Your summer in extreme weather
Here’s one thing feminists are asking about the Sotomayor hearings: Would the judge’s “temperament” be called into question if she were a man?
There’s no denying (a) Lindsey Graham’s hectoring tone, or (b) my urge to see what the Wise Latina was writing on her legal pad while waiting him out. (“Did that asshat seriously just say ‘maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection’?”) There’s also no question that — as Feministing put it today — “there’s a specific sexist and racist narrative that accompanies the accusations of Sotomayor as somehow angry or meaner than her male counterparts. (Because when white dudes are strong, they’re just powerful. When women of color are strong, they’re scary.) And it’s simply infuriating to watch it play out in these hearings.”
But what about John Bolton? Or, for that matter, Sarah Palin’s running mate? Yes, the “temperament” issue may be specious and fatuous (even sexist and racist) when applied to Sotomayor. (And I seriously doubt Graham, or anyone, would have had the chutzpah to tell Bolton to take a time-out.) But, to put perhaps too fine a point on it, the issue was also raised about John and John McHothead — and found to be a matter of serious concern, not a laudable expression of power.
So, you know, I just want to make sure that we’re all asking the right questions. In any regard, when Sen. Graham asks Sotomayor, “Do you think you have a temperament problem?” I think we all know the answer. Anyone who can sit through that kind of obnoxitude without (to paraphrase a Tweet from blogdiva) whipping out a blade and going all “I like to live in America” just to fuck with him is nothing but a saintly paragon of restraint.
Great Plains tornadoes
From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.
"It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."
But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."
On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.
Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."
An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.
Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.
Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.
Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."
Florida red tide
A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.
The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.