Other Climate News in the new year
Outlook for this 2017-2018 Winter
La Niña is now developing in the Pacific Ocean after a long El Niño. A large reservoir of colder water, that has become established in the Pacific, makes this prediction robust. The outlook maps for temperature (above) and precipitation (below) in the United States are primarily based on this confident forecast that La Niña will continue for six months.
La Niña brings colder-than-normal conditions to the northern United States and warmer-than-normal temperatures to the southern states, as shown in the temperature outlook map. This year, the outlook for a colder winter does not extend to the northeastern US. The chance of a warm winter is better than 50% from Arizona to Texas and Louisiana.
The outlook for precipitation
(below) is also consistent with La Niña: wetter-than-normal
in the northern tier, and drier-than-normal in the southern tier of states.
Northern Florida and southern Georgia are especially favored for dry conditions.
Prominent cancer scientist tells world body of Science Journalists
Susan Desmond-Hellman, M.D., worked for Genentech, a company engaged in genetic engineering. One day, she announced to her boss that “This changes everything!” . . . while leading the team that discovered Herceptin, an antibody that increases the survival of some patients with breast cancer. At least for some people, she had found a new treatment for breast cancer . . . . a difficult disease to treat or to cure. The consequences of her discovery have been tremendous.
We live in an age where much of what science says is dismissed or disregarded. At an invited lecture at the World Conference of Science Journalists , Desmond-Hellman said, “There is a lack of trust in the scientific method. I rely on science, but I also depend on other people having faith in the methods of science.” If people do not believe or trust scientists, then their healthy skepticism of anything new becomes denial. This can have serious consequences: from 2000 to 2005, denial of the existence of AIDS in South Africa led to an estimated 330,000 people dying.
“There is a growing mistrust of elites . . . especially of scientists. It is a huge threat: it will lead to deaths and disabilities. Anti-elitist sentiment is a threat to us all !” Susan intoned.
Another example, a successful one: there are now only 17 cases of polio on Earth. A dreaded disease is now close to being eradicated because scientists cooperated to understand it and to perfect a vaccine against it over the last 60 years.
To regain the faith of people in science, Susan Desmond-Hellman reminded scientists to be mindful of three C's: consequences, confidence, and credibility.
“Our work has consequences!” As scientists, we must demonstrate that we understand the consequences of what we discover. . . both good (the end of smallpox; treatments for AIDS) . . . and bad (nuclear weapons; effective methods of torture). . . We need to be humble about our work and what might come out of it. “We scientists need to embrace our own humanity and our own communities,” she added. “Get out of your own network of friends, especially seek out friends who aren't like you. Travel and get out of your bubble.”
Confidence in scientists is critical. Information now spreads so rapidly, that decision-makers face significant consequences when they rely on scientific consensus or opinion. Social media takes that rapid dissemination and “just puts it on fire.” To re-establish confidence in scientists, she advises us to
Her advice to scientists is to not show uncertainty in the work; that motivates some people to attack. Rather we should say, “Today, this is the best information I have.”
Credibility: If scientists want our messages to matter, our credibility is most important. Credibility has two sides: one is trustworthiness, the other is expertise. To re-establish our credibility as scientists:
Susan concluded with “Life is better because of Science!”
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We report on Desmond-Hellman's speech which I heard at the World Conference of Science Journalists. Other sources we used are a report on the same speech by student reporter Nicoletta Lanese, of the Student Newsroom of the World Conference; and another speech, "Facts or Fear: the Case for Facts” that Susan delivered at Cambridge University in June of this year.