Mortgage Mischief to Add to Housing Illusion —

How does it feel to be slightly less insolvent? – PAUL KRUGMAN isn’t really wrong here:  it says something about the sheer desperation of the European situation that Portugal’s ability to sell 10-year bonds at an interest rate of “only” 6.7 percent is considered a success. A few more successes and the European periphery will be destroyed. Countries on the European periphery will be facing bond markets a number of times in coming days, and so there was a real concern that a terrible performance here by Portugal would mean a big jump in spreads and the need for another big intervention. Potentially, it could have forced Europe to make a lot of momentous decisions at once and amid a crisis atmosphere. Instead, the auction yielded a slight improvement in Portuguese yields. That means that Europe’s leaders don’t find themselves facing a seriously abbreviated timetable, but neither have they been let off the hook by bond markets.
 
From The Oil Drum: comments on permafrost and methane – It’s very simple science. We know sea floor clathrates are contained by pressure of the water column and pressure. We know the pressure portion is very low on the Siberian shelf because it is so shallow. We thus must conclude temperatures need to be lower to keep it contained, but at least some clathrates are now within 1C of melting, so that lack of pressure likely puts us into he melt zone. We further know pre-industrial CH4 was about .7 ppb and are now at 1.8 ppb. You will note that is a much greater proportional change than 285 ppm to 390 ppm of CO2. Given CH4 also has a very short residence time in the atmosphere, vs. CO2’s long residence time, where is it all coming from and why is it overwhelming pre-industtrial levels so? But we also know CH4 levels above and below the water line and in the air above it, and even signifcantly above it, are many times what they should be. The additional detail in that power point should frighten you. It does me.
Breaking: Both NOAA and NASA data show 2010 tied with 2005 for hottest year on record – 2010 was also the wettest year on record – NASA has just released its analysis of the 2010 temperature data here, which finds: Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record…. To measure climate change, scientists look at long-term trends. The temperature trend, including data from 2010, shows the climate has warmed by approximately 0.36°F per decade since the late 1970s. “If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long,” said James Hansen, the director of GISS. The record temperature in 2010 is particularly noteworthy, because the last half of the year was marked by a transition to strong La Niña conditions, which bring cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. These records are also especially impressive because we’ve been in “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.” 
Toowoomba and Queensland floods – This astonishing video was shot on Monday as flash flooding hit the Queensland town of Toowoomba after a reported 140mm of rain fell in only 30 minutes. 12 people are confirmed to have been killed in the region, and 90 more are missing according to state premier Anna Bligh. Floodwaters are rising in the state capital Brisbane, with the central business district closed down. Flood levels are expected to top out above the levels reached in 1974 — the previous record holder. I know that Hot Topic‘s readers will join me in wishing the people of Queensland well. This ABC page has a list of relief funds to which you can donate. I can confirm that Skeptical Science’s John Cook is OK, and not expecting any direct impacts. We’ll be talking to him about the floods in the next Climate Show, scheduled for recording next week.
 
 

Deadly flash flood hits Australia after six inches of rain fell in just 30 minutes — Flood-weary Queensland, Australia suffered a new flooding disaster yesterday when freak rains of six inches fell in just 30 minutes near Toowoomba. The resulting flash flood killed nine people and left 59 missing. The flood waters poured into the Brisbane River, causing it to overflow, and significant flooding of low-lying areas in Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city with some 2 million people, is expected on Thursday.Remarkable 5-minute YouTube video showing the sad fate of a row of parked cars when a nearby small stream experiences a flash flood, sweeping away dozens of the cars. A note to the wise: Two minutes into the video, we see a man enter the flash flood to save his car. He is successful, but his actions were extremely risky–most flash flood deaths occur when cars with people inside get swept away. I would not have attempted to save my car in that situation.
 

 Illinois Governor Flees Capitol Through The Basement After Disastrous Meeting – Illinois Governor Pat Quinn fled the state’s Capitol building through the basement after a lengthy day of debating a rescue plan for the troubled state, according to CBS Chicago. Illinois is considering raising the state’s income tax by 75% as part of its financial reform package. The reform is key to Illinois balancing its budget and avoiding further debt market stress. The state’s current government is attempting to rush through income tax reforms prior to the new assembly being sworn in later this week.

Job Openings in U.S. Decrease for Third Time in Four Months – Job openings in the U.S. fell in November from the highest level in two years, signaling a sustained labor market recovery will take time to develop.  The number of positions waiting to be filled decreased by 80,000 to 3.25 million, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people hired dropped from the prior month and separations climbed.  Employers added a fewer-than-forecast 103,000 jobs in December, for a total of 1.1 million in all of 2010, the Labor Department reported last week. Faster job growth is needed to bring down the unemployment rate on a sustained basis and spur consumer spending.  “Labor demand still remains at very weak levels,”

 
Coal production grinds to a halt because of Queensland floods – COALMINES and rail infrastructure in Queensland continue to shut down as the flooding worsens, prompting US producers to fill the vacuum.  New Hope Corporation is the latest miner to announce it has suspended coal production after its thermal coalmines in southeast Queensland were affected by the adverse weather. The continued heavy rainfall has affected the entire coal chain. QR National announced yesterday that it had stopped rail services to mines west of Brisbane because of the flooding and the closure of the rail line on the Toowoomba Range after a landslide on Monday night. "The network operator, Queensland Rail, has advised that it had been unable to assess the extent of damage to the railway caused by the landslide on the range. However, early indications are that the impact may be significant," QR National said.
 
Fed’s Beige Book: "Economic activity continued to expand moderately" — Fed’s Beige BookReports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that economic activity continued to expand moderately from November through December…. Contacts in the manufacturing sector in all Districts reported that activity continued to recover, with the Richmond and Chicago Districts citing especially solid gains in orders. However, the Boston, Atlanta, and Dallas Districts noted that business remained weak for manufacturers selling into the construction sector. Retailers in all Districts indicated that sales appeared to be higher in this holiday season than in 2009 and, in some cases, better than expectations.
 
  Texas Lawmakers Faced with $27 Billion Budget Shortfall – Texas lawmakers will have a revenue shortfall of at least $15 billion for general-purpose spending for the next two-year budget compared to current state spending, according to figures released Monday. Some analysts say the true shortfall could be much higher — closer to $27 billion — if lawmakers intend to maintain spending at current levels and still pay for enrollment growth in public schools and on Medicaid rolls, cost increases and other variables. That figure amounts to almost a third of discretionary state spending in the current budget. The Texas Legislature will begin to grapple with the bleak budget picture when the session opens Tuesday.
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