Today, Atlantic Cities points out that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has published a map of lightning strikes in the U.S. According to the description of the map in the Google Maps Gallery, the map is organized by county and represents incidents over “the years 1995-2000 and 2001-2009.” The darker the shade of red, the more “events” have occurred, and the map breaks down each county’s data in terms of total number of injuries, fatalities, cost of property damage, and cost of crop damage.
Read more: Lightning Map by USGS Shows Where You’re Most Likely to Get Struck | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/02/28/this-map-shows-where-in-the-u-s-you-have-the-highest-chance-of-getting-struck-by-lightning/#ixzz2ukzqKKPT
Will climate change kill the winter Olympics?
January 30, 2014 · 5:45 PM EST
The organizers of the games in Sochi, Russia, promise that there will be snow for the winter Olympics that start there next Friday.
They’re hoping it’s mostly real snow, but they’ve also got hundreds of artificial snow makers at the ready, not to mention mountains of snow stored from last winter.
But snow isn’t enough. You also need a venue that can handle an influx of tens of thousands of people, and a location where the facilities will still be useful after all those people disappear.
That’s been a tough equation, even in the relatively stable climate since the first winter Olympics were held in 1924.
But global warming will only make it worse. How much worse?
A group of researchers led by Daniel Scott, a professor of Global Change and Tourism at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, has just co-authored a report called The Future of the Winter Olympics in a Warmer World.
It looked at the 19 cities that have hosted the games over the last 100 years, and looked forward under various climate change scenarios. What they found, Scott says, was that by mid-century “instead of 19 host cities being climate reliable, now we were down to about ten or 11. And then, when we looked further into the century under the sort of warmest scenarios, we were down to six of the original.”
Scott and his colleagues looked at two key factors.
One was snowpack — the likelihood that the mountains in the Olympic site would be able to maintain a bare minimum snow pack of at least 30 centimeters, or about a foot of natural or man-made snow.
The other factor, of course, was temperature, the likelihood that daily low temperatures would remain below freezing.
The farther they looked ahead into this century, the harder they found it would be to find places where both of these are reliable.
Of course, winter Olympics hosts have always faced weather challenges, and they’ve come up with lots of strategies and technologies to deal with the vagaries of even ordinary winter weather.
But Scott says there are limits to our ability to innovate our way past the challenges of a shrinking winter. For instance, he says, “you can make the snow at warmer temperatures in things called snow production plants, but when you put it out on the hill, you’re subject to the same melting.”
That means mushy snow, which Scott says is bad news for elite, Olympic-level events.
But the study only looked at the 19 places that have already hosted the winter Olympics. Those can’t be the only good locations for the games, right?
“It’s hard to find suitable places around the globe,” says Robert Steiger, a geographer at the Management Center Innsbruck, in Austria who worked with Daniel Scott on the report.
Steiger says it’s never been easy to locate the winter games. He says even his city of Innsbruck, which has hosted the games twice, in 1964 and 1976, probably couldn’t handle the influx of people that come with the mega-event that the modern Olympics have become.
So the winter games likely won’t be heading to more out of the way spots where there’ll still be snow. Don’t expect, for example, a winter Olympics in, say Greenland.
“To hold the Olympics in Greenland, the problem is, do you have the infrastructure, cities that are big enough, how do you get there, and so on,” Steiger says
Steiger and Scott do take heart in the likelihood that even in a significantly warmer world by the end of the century, there will still be at least six strong winter Olympic venues.
But as winter retreats around the world, it raises another big question. Even if you can still hold the winter Olympics, will anyone care?
“You may not be used to snow anymore in 50 years from now in some regions of the world,” Steiger says, “and then the question is, how interesting are winter Olympic games? It could be that it’s not any more a mass sports event.”
Of course, not to put too fine a point on it, but if winter is that rare in much of its former range by then, we’ll probably have much bigger problems to deal with than whether or not there’ll be winter Olympics.
Drug trafficking in Central America wreaking havoc on forests, study finds
Drug traffickers are targeting vast stretches of rainforest for clandestine landing strips and roads to carry on the drug trade, study finds
By Sudeshna Chowdhury, Staff writer / January 31, 2014
It is time to rethink the war on drugs from the perspective of “narco-deforestation,” say researchers, who have expressed concern over disappearing Central American rainforest .
In a paper published in journal Science, researchers stated that in remote areas of Honduras, Guatemala,Nicaragua, and neighboring countries, drug traffickers are destroying forests, often protected areas, to make way for clandestine landing strips and roads to move drugs and money.
Vast stretches of forest are also cleared to set up agribusinesses, primarily-cattle ranching, to launder drug money, Erik Nielsen, assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University, told the Monitor.
Much of the deforestation is happening as a response to US-led anti-trafficking efforts, especially in Mexico, says Kendra McSweeney, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of geography at Ohio Statesaid in an Ohio State press release.
“In response to the crackdown in Mexico, drug traffickers began moving south into Central Americaaround 2007 to find new routes through remote areas to move their drugs from South America and get them to the United States,” said Dr. McSweeney.
McSweeney, a geographer and her team did not initially aim to study the murky world of drug trade, but they had to take a detour and examine the environmental problems caused by it, she said.
Areas with a high rate of drug trafficking also recorded a large-scale deforestation, says Dr. Nielsen. So there was a direct correspondence between “hot spots” of deforestation and trafficking “nodes.”
The researchers found that the amount of new deforestation per year jumped more than fourfold in Honduras between 2007 and 2011 – the same period when cocaine movements in the country also spiked.
“Starting about 2007, we started seeing rates of deforestation there that we had never seen before. When we asked the local people the reason, they would tell us: “los narcos” (drug traffickers),” said McSweeney. “I would get approached by people who wanted to change $20 bills in places where cash is very scarce and dollars are not the normal currency. When that starts happening, you know narcos are there.”
“When drug traffickers moved in, they brought ecological devastation with them,” she added.
As a larger part of the solution, what is required is a very broad multi-lateral discussion about drug policy reform which include unattended causes, such as, deforestation, McSweeney says.