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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #31

Posted on 4 August 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week.

Editor's Pick

143-mph 'fire tornado' that cut a path of destruction is an ominous sign of the future

Wildfire Tornado Takes Down Transmission Tower 

A high-tension power transmission line tipped over from a tornado-like vortex that reached speeds of possibly more than 143 mph. (Cal Fire / National Weather Service)/h5>

Redding Fire Vortex

As authorities sifted the rubble from the fire that burned more than 1,000 residences in Shasta County, they were startled by what they encountered.

A soaring transmission tower was tipped over. Tiles were torn off the roofs of homes. Massive trees were uprooted. Vehicles were moved. In one spot, a fence post was bent around a tree, with the bark on one side sheared off.

This was not typical wildfire damage. Rather, it was strong evidence of a giant, powerful spinning vortex that accompanied the Carr fire on July 26. The tornado-like condition, lasting an hour and a half and fueled by extreme heat and intensely dry brush as California heats up to record levels, was captured in dramatic videos that have come to symbolize the destructive power of what is now California’s sixth-most destructive fire.

It may take years before scientists come to a consensus on what to exactly call this vortex — a fire whirl, as named by the National Weather Service, or a fire tornado. Whatever it’s called, it’s exceptionally rare to see a well-documented fire-fueled vortex leap out of a wildfire and enter a populated area with such size, power and duration. 

143-mph 'fire tornado' that cut a path of destruction is an ominous sign of the future by Rong-Gong Lin Ii , Joseph Serna & Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, Aug 3, 2018

Links posted on Facebook

Sun July 29, 2018

Mon July 30, 2018

Tue July 31, 2018

Wed Aug 1, 2018

Thu Aug 2, 2018

Fri Aug 3, 2018

Sat Aug 4, 2018

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Fire Vortices!

    Straight physics, impressive and they occurred with the fire-bombing of cities during WWII. There are accounts of people stepping into the streets and being blown right into the vortex.

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  2. Regretibly, the Guardian has got it completely backward.  We have seen again and again governments doing exactly the opposite to what their so called constituency requires them to do.  The reason is simple.  WHO PAYS THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE.  As long as politicians get money from the various vested interests they will do their bidding.  Only the most extreme pressure from the public will upset this paradigm and we in the west are far too civilized/apathetic to apply that sort of pressure.  We think we are getting some sort of a bargain when businesses and the rich finance our politicians.  Look what it is actually costing us.  Perhaps the collapse of our civilization.

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  3. The following article losing the earth is from the NY Times. It's a fascinating history the growing awareness of the climate problem from the 1960s until today, and very engagingly written. Don't be put off by the length. It covers scientific, political,and psychological issues.

    There has been some valid criticism that it goes too lightly over the failings of the fossil fuel industry, (possibly in an attempt to be seen as unbiased). 

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  4. A brief aside regarding the transmission tower.

    A downed transmission tower is indeed a damaging result of an event. But toppled transmission towers are more common than many people may expect. And it is not even necessary to build the towers so that they will not be knocked down by a fairly common weather event.

    My familiarity with transmission tower design includes knowing that a new design code was being planned for the US (and may have already been implemented). It will be based on event probability rules, similar to the European and Canadian codes, to ensure that appropriate combinations of potential events are considered as the basis, such as:

    • The larger surface area of an ice encrusted system when a winter wind is blowing strong.
    • Or the weakening of a structure heated by fire that also has a wind blowing on it (Mind you the weakening of metal in the heat of a fire can easily be enough to bring down a tower, no other influences on the tower required other than gravity).

    That new design code may result in stronger towers, but it also may not. And it does not ensure that towers will not come down or that power lines will not break.

    The more important point is that a transmission line owner/operator does not typically consider the failure of a tower to be as serious as the failure of a building, and should not have to. Nobody will be hurt when a tower comes down in a farm field or other unpopulated area.

    Winter storms have resulted in broken transmission systems somewhere in Canada almost every year. The harm comes when a region is left powerless for an extended period of time. And that may have more to do with a failure to ensure at least 2 widely separated independent feeds of electricity to every serviced community.

    Towers can be rebuilt while power supply is delivered through the alternate feeds (every utility delivering electricity could ensure at least two paths of feed to every served community). Making every tower more expensive is not as cost effective as having to occassionally rebuilt some towers.

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  5. @ nigelj #3:

    By portraying the early years of climate politics as a tragedy, the magazine lets Republicans and the fossil-fuel industry off the hook.

    The Problem With The New York Times’ Big Story on Climate Change by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, Aug 1, 2018

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  6. william @2,

    The real tragedy is how correct some leaders were centuries ago about the unacceptable types of leadership that have been winning unjust power recently.

    This is not new learning. It is learning that was even written about by the Greeks. And it is understanding that exists in most religious texts (though many have decided to selectively interpret those texts in other ways).

    Closer to the climate change issue, and the way it has exposed the real problem, Al Gore wrote "The Assault on Reason". That book contains very important points of understanding for humanity, particularly for Americans, including the following:

    “The derivation of just power from the consent of the governed depends upon the integrity of the reasoning process through which the consent is given. If the reasoning process is corrupted by money and deception, then the consent of the governed is based on false premises, and any power thus derived is inherently counterfeit and unjust. If the consent of the governed is extorted through the manipulation of mass fears, or embezzled with claims of divine guidance, democracy is impoverished. If the suspension of reason causes a significant portion of the citizenry to lose confidence in the integrity of the process, democracy can be bankrupted.”

    He also wrote about America's founder's concerns about religion intruding on government:

    “They were also keenly aware of the thin and permeable boundary between religious fervor and power-seeking political agendas. “A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction,” wrote James Madison, but the new American nation would nevertheless be protected against the ungovernable combination of religious fervor and political power as long as the Constitution prohibited the federal government from establishing any particular creed as preeminent.
    This principle was so well established that in 1797 the U.S. Senate unanimously approved, and President John Adams signed, a treaty that contained the following declaration “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or Mohammedan Nation.””

    Al Gore losing to Bush because of a sigh during the debates (which made him clearly one of those disgusting Ivory Tower Intellectualies who tell people they are wrong, compared to Common People Bush who tells people what they want to hear) and Conservative Judges making an undeniably biased 'recounting of the Florida votes' could be one of the worst things that ever happened. It may have been a significant boost to the incorrect direction of development that has resulted in the global lack of climate action and the election of someone like Trump as President of the USA (a result that bankrupts, and makes a mockery, of the idea of USA Government of the people by the people for the people).

    My developed summary description of the problem is: The United diversity of greedy and intolerant supporting each other's understandably unsustainable and harmful interests, and claiming to be Right about everything, is undeniable Wrong about almost everything (must give them credit for potentially having a selfish interest that aligns with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals - it could happen).

    And that disease, grown in the USA, has been infecting other parts of the planet.

    Inoculation against that disease, treatments that get people to be more Good Helpful Altruistic Reasoning (GHAR) people could be the cure. All that is needed is for GHAR to govern over the other types of thinking, to keep them from being harmful, and to try to educate everyone to be more GHAR.

    This is all pretty new to me. But I am hopeful that it is already happening because of Trump winning, and a similar lack of GHAR resulting in the  Brexit result.

    Perhaps every deplorable Trump Tweet and Team Trump action is a Good Thing, in a backhanded way. Maybe Trump is a genius.

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  7. More fire tornadoes with more water vapour: I want to propose this theory (which I have not seen any site mention): A fire can reach 800 deg C or so. Water vapour and CO2 in the atmosphere absorb radiation of 0.82 to 3.2 microns in wavelength and also in about the 4 to 8 microns range. Now an 800 deg C fire radiates about 36.9% of its radiation in the 0.82 to 3.2 range and about 20.1% of its radiation in the 5 to 8 micron range. With more carbon dioxide and more water vapour in the air the heating of the air by fires could be causing more more convection and therefore oxygen to be supplied to fires and more fire tornadoes.

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