About Me

My Photo
I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, May 02, 2016


2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record 

From NASA

September 22, 2014

Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year’s minimum extent is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles (6.22 million square km).

"Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978. The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting," said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be,” Meier said. “It’s more susceptible to melting.”

This summer, the Northwest Passage above Canada and Alaska remained ice-bound. A finger of open water stretched north of Siberia in the Laptev Sea, reaching beyond 85 degrees north, which is the farthest north open ocean has reached since the late 1970s, according to Meier.

While summer sea ice has covered more of the Arctic in the last two years than in 2012’s record low summer, this is not an indication that the Arctic is returning to average conditions, Meier said. This year’s minimum extent remains in line with a downward trend; the Arctic Ocean is losing about 13 percent of its sea ice per decade.

To measure sea ice extent, scientists include areas that are at least 15 percent ice-covered. The NASA-developed computer analysis, which is one of several methods scientists used to calculate extent, is based on data from NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite, which operated from 1978 to 1987, and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, which has provided information since 1987.

In addition to monitoring sea ice from space, NASA is conducting airborne field campaigns to track changes in Arctic sea ice and its impact on climate. Operation IceBridge flights have been measuring Arctic sea ice and ice sheets for the past several years during the spring. A new field experiment, the Arctic Radiation – IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) started this month to explore the relationship between retreating sea ice and the Arctic climate.

[But we have to remember, boys and girls, that Global Warming is a MYTH.]

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Russia challenges US after Baltic jet face-off

From The BBC

30th April 2016


Russia says it was right to confront a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea on Friday. The Pentagon said a Russian jet fighter acted in an "unsafe and unprofessional manner", and performed a barrel roll over its plane. Russia said that the American jet had turned off its transponder signal, which helps others identify it. It is the second incident in the Baltic this month in which the US has accused Russian planes of flying aggressively.

"All flights of Russian planes are conducted in accordance with international regulations on the use of airspace," a statement by the Russian defence ministry said. "The US Air Force has two solutions: either not to fly near our borders or to turn the transponder on for identification."

US jets "regularly" try to approach Russia's borders with transponders switched off, the statement said. Over the past 18 months, Russia has been repeatedly accused of the same practice over the Baltic and near UK waters. It is not clear how close to Russia's waters Friday's incident occurred.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman Daniel Hernandez said there had been "repeated incidents over the last year where Russian military aircraft have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns. The US aircraft was operating in international airspace and at no time crossed into Russian territory," he said. "This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all air crews involved." Such actions could "unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries," he said. Mr Hernandez said the Su-27's "erratic and aggressive manoeuvres" also threatened the safety of the US aircrew, coming within 7.6m (25ft) of the fuselage of the American plane before conducting its barrel roll.

Military encounters between Russia and the US and its allies have escalated significantly over the past two years, ever since Russia's annexation of Crimea and the breakdown of relations between East and West. Two Russian planes flew close to a US guided missile destroyer almost a dozen times in the Baltic on 13 April. The BBC's Gary O'Donoghue in Washington reported after the destroyer incident that Russia's actions were regarded by defence analysts as a flexing of muscle, a reminder that Russia has military might and cannot be pushed around.

[Anyone else coming over all nostalgic for the Cold War?]

"The more one looks at great examples of creativity, the more evident it becomes that creative minds are not typically 'nice', or well adjusted, or accommodating, or moderate; that genius is often accompanied by some kind of personal disorder and that society mist come to terms with this disorder if it wishes to have the benefit of genius."

Richard Hofstadter, 1962.

Friday, April 29, 2016


"Dependence denotes a power rather than a weakness; it involves interdependence. There is always a danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual. In making him more self-reliant, it may make him more self-sufficient; it may lead to aloofness and indifference. It often makes an individual so insensitive in his relations to others as to develop an illusion of being really able to stand and act alone - an unnamed form of insanity which is responsible for a large part of the remediable suffering in the world."

John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916), p47

Only bought two today - plus the one that just arrived from Amazon..... [grin]

Thursday, April 28, 2016


The Tree of Knowledge.....

Just Finished Reading: Berlin 1961 – Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Frederick Kempe (FP: 2011)

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin – 27th October 1961. Across a space measured in yards 10 Soviet and American tanks face each other, engines running, guns poised, and ready for action (actual picture below). One misunderstanding, one mistake, one over enthusiastic officer, one dropped gun could start a firefight that could lead to a nuclear exchange and world war. How did this happen and, more importantly, who got us in this mess in the first place?


With a young, untested and na├»ve President in the Whitehouse and an old political bruiser in the Kremlin it was only a matter of time before Premier Khrushchev pushed his luck. Pushed by political problems at home and an ever more belligerent, and desperate, East German government watching their country haemorrhage their best and brightest across an open border, the Soviet leader had to press his case to solve the ‘German Question’ once and for all. The proposal was to make Berlin an ‘open city’ with access to it devolving to East Germany over time. Not wanting to provoke the Russians into any action neither side could step back from the Americans decided to negotiate – against widespread advice that the Soviets would see negotiation of Germany sovereignty as a sign of weakness. With Khrushchev running rings around the heavily outclassed Kennedy at the conference in Vienna it looked like the Russians might actually get their way. After hedging, delaying and frankly being unsure what to do the US President decided to put Berlin on the back burner and think about Cuba instead. What followed became known as the ‘Bay of Pigs Disaster’ further undermining Kennedy’s reputation around the world and especially behind the Iron Curtain. Seen as both weak and indecisive the Russians pushed again and again in Berlin.

But it was the East Germans who pushed the hardest. Deciding once and for all that they must stop the massive, and increasing, flight from the East to the West a daring scheme was hatched and the border – open by international treaty – was closed along its whole length in a matter of hours. The Allied response? Nothing. Actions in East Berlin, the Americans believed, where not sufficient to go to war over with the loss of millions of American lives. But inaction on the Allied Powers part did not stop the Soviets pushing and pushing again. As the ‘Wall’ became a permanent feature the East imposed illegal travel restrictions until challenged by the American Military authorities in West Berlin. Told to co-operate with the Russians the American military liaison tended his resignation only to have it rejected by the President. Knowing that the Russians only respected a show of strength, and without informing his superiors in Europe or Washington the American officer on the ground called up tanks to show that they would not be intimidated. In response the Russians brought up their own tanks and the dangerous stand-off began. Who knew where it would lead?


This is a truly fascinating moment in history explained with consummate skill by a marvellously talented historian. It was quite simply a superb piece of historical writing and was amongst the best history books I’m come across in years. I think I learnt more about the Cold War and Kennedy in 500 pages that in the previous 30 years of reading. Gripping in the style of a political thriller this is an account of events of that fateful year that will leave you open mouthed in amazement that World War 3 didn’t start in 1961. So many mistakes, so many misunderstandings it’s truly frightening. Kennedy himself does not come out of this at all well and he is quite clearly blamed for allowing the Cuban Missile Crisis, which most definitely could have killed us all, to develop because of his weak stance on Berlin. Amazing and very highly recommended.