The Met Office said it expected temperatures to go another degree colder tonight.

The bitter cold has left pavements coated in ice and driving conditions treacherous across the country. Thousands of motorists were left stranded in the busiest day of breakdowns in five years yesterday. The AA and RAC said they had responded to more than 40,000 call-outs over the past 36 hours.

Being an 11-year veteran of Arctic conditions, I decided to take a look at what -11 C would be in Fahrenheit. I was somewhat disappointed with my British brethren. It turns out to be just 12.2 F, as in +12.2 degrees. The other day, I had to clear my driveway with the temperature at -14F, which would be -25C. Right now, on a relatively warm day for January, it's 11F, which would be -11.67C, and I'm sitting here in shorts and a golf shirt.

The subsidies kick into place when sub-freezing temperatures last for seven or more days. In the decade of global warming, London had never experienced that until this week. That will cost the British 15 million, which comes on top of a 93 million bill for subsidies in the north, where they're more often applied. Global warming, as it turns out, gets pretty expensive.

With Arctic ice expanding at a rapid rate and record cold temperatures gripping Europe, and here for that matter, either someone must have sucked a lot of CO2 out of the atmosphere, or the greenhouse model has some serious flaws. The British lost a 15 million bet in London this week on it.

Simple really, if the current solar trends continue, it will soon be so cold that Al Gore will be the only person left on the planet who doesn't think Al Gore is a kook. The quiet sun is going to cause us a big problem when the growing season shortens to the point that crops cannot mature. 2009 may be the first year that happens


From '1930 through 1997, the annual average U.S. temperature actually declined'

The post below is from a moderate Warmist site -- which says that there has been warming but it is not a threat. They make below the interesting point that although there has been no warming over the last 10 years, temperatures remained at an unusually high level -- giving rise to the appearance of an overall warming trend since 1900 and justifying Warmist claims that each recent year has been the 9th (etc.) hottest year of some recent time period. The high temperatures have now however stopped with an overdue cooling effect cutting in. Note also from the graph that the trend was always a weak (and hence unreliable) one -- with highs in the 1930s also.

The data are just in from the National Climatic Data Center and they show that for the year 2008, the average temperature across the United States (lower 48 States) was 1.34 degrees F lower than last year, and a mere one-quarter of a degree above the long-term 1901-2000 average. The temperature in 2008 dropped back down to the range that characterized most of the 20th century.

Figure 1 shows the U.S. temperature history from 1895 to 2008. Notice the unusual grouping of warm years that have occurred since the 1998 El Nino. Once the 1998 El Nino elevated the temperatures across the country, they never seemed to return to where they were before. Proponents of catastrophic global warming liked to claim that is was our own doing through the burning of fossil fuels, but others were more inclined to scratch their heads at the odd nature of the record and wait to see what happened next.

Figure 1. U.S. average annual temperature history 1895-2008 (source: National Climatic Data Center)

You see, prior to 1998, there was little of note in the long-term U.S. temperature record. Temperatures fluctuated a bit from year to year, but the long-term trend was slight and driven by the cold string of years in the late 19th and early 20th century rather than by any warmth at the end of the record. In fact, from the period 1930 through 1997, the annual average temperature actually declined a hair-despite the on-going build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

The only suggestion that "global warming" had involved the U.S. was to be found in the post-1997 period-a period unusual in that the temperatures went up and stayed up at near-record levels year after year. It was not so much that temperatures continued to climb after 1998, but just that they never fell.

This grouping of warm years nearly doubled the apparent overall warming trend in U.S. temperatures (starting in 1895) from 0.07 degrees F/dedade (ending in 1997) to 0.13 degrees F/decade (ending in 2007). And with this doubling of the warming trend came the big push for emissions restrictions.

But now, 2008 comes along and has broken this warm stranglehold. Perhaps this is an indication that the conditions responsible for the unusual string of warm years have broken down-and maybe they weren't a sudden apparition of anthropogenic global warming after all. Only time will tell for sure. But, at least for now, things seem like they have returned to a more "normal" state of being.


The Global Warming Crescendo Has Passed

Despite the relentless efforts to maintain worldwide panic over rising temperatures and all of the supposed calamities that will ensue in the wake of the expected planetary heat wave (and many of which should have befallen us by now), a growing cadre of skeptics, supported by a bulk of research data, suggests the possibility that the "global warming" scam may be in retreat.

As the cold of winter settles in on the northern hemisphere, all of the hysteria of "global warming," or its less specific alternative "climate change," rings increasingly hollow to the general public. Weather patterns of the past decade indicate that the planet has been in an undeniable cooling trend since prior to the new millennium. So the panicked prophesies of cataclysmic upturns in the earth's average temperature simply do not carry the emotional impact that they once held.

Specifically, the "global warming" debate has now advanced out of its dire predictions phase. It is no longer sufficient for celebrated professional alarmists to get in front of news cameras and prognosticate as to how quickly the world will incinerate. Such discussions are entering the observable evidence stage, in which those melting icecaps had better start inundating Manhattan or else people will begin to suspect they were being hoodwinked. To date, the scientifically quantifiable data show nothing but the normal warming and cooling cycles, easily attributable to the fluctuations in solar activity that have been the fate of the planet since its creation.

To the dubious credit of its advocates, the entire "global warming" controversy, along with the mountains of legislation and regulation that resulted from its promotion amounted to perhaps the largest and most successful example of royal nudity in the modern era. Entire industries have sprung from the public pressure brought against oil companies and other large-scale manufacturers who face increasingly outrageous demands to curtail their dastardly assaults on mother earth.

Even now, though its supposed ill effects are proving fraudulent, the reputation of Carbon Dioxide (ostensibly the principal "greenhouse gas") as a threat to the future of all life on the planet is widely, if not universally accepted among the nation's highest social and political circles. Admittedly, neither group has a lock on intellect or rational judgment, but their collective impact on the perceptions among the general public cannot be ignored.

The ensuing 2012 deadline for the end of sales of incandescent light bulbs in America reminds us all that government will happily seize any situation as a means of expanding its control on society. In what may first seem to be merely a bad joke, over at the Environmental Protection Agency, a "greenhouse gas" tax on livestock, reaching as high as $175 for a dairy cow, is being contemplated. Main Street America is threatened with forced fundamental changes, implemented in deference to an unfounded fable.

Most ominous of all, the coal industry, which makes up the backbone of America's ability to produce electricity, is being openly targeted for eventual eradication by the left-wing political establishment. So universally vilified is it among the liberal elite that some "progressive" jurisdictions are currently refusing to buy electrical power produced from coal.

Instead, they opt for "green" sources of energy, not realizing (or perhaps deliberately ignoring the facts) that the utilitarian efficiency of coal-fired electrical production is the primary reason that such alternatives can be selectively employed at the whims of the enviro-extremists.

Were their livelihoods and well-being truly reliant on the fickle supplies of wind energy, for example, the green ideologues would find its inconstancy and impracticality starkly enlightening. A few cold dark nights with no wind, and thus no power, and they would quickly learn to temper their idealism. Currently however, they bask in the luxury of railing incessantly against their cheap, reliable electricity, while remaining fully confident that the next time they flip the nearest light switch, the darkness will flee.

Yet despite their relentless efforts to maintain the worldwide panic over rising temperatures and all of the supposed calamities that will ensue in the wake of the expected planetary heat wave (and many of which should have befallen us by now), a growing cadre of skeptics, supported by a bulk of research data, suggests the possibility that the "global warming" scam may be in retreat.

No less a world leader than Vaclav Klaus, incoming President of the European Union, denounces climate change hysteria as a hoax. News from the Arctic is that the ice pack this winter is as large as it was in 1979. In other words, during the intervening years the world has warmed and cooled, cyclically and irrespective of man-made "greenhouse gases," just as has been the case throughout the millennia.

Of course, if allowed to advance their agenda unchecked, the left will continue to exploit "climate change" fears for as long as it can garner political capital from them. Then, as it does in the wake of all of its other dismal failures, it will simply move on to some other topic the moment the public grows suspicious and weary of the always impending but never materializing climatic catastrophes.

Until such time, Al Gore will continue his lucrative practice of giving speeches addressing the "end of the world," for as long as sycophantic crowds are willing to ignore his insincerity and continue paying exorbitant sums of money to be propagandized about the impending apocalyptic heat waves. And the network news apparatus will persist in its attempts to convince the American people that only through the expanded powers of government can humanity hope to survive the ordeal.

Yet many among the scientific and political communities are recognizing the need to distance themselves from the climate change alarmism. Others, who pragmatically supported the ruse despite having access to empirical data that refuted it, will suffer long-term credibility deficits that inevitably befall such shameless opportunism.

Despite the seeming sea change in the political landscape last November, or the eagerness with which the incoming president intends to exploit environmental fears to his advantage, "global warming" may soon take its place along side Bigfoot, Y2K, and the Bermuda triangle on the ash heap of fabricated history.


Lights go out as Britain bids farewell to the traditional bulb despite health fears about eco-bulbs

Throughout war, disaster and recession, it has kept Britain illuminated for more than 120 years. But the traditional incandescent lightbulb is finally being switched off for the last time. Retailers have stopped replenishing stocks of conventional 100watt bulbs and will have run out within weeks. The voluntary withdrawal - part of a Government campaign to force people into buying low-energy fluorescent bulbs - follows the scrapping of the 150w bulb last year.

The move has angered medical charities who say the low-energy alternatives can trigger a host of ailments, including migraines, epilepsy and skin rashes.

The lightbulb revolution was first signalled by Gordon Brown in 2007. The Government says the switch to low-energy bulbs will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by around five million tonnes a year - the equivalent to the emissions from a typical 1gigawatt coal-fired power station.

Low-energy lightbulbs are miniature versions of the fluorescent striplights common in offices and kitchens. They use just a quarter of the energy of a conventional bulb. A single bulb can save a household around 7 pounds a year.

However, critics complain that compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, making them dangerous to dispose of, and give off a harsh light more suited to offices than living rooms. They can also take up to a minute to reach full brightness and do not work with dimmer switches. Some do not even fit conventional lightbulb sockets.

Under the voluntary ban, retailers agreed to stop replenishing stocks of 100w and 75w bulbs at the start of the year, while 60w bulbs will start to be phased out this time next year. All incandescent bulbs will be banned by 2012. The 100w version is the most popular type sold in the UK. It is used in ceiling lights. The 60w bulb is usually used for table lamps and reading lights. A spokesman for Tesco, which is Britain's largest seller of lightbulbs, said: `All the 100w and 75w incandescent lightbulbs will be gone in the next couple of weeks.'

Medical charities say they have been swamped with complaints that the flicker of compact fluorescent bulbs can trigger migraines and epilepsy attacks. The charities are lobbying the Government to allow an `opt out' for people with health problems so they can continue to use the older bulbs. Around one in ten people suffers from a migraine. Lee Tomkins, of Migraine Action Association, said: `We're recommending that people stockpile the old ones for now.'

She advises people who suffer from migraines to avoid using fluorescent bulbs as reading lights, or in living areas and kitchens. The bulbs do not flicker at a rate normally linked to health problems. Researchers, however, say the light emitted by fluorescent bulbs is made up of a disproportionate amount of red and blue, which can cause the problems.



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