October 30, 2014

Toronto during the 2014 polar vortex, the subject of the White House video in question.     Photo: Elenathewise/Thinkstock

Climate Skeptics Sue the White House

Libertarian group argues that opinion has been presented as fact

On Wednesday, a libertarian think tank called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the White House over a video produced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) linking climate change to incidents of cold winter weather.

Released in January 2014, when much of the country was enduring ice storms, snowstorms, and full-on blizzards, the video appeared to rebut the idea that bouts of cold weather suggested the planet wasn’t actually getting warmer.

“If you’ve been hearing that extreme cold spells, like the one that we’re having in the United States now, disproves global warming, don’t believe it,” John Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology adviser, tells viewers.

After explaining the difference between climate and weather, Holdren speaks briefly in the video about how global warming has been linked to frequent exchanges of warm and cold air between the poles and the midlatitudes. As temperatures in the polar regions increase at about twice the rate of the midlatitudes, he says, the polar vortex (a cold-core system that circles the polar regions) gets “wavier,” delivering colder bodies of air to places like the United States and warmer bodies of air toward the Arctic and Antarctic.

“I believe the odds are that we can expect as a result of global warming to see more of this pattern of extreme cold in the midlatitudes and some extreme warm in the far north,” Holdren says in the video.

The CEI begs to differ. In April 2014, it petitioned the White House to correct Holdren’s message, arguing that since many scientists disputed his claim, the video had violated the Data Quality Act, a law that requires federal agencies to provide the public with objective, reliable information. (CEI’s sources cited in its lawsuit include an article in the Washington Post and a blog post published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Both of these articles, in turn, link back to peer-reviewed scientific journals.)

When the White House responded by saying that Holdren’s message was presented as an opinion and therefore is not subject to the DQA, the CEI filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking that the White House disclose all documents and email discussion related to Holdren’s claim. The White House’s refusal to disclose 47 additional pages of these exchanges, which it claimed contained “privileged material,” is the basis for the CEI’s new lawsuit.


The plane fragment might have been a small modification to the plane made before Earhart's plane disappeared over the Pacific.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Group Says It Has a Piece of Amelia Earhart's Plane

Claims metal is from patched window

A piece of Amelia Earhart’s plane has been authenticated, claims an organization called the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), reports USA Today.

The piece was discovered in 1991 and trumpeted as a missing link to Earhart, but Lockheed, the maker of her plane, quickly denounced that claim as inconsistent with its design. Now TIGHAR says new research strongly suggests the piece of metal was a patch for her window that was installed during a stop in Miami earlier in her circumnavigation. The group claims it could not come from any other plane.

“The Miami patch was an expedient field repair,” TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie told Discovery News. “Its complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials, and rivet patterns was as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual.”

The famed aviator, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, is presumed to have died during a 1937 attempted circumnavigation of the globe. Her last whereabouts have never been determined after she and a navigator lost radio contact on approach to a remote Pacific island.

A host of theories have been advanced as to what could have happened, ranging from the reasonable—her plane ran out of gas and crashed—to the less plausible, like those that say she assumed a fake identity and lived to age 82 in New Jersey.

TIGHAR claims the finding bolsters its theory that Earhart crash-landed on a tiny Pacific island called Nikumaroro, where the metal fragment was found. The group is planning an expedition to the island in 2015, where they say they’ve used sonar to detect a promising “anomaly” 600 feet underwater that may be the plane.

Over the years, TIGHAR has launched a number of expeditions in an attempt to prove that Earhart crash-landed on Nikumaroro. Read our 2012 article about TIGHAR founder Ric Gillespie’s 25-year search.


Sage Kotsenburg, a Nike-sponsored snowboarder, in the 2012 Dew Tour Snowbasin snowboard slopestyle semifinal.     Photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Snowboarding

Nike Drops Snowboarding

Will put more focus on skateboarding

Nike has announced that it will be closing down its snowboarding business, according to the Oregonian. The company explained the move in a brief statement: “Nike SB will focus its innovation, design, and marketing resources on its biggest brand driver and growth opportunity, skateboarding. The current Holiday 14 Nike Snowboarding collection will be the final at retail.”

Snowboarding was never a major component of Nike’s business, and as stock analyst Mitch Kummetz told the Oregonian, sales of snow gear and apparel “have been very challenging for the last several years” due to lack of snowfall. Outside reported earlier this year that sales of snowboarding gear are down 29 percent over the past six years.

Nike’s foray into snowboarding included boots, clothing, and packs; its press statement said that the company would still produce a line of goggles. Sponsored snowboarding athletes like Olympic gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg will remain with Nike until the end of their contracts.


Colorado's Durango Mountain Resort, one of the partners in a ski collective along with other resorts in Arizona and New Mexico.     Photo: Durango Mountain Resort

New Ski Area Collective Formed in the Southwest

Includes Durango, Pajarito, Sipapu, and Snowbowl

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort announced today that James Coleman, a local real estate and private equity investor, has bought the resort and will start a ski collective in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The new collective, which will be named later, is made up of Durango Mountain Resort in Colorado, Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort and Pajarito Mountain in New Mexico, and Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff. Coleman has been the principal investor and managing partner of Sipapu, near Taos, for the past 15 years, but his acquisitions of Pajarito and Snowbowl are more recent. According to Durango’s statement, Coleman partnered with Los Alamos County to acquire Pajarito in a deal announced last week. Coleman announced just this week that he has signed a contract for ownership of Snowbowl.

The four resorts together will boast 3,088 skiable acres, 200 trails, 26 lifts, and 13 terrain parks. Kim Oyler, communications director for Durango, said that details for a collective season pass among the four ski areas are still being worked out. Sipapu and Pajarito debuted the New Mexico Power Pass this summer, which grants unrestricted access to the two areas and free skiing at 25 partner mountains. According to Sipapu’s statement, Coleman said that Durango and Snowbowl will keep their existing pass partnerships, which offer free and discounted lift tickets to season pass holders.