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In Defense of Snow Days

March 27, 2015 Comments off

In Defense of Snow Days
Source: Education Next

This study provides a fresh look at the impact of instructional time lost due to weather-related student absences, as well as to school closings. Using student-level data from Massachusetts, I find that each one-day increase in the student absence rate driven by bad weather reduces math achievement by up to 5 percent of a standard deviation, suggesting that differences in average student attendance may account for as much as one-quarter of the income-based achievement gap in the state. Conversely, instructional time lost to weather-related school closings has no impact on student test scores.

What could explain these apparently conflicting results? It appears that teachers and schools are well prepared to deal with coordinated disruptions of instructional time like snow days but not with absences of different students at different times. In short, individual absences and not school closings are responsible for the achievement impacts of bad weather.

Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity (PDF)
Source: Journal of Applied Psychology

People believe that weather conditions influence their everyday work life, but to date, little is known about how weather affects individual productivity. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we predict and find that bad weather increases individual productivity and that it does so by eliminating potential cognitive distractions resulting from good weather. When the weather is bad, individuals appear to focus more on their work than on alternate outdoor activities. We investigate the proposed relationship between worse weather and higher productivity through 4 studies: (a) field data on employees’ productivity from a bank in Japan, (b) 2 studies from an online labor market in the United States, and (c) a laboratory experiment. Our findings suggest that worker productivity is higher on bad-, rather than good-, weather days and that cognitive distractions associated with good weather may explain the relationship. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our research.

Hazard Alert: Falls and Other Hazards to Workers Removing Snow from Rooftops and Other Elevated Surfaces

January 28, 2015 Comments off

Hazard Alert: Falls and Other Hazards to Workers Removing Snow from Rooftops and Other Elevated Surfaces
Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Every year, workers are killed or seriously injured while performing snow or ice removal from rooftops and other building structures, such as decks. OSHA has investigated 16 such serious injuries or fatalities in the past 10 years—all of which could have been prevented.

Snow removal is performed for a number of reasons, such as to prevent overloading and collapse, or for construction or repair of decking or roofs. Often workers climb directly onto the roofs or structures and use equipment such as shovels, snow rakes, snow blowers, ladders, etc. Other times these operations may be performed from the ground level using snow rakes. Aerial lifts are sometimes used to access roofs and apply de-icing materials. Snow removal operations are often performed under extreme weather conditions (e.g., cold, high winds, icy surfaces). Workers who perform these activities (for example, building maintenance workers) may have little experience or training on the hazards of such operations or work.

Workers performing snow removal operations are exposed to many serious hazards. Based on the findings of OSHA investigations falls cause the most worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers may fall off roof edges, through skylights, and from ladders and aerial lifts. Workers may also be injured or killed by a roof collapse.

See also: Working in a Winter Wonderland: 4 Things to Know in the Snow

New From the GAO

January 21, 2015 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Defense Headquarters: DOD Needs to Reassess Personnel Requirements for the Office of Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Military Service Secretariats. GAO-15-10, January 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-10
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667998.pdf

Testimonies

1. Aviation Safety: Issues Related to Domestic Certification and Foreign Approval of U.S. Aviation Products, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-15-327T, January 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-327T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667990.pdf

2. VA Construction: VA’s Actions to Address Cost Increases and Schedule Delays at Major Medical-Facility Projects, by David Wise, director, physical infrastructure team, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-15-332T, January 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-332T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667986.pdf

Reissue

1. Polar Weather Satellites: NOAA Needs To Prepare for Near-term Data Gaps. GAO-15-47, December 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-47
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667585.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/667259

On January 16, 2015, this report was reissued to include the Highlights page that was inadvertently missing from the previously posted report.

 

NCDC Releases 2014 Global Climate Report

January 16, 2015 Comments off

NCDC Releases 2014 Global Climate Report
Source: NOAA

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2014 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA scientists. The December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was also the highest on record.

See also: NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record

Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States

January 13, 2015 Comments off

Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (non-paywall version)

It is widely hypothesized that incomes in wealthy countries are insulated from environmental conditions because individuals have the resources needed to adapt to their environment. We test this idea in the wealthiest economy in human history. Using within-county variation in weather, we estimate the effect of daily temperature on annual income in United States counties over a 40-year period. We find that this single environmental parameter continues to play a large role in overall economic performance: productivity of individual days declines roughly 1.7% for each 1°C (1.8°F) increase in daily average temperature above 15°C (59°F). A weekday above 30°C (86°F) costs an average county $20 per person. Hot weekends have little effect. These estimates are net of many forms of adaptation, such as factor reallocation, defensive investments, transfers, and price changes. Because the effect of temperature has not changed since 1969, we infer that recent uptake or innovation in adaptation measures have been limited. The non-linearity of the effect on different components of income suggest that temperature matters because it reduces the productivity of the economy’s basic elements, such as workers and crops. If counties could choose daily temperatures to maximize output, rather than accepting their geographically- determined endowment, we estimate that annual income growth would rise by 1.7 percentage points. Applying our estimates to a distribution of “business as usual” climate change projections indicates that warmer daily temperatures will lower annual growth by 0.06-0.16 percentage points in the United States unless populations engage in new forms of adaptation.

NCDC Releases 2014 U.S. Climate Report

January 9, 2015 Comments off

NCDC Releases 2014 U.S. Climate Report
Source: NOAA

The 2014 annual average contiguous U.S. temperature was 52.6°F, 0.5°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the 34th warmest year in the 1895–2014 record. Very warm conditions dominated the West, while the Midwest and Mississippi Valley were cool.

The average contiguous U.S. precipitation was 30.76 inches, 0.82 inch above average, and ranked as the 40th wettest year in the 120-year period of record. The northern United States was wet, and the Southern Plains were dry; the national drought footprint shrank about 2 percent.

In 2014, there were eight weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These eight events resulted in the deaths of 53 people. The events include: the western U.S. drought, the Michigan and Northeast flooding event, five severe storm events, and one winter storm event.

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