Tales from the Trail

Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming

WEATHER/OK, it’s cold in Washington. It’s really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It’s hard to recall that long-ago moment — what was it, six days ago? — when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’,” Politico reported.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain the difference between weather, which changes in the short term, and climate, which changes over the long term. There’s a good explanation at the new government Climate Service Web site called “Short term cooling on a warming planet.” The new site went up this week, between blizzards, and is supposed to guide consumers and businesses so they can adapt to climate change. The Climate Service itself is expected to be up and running by the start of the next U.S. fiscal year that begins on October 1.

The last decade was the warmest on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United Kingdom’s Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization. “The bottom line is that current temperatures are way above the long-term average,” NOAA’s David Easterling says.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is certainly not backing away from its 2007 report that global warming is occurring and human activity is causing it. But climate change skeptics have focused on what they see as problems with how some of the data that led to this conclusion were collected and reported. To most scientists, though, this is all beside the point.

Wasn’t Groundhog Day last week? Another blizzard slams East Coast

WEATHER-USA/It is starting to feel a lot like that (in)famous movie “Groundhog Day” with a powerful blizzard again pelting the East Coast  from Washington, D.C. up to New York with a foot or more of snow and pummeling winds.

The federal government in Washington is closed for the third straight day, the United Nation’s headquarters in Manhattan is also shuttered — in fact it may be easier to say what’s open, which is probably next to nothing except the random coffee shop and well of course Wall Street.

Already about 15,000 customers in the Baltimore/Washington area are without power and that number will likely jump with wind gusts reportedly hitting more than 40 miles per hour at Dulles International Airport and near whiteout conditions.

Obama Braves “Snowmaggedon” to Rally Democrats

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The Obama family hails from Chicago, where heavy snowfalls are not uncommon. But that’s not the case in Washington, D.C., which was largely shut down on Saturday morning  by a blizzard when the president headed to the Capital Hilton Hotel to rev up a gathering of the Democratic National Committee.

The short ride from the White House was not without glitches. First, a couple of the 15 or so vehicles in the presidential motorcade had a hard time getting up the icy White House driveway. Then an ambulance that was accompanying the group had a slight fender-bender accident with one of the SUVs. As the cars approached White House grounds on the return trip, a tree branch fell on the same vehicle that had been scraped earlier, momentarily blocking the way.

Obama had serious things on his mind, such as healthcare and financial reform, as he spoke to a Democratic Party that has becoming increasingly concerned about the shifting tides of public opinion ahead of November’s Congressional elections. But the weather was an unavoidable topic.

Washington blizzard finally gets respect from ‘flinty’ Obama

President Barack Obama, who famously chided Washington for not being “flinty” enough in dealing with snow compared with his hometown Chicago, isn’t scoffing any more as a winter storm threatens to dump up to 30 inches on the U.S. capital this weekend.

WEATHER-USA/SNOW“I think even a transplanted Hawaiian to Chicago has sufficient respect for a forecast of nearly two feet of snow,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters as snowflakes fluttered against the window of his West Wing office.

Midwesterners like Obama like to brag how tough they are in winter weather compared with their East Coast brethren. That said, Gibbs noted the president was not going to have to shovel the White House’s many paths, although he allowed that the Obama daughters Sasha and Malia  might well play in the drifts or get out the First Family’s sled.

Washington Irony Alert!

USA-WEATHER/SNOWSTORMWashington D.C. is usually known as a town that takes itself very seriously. You know, policy, politics, money, relieved by the occasional scandal. President Barack Obama appears to be doing his part to alleviate this metropolitan irony deficiency.

As morning TV showed closed airports, closed schools, snarled traffic and grumpy commuters and holiday travelers, there was video from the White House showing First Dog Bo frolicking in the snow left from a massive weekend storm.

But Obama didn’t stop there. His official schedule has him delivering remarks on making government more efficient and effective. Who doesn’t want that? It’s only slightly ironic that the federal government is closed today, thanks to the snow piled up all over the place, most notably on the city streets.

Obama feels at home in eye of winter storm

While the rest of Washington dug itself out of  the area’s most severe winter storm in years, the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue  found the deeply drifting snow much to their liking as it blanketed the White House.

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“I am from Chicago, so let me first say that with the place where I live covered with snow I’m finally starting to feel like home,” President Barack Obama told reporters for a hastily summoned White House statement on climate change and healthcare reform.
    
Up to 20 inches of snow is forecast for the capital area Saturday, sharply restricting travel as airlines canceled flights and public transport was shut down.
    
This also brings to mind Obama’s previous recommendation that the locals need to develop some mid-western fortitude toward the weather, after he complained Washingtonians need some “flinty Chicago toughness” after his two daughters’ school closed down after a 2-inch snowfall in January. 

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

The First Draft: another day, another $30 billion

It’s not yet 9:00 on a Monday morning, and the federal government has already dumped another $30 billion into the tottering financial system. The money goes to insurer American International Group Inc., which just announced a fourth-quarter loss of $61.7 billion — the largest quarterly loss in corporate history. WEATHER/

For those keeping score at home, U.S. taxpayers have now pumped $180 billion into AIG.

Some good news: consumer spending and incomes rose in January, buoyed by salary increases for government employees.