Tuesday, October 02, 2007

the Jailing of Black America

Chilling statistics from the New York Times article: Jena, O. J. and the Jailing of Black America by ORLANDO PATTERSON of Harvard University.
America has more than two million citizens behind bars, the highest absolute and per capita rate of incarceration in the world. Black Americans, a mere 13 percent of the population, constitute half of this country’s prisoners. A tenth of all black men between ages 20 and 35 are in jail or prison; blacks are incarcerated at over eight times the white rate.

The effect on black communities is catastrophic: one in three male African-Americans in their 30s now has a prison record, as do nearly two-thirds of all black male high school dropouts.
The rate at which blacks commit homicides is seven times that of whites.

Something is very wrong - obviously. See Prof. Patterson's article for his perhaps surprising views.

I don't think that word means what you think it means

“Today, a megayacht is indispensable,” said Olivier Milliex, head of yacht finance at the Dutch bank ING. “It’s not like 15 years ago, when a yacht was a luxury item.”
[emphasis added]

from The New York Times: For the Yachting Class, the Latest Amenity Can Take Flight

Boston Molasses Disaster

The Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919 has to be one of the most bizzare calamities ever.

"A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the area still smells of molasses."

Though I used to live less than a mile away and still live fairly nearby, I don't ever remember hearing of this event.

Great Storm of 1953

Speaking of winter weather, The Great Storm of 1953 in the North Sea was one of the great weather catastrophes in recent history. While 1,835 lost their lives in Holland, a much great calamity was narrowly avoided - from Wikipedia:

The Schielandse Hoge Zeedijk dyke along the river Hollandse IJssel was all that protected three million people in the provinces of South and Noord Holland from flooding. A section of this dyke, known as the Groenendijk, was not reinforced with stone revetments. The waterlevel was just below the crest and the seaside slope was weak. Volunteers worked to reinforce this stretch. Neverthelesss, the Groenendijk collapsed under the pressure around 5:30 am on 1 February. The seawater moved into the deep polder. In desperation, the mayor of Nieuwerkerk commandeered the river ship de Twee Gebroeders (The Two Brothers) and ordered the owner to plug the hole in the dike by navigating the ship into it. Fearing that the ship might break through and dive into the polder, captain Arie Evegroen took a row boat with him. The mayor's plan turned out to be successful, as the ship lodged itself firmly into the dike, saving many lives.

The North Atlantic Oscillation

For the past five years I've spent several weeks each winter with the Humpback Whales of the Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic. I'm planning to go again this year. Naturalist Tom Conlin of Aquatic Adventures leads expeditions that give us the opportunity to observe these magnificent animals and their fascinating behaviour.

Being moored 80 miles offshore on the Silver Bank, I've taken a keen interest in the weather. In the winter of 2005 (February/March) in particular, I noticed a seemingly relentless series of "cold fronts" which brought high winds, rain and cooler weather from the north. Typically the wind on the Silver Bank (which is north of the Dominican Republic and south of the Turks and Caicos) blows from the east at 10-15 knots and brings pleasant warm temperatures in the 80's farenheight. The cold fronts would bring higher winds (20-30 knots), cooler temperatures and rain, often in a series of very localized squalls.

The North Atlantic Oscillation seems to be a major factor in the winter weather for a vast region including the Silver Bank: see the maps on this NAO page at Columbia University. It appears that when the NAO index is negative, the easternly winds reaching the Silver Bank will be weaker. The page also says the the Eastern U.S. experiences more cold air outbreaks. The Silver Bank cold fronts seemed to originate from cold systems in the U.S. which then moved south (my interpretation from looking at the satellite weather maps available on the boats).

So the question is: was the NAO index actually particularly negative in the winter of 2005? And of course, what are is prospect for the upcoming winter of 2008?

And the answer is ...

Apparently the NAO index was dropping rapidly in the winter of 2005, it was in transition from a fairly high index to a fairly low one. Here's a graphic I found at NOAA.

NOAA graphic

The next step would be to find actual weather data for the region as opposed to relying on my subjective recollections.