The Morning: Nicholas, big and slow

Plus booster shots, an F.B.I. apology and the master ice cream recipe.

Good morning. Nicholas continues dumping rain on the South. The booster-shot debate heats up. And the F.B.I. apologizes.

A sanitation worker drags a trash bag through standing water after Hurricane Nicholas in Galveston, Texas on Tuesday.Callaghan O'Hare for The New York Times

Lumbering Nicholas

Since the storm named Nicholas made landfall in Texas on Tuesday, it hasn't traveled very far.

It first lingered over southeastern Texas, dumping rain along the coast and causing power outages in Houston. Since then, the storm has moved east over Louisiana, sometimes as slow as two miles an hour. Nicholas could cause flooding in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida today and tomorrow.

This kind of storm — big and slow, bringing enormous amounts of rain — is an increasingly common part of life under climate change.

There are two main reasons. One is that hotter air can hold more moisture than cooler air. (For the same reason, your skin stays moister in the summer than in the winter.) Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton University scientist, compares warmer air to a bigger bucket: It can carry more water from oceans and then dump that water on land.

The second reason is that climate change seems to have caused a slowdown in the speed of storms, allowing them to spend more time in one place. One 2019 study found that the average speed of storms near the Atlantic coast of North America had slowed by more than 15 percent.

Why? Wind speed is partly a function of the difference in temperature between air masses, as Henry Fountain, a Times climate reporter, explained to me. A larger temperature difference leads to faster winds, as the mixing air tries to reach equilibrium. The warming of the Arctic has reduced the temperature difference between it and the Equator, weakening the winds between them, in North America. That weakness, in turn, has slowed the movement of tropical storms.

Climate change is fantastically complex, and some individual storms may have little relation to it. Yet the scale and frequency of severe weather in recent decades have changed too much to reflect normal variation, scientists say.

Many places are moving even more toward one extreme. Hot, dry places — like much of the American West — have become hotter and drier, while wet places — like the coast along the Gulf of Mexico — have become wetter.

Source: NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information

Many places were not built to handle this extreme weather. It leads to more flooding — be it in basement apartments in New York or houses in Louisiana — and more power outages, as well as more wildfires and heat deaths.

Nicholas is not likely to be one of the worst storms of 2021, but that's part of the point. It is part of the new normal, and it is making life more difficult, including for the tens of thousands of Louisiana residents who have already been without power for the past two weeks, since another big storm — Hurricane Ida — hit.

Related: Mount Shasta in California is nearly snowless, a rare event that is helping to melt the mountain's glaciers, The Washington Post reports.


Booster Shots
Receiving a third Pfizer dose in Tel Aviv last month.Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press
  • An F.D.A. review of Pfizer's Covid vaccine booster data found that an additional shot increased immune response but also that the current regimen still provided strong protection from severe illness and death.
  • In Israel, a separate study into third doses of the Pfizer vaccine further fanned the debate about the value of extra shots.
  • An F.D.A. advisory committee will meet tomorrow to consider Pfizer's application to offer boosters.
  • President Biden has already announced a plan to roll out boosters next week, though some experts cautioned against it. The public, one virologist said, "would be very annoyed if its cake was taken away at this point."
  • Confused by the debate? This explainer is helpful.
Other Big Stories
Simone Biles was one of the gymnasts to testify yesterday.Pool photo by Saul Loeb

Democrats' proposed social spending bill is big because America has underinvested in families and education for decades, says Bryce Covert.

More signatures would be one way of reforming California's recall process, Henry Brady and Karthick Ramakrishnan write in The Los Angeles Times.

"Smart" glasses, virtual-reality headsets and other computers for your face are almost here, Farhad Manjoo writes.

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CNews: A Fox News-style network is topping the ratings in France.

Get moving: How many daily steps you need to live longer.

A Times classic: The master ice cream recipe.

Ask Well: Is sparkling water just as healthy as still water?

Calories: Much of what we thought we knew about metabolism was wrong.

Lives Lived: The comedian and actor Art Metrano appeared in dozens of TV shows and two "Police Academy" movies. After a serious fall from a ladder, he turned his recovery into a one-man show. He died at 84.


A 'tsunami' of books on race

After the murder of George Floyd last year, and the widespread protests demanding racial justice across the U.S., readers rushed to buy books about race and racism. "So You Want to Talk About Race," by Ijeoma Oluo, sold 10 times as many copies as it had the year before.

Publishers took notice. They signed deals for books about the experiences of Black Americans, Elizabeth Harris writes in The Times, many of which are coming out now. At least half a dozen new imprints prioritize books by and about people of color, including Roxane Gay Books, which the author and social commentator will edit; and Black Privilege Publishing, led by the radio host Charlamagne tha God.

"What we're talking about is not the category of 'books about Black people' or 'racism,'" said Chris Jackson, editor in chief at Random House's One World. "We're talking about the category of 'books about the American experience.'"

Books that assess race through a conservative lens are taking off, too — including titles by Candace Owens and Mark R. Levin — thanks in part, Harris writes, to "aggressive coverage of critical race theory by outlets like Fox News." — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer


What to Cook
Linda Xiao for The New York Times

Tempe penyet — smashed tempeh with sambal — is a famous Indonesian street food especially common on the island of Java.


Our critics discuss the city's biggest fashion exhibitions: "In America" at the Met and the Christian Dior retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum.

What to Watch

Pauli Murray was an activist and a lawyer who made prescient, influential arguments on gender, race and sexuality. A film explores her life.

Late Night

The hosts joked about Nicki Minaj — and her cousin's friend.

Now Time to Play

The pangram from yesterday's Spelling Bee were doornail and ordinal. Here is today's puzzle — or you can play online.

Here's today's Mini Crossword, and a clue: ^ (five letters).

If you're in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

Clarification: In yesterday's newsletter, the chart showing vaccination rates in California's counties understated the rate in San Diego, because of a lag in the C.D.C.'s data.

P.S. Here's how The Times's Flex desk editors improve our journalism.

"The Daily" is about the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos founder. On "Sway," Jeffrey Katzenberg discusses Quibi's failure.

Natasha Frost, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at

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