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BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved

Dark brown oil in a marsh seen during an overflight on May 18, 2010. (Photo/NOAA).

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

BP’s announcement that it will pay $7.8 billion to compensate thousands of Gulf Coast residents harmed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster ends one chapter of legal wrangling over the 2010 oil spill, but leaves other, potentially far more expensive, issues unresolved.

The tentative deal, announced late Friday, does not address state lawsuits and federal claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, which could cost BP as much as $21 billion more. It has little to do with efforts to assess the extent of environmental damage and to pay for them; that will come later. And BP could still face criminal charges related to the oil spill and be barred from receiving federal contracts.

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Dropping into the Eye of the Storm

Getting detailed scientific measurements from within the maw of a hurricane isn’t easy. But scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research have been fine-tuning devices called dropsondes that can go deep into storms to capture atmospheric data and help researchers gauge how storms will behave.

Each dropsonde weighs less than half a pound and looks “like a glorified paper towel tube,” which “houses a circuit board, a series of sensors, and a parachute,” writes The Boulder Stand’s managing editor Breanna Draxler in an article for The Daily Camera. The dropsondes, which researchers drop from planes or high-altitude balloons, contain GPS receivers that record wind speed and direction. The dropsondes also take temperature, humidity and air pressure measurements.

About 3,000 to 5,000 dropsondes are deployed each year to measure an array of atmospheric events.

Read Draxler’s full article, “NCAR scientists improve tool for measuring extreme weather” in The Daily Camera.

Warming Arctic Fueling Cold, Snowy Winters, Study Says

Photo: Dr. Pablo Clemente-Colon, Chief Scientist National Ice Center.

by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central

The blockbuster snowstorms and frigid temperatures seen in much of the northern hemisphere during the past few winters are in part the result of global warming-related Arctic sea ice loss, according to a new study published Monday. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds clear links between the precipitous decline of Arctic sea ice and severe winter weather in Europe, Asia, and parts of the U.S. during the past several years.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to the widespread ramifications of melting Arctic sea ice, proving that what’s happening in the Far North is not just a concern for polar bears anymore.

This study is the first to take a comprehensive look at how Arctic sea ice loss is changing the odds of unusually heavy snows in the Midwest and eastern U.S., as well as parts of Europe and Asia. Using a combination of observational data and computer model simulations, the group of researchers from Georgia Tech, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Columbia University, found that sea ice loss — particularly the decline in fall sea ice cover — affects winter weather in the northern hemisphere through a complex series of interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere.

The Arctic has been warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the globe, a trend studies show is largely due to manmade climate change. Fall sea ice cover declined by 27 percent between 1979-2010, and the five lowest sea ice extent years have all occurred during the past five years.

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