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Posts Tagged ‘rain

“No great thing is created suddenly… If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”*

this is a non-linear damage function

What is true of many blessings is also, Andrew Dessler explains, true of many curses…

If you’re struggling to understand why the impacts of climate change suddenly seem so awful, it’s time we discuss a key scientific term: non-linearity.

In a linear system, changes occur in a straight line. If climate impacts were linear, each 0.1°C increase in temperature would produce the same increment of damage. In this world, things slowly get worse over decades until, later this century, the accumulations of slow impacts becomes truly terrible.

But impacts of climate change are different — they are non-linear. In a rain event [as pictured above], for example, the first few inches of rain typically produce no damage because existing infrastructure (e.g., storm drains) were designed to handle that much rain.

As rainfall continues to intensify, however, it eventually exceeds the capacity of the storm runoff infrastructure and the neighborhood floods. You go from zero damage if the water stops half an inch below the front door of your house to tens of thousands of dollars of damage if the water rises one additional inch and flows into your house.

Thus, the correct mental model is not one of impacts slowly getting worse over decades. Rather, the correct way to understand climate change is that things are fine until they’re not, at which point they’re really terrible. And the system can go from “fine” to “terrible” in the blink of an eye.

The key to this is recognizing the thresholds that exist in the systems around us. For example, when engineers of the 20th century designed the infrastructure that we live with today (bridges, dams, storm runoff systems), they designed it for the range of climate conditions that existed at the time, adding in a small margin for unforeseen weather extremities. But not too much of a margin — they wanted to keep costs down.

The speed of us passing limits is mind bending. People who are impacted are often shocked and we frequently see people bemoaning the fact that some impact never happened before — this is the calling card of non-linear effects…

Rain, snow, wind, heat– we’re living in a non-linear world: “Why are climate impacts escalating so quickly?“, from @AndrewDessler.

* Epictetus


As we steel ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Hurricane Camille, the 2nd most intense and one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the continental U.S., came ashore along the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Waveland, MS.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 17, 2023 at 1:00 am

“The sea hath fish for every man”*…

A few weeks ago, (Roughly) Daily shared the story of The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ attempt to rebrand invasive Asian Carp as Copi in an attempt to make it a more appealing food. Kane Hsieh, writing in Spencer Wright‘s always-illuminating The Prepared, elaborates on the theme…

… It’s worked in the past: Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), monkfish (goosefish), and uni (urchin, also called whore’s eggs by American fisherman as recently as 1990) were all successful rebrandings.

Speaking of fish, it’s always a surprise to me how much of what feels like traditional cuisine is actually very modern, accidental, or even engineered. In Japanese cuisine, tuna and salmon rose to their contemporary status only in the 20th century: tuna was a poor man’s fish until post-war Western influence brought a taste for fattier meat, and salmon was an undesirable fish until the 80s when a desperate Norwegian government ran aggressive ad campaigns in Japan

Trash to table: rebranding fish to make them more palletable, from @kane in @the_prepared.

William Camden


As we contemplate cuisine, we might recall that it was on this date in 1838 that it rained frogs in London. Indeed, there have been numerous instances on polliwog precipitation in the area, most recently in 1998, when an early morning rain shower in Croydon (South London) was accompanied by hundreds of dead frogs.

A woodcut showing a rain of frogs in Scandanavia, from ‘Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon,’ one of the first modern books about strange phenomenon, published in 1557 [source]

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 30, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The score never interested me, only the game”*…


The story of the exotic Belgian import that is the most mystical, magical sport on Earth…  and of the Detroit lifer who became its King… and of an art heist:  “Believe in Featherbowling.”

* Mae West


As we take our seats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that Holt, Missouri set the world’s record for the fastest accumulation of rainfall: 12 inches (300 mm) of rainfall in 42 minutes.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

So you don’t have to…

How long can I keep this salsa?  What if my orange juice is past its expiration date? How are those dates set anyway, and what do they mean?

At the National Food Lab, they put food on shelves for days, or weeks, or even years, to see how it holds up.  Sometimes, they’ll try to accelerate the process with 90-degree heat and high humidity  And then, from time to time, they’ll take some of the food — whether it’s bagged salad greens, breakfast cereal, or fruit juice — off the shelf and place it in front of a highly trained panel of experts who check the taste and smell and texture.

“You would think that everybody can taste and smell food, but some of us are much better at it than others,” says Jena Roberts, vice president for business development at the NFL. The lab has 40 of these food tasters on staff. “They are the most fit people in the group,” says Roberts. “Because they don’t eat the food. They expectorate it. Which is a fancy college word for spit it in a cup.”

The experts give the food grades, in numbers. The numbers go down as the food gets older. Bread gets stale. Salad dressings can start to taste rancid.

John Ruff, president of the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago, says the companies that sell this food take a look at those grades and decide where they will draw the line, to protect the reputation of their products…

This is all organized and carried out by food companies; there’s no federal law that requires dates on any food except for infant formula, although some states do require sell-by dates on milk or meat.

Still, these dates don’t really tell you anything about whether food is safe.  According to Ruff, most products are safe to eat long after their expiration date. In fact, even meat or milk that’s clearly starting to spoil is not necessarily dangerous. “Very often, you won’t eat it because of the smell, and you probably won’t like the taste, but in a lot of cases, it’s unlikely to cause you illness,” he says.

That’s because it’s not the food that sat on the shelf too long that makes you sick, Ruff says. It’s the food that got contaminated with salmonella or listeria bacteria, or disease-causing strains of E. coli. And that food might not smell bad as it might have arrived in the store only yesterday.

So, as Dan Charles explains at NPR.org, if one is worried whether food is still OK to eat, one can just smell it… or one can rely on the intrepid tasters at NFL, who’ve expectorated so that we don’t have to.


As we breathe sighs of relief, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that it rained (uncanned) sardines in the Australian state of Queensland. During a violent storm in Ipswich, 30 miles inland from Brisbane, residents were pelted by scores of wriggling sardines.  Scientists reckon that strong updrafts lifted the fish from shallow waters near shore.

Fish showers aren’t all that uncommon.  In 2004, Wales got a flurry of fish; in 2006, India too.  And it’s not only fish that fly.  In Minneapolis in 1901 frogs fell in such numbers that people had trouble walking down the street; in 2005, thousands of frogs landed (on dry land, nowhere near water) in Serbia.


Happy e Day! (the day celebrating Euler’s Constant)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 7, 2013 at 1:01 am

Let it rain…

Perpetuum Jazzile is “Slovenia’s only jazz choir”; at last year’s VOKAL XTRAVAGANZZA in Ljubljana, they performed this:

(With thanks to my cousin, MT…)

As we reach for our umbrellas, we might celebrate the birthdays of two men with notable ties to rain:  Carl Jung, a father of analytic psychology and the discoverer of the “collective unconscious” (in which water and rain play significant roles) was born on this date in 1875.  And James Lovelock, the environmental thinker who authored the Gaia Hypothesis (in which rain patterns are one modality of the superorganism that is the globe), was born on this date in 1919.

Jung in 1910

Lovelock in 2005

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 26, 2009 at 12:01 am

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