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Showing posts from January 8, 2013

Glacial Retreat

Glacial retreat: “With few exceptions, all the alpine glaciers of the world are losing mass and it is predicted that this trend will continue as global warming progresses. Glaciers in alpine areas act as buffers. During the rainy season, water is stored in the glaciers and the melt water helps maintain river systems during dry periods. An estimated 1.5 to 2 billion people in Asia (Himalayan region) and in Europe (The Alps) and the Americas (Andes and Rocky Mountains) depend on river systems with glaciers inside their catchment areas. In areas where the glaciers are melting, river runoff will increase for a period before a sharp decline in runoff. Without the water from mountain glaciers, serious problems are inevitable and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for fighting poverty and improving access to clean water will be jeopardized” United Nations Environment Programme, 2007 Global Outlook for Ice and Snow.

Glacial retreat since 1850 has been worldwide and rapid, affecting the avai…

Carbon Monoxide

Download a Quicktime animation of this dataset (6 MB)

Colorless, odorless, and poisonous, carbon monoxide is one of the six major air pollutants regulated in the United States and in many other nations around the world. When carbon-based fuels, such as coal, wood, and oil, burn incompletely or inefficiently, they produce carbon monoxide. The gas is spread by winds and circulation patterns throughout the lower atmosphere (called the troposphere).

These maps show monthly averages of global concentrations of tropospheric carbon monoxide at an altitude of about 12,000 feet. The data were collected by the MOPITT (Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere) sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite. Concentrations of carbon monoxide are expressed in parts per billion by volume (ppbv). A concentration of 1 ppbv means that for every billion molecules of gas in the measured volume, one of them is a carbon monoxide molecule. Yellow areas have little or no carbon monoxide, while progressively higher conc…

Snow Cover Extent Declines in the Arctic

In the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, snow typically covers the land surface for nine months each year. The snow serves as a reservoir of water, and a reflector of the Sun’s energy, but recent decades have witnessed significant changes in snow cover extent. Studies of snow cover published in Geophysical Research Letters and the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012 found that, between 1979 and 2012, June snow cover extent decreased by 17.6 percent per decade compared to the 1979–2000 average.

The maps on this page show June snow cover extent anomalies for every third year from 1967 through 2012. Each June’s snow cover is compared to the 1971–2000 mean. Above-average extent appears in shades of blue, and below-average extent appears in shades of orange. Toward the beginning of the series, above-average extents predominate. Toward the end of the series, below-average extents predominate.

The graph shows June snow cover in millions of square kilometers from 1967 through 2012, and…

The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power

By George Friedman
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Last week I wrote about the crisis of unemployment in Europe. I received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government's official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.

At the same time, I would agree that the United States faces a potentially significant but longer-term geopolitical problem deriving from economic trends. The threat to the United States is the persistent decline in the middle class' standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the social order that has been in place since World War II…

State of Palestine Name Change Shows Limitations

RAMALLAH, West Bank January 7, 2013 (AP)

With U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in his pocket, President Mahmoud Abbas wants official documents to carry a new emblem: "State of Palestine."

But scrapping the old "Palestinian Authority" logo is as far as Abbas is willing to go in provoking Israel. He is not rushing to change passports and ID cards Palestinians need to pass through Israeli crossings.

The very modesty of Abbas' move to change official stationery underscores his limited options so long as Israel remains in charge of territories the world says should one day make up that state.

"At the end of the day, the Palestinian Authority won't cause trouble for its people," Nour Odeh, a spokeswoman for Abbas' self-rule government, said of the need for caution.

Abbas won overwhelming U.N. General Assembly recognition for a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in late…

Pakistani Intelligence Officials Say 8 Militants Killed in American Drone Strike

Several missiles fired from American drones slammed into a compound near the Afghan border in Pakistan early Tuesday, killing eight suspected militants, Pakistan officials said.

The two intelligence officials said the compound was located near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal area.

One of the officials said an al-Qaida operative was believed to have been killed in the strike.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

North Waziristan, the area where the strike occurred, is considered a stronghold for insurgent groups operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is one of the few parts of the tribal areas that border Afghanistan in which the Pakistani military has not conducted a military operation to root out militants, despite repeated pushes to do so from the American government.

Tuesday's strike was the fourth since the new year began.

On Sunday nine Pakistani Taliban fighters were killed when American missiles fi…

Who Is Chuck Hagel? Obama's Nominee for Secretary of Defense

President Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. secretary of defense. To those who haven't followed the Senate closely in the past decade, he's probably not a household name.

Hagel is a former GOP senator from Nebraska and Purple-Heart-decorated Vietnam veteran, but he wouldn't necessarily be a popular pick with Republicans in Congress.

At age 21, Hagel and his brother Tom became the next in the family to serve in the United States Army. They joined the masses of Americans fighting an unfamiliar enemy in Vietnam.

In his book, he describes finding himself "pinned down by Viet Cong rifle fire, badly burned, with my wounded brother in my arms."

"Mr. President, I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve our country again," Hagel said after Obama announced his nomination Monday.

In 1971, Hagel took his first job in politics as chief of staff to Congressman John Y. McCollister, a position he held for six years. After that, he moved t…

Billionaire Polonsky Detained in Cambodia

07 January 2013 | Issue 5048
The Moscow Times

A Cambodian court ruled to hold businessman Sergei Polonsky indefinitely after police interrupted his New Year's celebrations in the Southeast Asian country, a Russian envoy said Saturday.

A former billionaire, Polonsky is in custody together with two other Russians, whom the envoy, Pavel Seskanov, didn't identify, Interfax reported. Seskanov declined to name the reasons for the detentions, saying he was complying with Polonsky's request.

Polonsky's Twitter account carried a statement Friday, when he was reportedly in custody, saying the former real estate developer celebrated New Year's with his friends on an uninhabited Cambodian island by shooting fireworks -- an activity that drew military personnel from a base on a nearby island.

The military servicemen asked to check on the Russians' identities, prompting Polonsky to propose that they travel to another island, where the vacationers kept their ID's. The Cambodi…

The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire

Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States. They are a diverse collection of peoples primarily from a dozen different Western European states, mixed in with smaller groups from a hundred more. All of the New World entities struggled to carve a modern nation and state out of the American continents. Brazil is an excellent case of how that struggle can be a difficult one. The United States falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The American geography is an impressive one. The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway and is the world's largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined. Two vast oceans insulated the United States …