I know, I know, the western front has been quiet all too long. In fact, I've had two failed posts recently, and never corrected the problems.
After such a long absence from the "blogosphere," there is an overwhelming amount of ground to make up. I won't try here today.
Instead, I'd suggest looking at the "War Room" blog on salon.com [LINK]. You will need to watch an advertisement to get a day pass to salon, but it is very much worth it... since it will cost you nothing but a few seconds of time to watch a commercial for, e.g., the ACLU. Today Tim Grieve, the main (only?) author, is reporting on Katrina aftermath, including the poor response of the Bush administration. There's also an entry about a biologist at the FDA resigning because of the agency letting politics win over science [LINK]. So, that is the recommended reading for today.
On the science front, I don't have much time now to cover anything in any depth. However, if anyone happened to catch William M. Gray (Colorado St. U.) on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show the other night, you might have been surprised to hear an atmospheric scientist literally decrying the human-caused global warming. I know I was. I'm unaware of any other atmospheric scientists, including climate scientists, hydrographers, geographers, and oceanographers, who don't believe human activities have led to the dramatic global warming over the past 50 years or so. William Gray, for all the good work he's contributed in the past, seems now incapable of separating personal beliefs from scientific evidence. His views are surprising, given his active role in tropical cyclone predictions, which are cited on several web sites, like CaribWx.com. There is an interview with Gray on discover.com [LINK] which starts out sounding fine, and then degenerates into Gray decrying global warming. Gray seems to link changes in ENSO, ocean circulation, and other global patterns with cyclone activity, but doesn't believe that there is any link between such phenomena and human activity. He claims most of the older atmospheric scientists are with him on this, but I doubt that very much. While it is true that Gray is a pioneer in cyclone prediction, his views on global warming are extremely outside the mainstream, and I have found no scientific evidence that his view are defensible. One of his co-authors, Chris Landsea, is another hurricane expert who doubts the connection between hurricanes and global warming, but I don't know about his beliefs regarding anthropogenic climate change (although I suspect they are within the mainstream).
In extraterrestrial news, Enceladus, Saturn. A small moon with a +5 K temperature anomaly at the south pole and an atmosphere of 90% water vapor that has the highest reflectivity of any object in the solar system (big objects only?), has been featured in a lot of news stories over the past couple days [LINK]. It is a weird little place, and the astrobiologists are starting to get interested, I'm sure.
On a related note, I can't wait until extraterrestrial life is confirmed on any of our nearby candidates (Mars, Europa, Enceladus). It will likely make some people rethink some very backward views of the universe.
Finally today... obviously I've spent more time on this post than I should have... I wanted to link to a few climate change related news items. In the UK, 18 organizations ranging from environmental groups to Christian groups have formed "Stop Climate Chaos," a poorly named movement aimed at putting pressure on the UK government to do more about global climate change [LINK][LINK]. Also out of the UK, the WWF-UK (a member of Stop Climate Chaos) has issued a report about possible risks to species around the coasts of the UK. Sea-surface temperature is increasing, and sea level is rising, which could impact many aspects of both animal and plant life in the not-too-distant future. A very, very interesting study has been published linking an increase in a fungal blight in British Columbian lodgepole pines to increased summer rainfall. While the increased rainfall would usually be a good thing for the trees, the fungus can kill them, and the fungus depends critically on summer moisture to disperse spores. There isn't local warming around the affected area, but the increased rainfall seems linked to a trend in the climatic record (and is apparently not due to any known oscillation/cycle) [LINK][BioScience]. James Reynolds reports in The Scotsman that seabirds around Scotland's coast have had a very poor breeding season, and is probably due to a decline in the population of sand eels, which are a common food source for the birds. The report suggests climate change may be playing a role, although no explanation for such an assertion is provided by the article [LINK].