Tag: natural disasters

If the Catastrophic Weather Events Don't Get Us, the Irrationality Might

By Valerie Ross | April 8, 2011 12:24 pm

global warming
What global warming?

What the weather’s like affects some people’s beliefs about global climate change, a new study found: On hot days, they’re all over it, but on cold days, they’re not so sure.

This is not impressive, people. It’s called “global,” meaning not just what you personally felt when you walked out the door this morning. “Climate” also means something different from “weather”, and “change” could mean things will get warmer, colder, or just plain different. On unusually chilly days, these climatically labile folks are 0 for 3.

If only that was the worst of it. A string of studies have shown that people are comically bad at consistently thinking, well, anything when it comes to climate change. Even miniscule differences in what we’re up to at the moment or how we’re asked can have a big effect on what people think of climate change and what they’re willing to do to help. Here are five more ridiculously simple things that get people to change their minds:

What’s on TV. I’m sure you all remember the 2004 hit film The Day After Tomorrow, in which global warming throws Earth into a new ice age, all of a sudden, much to everyone’s surprise. After the movie came out, one study showed, people believed in global warming more, worried about it more, and felt it was more dangerous than they had a few weeks earlier. Where data fail, have Jake Gyllenhaal run through the streets of an ice-bound New York.

Wording of what’s happening. About 10% more people think weird things will happen to Earth’s climate when you call those weird things “climate change” than “global warming,” a study in March found—because the exact phrasing is what’s really important here, not the weird-climatic-things part.

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Chernobyl & Indonesia: The Newest Members of the "Grief Tourism" Club

By Jennifer Welsh | December 17, 2010 11:59 am

ashDo you enjoy looking at burnt villages and/or deserted cities? How about being exposed to radiation?

If that’s your thing, you are in luck with new “grief tourism” vacation packages being offered in Indonesia (site of a horrifying volcano) and the Ukraine (home to Chernobyl). As Scientific American explains:

“Grief tourism,” however ghoulish it might seem, is far from uncommon. Similar trends were seen in Haiti, devastated by a powerful earthquake in January, as well as in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The trend isn’t exactly a new one; tourists have been swarming historical disaster sites, like the crumbling Pompei ruins, for decades. Now, tourism groups are encouraging visitors to travel into more recent disaster zones, like the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where the Mount Merapi volcanic eruptions this fall killed more than 350 people and sent nearly 400,000 to refugee camps.

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The Mass of Hurricanes Converted to More Familiar Units: Cats & Dogs & Elephants

By Jennifer Welsh | September 29, 2010 6:03 pm

hurricaneIf you were to calculate how much a hurricane weighs, what units would you pick?

To understand how much water is in a cloud, it seems many researchers pick the good ole elephant unit, or sometimes a blue whale. Choosing some of the largest animals on the planet gives everyone a better sense of just how much water is up there in the clouds.

Calculating the number of elephants in a small white puffy cloud will start to give you a sense of just how many elephants to expect from your average hurricane. Andy Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told NPR’s science correspondent Robert Krulwich that a single, small, white, cotton-ball cloud weighs about the same as 100 (4-ton) elephants:

“I think the dimensions are somewhat deceiving,” clouds, he says, look small when you are down on the ground, but very often they are much bigger than you think.

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Chile Quake Shifted Earth's Axis, Shortened the Length of a Day

By Smriti Rao | March 2, 2010 11:03 am

Earth-North-America-cloudsThe devastating earthquake in Chile that killed almost 700 people probably also shifted the Earth’s axis, say NASA scientists, permanently making days shorter by 1.26 microseconds. But since a microsecond is one-millionth of a second, you may not have noticed.

Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says he has done the calculations. Gross says the earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, moved large amounts of rock, altered the distribution of mass on the planet, and moved the Earth’s axis by about 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches). The change in axis directly impacts Earth’s rotation, and the rate of the planet’s rotation determines the length of a day.

To explain this phenomenon, scientists used an ice skating analogy: When a skater spins on ice, he draws his arms closer in to his body to spin faster, because the speed of his rotation is dependent on the way mass is distributed across his body.

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"Death Map" Plots Where Nature Is Most Likely to Kill You

By Nina Bai | December 17, 2008 1:46 pm

lightningIf you’re not feeling lucky, don’t venture into Wyoming, Utah, or Colorado. These states have some of the highest mortality rates caused by natural disasters, according to a new “death map” that plots where Mother Nature takes her heaviest tolls.

From 1970 to 2004, natural disasters killed some 20,000 people in the U.S. Surprisingly, the deadliest events aren’t the ones that make the headlines. More people died from heat/drought (19.6 percent), sizzling summers (18.8 percent), and freezing winters (18.1 percent) than earthquakes, wildfire, and hurricanes combined (less than 5 percent). And who would’ve thought that lightning accounted for 11.3 percent of deaths from natural hazards? The strikes were especially concentrated in the New England and southeastern states.

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Weekly Science Blog Roundup

By Andrew Moseman | August 29, 2008 9:59 am

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup.· Scientists have found the next great weapon against bacteria: marijuana.

· The Large Hadron Collider isn’t going to destroy the Earth, but if it did, it would look really cool from afar.

· Chris Mooney looks at Gustav, the storm forming in the Caribbean, and says, “Uh-oh.”

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Mining Mistake May Have Set Off Massive Mud Eruption

By Andrew Moseman | June 9, 2008 4:27 pm

A gurgling mud volcanoAs Lusi, the world’s fastest-growing mud volcano, now stands on the brink of collapsing upon itself, the geologists studying this bizarre dirt-spewing pit now say they are almost certain that a well drilled for natural gas production caused it to form.

Lusi first erupted mud and toxic gas in May 2006, killing 13 people and soaking a dozen east Indonesian villages. Lapindo Brantas, the mining company, said an earthquake two days prior provided the jolt that kick-started the volcano. But Michael Manga and his grad student Maria Brumm of the University of California, Berkley investigated that claim, and they found that was highly unlikely the earthquake was the cause. The quake was centered more than 150 miles away from the mud volcano, the researchers say, and none of the ways earthquakes are triggered could explain how it set off Lusi.

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MORE ABOUT: natural disasters

One More Impact of Climate Change: Longer Days (Literally)

By Melissa Lafsky | April 23, 2008 4:51 pm

hourglassKeren Blankfeld Schultz at Scientific American has an interesting report on the effects of severe weather on the length of a single day, or the total time it takes Earth to rotate once on its axis. As it turns out, the speed of the planet’s rotation is determined by the amount of mass across its surface, which is made up of the “roiling aggregation of gases that comprise the atmosphere, the solid earth itself, its fluid core, and the sloshing ocean.”

So when an event that has the power to move a huge amount of mass—such as, say, an earthquake and/or tsunami—occurs, it can alter the earth’s rotation speed enough to lengthen or shorten a day by as much as several thousandths of a second.

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