Sea level rise causing huge increases in “nuisance flooding”

Sea level rise causing huge increases in “nuisance flooding”
Roads that were once under water every 3 years are now under every 3 months.
By John Timmer
Jul 30 2014

The warming of the planet is driving ocean levels upward through two processes: the melting of land-based ice and the thermal expansion of the water in the oceans. Due to the vast energies involved, both of these processes are slow, so the ocean levels have only been creeping up a few millimeters a year. That slow pace makes it difficult for anyone to perceive the changes.

But it’s clear that those changes are taking place. In the latest indication, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has compiled data on what it calls “nuisance floods,” cases where coastal communities have to deal with flooding as a result of high tides or minor storms. Over the last 50 years, instances of these floods along the East Coast have gone up by anywhere from 300 to 900 percent.

On the rare occasions where sea level rise reaches the public’s consciousness, it’s typically as a result of a catastrophic event like Hurricane Sandy. Sea level rise does exacerbate these events, as the flooding reaches higher levels and extends over a wider area than it would have a century earlier. But the rarity and magnitude of catastrophes like these make it difficult for people to associate them with a gradual process. At the same time, the immediate effect of the process itself—high tides being about an inch higher every decade—is difficult for humans to perceive. As NOAA’s new report puts it, “neither changes in tidal datum elevations nor rare-event probabilities are readily apparent to the casual observer.”

But there are minor flooding events that are much more common, such as high tides that cause roads and properties to be submerged by salt water. Although these nuisance floods don’t cause widespread chaos, they do make areas inaccessible and cause damage to infrastructure that wasn’t designed to deal with salt water. These events are often common at certain times of the year or become more common in cycles, as normal high tides interact with changes in the ocean circulation or events like El Niños.

You’d expect sea level rise to also enhance nuisance flooding, and NOAA maintains the records needed to identify any trend. In the new report, NOAA scientists have defined a level above normal high tide that constitutes nuisance flooding for each of the tide gauges it maintains along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts. (These numbers were strictly based on tide levels; things like the amount of infrastructure present played no role in them.) It then examined the frequencies of nuisance floods at these locations, going back as far as the 1920s in some cases.

At the earliest points, nuisance floods are extremely rare, happening every few years, if at all. But toward the end of the studied period, the floods had become regular events, happening several times a year on average. The rates of increase are staggering. In the last 50 years, Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, have seen rates of nuisance floods increase by 925 percent. New Jersey and Pennsylvania had rate increases in the 600s, while the nation’s capital and San Francisco each saw the frequency rise by about 370 percent. Similar trends were found when the length of time the flooding persisted was tracked.


Why won’t the FAA let students fly drones?

Why won’t the FAA let students fly drones?
Teachers and model pilots are concerned a new government policy could ruin drones for the rest of us
By Carl Franzen
Jul 30 2014

From the the Seattle Space Needle to a fireworks show in Florida to Martha Stewart’s farm in upstate New York, it seems like small, privately-owned drones are popping up everywhere across America these days, providing us with previously unattainable, breathtaking aerial views. They’re also causing trouble: crashing into heavily populated areas and flying uncomfortably close to hospitals and airports.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has struggled for years with how to handle the growing popularity of these unmanned aircraft while keeping people safe, but the agency’s latest attempt has raised the ire of an unusual group of critics: professors and model airplane pilots. As Paul Voss, an associate professor of engineering at Smith College who favors using small drones for teaching his students, tells The Verge: “even though we as a group are very much respectful of government, things [at the FAA] are going way too far and harming our national interest.” Last week, he and some 29 other academics from institutions including Harvard, Stanford, and Boston University, submitted an open letter to the FAA outlining their complaints with a new policy the agency released last month.

Voss says there’s no better way to learn about abstract concepts like aeronautics and fluid mechanics than by having students build and fly their own small drones. The FAA says in its new policy that it plans to regulate all small aircraft — from traditional remote-controlled model airplanes flown by hobbyists, to newer quadrocopters like the DJI Phantom and Parrot AR drones, which have some automation — by putting them into two main groups: those being used solely for recreational purposes (“model aircraft”) and those being used for business purposes (“commercial aircraft.”)

The FAA says that pilots of model aircraft can fly them whenever and wherever they want, so long as they follow some common-sense safety guidelines (like not flying within five miles of an airport). All commercial aircraft pilots, though, first need to get permission with the FAA. As the agency wrote on its website: “There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in US airspace needs some level of FAA approval.” Those commercial pilots that don’t get approval from the agency can face cease and desist orders and fines up to $10,000.

“You can’t have the next ‘Wright Brothers’ if the only people who can get permits are established aviation folks.”


FCC chair accuses Verizon of throttling unlimited data to boost profits

FCC chair accuses Verizon of throttling unlimited data to boost profits
Wheeler: Verizon must explain why throttling policy doesn’t violate FCC rules.
By Jon Brodkin
Jul 30 2014

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is not happy about Verizon Wireless’ announcement that it will throttle 4G users with unlimited data plans. While he didn’t go quite so far as to accuse Verizon of breaking FCC rules, he told the company that it needs to justify its policy.

Verizon’s plan to slow down its heaviest data users when they connect to congested cell sites isn’t surprising—other carriers do it too. But Verizon said it would only apply the policy to users who are no longer under contract and still have grandfathered unlimited data. In other words, the policy may help Verizon push customers onto newer, pricier plans with limited data and overage charges.

Wheeler wrote in a letter (PDF) to Verizon Wireless CEO Daniel Mead that he is “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s policy.

“‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams,” Wheeler wrote. “It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.”

Wheeler continued, “The Commission has defined a network management practice to be reasonable ‘if it is appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service.’ Such legitimate network management purposes could include: ensuring network security and integrity, including by addressing traffic that is harmful to the network; addressing traffic that is unwanted by end users (including by premise operators), such as by providing services or capabilities consistent with an end user’s choices regarding parental controls or security capabilities; and reducing or mitigating the effects of congestion on the network.”

“I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as ‘reasonable network management’ a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for ‘unlimited’ service,” Wheeler wrote.

Wheeler asked Verizon to answer the following questions:


Popcorn Time shows no sign of slowing, as the ‘Netflix for torrents’ adds support for AirPlay

Popcorn Time shows no sign of slowing, as the ‘Netflix for torrents’ adds support for AirPlay

Jul 30 2014

Just a few weeks after Popcorn Time announced expanded support for Google Chromecast, the torrent-streaming platform is introducing support for AirPlay too.

To recap, Popcorn Time is a cross-platform movie- and TV-show streaming service that beams out torrents in real-time. It’s like Netflix, except it’s peer-to-peer (P2P), offers much more content, and has questionable legality.

While the movie industry has been pushing hard against the rise of torrent sites in recent years, Popcorn Time is showing no signs of slowing in its push to make torrents even more easily accessible. Available for PC, Mac and Android, Popcorn Time is Hollywood’s worst nightmare, with many recent releases available to stream gratis on your desktop, mobile and on your TV.

AirPlay support is restricted to the Windows app for now, though the Mac app will receive support shortly too.

The Brits call it “fitting them up”

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

From: “David S. H. Rosenthal” <>
Subject: The Brits call it “fitting them up”
Date: July 30, 2014 at 23:54:57 EDT

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said.



Not that Scotland Yard is any better.


Rachel Maddow Show: Boehner resurrects debunked smear circa Romney 2012

Rachel Maddow Show: Boehner resurrects debunked smear circa Romney 2012
Jul 28 2014

Rachel Maddow reviews some of the lies and distortions produced by the Mitt Romney campaign as it became more desperate to attract white voters, and shows how one lie in particular has been re-introduced to the public discourse in a John Boehner op-ed.

Video: 14:07 min

Wanted: U.S. Ambassadors

Wanted: U.S. Ambassadors
By Steve Benen
Jul 29 2014

According to the United Nations, there are 193 nations in the world. Of that total, the United States maintains embassies in 169 countries around the globe. But on the show the other day, Rachel highlighted a striking statistic: in a fourth of those embassies, the ambassador’s office is empty, because the Senate hasn’t confirmed anyone.

There are practical consequences of this. Unaccompanied children from Guatemala, for example, are reaching the U.S./Mexico border, and officials are working on possible solutions. But there’s a limit on the amount of diplomatic work that can be done in the Central American country, since the U.S. has no ambassador to Guatemala. We don’t have an ambassador to Russia, which also happens be a pretty consequential country right now.

There are a variety of factors contributing to the problem, but there’s reason to believe our embassies may soon receive some new ambassadors after all.
There’s a chance at least some of the ambassadors caught in a legislative holding pattern might be confirmed before the August recess.

While the process of filling the diplomatic corps has been slow in the aftermath of the “nuclear option” standoff last fall, Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday that he had withdrawn his more recent objection.

The Texas Republican had placed a hold on State Department nominees…. Cruz had placed the hold because of last week’s brief Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights by U.S. carriers to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Cruz’s conspiracy theory was pretty outlandish, even for him, but as part of his tantrum, the far-right senator announced a blanket hold on all State Department nominees, regardless of merit. The Texas Republican lifted that hold yesterday.

But before any ambassadors-in-waiting start packing their bags, the Washington Postreported that regardless of Cruz’s antics, “the pace of ambassador confirmations is unlikely to quicken. Republicans still demand a cloture vote that eats up debate time and slows the process, which is akin to placing a hold on them.”

Frances Stead Sellers’ report from late last week was fascinating.