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April 20, 2006

Central Europe floods
Posted by Teresa at 12:37 PM * 82 comments

They flooded last year, too. This is part of the pattern of increasingly extreme weather brought on by global warming. Have a look:

Wikipedia: 1. Flood in Znojmo. 2. Flood in Dresden. 3. Budapest under water.

BBC: 1. Central Europe floods, 30 March 2006. 2. Europe hit by floods, 03 April 2006. 3. Floods in Europe, 05 April 2006. 4. Your pictures: Europe’s floods, 09 April 2006. 5. Europe floods, 18 April 2006. Massive German floods monitored from space.

A stunning series of photos from a Hungarian site whose name I can’t make out: Tetőzik a Duna.
(Later: Michael says “Tetőzik a Duna” means “The Danube Peaks.” Csilla Kleinheincz adds, “Right now we have a situation on Tisza River, the highest flood in 500 years.)
The TimesOnline has a good summary and analysis, with links to related stories.

Bruce Sterling is over there right now. So is his wife.

Comments on Central Europe floods:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:05 PM:

You must be mistaken. There is no such thing as global warming.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Did I mention that last night, Patrick and I got to see an advance showing of An Inconvenient Truth? Excellent movie, though there's very little in it I didn't already know. I've been worrying about this stuff for years.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:45 PM:


Get with the program! If you're not up on the latest talking points you can't effectively mock them.

The current Truth of the Day is:

There *is* global warming, but it's all part of a *natural cycle*.

#4 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:45 PM:

And this comes hot on the heels of a really insanely cold winter, which triggered a major natural gas shortage in Europe, a brief threat of a trade war between the Ukraine and Russia, and heating prices doubling(!) in the UK.

Oh yeah. Here in Edinburgh, we typically get snow on the ground for 24 hours, one year in two. This year we had snow on the ground no less than four times, and multi-week periods during which the temperature was sub-zero. Putting it together with suggestions that the North Atlantic currents are changing (and the thermohaline circulation slowing), I am not filled with good cheer this spring.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:55 PM:

How can anyone say taking appropriate steps is too expensive, when there's a strong possibility of shutting down the thermohaline cycle, or trimming the first ten or twenty feet of elevation off everyone's coastlines?

I keep thinking that if Europe really understood the thermohaline thing, they'd be threatening to declare war on us if we don't reduce our carbon footprint.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:56 PM:

"I've been worrying about this stuff for years."

I think I've posted this before . . . but just in case it was somewhere else like Worldchanging:

A movie came out in the early 1970s that was set in a greenhouse-effect-afflicted New York City. Steamy, hot, and gross. It was about a cop who comes across, in the course of a murder investigation, a scientific report on a horrific unfolding ecological disaster: The krill in the oceans were dying.

Of course, no one remembers that part. They only remember the bit about corpses getting turned into green crackers.

#7 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 02:17 PM:

they'd be threatening to declare war on us if we don't reduce our carbon footprint.

And hence started the "EcoWars", launched by the European Union on the United States. It began with special ops troops being flown deep into American territory by those "Black UN helicopters" that turns out aren't actually black at all, but rather are completely invisible, since no one has actually seen them. These advance teams were inserted with laser designators and a target list including numerous large-scale industrial factories and SUV car lots. They were dressed in cowboy hats and boots and were trained to speak with a Texas accent in case anyone discovered them and they needed to explain all their firepower....

#8 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Mr. Jones ---

I'm always kind of surprised when I read a dry scientific paper the ultimate thrust of which is "Biosphere collapses, everybody dies". I certainly couldn't hew to proper tone and form if my research showed such a thing. One more reason that actual scientists are cooler than me.

#9 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Jasmina Tesanovic (Mrs. Bruce Sterling 2.0) is over there too, and blogging about it:

#10 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Stefan: Too bad Stephen Vincent Benet's "Metropolitan Nightmare" seems not to be on line, else I'd link to it. Maybe I'll type it into my LJ later.

This is all a hell of a way to celebrate Earth Day.

#11 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Just what we needed -- a Carboniferous Period world-wide swamp.

Global warming means more energy in the atmosphere, thus greater extremes in weather.

#12 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:35 PM:

Teresa, quite right.

I think that the political consequences of a thermohaline disaster would come quickly in Europe, and they do seem more likely to pay attention to the issue than our bunch in Washington who probably cannot pronounce thermohaline.

Out here on the left coast, we get worried about the effects of global climate change on both the ENSO long term cycle as well as the North Pacific High that opens and closes the "door" for winter storms out here. This year, we are having spot flooding (I live in Merced) and a warning is up again for this weekend. We got more snow in the Sierra a week into April (!), and now we are getting much warmer rain, with the rivers already up. They are draining the reservoirs as fast as they safely can to open up flood control space -- the big rivers here in the valley are right up under the bridges now. The streams are well down, but with the ground as soaked as it is, a good rains runs off quickly from the foothills, and the streams fill up fast.

Nothing to see here, move along . . .

#13 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:42 PM:

The Yolo Bypass is probably full, trying to keep Sacramento from going underwater. (Old Sacramento has its main entrances on the second story because of floods, or so I've heard.)

#14 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 04:09 PM:

If you're not up on the latest talking points you can't effectively mock them.

Sorry. lemme try that one again...

Global warming, widespread flooding, widespread cat-5 hurricanes, are all a message from God to all you sinners to stop taking it up the backside. The sooner you folk stop living in sin, the sooner we can get back to our raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens type of weather.

#15 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Terrific -- and it's how many days until hurricane season starts? (Looks at calendar, counts, aha - 42!) And Radio Central Nervous System just started playing Johnny Cash.

Maybe someone should post the jump bag link again?
I'll bet there's someone out there who needs it.

We didn't have much of a winter here in Central Ohio but we are having a real Spring for a change. The last few years we've gone straight from Winter to Summer...

My mother says her area of Virginia is experiencing a drought while Tennessee is getting hammered with thunderstorms and herds of tornados.

I suspect we've got more than enough weird weather to go around...


#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 04:35 PM:

LA didn't get 'winter' weather until mid-March. The usual pattern has summer hitting about early May. Spring is having to rush through this year.

My Zinfandel and Easter cactus are trying to bloom, my dwarf Sansevieria is blooming, and the pepper plants from last year look like they're trying for another season.

#17 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 04:43 PM:

I understand it's pretty hot in TX these days. And dry too.

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:02 PM:

but at least it's a dry heat.

#19 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:15 PM:


What you would take when you leave the house anyway (cell phones, chargers, keys, wallet, and all that jazz).

All important papers kept at home, including copies of whatever you have stored on your home computer regarding personal finances. This ought to include a household inventory.

Contact information, both for you to get in touch with people, and for people to get in touch with you. If you leave a phone number at your house, make sure it's in a waterproof medium. Local law enforcement may keep track of these things--this may be more likely to be the case in smaller communities. Check and see if they need to know.

Medication and important assistive devices.

Clean clothing for at least a week.

Family pictures of an irreplaceable nature.

Necessary supplies for pets, inclding carriers, leashes, etc. It's easier to find someone who can take in a pet, as needed, if you have their basics--and sometimes you may have to be separated.

Bedding and other comfort items, depending on where you expect to evacuate to.

Depending on how much notice you have, it may be possible to move some furniture, books, etc. to higher levels in your house, or to another location. Do not linger to do this if a fast departure is essential. Do not assume you will have time--pay attention to warnings; actively seek out information.

Know the roads in your area; have some idea which are low-lying ones likely to flood; know where the likely traffic tie-ups will be. If you move to a new area, find these things out as soon as you can. Know the ground clearance of your vehicles.

Always check and see how deep standing water is before you drive or walk into it. This is literally a matter of life and death.

Do not screw around on the assumption there's plenty of time. Nice people may come for you in a boat, but why put them to the trouble, if you don't have to? Pay attention to news reports and the people around you. If the police/sheriff's deputies/fire department come by and suggest you evacuate, do so--even if you can't see water in your immediate area. There may be a risk you'll be cut off because all the ways out are flooded.

A weather radio is a good investment.

When the water has receded, be prepared to handle clean-up on these terms:
Everything will be contaminated.
There will be things in the house that weren't there when you left. Some of these things may be alive. Alive or not, some may be dangerous. Rubber boots are worth the discomfort and cost.

This is in no way a complete list; but it's a start, and is based on observations from family who dealt with flooding in Missouri in the early 1990s.

YMMV--I can see writers wanting to take works in progress, others wanting to remove irreplaceable valuables. Computer equipment may seem like a good plan, if the data isn't all downloaded in another form. Do not linger for stuff that's extremely awkward to carry, replaceable, or nonessential. You can put not only yourself but others in danger by doing so.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Meant for San Franciscans, but generally applicable:

* * *

I wavered about posting this, but really, I gotta. It shows what we're up against, s'far as achieving the societal consensus necessary to tackle environmental problems:

(From a posting on

"Lets Use Alarmism to Tell Folks What to Do
by Anonymous Idiot

My experience with many so called environmentalists has been that their real agenda is to tell other folks how to live their lives, while being smug about how they live theirs."

Anoymous Idiot indeed.

#21 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Well, it MIGHT be true. That said, it would take a very special sort of idiot to deny the science that's around us, yes?

It's ALMOST time to start stocking up on ammo.

#22 ::: anghara ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Say a prayer for us, while you're thinking about this. New Orleans happened in a powerful nation at peace with all its support systems supposedly in place - in theory, anyway. The floods in Serbia are happening in a place that's already ready to break. The people who are being flooded out have very little left to lose. I am afraid that this might be the final slash that cuts our ties with survival.

I know these places. I was born on the banks of that river. I don't even have to see the pictures to know what the place must look like... and what the consequences might be.

#23 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Let me add to the good advice from fidelio above, advice of a more long term nature. When you are considering buying a house, or even renting, make sure to take a careful, thoughtful look at the flood maps for your potential abode. In the case of buying, the title company will have them and disclosures must be made. Take them seriously, and carefully consider statements of "well, it hasn't flooded here in years, don't worry about it" and "the flood insurance is so expensive". (One statement should tell you something about the other and you should never hear either from an employee of a reputable title or mortgage company).

If you are renting, stop by the local planning agency and ask to see flood maps for your area -- other agencies and businesses involved in either mortgage or property insurance will know where to find them as well. Check with the local librarians -- they know everything and will talk about it. Also, google the name of your town and "flood". Sometimes, you get interesting results, including pictures of your neghborhood under a couple of feet of water.

Not that it ever happened to me . . .

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Claude: Check the flood maps with your own eyes if possible. Sometimes the people who are telling you that you're in a flood zone are wrong.

#25 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:06 PM:


This is good advice, I think, but how much of it assumes that you have a car? I don't (although flood season has long gone), and a lot of people in New Orleans didn't. Does it just mean cutting down on what you take, or does it mean taking a notably different approach? This isn't meant to be a snark, I'm seriously looking for advice.

I certainly can't see myself attempting to herd my cats down the street ahead of me. :)

#26 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Claude: Some states have the flood maps available online. Many counties now have GIS systems online, most with the flood maps available as an underlay to the usual parcel and township layers.

When we bought our lot, the developer had the appropriate flood map with the lots overlaid on it hanging on the wall of the sales office.

#27 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:45 PM:

I'm currently relocating - our new location is a rental house that's in no danger of flooding: it's on a hill, and we're maybe 50 feet higher than the nearest body of water (a creek). The 100-year flood level won't come near us. However, the single road available to drive to our neighborhood fords that creek - the road goes steeply up and down the ravine sides. If the creek level rises by more than two feet, we'll have to walk out across the fields (heading the other direction, and it's only about half a mile to a major road and public transportation). Still, I did think about this issue.

#28 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:50 PM:

So, there's a google flood map. Is there a google map that shows predictions for who will be under snowpack when the gulf stream flips?

#29 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 07:13 PM:

Chris Quinones: This is all a hell of a way to celebrate Earth Day.

Well, today isn't Earth Day. That's not until Saturday. Today is 4/20, which isn't something I discovered the meaning of until I looked for a sublet in SF a few years ago. Not my thing, but for those of you who care, do try to steer clear of areas near high schools as they're bound to be high patrol areas today. (Perhaps there's a dispensation today for that particular part of the carbon footprint...)

#30 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 07:32 PM:

P.J., OG -- good points both.

I am familiat with GIS's and have used them. Our area, as is usual in California, poured all the planning maps into GIS's some time back.

But I would re-emphasize a couple of points from my own experience long ago as a reporter covering some "issues" with a local contractor. Just being on one side or another of a line on a flood map just means that your costs for flood insurance may vary. The map by itself can be very misleading and you need some context to understand what it may mean to you. For example, is the map up to date (this can be a problem with GIS's as well. Nothing's perfect.) There may have been new flood control measures completed above your site -- your lot may be much safer than the map shows. Alternately, since the map was drafted, someone might have built a new subdivision just upstream of you, and cut a few corners on drainage.

A lot of flood damage, especially out here, is not from big rivers, but from what are called "small and urban streams". These are what used to be nice little streams that are now constricted downstream by culverts and other measures, and now drain land covered by houses and pavement instead of forest or meadow.

If you are going to spend up in the six figures for a house, ask around at the local library, Starbux, or home improvement center. Call the state contractors license board, especially if it is a new house. Better to be shocked by some news before escrow closes.

#31 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 09:09 PM:

Candle (and others without cars), a prudent thing to do, the day before it gets bad enough to evacuate, is to call up your friends with cars and ask for a ride in case things get bad. Maybe it will be a false alarm. But friends who know you are depending on them for a ride out of town will stop by, or at least get in touch to make sure you're ok. It doesn't always work -- not everyone has local friends, or friends with cars. Not all disasters have advance warning. But it can help.

If you're preparing to ride in someone else's car, or to evacuate by bus or train, you'll need to bring less stuff than if you have your own car. If you can fit your gear into a backpack, and the cats can share a carrier, that may make life a little easier. (I write as if these are 2 cats. If there are 15, herding may be better.)

#32 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 09:20 PM:

By way of packing up computer equipment: laptops are easy. If you have a desktop, find out how to yank the hard drive(s) out, and have an antistatic bag handy to drop them into. Much easier to tote out than a many-pound tower, which is far easier to replace than the data....

#33 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:27 PM:

Jim --

Responding to your comment from way up there, we don't get Cretaceous ocean highstand and the drowned-desert climate cycle unless the East Antarctic Ice goes, which is, all by itself, good for a 65 m rise in sea level. (West Antarctic is good for 8; Greenland, 6.5, everything else put together, about 1 meter.)

We're very unlikely to get that; the East Antarctic is maintained by a combination of the antarctic circumpolar current, which there's absolutely nothing in the way of, and altitude, which isn't going away either. The fresh water spill from the West Antarctic might bobble it, but there's no paleoclimatological evidence that the thing has stopped since South American and Antarctica got far enough apart for it to form.

What we are likely to get, presuming that Greenland and the West Antarctic go (both likely under current models) is a 15 m total rise in sea level and the Oligocene climate regime, which means that effectively the entire continental US is desert. Many other places, too; cranking up the heat engine dries things out.

The fun part is the lag; are the effects we're seeing 1890's CO2? 1950's? 1980's? Last year's?

Really tough question to answer, beyond "last year's v. dubious".

#34 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Tet"ozik a Duna = "The Danube peaks". Let's hope it's peaking. I had to consult the dictionary on this one, my wife being asleep. I was pretty sure that "The Danube roofs" was a mistranslation...

#35 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Oh, and for those interested, google "Global Dimming"; that's something else that'd stick around for years even if we stopped causing it tomorrow.

#36 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 11:37 PM:

I certainly can't see myself attempting to herd my cats down the street ahead of me.

Come the flood, I think my turtle will be doing better than me...

#37 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 12:11 AM:

(I write as if these are 2 cats. If there are 15, herding may be better.)

Thanks Adrian - and yes, there are two cats. If I had 15 I think I would try to link them up to a sled and escape that way.

I looked up Cambridge (UK) on the google flood maps, and at the highest rise they give you my old house there is totally dry. Although it is surrounded by water on three sides, and at a distance of about 20 yards. I don't think I'll trust to that in a crisis.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 01:09 AM:

Time for me to plug my Emergency Kits again.

See also much of the discussion of the flooding after Katrina here in Making Light.

See also the Flood Bucket inventory list.

Hurricane season starts in about a month.

The Discovery Channel has been running a series called "Perfect Disaster." Dramatizations of worst-case weather -- cluster of F5 tornadoes hits Dallas at rush hour, for example. Two of them are Typhoon in Hong Kong, and Flooding in London. Check it out.

#39 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 02:57 AM:

candle: yes, there are two cats. If I had 15 I think I would try to link them up to a sled and escape that way.

Which means that the sled would be moving in 15 different directions simultaneously, stopping periodically to groom.

JDM: The Discovery Channel has been running a series called "Perfect Disaster."

I believe that they did one dramatizing the Cascadia fault letting loose with an offshore magnitude 9 quake. This featured animation of downtown Seattle skyscrapers flopping over onto hapless lunching pedestrians. I certainly wouldn't want to be on the Alaskan Way Viaduct (our double-deck, collapse prone, nearly condemned concrete I-580 analog) if this were to happen.

I have looked at floodmaps of my area, and I have more cause to worry about mudslides than rising waters.

#40 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 03:55 AM:

Larry Brennan, I'm not aware of the significance of 4/20, and your post is so tantalizing! I feel like I almost know what you're talking about. That kind of thing drives me nuts.

#41 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 04:51 AM:

Köszönöm szépen Michael!

#42 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 04:55 AM:

Jeremy Leader: Try looking on Wikipedia.

Larry Brennan: I assume you mean 880 rather than 580? The double-decker freeway that pancaked during Loma Prieta?

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 05:21 AM:

Global Dimming: There's a SETI-like climate modelling programme running, partly backed by the BBC. Modern desktop computers can run a usefully detailed climate model. Unfortunately, they made a mistake in the input data, which led to lower figures used for industrial-sourced atmospheric sulphates, and hence less global dimming. They're saying they got some useful info out of the mistake, which amounts to a climatological what-if.

I just wonder if the model has things like the North Atlantic Conveyor able to switch off. Or whether anyone yet knows enough to predict the critical point.

#44 ::: Csilla Kleinheincz ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 06:10 AM:

Michael: You got it right, although 'roofs' isn't entirely incorrect either. We Hungarians use the same word for two concepts.

Right now we have a situation on Tisza River, the highest flood in 500 years.

#45 ::: Petter Hesselberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 08:24 AM:
David Goldfarb (to Jeremy Leader) (about 4/20): Try looking on Wikipedia.

My first thought was Columbine -- Larry Brennan's origiginal post did mention high schools. Your hypothesis seems a better fit, though.

#46 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 08:59 AM:

The surest sign that you are living well out of flood range is when your insurance company offers you flood insurance at low premiums after a nationwide flood disaster.

#47 ::: Michael L ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 09:32 AM:

Global dimming. PBS's NOVA just did a special on global dimming. The short verison is if we improve our pollutant emissions and global dimming improves, the earth takes a huge jump in temperature over and above what the global warming models are predicting.

#48 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 09:37 AM:

One advantage to flood evacuation, as opposed to hurricane evacuation, is that it tends to apply to specific areas rather than entire cities. (I except small communities in flood plains, of course--or places like New Orleans and the Netherlands). Therefore, it's easier for the carless to manage--you don't usually have to work out travelling a hundred or more miles (unless you're saying the hell with it, and leaving town to stay with the friends you've been meaning to visit). You just have to get to higher ground, and it's a lot easier to get help, because there are likely to be people who aren't trying to cope with their own share of the disaster able to give a hand.

If you can't get a ride, or a taxi, or whatever, then figure out what you can carry as far as you can manage to get transport. Little red wagons, those wire grocery/laundry haulers some folks use, and wheelbarrows can be useful in a pinch, silly as that may sound. So can baby carriages. It's not impossible to evacuate on a bicycle, because you aren't expecting to be blown to kingdom come by 70+ mph winds.

When levees break, water can come up very quickly, but generally floods are slow, as natural disasters go, so if you've been paying attention you generally have time to work around problems like Where can I go and How will I get to there from here.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Claude: For example, is the map up to date (this can be a problem with GIS's as well. Nothing's perfect.)

Tell me about it. I do QC on GIS stuff. We're dealing with decades of maps of pipe (only 5000 miles of it right now), trying to get reasonably accurate maps so they can be properly inspected for the foreseeable future, and also leaks-and-dings found and fixed more quickly.

Doing it right the first time gets the job done. Doing it wrong sixteen times may be job security, but only if there's no QC. (QC gets ticked off after the third or fourth time it's done wrong.)

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:00 AM:

Michael L --

That's the slightly too short version.

The problem is not that the heat isn't getting here; it's a question of where it's going. The climate models weren't taking into account a change in the temperature of the upper atmosphere. (Secondary effects, like those on plants due to less light, are still being studied.)

Climate models were also using the ground-level temperature change as a metric for the amount of existing climate change. Discovering global dimming meant that was wrong, because the ground level temperature had been lowered by the reduction in sunlight reaching the ground. (A reduction of almost a fifth in some areas.)

So it's not that Global Dimming is a separate problem; it's a reason why the Global Warming climate models were giving incorrect results.

#51 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Ah. So the problem is that due to global dimming, the modeling of global warming was low-balled, and actually things are worse than everybody thought?


That's nice.

#52 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:44 AM:

This post reminded me of a wonderful story by Hilbert Schenk, "Three Days at the End of the World"--he sure was on fire right about then.

#53 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Hmmm. I had no idea that 4/20 was the date of the Columbine massacre. David Goldfarb is right on both counts, with his wikipedia link, and that I meant I-880. The viaduct is a twin of that now-replaced freeway, including wet subsoil conditions.

I saw Nova last night as well. Rather depressing. Expect industry advocates to latch onto Global Dimming theory to justify dumping lots of particulates into the air.

#54 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:58 AM:

Michael --

That's right, in part because the oldest accurate weather records are from the places that industrialized first and had the first smog, too, and in part because no one controlled any of the data for this effect.

Larry --

The people pointing out that asthma kills kids and that asthma is (mostly) our own collective damned fault for polluting ought to be able to stick some spokes in that wheel.

The climatologists pointing out that heating the upper atmosphere until it's warmer than the lower atmosphere is a really bad idea, weather-wise, ought to be able to spoke it pretty well, too.

(Why, of course we want to cause monster tornadoes and six inches of rain in two hours in the middle of cities. Fine idea. Grand. Bound to prove wildly popular with all concerned.)

#55 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Christopher Davis -- By way of packing up computer equipment: laptops are easy. If you have a desktop, find out how to yank the hard drive(s) out, and have an antistatic bag handy to drop them into. Much easier to tote out than a many-pound tower, which is far easier to replace than the data....

Better yet, external drives that plug into the USB port. We use a couple of the 250G drives for backups, and should evacuation be required (we're close to urban wildfire country) they're top of the list.

#56 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 04:11 PM:

joann: Definitely. If you don't have a USB (or Firewire) external drive, it's a great investment and highly recommended.

If you don't have one, or have been lax in your backups, though...yank the internal drive.

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 04:45 PM:

Or have a "Shuttle" box. Fits in a gym bag, weighs about 20lb. But an external drive is a good idea too.

#58 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 06:46 PM:

joann; Christopher Davis; P J;
Note that 1 gig usb flash drives are in the 25-35$ price range now. You can get rubberized, quasi-waterproofed ones in that price range too. 1 gig is perfect for taking your documents with you - photos, not so much.*

There is free automatic backup software for windows: see for a program called Rapid Backup. It is a simple directory-synching program, but combined with the usb-flash drive is perfect for taking the most recent revision of your novel with you anywhere.

Empty external enclosures are cheap: buy one for around 35$, and put in a spare (or better yet a new) hard drive.

Removable hard drive "sleds" are also available, though I don't recall the correct name for them. They fit in the 5 and 1/4 size opening: unlock and pull and you can take your computers hard drive with you in a minute.

Note on the last one, the hard drive trays: the cheap ones aren't very durable and aren't appropriate for frequent use. Once in a lifetime emergency departures are an ideal application, though.

Perhaps the writers could tell us if a one gig usb drive would be adequate for transporting their complete works?

Slashdot had a couple interesting articles post-Katrina along these lines. Highlights included suggestions to superglue a usb drive to your chest [!] in the event of a flood, with high rez scans of important documents like deeds, passports, etc. Over the top slashdot advice, but hey, they're creative.


*that's what ipods are for. You know you can use them as hard drives too? With third party tools you can also pull your music off of them if your primary computer gets flooded out.

#59 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 10:00 PM:

Ah. That Wikipedia entry on 4/20 (US dating) makes some kind of sense of the original remark. Another odd thing I've learned thru' here.
The first thing it means to me is the birthdate of Adolf Hitler (1889), which I've always remembered as the first of a strange trilogy - not quite consecutive. QEII (aka Betty Windsor) is getting all the publicity this year for her 80th. William Shakespeare being the (attributed) third, on 23/4/1564 (UK dating).
I think that birthday was mentioned as a reason for the date of the Columbine school shooting - an event that rather spoiled the memory of several nice things of that name.

Re valuables in floods: in travel and surfing shops, among others, I've seen both waterproof soft pouches, suitable for putting in those money-carrying travel belt/pocket things, and smallish waterproof hard containers attached to a belt or lanyard you can take to a beach. You could put things like flash drives and a few papers (insurance policies, deeds, ID etc.) into one of those and keep them about your person. Possibly useful for attaching contact & ID info to children in case they get separated.

#60 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2006, 04:39 AM:

Global dimming is essentially a low-grade special case of nuclear winter.

Nuclear winter's sometimes considered a discredited theory, and certainly it's been very much overhyped in some quarters, but we've had experimental proof of concept - Saddam Hussein torched the Kuwaiti oilfields when the Iraqis withdrew from Kuwait around the first Gulf war, and that showed similar climatic effects in the area. Similar things happen with volcanic eruptions.

(I have a book here, Catastrophe by David Keys, which argues that most of modern civilization is influenced by a huge volcanic eruption in the 6th century. Quite fascinating, if occasionally a little pushy.)

#61 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2006, 06:50 AM:

Here in Prague, all the flood barriers are up and the Vltava (aka the Moldau, it later runs into the Elbe) is pretty swollen, but it looks like the danger's pretty much over.

I'll have to go onto Strelecky Ostrov (the island in the middle of the river) and get some photos - you get a better impression of the height of the water when it's all around you.

anghara: Mojo duly dispatched.

#62 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 12:03 AM:

I just read on CNN that Bush has stated that "Hydrogen is the fuel of the future."

That's sort of interesting--I didn't realize that hydrogen was evil.

#63 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 02:00 AM:

I was looking for bankers boxes at Office Depot today and noticed they're selling 1gb USB 2.0 Swiss Army Knives. As long as you're not fleeing a hurricane or flood via air, that might be an option.

#64 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 07:03 PM:

rhandir -- Note that 1 gig usb flash drives are in the 25-35$ price range now. You can get rubberized, quasi-waterproofed ones in that price range too. 1 gig is perfect for taking your documents with you - photos, not so much.

We both already do that (well, 256M); this is to be able to have a complete--and almost uptodate--disk image. There are a lot of photos and other archival stuff, like mail going back 15-20 years. Further, the usual recovery method is one in which you tediously have to reinstall things; this way, use the external drive as a bootable partition.

I recently scanned a number of useful financial/household/etc documents to PDF; they now live several places including a flash drive in the safe deposit box.

#65 ::: charles ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 11:45 PM:

I was just reading about season creep at wordspy.

#66 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 07:31 AM:

I think the problem here is language: Thermohaline sounds too much like a made-up word.

#67 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 08:54 AM:

"Thermohaline sounds too much like a made-up word".

Hmmm... that hasn't stopped people from talking about, say, genocide, using a word which was made-up by a Polish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin in 1943, because there was no other word at the time which actually named the war crime which he was proposing to ban.

#68 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 09:50 AM:

What kind of disk imaging software do you use for bootable backups? I've used (the old version) of Norton Ghost before, and have had good luck. Ah, wait, if you can use the external drive as a bootable backup that means you probably are using a firewire drive with OS X? I could use the name of a reliable bit of software that does that on the mac - I'm switching soon.


#69 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 11:38 AM:

rhandir: Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper. I've used CCC and heard many good things about SD.

#70 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Charles: that's a very cool (though morbidly so; I'm in a town in Poland right now and a big memorial on the market square reminds me of what my "forefathers" did here a little over half a century ago) tidbit! I had thought the word was much older. I wonder why Turkey isn't arguing from the angle that the Armenian thing couldn't have been genocide because the word didn't exist back then... ;P

Incidentally, I knew the word thermohaline, but only because I'd heard it in a radio report a few weeks ago, and at that time I thought, man, that sure sounds like a made-up word.

#71 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 01:50 PM:

It's all the will of God/Allah/the Tooth Fairy as punishment for our sins/tests of our faith and resolve/preparation for receiving a really shiny silver coin.

#72 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 01:54 PM:

coin! coin!

#73 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 02:48 PM:

rhandir : joann, What kind of disk imaging software do you use for bootable backups? I've used (the old version) of Norton Ghost before, and have had good luck. Ah, wait, if you can use the external drive as a bootable backup that means you probably are using a firewire drive with OS X? I could use the name of a reliable bit of software that does that on the mac - I'm switching soon.

No macs involved, it's all PCs and Fedora. The program is called acronis. I believe we committed a Samba insanity to do the Fedora part. I'm not sure we've actually got an actual boot from it as yet, but that's supposed to be the plan--there may still be one of those "I think you need some more detail on step 2" cartoon moments going on. (I'm supposed to be more than mildly technical by training and experience, but the actual state of things frequently escapes me.)

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Greg London: Have you suffered enough?

#75 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 10:53 PM:

Thanks Christopher, joann - you've given me a new thread to tug at. I'm especially intrigued by the samba bit - my friend the windows IT admin guy says "that's all black magic, but not as bad as bonjour". (Yes, he'd rather be managing linux boxen.)

In the past, I've used a knoppix boot disk and partimage with some success, but I have become disillusioned with the large amount of bit twiddling required in order to for it to work.* Closed source solutions tend to "just work" -- when they work. Very sad. I wish I could reccomend linux to my technically inclined friends, but I think it would just turn into an endless source of cat-vaccuming.


*Something changed from kernel 2.4 to 2.6 that broke partimage, so I can create images in knoppix based on 2.6, (superior hardware detection so the gui works) but I need to write images with knoppix based on 2.4 (back to the command line, with different names for devices, e.g. sda1 vs uba1). Not to mention that the default permissions for users change between the two flavors AND between livecd and installed versions.

#76 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:46 AM:

Acronis is good stuff. I used the free trial version to move my Windows XP image off the old hard drive it was on, to a totally different sized partition on a new drive, while shuffling various stuff around and dropping a little-used FreeBSD partition in the process. It went very smoothly. (Good thing, because the old drive began dying just a month or two later.) If I need anything like that again, I'm definitely buying Acronis.

You've definitely got me thinking of buying an external USB drive for our fileserver and/or for the desktop system; I like the idea of having an exact clone for both purposes. The other thing I'm thinking is that if I buy a Mac Mini Duo for my next system, I could toss the whole machine into a backpack.

#77 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:42 AM:

Clifton Royston,
Thanks for the reccomend on acornis.

I really like external USB drives because they have their own power supply. One failure scenario for harddrives is a power supply going foobar and bringing everything else down with it. (Disk images help not if you can't get the spindle going!) I'm not sure, exactly, but I think dirty power lead directly to my last bout of having to buy new harddrives. Anyway, here's to fault tolerance.

The mini sounds good. I bought mom her own - best tech support I could have provided her. Rock solid, no mystery driver issues, no wierdness. And it's smaller than the external drive enclosure I bought to go with it. I'm still looking into mac-specific cloning software.*

*Note you can only boot from an external firewire drive, not usb in OSX. But you can't boot windows at all from a usb drive, can you? Unless something's changed that I don't know about.

#78 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:40 PM:

Senate panel calls for abolishing FEMA

Bipartisan investigation finds disaster agency beyond repair

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's disaster response agency should be abolished and rebuilt from scratch to avoid government failures exposed by Hurricane Katrina, a Senate inquiry has concluded.

Crippled by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot be fixed, a bipartisan investigation says in a report set for release Thursday.

Five years to go from an effective and efficient agency to a smoking crater. The blame for this can only go on one doorstep: the White House.

And how will that same government that destroyed a working agency create a new and better one? Hurricane season starts in thirty-five days.

#79 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:15 AM:

rhandir, this is a total nit but I have to ask -- how come you spelled it "foobar?" To my knowledge, it is and must be "fubar." Can anyone enlighten me? I realize this is beyond trivia...

#80 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 09:35 PM:

Lizzie L: I suspect that once an acronym loses its capitalization, it becomes a word like any other, subject to shifts as fashion and oral transmission have their way with it. I note that the online hacker's dictionary suggests that foo may have been the original form; this could be as revelatory as the disclosure that it really was "duck" tape originally.

#81 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Lizzy L, CHip's explanation is on target. Being aware of the etymology of the word, I'm inclined to use foo when straight FUBAR has too strong a connotation. (After all, the power supply failures cited above didn't actually qualify for "beyond all recognition" anyway. No bang, no magic smoke.) That, and using "foo" and "bar" as variable names is pretty standard in programming examples, so foobar is apt for computer related errors.

There is a related pun.
Bear in mind that kung fu (or gong fu) literally refers to expertise in an art, or achivement through effort. "kung f00" would refer to programming mastery, or at least, the possession of l33t h4x.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:01 PM:

One failure scenario for harddrives is a power supply going foobar and bringing everything else down with it.

I know someone who put a new power supply in his (not-a-PC) box. Upon flipping the switch, he got a 'poof' and some smoke. Investigation determined that one of the leads inside the supply had not been trimmed, and it shorted 110V to ground. Blew the breaker/fuse before it fried anything else, fortunately.

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