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The Arctic is Drunk and Network News is Missing the Point


GLOBAL WARMING EFFECTS MAP.  Source: National Geographic. 


Despite the ‘self-imposed ‘retirement of Dave Roberts and the dismantling by the New York Times of its climate desk and discontinuance of its Green Blog, it was a banner year for media coverage of climate change – increasing by 30 percent in 2013.  David Sassoon attributes the rise to an 'intimate' connection between climate change and extreme weather events.  However, the Columbia Journalism Review spotlighting a survey conducted by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) reveals the coverage of climate related events by prime-time network news – ABC, NBC and CBS – consisted of a total of 450 segments on extreme weather but only linked these events 16 times to climate change. Print, non-profit and niche online outlets comprised the bulk of the rise in climate reporting.  For those keen on competition, GRIST and Climate Central track the numbers and keep the scores.

A new study published in Nature concludes temperatures will rise by at least 4°C by 2100 – causing scientists to upgrade their forecast of the affects of climate change from ‘dangerous’ to ‘catastrophic.” Using computer modeling to track the cloud cover over the earth’s oceans, the research shows how drier air will thin the cloud cover over the oceans – reducing their cooling effects – resulting in rising temperatures. A thorough explanation of the findings comes from The Guardian.  Michael Mann’s reaction to the research is found here. Alarmed by the study’s conclusions, the Editors of the Washington Post call on the U.S. to lead with smarter climate policy that encourages a global response.

A third of the water California receives per year should be on the ground by now but the manager of California’s Department of Water Resources reports the Golden State is still waiting for its first drop. Everything dependent on water in California is thirsty. Governor Brown has created an Interagency Task Force to track the State’s water supply; but a statewide drought emergency has yet to be issued.

Shasta Lake, California's largest reservoir, is currently at 37 percent of total capacity. Since July, only 2.08 inches of rain has fallen on San Francisco. Snowpack levels are 20% of normal. Every square inch of the State is parched. The U.S. Geological Survey disclosed land near the San Joaquin River has dropped by nearly a foot per year since 2008 because of ground water depletion. The San Jose Merc reports on the personal toll the drought is already inflicting across the State.  Forecasters flew red flags warning of the possibility of fire danger in Southern California this week – a harbinger of what undoubtedly will be a cataclysmic fire season this year.  Neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to make an appearance this winter because the jet stream tracked far north of normal over the eastern Pacific during 2013 – the same jet stream that’s cooling the air from Alaska and Canada – freezing the central and eastern U.S and largely responsible for the Polar Vortex. 

Shades of Rod Serling!  The Polar Vortex. The New York Times supplies context about how it’s affected the Midwest and East Coast. GRIST explains and then charts the ‘drunken’ path of the jet stream. If you’re still confused read Eric Holdhaus. Then, for a detailed explanation of why a cold snap doesn’t disprove our planet is warming, do what I do – read Brad Plumer and then read Andrew Freedman. Finally, if you see Burgess Meredith stumbling around looking for a new pair of glasses – lock your door. 

Proponents of fracking could be in for rocky ride in 2014. New research presented before the American Economic Association reveals children born in close proximity to fracking activities have an increased likelihood of lower birth weights and lower Apgar scores. The study, a collaboration between Janet Currie of Princeton, Katherine Meckel of Columbia and MIT’s John Deutch and Michael Greenstone, hasn’t been published or peer-reviewed but builds on previous research finding babies born near Pennsylvania frack wells are more likely to suffer from a range of health complications.

This study comes as both state and federal governments grapple with how to regulate the shale oil and gas industry.  Earlier this week, the AP re-examined data from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas on well-water contamination from fracking and reported considerable confusion exists over how widespread the problem is because regulations dramatically vary from state-to-state.  Read this for a quick synopsis of the AP’s key findings.  On December 30th, the federal government issued a safety warning that crude oil extracted from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale may be more flammable that other types of crude after a third train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded – rattling the town of Casselton. Edward McConnell, Casselton’s Mayor, called the explosion a wake-up call for tighter regulations.  Here in California, four members of the Assembly are seeking a moratorium on all fracking activity.

California’s state coffers are pleasing plump – packed with a $2.2 billion surplus. While the State economy has stabilized, it’s far from rosy. Unemployment stubbornly remains at 8.5%.  Governor Brown unveils his new budget on Friday and the Sac Bee reports he will renew his attempt at reforming CEQA – repackaged as a way to create jobs.  The Governor also plans to divert money from the State’s cap-and-trade funds to the beleaguered high-speed rail project – further frustrating environmental groups. Dan Walters disentangles the legal and political ramifications of Brown’s decision here. Nevertheless, despite the public’s growing displeasure for the project, the Governor appears determined to preserve the project as part of his political legacy.


Goodbye for now.  Dave Roberts.  GRIST.  August 19, 2013. 

After Changes, How Green is The Times?  Margaret Sullivan.  New York Times.  November 23, 2013. 

A Dramatic Wake up Call on Climate Change.  See Most Underreported Stories of 2013. 

Climate coverage soars in 2013, spurred by energy, weather.  Douglas Fischer.  The Daily Climate.  January 2, 2014.

Climate Change Coverage Rebounds in a Big Way in 2013.  Douglas Fischer.  Climate Central. Prime-time’s global warming omission.  Alexis Sobel Fitts.  Columbia School of Journalism Review.  December 19, 2013. 

Climate coverage ballooned last year, except at The New York Times.  John Upton.  January 3, 2014.  GRIST

January 3, 2014.  


Solution to cloud riddle reveals hotter futureClimate System Science.  December 20, 2013. 

Climate Change Vastly Worse Than Previously Thought.  Mark Joseph Stern.  Slate.  December 31, 2013. 

Cloud Mixing Means Extra Global Warming.  Dan Vergano.  December 31, 2013.  National Geographic

ED. Climate-change response demands urgencyThe Washington Post.  January 4, 2014. 

Climate change models underestimate likely temperature rise, report shows.  Oliver Milman.  The Guardian.  December 31, 2013. 


California Researchers Find Drastically Low Snowpack, Spelling Danger For 2014 Water SuppliesThinkProgress - ‎Jan 4, 2014‎. 

2014 Water Supply Conditions.  Association of California Water Agencies. 

California Stretched by Worsening Drought.  Jim Carlton.  Wall Street Journal.  January 2, 2014. 

California Marks 2013 as Historically Dry Year.  Alicia Chang.  December 31, 2013. 

Dismal snowpack points to third straight dry year.  Debra Kahn.  E&E News.  January 3, 2014. 

ED.  Water situation is dire, requires action.   Sac Bee.  January 5, 2014. 

Calls grow for more oversight of California's groundwater.  Ian James, Valerie Gibbons and Dennis L. Taylor.  Visalia Times-Delta.  January 4, 2013. 

California drought deepens as another year's rains stay away.  Lisa M. Krieger.  San Jose Mercury News.  December 31, 2013. 

The Rim Fire ArchiveL.A. Times

Weather raises Southern California fire dangerSan Jose Mercury News.  January 5, 2014. 

Extraordinary Jet Stream Track to Alaska Led to Record Dryness in California in 2013Daily Kos.  January 3, 2014. 


Polar Vortex: Temperatures Fall Far, Fast.  James Barron and Henry Fountain.  January 6, 2014. 

Why the Arctic is drunk right now.  Chris Mooney.  GRIST.  January 6, 2014.  How global warming can make cold snaps even worse.  Eric Holdhaus.  Quartz.  January 6, 2014. 

Can global warming be real if it’s cold in the U.S.? Um… yes!  Brad Plumer.  Washington Post.  January 6, 2014. 

Polar Vortex in U.S. May be Example of Global Warming.  Andrew Freedman.  Climate Central.  January 6, 2014.  


Study Shows Fracking Bad for Babies.  Mark Whitehouse.  Bloomberg.  January 4, 2014. 

Fracking could be Bad for Babies.  John Upton.  Grist.  January 6, 2014. 

Some States Confirm Water Pollution from Drilling.  Kevin Begos.  AP. January 5, 2014. 

Fracking Operations Are Contaminating Well Water In 2 States.  Katie Valentine.  Think Progress.  January 6, 2014.

4 States Confirm Water Pollution from Drilling.  Kevin Begos.  January 5, 2014. 

U.S. Issues Alert on Bakken Crude.  Russell Gold.  Wall Street Journal. January 3, 2014. 

N.D. oil train explosion revives safety debate.  Blake Sobczak. EnergyWire. January 6, 2014.

In North Dakota, Oil Train Explosion a ‘Wake Up Call.’   Blake Sobczak.  Midwest Energy News.  January 7, 2014. 

California Lawmakers Urge Jerry Brown To Adopt A Fracking Moratorium.  Katie Valentine.  Think Progress.  January 7, 2014. 

A copy of the letter can be downloaded here


California lawmakers face water, prison and budget issues in 2014.  Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy.  January 4, 2014. 

California legislative leaders aim to keep state economy improving.

Gov. Brown wants to tap cap-and-trade funds for bullet trainL.A. Times.  January 7, 2014. 

Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade proposal for high-speed rail said to be $250 million.  David Siders.  Capitol Alert.  January 6, 2014. 

Rocky Mountain Train Tour.  Melody Gutierrez.  San Francisco Chronicle.  January 7, 2014. 

Op Ed.  Jerry Brown may be getting desperate on bullet train.  Dan Walters.  The Sacramento Bee.  January 7, 2914. 

52% want bullet train stopped, poll finds.  Ralph Vartabedian.  L.A. Times Times.  September 28, 2013. 

High-Speed Train in California Is Caught in a Political Storm.  Adam Nagourney.  New York Times.  January 6, 2014. 


“We’ve had this amplified pattern for the past six weeks or so.  With it, we’ve had record warmth. We’ve had record cold.  The fact is it’s happened, and we don’t know exactly why.”  David A. Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist professing his own bafflement over the appearance of the Polar Vortex. 

“Weather Whiplash.”  What meteorologists are calling the sudden severe drop in temperature by 50 degrees in a matter of hours inflicted overnight upon New York. 

 “It’s time for the Governor to pull up the tracks.”  U.S. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy calling on Governor Jerry Brown to scratch the high-speed rail project. 

“I don’t believe we have as much information as we need to continue allowing the oil industry to work unfettered before those regulations are in place.”  Assemblyman Marc Levine in the Sacramento Bee explaining why he is seeking a moratorium on fracking in California. 

“If ever there were an issue that demanded greater cooperation, partnership, and committed diplomacy, this is it."  Secretary of State John Kerry reacting to the recent report in Nature claiming climate change is even worse than scientists had previously anticipated. 

 “Yes, there's gridlock in Washington. But step outside the Beltway, and you hear the real conversation on climate change. In 2014, we're resolving to take that conversation to the next level and bring climate change to the forefront of America's political dialogue.”  Tom Steyer promising to make climate change a voter concern in 2014. 


From Sea to Sea, a Sharp Contrast:  Unusual contrasts in weather across short stretches created by the polar vortex.  Source:  AcuWeather, published in the New York Times, January 6, 2014. 


Which Nations Drive, Fly, Cycle, and Take the Train Most?  Source:, published in the Energy Collective, January 6, 2014. 


Visualization of winds at the jet stream level on January 6, showing a deep dip or trough in the jet stream above the U.S., transporting Arctic air southward.  Source:   Climate Central, published on January 6, 2014. 

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