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June 21 2013


Video Friday: Climate, Arctic Sea Ice and Weather Whiplash

We have two videos today from Yale Climate Forum exploring the connection between Arctic ice, the jet stream and “weather whiplash.” In the first video, Rutgers University climate researcher Dr.Jennifer Francis and Dr. Jeff Masters discusses this connection in terms of the “mirror image” spring weather over much of North America between 2012 and 2013.

In the second video, climatologist Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research offers some skepticism about the impact between Arctic sea ice and the observed weather with a response to Trenberth’s concerns from Francis. This exchange of ideas serves as an example of top scientists working in their fields to better understand the implications and consequences of global climate change.

The post Video Friday: Climate, Arctic Sea Ice and Weather Whiplash appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 07 2013


Video Friday: Ocean Heat, Climate Change and Surface Temperatures

This video from greenmanbucket is taken from a longer skype interview with Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  In this clip Dr. Trenberth discusses Earth’s energy balance, ocean heat and climate sensitivity. Dr. Trenberth discusses these issues further in a recent interview published in The Conversation

The post Video Friday: Ocean Heat, Climate Change and Surface Temperatures appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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July 22 2012


February 08 2012


A Fresh Take on Chaotic Weather

An online presentation takes readers through what scientists can and cannot conclude about the relationship between recent climate extremes and global warming.

November 09 2011


Combating the Culture of Climate Change Denial

Overcoming a culture that pits Man against natureThe failure to accept the anthropogenic origins of climate change may be partly attributable to a fallacy of modern culture. Popular culture pits us against nature which in turn undermines efforts to curtail climate change.

Man versus nature is one of seven conflicts in literary studies, it relates to the theme in literature that places a character against the forces of nature. Many disaster films and survival stories deal with the theme of man’s alienation from nature. As reflected in surveys on climate change about half of Americans are estranged from nature.

Americans are also dangerously divided on the urgency of climate change. According to a 2011 report from GfK and SC , even though the environment is an economic issue, a majority of Americans (52%) accept trading environmental protection for economic development to maintain their standard of living.

The human role in climate change is the most controversial subject of the 21st century even though the issue has been settled. Writing in WIREs Climate Change, Dr Kevin Trenberth, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is now so clear that the burden of proof should lie with research which seeks to disprove the human role. “Humans are changing our climate. There is no doubt whatsoever,” said Trenberth.

Almost 5 years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicated that global warming is “unequivocal”, and is “very likely” due to human activities. Since then, attempts at large scale climate regulation have failed at a number of levels.

Even the few scientists who previously resisted man-made climate change are increasingly being swayed by the overwhelming body of evidence. People like the Koch brothers work hard to resist the science supporting global warming, yet even scientists paid by this climate denying duo are finding it hard to ignore the findings of their own research.

At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the concentration of the greenhouse gas CO2 was at 360 parts per million (ppm). In the 20 years since, it has risen to 390 ppm, and that number is continuing to grow with no end in sight.

We have not seen climate and energy legislation in the U.S. and the U.N. has failed to produce a binding emissions agreement. When combined with the imminent expiration of the Kyoto protocol at the end of 2012 it makes a bad situation worse.

Despite a sluggish global economy, the latest calculations from the U.S. Department of Energy indicate that CO2 emissions have risen sharply in 2009 and 2010.

Under these circumstances, Jochem Marotzke, the head of the German Climate Consortium, believes we are “on a course of development with CO2 emissions that makes the 2-degrees goal more and more illusory.” Politicians are not willing to face up to the realities and take action. “This reluctance will bring about fatal results,” Marotzke said.

Climate change denial is a major obstacle impeding action. According to a book written by Riley E. Dunlap, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State, and Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State, organized denial has succeeded in blocking domestic legislation. These authors have indicated that deniers make it nearly impossible to get responsible climate legislation in the U.S. This is the point they make in their book, “Climate Change Denial Machine” in a chapter titled, “Organized Climate Change Denial.”

“We have argued that because of the perceived threat posed by climate change to their interests, actors in the denial machine have strived to undermine scientific evidence documenting its reality and seriousness. Over the past two decades they have engaged in an escalating assault on climate science and scientists, and in recent years on core scientific practices, institutions and knowledge. Their success in these efforts not only threatens our capacity to understand and monitor human-induced ecological disruptions from the local to global levels (Hanson 2010), but it also weakens an essential component of societal reflexivity when the need for the latter is greater than ever.”

To succeed in auguring the major changes required it may not be enough to communicate the facts. One of the salient factors compounding climate change denial concerns the state of disconnection between humans and nature. Western culture opposes nature and is defined by consumerism and anthropocentrism. We have been brainwashed by the idea that the natural world is there for our exploitation. Pop culture reinforces the cleavage between people and the natural environment.

If we are to save the planet we need to better understand the overarching significance of nature. We need to review our propensity for over-consumption and we need to reevaluate our homocentric tendencies. In its simplest essence, we need to understand that the Earth is more than a reservoir of raw materials; it is the indispensable substrate of our lives.

We are under the illusion that man is not part of the fabric of the natural world and this is blinding people to the need for urgent action. Although we may be disconnected from nature, this detachment is a matter of choice, and connection can always be recovered.

Until we deal with the failings of a culture that pits man against nature, we will not marshal the support required to fully engage the battle against climate change.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Facebook – Earth2100

September 14 2011


Science and Pernicious Ignorance of Climate Change Denial

Willful ignorance of the reality of climate changeIt is nothing short of tragic that so many Americans continue to dismiss the scientific veracity of climate change. Deniers are not moved by the coherency of the research that weaves together the different points of measurement. The plethora of data includes higher global mean surface temperatures, melting glaciers, retreating sea ice, increasing water temperature, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather. The data is unequivocal yet there are scores of confused people who are woefully unaware of the facts.

Deniers are not phased by the fact that we are already beyond dangerous climate interference (as indicated by leading scientist John Holdren in 2006). They reject as alarmist the global planetary emergency (as declared by world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen in 2008) and they scoff at the notion that radical reductions in carbon emissions are the only solution to our escalating climate emergency (as recognized by the IPCC).

Deniers ignore the fact that the climate system has moved beyond the patterns of natural variability. They disregard the significant risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

They seem oblivious to the fact that based on current trends, the end of this century will be characterized by sea level rises, the collapse of rainforest and marine ecosystems, desertification, and the disruption to the monsoon system that supports more than one billion people.

Even the collapse of the global carrying capacity of the Earth does not soften climate denier resistance. These deniers are not swayed by the evidence of a pronounced warming trend around the globe.According to an EPA report, seven of the top ten warmest years on record for the continental U.S. have occurred since 1990. The report also indicates that tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades and of the ten most active hurricane seasons, six have happened since the mid 1990’s. Sea levels have risen between 1993 and 2008 at twice the rate of the long-term trend. Glaciers are melting and their loss of volume has accelerated over the last decade. The frequency of heat waves has steadily risen since the 1960’s and the percentage of the US population experiencing heat waves has also increased.

Deniers dismiss the relevance of the EPA’s findings along with the fact that seventeen of the warmest years in recorded history have occurred over the last twenty years and the warmest years on record occurred in the most recent decade.

Although extreme weather has made headlines across the world, deniers appear oblivious. The summer of 2011 was one of the hottest on record and the summer of 2010 saw record-setting temperatures in more than a dozen nations. There were record-breaking temperatures all around the world in 2010 and a new record was set for the second highest average global temperature over a 12 month period. In 2011, the U.S. experienced widespread record-breaking heat waves and droughts, which along with other extreme weather events, have been linked to climate change.

In 2010, China recorded the second highest temperatures it had ever seen, and India recorded its warmest year ever. Many heat records were also set in the U.S. in 2010. According to NASA, 2010 was tied for the hottest year ever in the U.S. and NASA’s temperature record showed that it was the hottest January to April in recorded U.S. history. In the U.S. there were more than 4000 daily high temperature records that were tied or broken in June. There were also 159 reports of record high temperatures for June and 42 reports of all-time record hottest temperatures.

Even before 2010, the evidence for a warming trend was building. Researchers have been pointing to a link between weather and climate for decades. Eight years ago, a study published in NatureNews indicated that global warming was partially responsible for the deadly heat wave that scorched Europe in 2003. Hurricane Irene pushed the U.S. yearly record for billion-dollar natural disasters to 10 in 2011, smashing the 2008 record of nine.

A 2009 study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) showed that there is an increasing trend of record-breaking heat in the U.S. There has been a substantial increase in the number of record daily highs and in the last 30 years.

An article from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) titled “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“ presents some of the findings from a climate study by NCAR, Climate Central, The Weather Channel, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They indicate that daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States. They also suggest that the ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

“Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at NCAR. “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

Deniers are quick to say that the world has been warmer in the past; however, a 2010 study discovered that even though the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) was approximately 19ºC warmer than today, CO2 levels were only slightly higher than they are today. Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor of Ocean Physics at Potsdam University, said that three million years ago, during the Pliocene era, temperatures were just two to three degrees warmer, but sea levels were 25m to 30m higher.

According to some predictions, within a decade, summers in the North Pole will be devoid of ice. Images from NASA support this contention as they show a significant decline in Arctic sea ice thickness between 2003 and 2008. The Arctic’s reserve of thick ice that’s more than 2 years old makes up 10 percent of its winter ice cover, down from 40 percent in the past. And for the first time on record, the Northwest Passage was open to navigation.

Global warming is also melting glaciers around the world. A massive crack in Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland has led scientists to predict that a big part of the Northern Hemisphere’s largest floating glacier will soon disappear. A record amount of Greenland’s ice sheet has already melted.

When it comes to tornadoes and other forms of extreme weather, 2011 is proving to be the deadliest and most destructive year ever. 2011 is already the deadliest year for tornado outbreaks in the United States since 1953, with more than 500 people killed.

Rising seas threaten areas like Grand-Lahou in the Ivory Coast and the Maldives. A 2007 climate change report predicts that sea levels will increase 7 to 23 inches by 2100, speeding erosion and threatening coastal land. Warm air holds more water vapor than cold and on average, the Earth’s atmosphere is about four percent wetter than it was 30 years ago. This has prompted major flooding in Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, and Colombia.

According to satellite data, annual sea level rises are 50 per cent higher than last century. Research suggests 1 in 10 people could be at risk of coastal flooding by 2100. Sea levels are rising significantly faster than previously thought and are on track to rise by more than 1 meter by the end of the century, putting entire countries and many of the world’s largest coastal cities at risk of inundation, according to research presented at the Climate Congress in Copenhagen. An increase in sea levels of 1 meter would affect an estimated 600 million people, or almost 10 per cent of the world’s population, putting them at serious risk of coastal flooding.

“You have to remember it is not just the steady increase in sea levels that is the problem, it is that combined with the increased flood risk,” warned Dr John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research. He added that research looking at the impact of a 50 centimeter increase in sea levels on areas of the Australian coast found that under such a scenario “flooding events we today expect once in 100 years would occur several times a year”.  Acidification of seawater is another major problem that deniers refuse to link to human activity.

Climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf  warned that there was a very real danger of reaching a tipping point this century, which would result in sea level rises of many meters. Research from the OECD has suggested that the rise of sea levels risk US$35 trillion in property and asset damage due to coastal flooding by 2070, (which represents a tenfold increase).

Climate experts have cautioned that the world is now at significant risk of “abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts” that could make half the globe uninhabitable.

In 2009, climate scientists warned of a ”devastating” five-degree temperature increase. They say that we are currently on track for a “five-degree world” where the global population would be slashed from an expected nine billion in 2050 to just one billion people by the end of the century.

Professor John Schellnuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the world’s leading climate scientists said a “five-degree world” would activate a number of tipping points such as the collapse of the rainforest, the accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the disruption of the monsoon system, and the creation of “oxygen holes” within the seas that would have disastrous consequences for the food chain.

According to 2,500 Climate Congress scientists, “observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized.

New research clearly supports links between extreme weather and climate change. As reported in USA Today, a new climate report titled “Current Extreme Weather and Climate Change,” suggests that U.S. record-breaking extreme weather, likely enjoyed a boost from global warming. In the study, released by the Climate Communication scientific group, leading climate scientists outlined how industrial emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing climate change effects, contributing to the extreme weather seen in 2011.

“Greenhouse gases are the steroids of weather,” says climate projection expert Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Small increases in temperature set the stage for record breaking extreme temperature events.” The report indicates that a one-degree global average temperature rise in the last century has contributed to recent extreme weather.

In 1950, U.S. record breaking hot weather days were as likely as cold ones. By 2000, they were twice as likely, and in 2011 they are three times more likely. By the end of the century they will be 50 times more likely, Meehl says.

With global warming’s higher temperatures packing about 4% more water into the atmosphere, total average U.S. snow and rainfall has increased by about 7% in the past century, says the study. The amount of rain falling in the heaviest 1% of cloudbursts has increased 20%, leading to more flooding.

Rather than totally triggering any extreme event, global warming just makes it worse, says meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground. “A warmer atmosphere has more energy,” he says, contributing to heat waves, tornadoes and other weather extremes. “Years like 2011 may be the new normal.”

“There’s really no such thing as natural weather anymore,” says climate scientist Donald Wuebbles of the University of Illinois, who largely agreed with these conclusions. “Anything that takes place today in the weather system has been affected by the changes we’ve made to the climate system.” Wuebbles says.

“The facts of the matter are this: The planet’s climate has changed over the last 30 years, chiefly because of human activities. This will impact the weather – in the trivial sense that the specific weather we are having is not the same as the weather that we would have had without human actions,” climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said.

The study also suggests over the past 30 years, areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year is diminishing at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the seasonal cooling effect of light-reflecting snow and ice in the Northern Hemisphere may be lessening twice as fast as predicted by climate models, accelerating the impact of global warming.

Mark Flanner, a climate researcher at the University of Michigan who led the team, says the goal of the new study was to provide a reality check on global climate models.’ This study corroborates research published by a different team in 2009, which showed that on the Canadian Archipelago, the melt season grew at a rate of about seven days per decade during the 1979-2008 period.

Despite the fact that deniers are inundated with countless examples of severe weather, they refuse to make the connection to the role humans have played in driving climate change.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, environmentalist Bill McKibben said, ”It is vitally important not to make connections. It is [far] better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discreet events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas—fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been—the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.”

McKibben pointed out that the China’s central region is suffering through the worst drought they have ever recorded. Colombia has been experiencing massive volumes of rain prompting the Columbian president to say, “We’ve gotten so much rain in the last year, it’s washed away so much of our infrastructure that it’s as if we haven’t been doing any development work for the last 10 or 20 or 25 years.”

The Great Russian drought of 2010 prompted fires and destroyed 25 million acres of crops. Thousands died around the globe as many parts of the world suffered under the record-breaking heat. More recently, the Amazon faced its second “hundred-year drought” in the past five years.

In 2009, research from Singapore revealed that global warming is 37 percent to blame for droughts. Peter Baines of Melbourne University in Australia found an underlying trend where rainfall over the past 15 years or so has been steadily decreasing, with global warming 37 percent responsible for the drop. “The 37 percent is probably going to increase if global warming continues,” he said.

“The scale of this stuff is immense,” McKibben said. “And as long as we just think about it as just a series of one-off, isolated disasters, we probably are not asking ourselves the most important questions. What can we do to stop this destabilization before it gets much worse?”

The effects of global warming are widespread and diverse. Drought, flooding, and extreme weather are widely reported, but other effects are less well known. Some 4 million acres of mature trees in Alaska have been killed by spruce bark beetles. Scientists believe that warmer temperatures have allowed the beetles to breed and mature twice as fast as normal.

Although disputed by some ill-informed deniers, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most significant of the greenhouse gases, accounting for over 80 percent of climate change pollution. Atmospheric levels of CO2 are now higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. And the changes we are witnessing are largely due to human behavior. Around 97 percent of the CO2 emitted by western industrialized countries comes from burning coal, oil and gas for energy. We spew approximately 25 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, which translates to 800 metric tons every second.

According to an EPA report entitled “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human sources are increasing. From 1990 to 2008, emissions have grown by 14 percent in the US.

In 2009, Professor Schellnuber warned that emissions were continuing to grow faster than anticipated, while carbon sinks such as tropical rainforests and oceans were becoming less effective at storing carbon.

“The impact on extremes from human emissions is one of a myriad reasons why we probably don’t want to continue to mess with the planetary energy balance,” said climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. Despite the increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts, deniers are undeterred in their crusade against the scientific evidence.

Although we already have many tools and approaches to manage climate change, deniers stand in the way of the economic, technological, behavioral, and management efforts.  These people do not seem to care that climate change already causes more than 300,000 deaths per year, nor do they seem concerned about the wars that are likely to be the result of resource scarcity. Deniers are only interested in the facts that are in line with their partisan agenda. When reality does not conform to their revisionism, they simply ignore the facts or dismiss them as a conspiracy.

The deniers’ propaganda campaign has confused the public and Congress about the science of climate change. Deniers are buoyed by the oil industry, which spends hundreds of millions on lobbying against climate change legislation. A huge well funded disinformation campaign has managed to weave uncertainty into the debate.

It is hard to understand how any thinking person could dismiss the entire body of evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change. After decades of peer-reviewed research, it is obvious to all but the willfully belligerent that the climate is changing and humans are the cause.

Even if you eschew the reams of scientific data that predict a warming planet, there are numerous factual observations that make the point abundantly clear. Rather than being driven by science, much of the debate on global warming has been led by ideologically driven deniers who publish pseudo-science or work to undermine competing research. For those who simply refuse to believe the facts, there is little that will penetrate their fervent dogmatism.

Sadly, Republicans are the legislative mouthpiece of the deniers and they control the House of Representatives. In the spring of 2011, the House voted by a 50-vote majority against a resolution that says climate change poses a significant risk to human health.

The dogmatism of the deniers is not merely driving legislative deadlock, it imperils life. Former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta said it best when he called climate deniers the “Know Nothings” of the 21st century.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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Replacing Coal With Gas Is No Panacea, Study Says

With a 50 percent cutback in the use of coal and a matching increase in the use of natural gas, worldwide warming would actually increase slightly for the next 40 years as a result of the changeover, according to a new study.

July 27 2011


Feeling the Heat of Global Warming

Record-breaking and intense heat waves are indicative of the trend of a warmer worldFor more than a decade there has been increasing evidence of a pronounced warming trend around the globe. Last year we saw a new record for the second highest average global temperature over a 12 month period. This year, the U.S. has experienced widespread record breaking heat waves.

Although hot summers are to be expected in the U.S., this year is different. As explained by Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, “this heat wave is exceptional not only for its strength, but also for its breadth and duration.”

According to NOAA data, July 2011 has broken many heat records. Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology for the Weather Underground, indicated that “July 2011 is on pace to be one of the five hottest months in U.S. history.” Masters added that high humidity make this year’s heat wave feel even hotter.

Despite the record-breaking summer temperatures, the vast majority of climatologists know that you can’t extrapolate a long-term climate trend from a single weather event or finite period. As reviewed in a 2010 article edited by Joe Romm, it all comes down to the distinction between weather and climate. As NASA explains:

“The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.”

However, as Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, told the Christian Science Monitor, weather is itself a variable that is at least partially a result of an overall climate. “You can’t say any one heat wave is caused by global warming,” Leiserowitz said. “But you can say that what global warming does is make events just like this more likely.”

In 2010, we saw record breaking temperatures all around the world. There was a “Hellish heatwave” in Pakistan which set records, including a temperature of 53.5°C (128.3°F), the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia. The Great Russian drought of 2010 prompted fires and destroyed 25 million acres of crops. Thousands died around the globe as many parts of the world suffered under the record breaking heat.

For the globe as a whole, 2010 ranks as one of the hottest on record. China recorded the second highest temperatures it had ever seen, and India recorded its warmest year ever. Many heat records were also set in the U.S. in 2010. According to NASA, 2010 was tied for the hottest year ever in the U.S. and NASA’s temperature record showed that it was the hottest January to April in U.S. history.

Canada reported the warmest winter and warmest spring on record, 2010 was also the year with the highest average temperature in the nation’s history.

Even before 2010, the evidence for a warming trend was building. Researchers have been pointing to a link between weather and climate for decades. Eight years ago, a study published in the journal Nature indicated that global warming was partially responsible for the deadly heat wave that scorched Europe in 2003.

A 2009 study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that there is an increasing trend of record breaking heat in the U.S. According to measurements at 1,800 weather stations located across the U.S from January 1950 through September 2009, there has been a substantial increase in the number of record daily highs. More than 4000 heat records were set in the U.S. in the spring of 2010 alone and in the last 30 years, record highs have increasingly predominated.

An article from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) titled Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S. presents some of the findings from a climate study by NCAR, Climate Central, The Weather Channel, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

“Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

The NCAR study predicted that it will keep getting warmer. ”The modeling results indicate that if nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a ‘business as usual’ scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100.” The 2009 NOAA led report on U.S. climate impacts indicated that we can expect that it will get much hotter. The report predicted a 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090.

In America, states from Texas to Maine suffered from extreme heat this July. More than half of the 50 US states were under extreme heat warnings with the record temperatures and high humidity reportedly claiming dozens of lives in July alone.

As many as 34 U.S. states were under heat advisories at the same time during the month of July. This year, Detroit experienced what could be the worst heat wave in more than 20 years in what may prove to be the hottest July on record in that city.  Many other cities also reported record temperatures across the U.S. including Newark, New Jersey which saw an air temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 Celsius), the highest ever recorded in the city since records began there in 1931, and the hottest reported by the National Weather Service on the East Coast. At Dulles Airport near Washington, temperatures hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celsius), the highest since the facility opened in 1962. Two cities in Connecticut, Hartford and Bridgeport, also set all-time temperature records as the mercury hit 103 Fahrenheit (39 Celsius).

Triple-digit temperatures were also recorded in Long Island, Philadelphia, Allentown, Georgetown, Boston, Atlantic City, Manhattan and Baltimore. In Washington, the mercury climbed to 101 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). With humidity, it felt like 116 Fahrenheit (47 Celsius).

As reviewed in an ENN article titled, “Extreme Heat the New Norm,” a study published in the journal Climate Change in late July predicts increased global warming:

“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years…Within the next 20 to 60 years, if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, summer temperatures are likely to rise irreversibly around the globe, with the tropics feeling the heat first, and parts of Africa, Asia and the Americas suffering unprecedented summer heat within the next two decades.”

Although we should not draw conclusions about the climate from any single weather event, statistical analyses across large regions are a scientifically valid approach to understanding what is happening to our climate. When we look at the data we see that seventeen of the warmest years in recorded history have occurred over the last twenty years and the warmest years on record occurred in the most recent decade.

On its own, a single weather event does not constitute evidence of climate change, nor does a month of record breaking heat. However we have a growing pool of data that is making it increasingly clear that our climate is getting warmer.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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June 03 2011


With Global Warming, Arctic Access Will Diminish by Land but Improve by Sea

ScienceDaily (June 2, 2011) — Global warming over the next 40 years will cut through Arctic transportation networks like a double-edged sword, limiting access in certain areas and vastly increasing it in others, a new UCLA study predicts “As sea ice continues to melt, accessibility by sea will increase, but the viability of an important [...]

March 28 2011


Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hears Testimony on Freshwater Loss Due to Climate Change

  EarthJustice.org Regional water supplies at risk in many regions of the Western hemisphere March 28, 2011 Washington, D.C. —  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today heard expert testimony describing the human rights implications of freshwater loss caused by climate change occurring in the Western hemisphere. The panel included a scientist, a farmer from the [...]

February 16 2011


The Coming Classroom Climate Conflict

I’ve just completed a trip out to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado—a town that’s in many ways the chief hub for our country’s climate scientists, as well as for a variety of other researchers (especially on weather and renewable energy) and many science education specialists. My visit was focused on science communication, but another theme kept coming up: climate science education, and the conflicts arising therein.

A lot of people out here seem worried about growing resistance to climate science teaching in schools. It was a regular topic of conversation, and at the end of my public talk, one audience member asked whether there needs to be an equivalent of the National Center for Science Education for the climate issue. (The National Center for Science Education is the leading organization defending the teaching of evolution in the U.S.). And no wonder: This state has already seen one of the most direct attacks on climate education yet—although it seems to have fizzled.<!--break-->

Last year, a group called “Balanced Education for Everyone” was linked to an effort to try to prevent teaching about human-caused climate change in Mesa, Colorado schools—although the Denver Post reports that the organization has since disbanded, for reasons that seem unclear. “Balanced Education for Everyone" had also been supporting including the anti-global warming movie “Not Evil Just Wrong” in schools, as well as a climate “skeptic” curriculum that went with it.

Similarly, in a recent study published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, researcher Sarah Wise reports on a 2007 survey of 628 Colorado teachers, which sought to determine what they currently teach about climate change and what kind of resistance they’ve seen as a result of doing so. The most troubling finding was that 85 percent of the teachers felt that “both sides” of the “debate” over whether climate is human caused should be presented in the classroom. Furthermore, 13 percent of the earth science teachers surveyed said they had experienced pressure from another teacher, parent, or other party not to teach global warming.  

Does the future hold more of these conflicts? I think the only reasonable supposition is, “yes it will.”

I’ve already discussed here the growing trend towards folding climate change into anti-evolution bills, and singling “global warming” out as a uniquely controversial subject to be critiqued in the classroom. I think the most logical expectation is that the national controversy over climate change will continue to filter into schools just as it diffuses across all levels of society--and moreover, it should follow a predictable pattern.

Just as the general public breaks into “6 Americas” when it comes to levels of knowledge about (and acceptance of) climate change science, so will teachers, school districts, and communities. And in those communities where the so-called “dismissives” (the most devout climate science rejecters, and currently about 12 % of the U.S. as a whole) are most prominent, conflicts will be most likely to erupt.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of what's going on in schools will never draw significant public attention. A recent study on evolution education, for instance, found that 13 percent of public school science teachers in the U.S. actively teach creationism—even though this has repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional. Legally, every one of those teachers (and their schools) could be sued, but we see nothing like a proportionate number of lawsuits erupting. In all likelihood, this creationist teaching is mostly happening in communities where it is perfectly well accepted and not even controversial. It’s under the radar.

Meanwhile, the evolution survey also found that fully 60 percent of teachers “compromise” in some way on its teaching so as to avoid controversy—showing “both sides,” dodging the issue, giving caveats, etc. In light of the politicization of climate science—and the Colorado data above—we have to assume that many teachers will follow a similar pattern on the teaching of the anthropogenic causes of climate change.

What can we do about this? We certainly do need a national organization to defend climate education in schools—and we need much more focus on preparing teachers for handling controversies. Those teachers who are well informed, and confident in their abilities, will be the least likely to fall into the bad teaching traps outlined above, or to cave to political pressure from parents and others in the community. We need to empower them—so they can accurately inform their students about the single most important thing happening to the planet.

January 22 2011


Canadian Hotspot Hits 21°C (37.8°F) Above Normal

While world media have been distracted by cold temperatures in Europe (December averages in the U.K. were 5.2°C [9.4°F] below normal), a vast pocket over northeastern Canada has been hitting heights that were not just unprecedented but, until this year, unimaginable.

As Bob Henson reports at the NCAR & UCAR Currents, the Canadian low Arctic has been unseasonably, unreasonably balmy, with the largest anomaly rising to 21°C [37.8°F] above normal. Hudson Bay and the waters around Baffin Island remained open well beyond usual, suggesting that the risk for an extraordinarily low summer ice season is built into the works. (If you look at this map, from Bremen University, you see that even the North Pole was unconvincingly frozen by Jan. 11 of this year.)

Henson looks particularly at the community of Coral Harbour, on the northwest corner of Hudson Bay in Nunavut, where typical January temperatures range from a bone-chilling low of –34°C (–29.2°F) to teeth-chattering "high" of -26°C (–14.8°F). This year, Environment Canada reported that in the first 12 days:<!--break-->

  • Coral Harbour went 11 days without getting down to its average daily high.
  • On Jan. 6, the low temperature was –3.7°C (25.3°F) - that's 30°C (54°F) above average.
  • On both the 5th and 6th, Coral Harbor inched above the freezing mark. Before this year, temperatures above 0°C (32°F) had never been recorded in the entire three months of January, February, and March.

Fans of this kind of weather trivia (which is to say, courageous people who don't mind spending the odd sleepless night considering the trajectory of Earth's changing climate) should shuffle on over to Lou Grinzo's blog, The Cost of Energy, and look especially to Lou's Quick Graphs, a great page that pulls together a host of useful and interesting scientific sources, all of which tend to argue that we're in a heap of trouble.

August 22 2010


New Computer Model Advances Climate Change Research

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100818154730.htm ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2010) — Scientists can now study climate change in far more detail with powerful new computer software released by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be one of the primary climate models used for the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate [...]

August 03 2010


NOAA State of the Climate Report: Warmest Decade on Record

NOAA's annual State of the Climate Report shows the past decade as the warmest on recordThe annual State of the Climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states the evidence is unmistakable that we live in a warming world, with the past decade the warmest on record.

The report consolidates data from the oceans as well as the atmosphere, representing the first time for such a large-scale integration. Published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the study is based on observational data, not computer models. "It's telling us what's going on in the real world, rather than the imaginary world," says senior scientist Kevin Trenberth at  the National Center for Atmospheric Research based in Boulder, Colorado.

This year's report is the 20th annual State of the Climate report from NOAA, making it the "climate system’s annual scorecard,” says the report's authors.

For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean,”  Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: our planet is warming,”

Ten indicators of a warming world

More than 300 hundred scientists on every continent contributed  to the study using ten planet-wide indicators, all pointing to a decade-on-decade warming trend. Seven of the ten indicators are rising: air temperature over land, air temperature over oceans, sea-surface temperatures, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the "active weather" layer of the atmosphere nearest Earth's surface. The final three indicators are declining, namely glaciers, spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere, and Arctic sea ice. All the indicators "tell the same story," the study says, "global warming is undeniable."

The report also emphasizes that human society has developed over thousands of years under one "climactic state," and that "a new set of climactic conditions are taking shape." These new conditions  are "consistently warmer" that will bring to some areas increased and severe drought, torrential rain, and violent storms.

Natural variability – weather vs. climate

Peter Scott, head of climate monitoring for the U.K.'s Hadley Centre, stresses that even with year-to-year fluctuations from natural climactic event such as El Nino and La Nina, longer term decade-to-decade trends consistently derived from multiple data sources reveal a changing and warming global climate.

Despite the variability caused by short-term changes," Stott said in a statement, "the analysis conducted for this report illustrates why we are so confident the world is warming.When we look at air temperature and other indicators of climate, we see highs and lows in the data from year to year because of natural variability. Understanding climate change requires looking at the longer-term record. When we follow decade-to-decade trends using multiple data sets and independent analyses from around the world, we see clear and unmistakable signs of a warming world.”

Deke Arndt, the report's co-editor and chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's National Climactic Data Center, says that even the observed one degree Fahrenheit average global increase in temperature has changed the climate:

The temperature increase of one degree Fahrenheit over the past 50 years may seem small, but it has already altered our planet,” Arndt said.  “Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying and heat waves are more common. And, as the new report tells us, there is now evidence that over 90 percent of warming over the past 50 years has gone into our ocean.”

Additional sources and further reading:
NOAA Climate Portal
Access the full State of the Climate report

July 14 2010


A Warm Atlantic Stokes Hurricane Fears

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that 2010 might well experience one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, with between 14 and 23 named storms.

November 24 2009


Senator Inhofe: Tilting Toward Windmills

Inhofe is tilting at windmills in his quest to deny climate realitySenator James Inhofe should be praised for his tenacious pursuit of climate change denial. For Inhofe, the ends justify the means in his relentless pursuit of denying even the possibility of risk from human-caused climate change.

Thus it is with little surprise that he has boldly announced his intention to "investigate" the public release of hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, saying it "calls into question" the validity of the entire body of climate science data from the Intergovernmental Panel on  Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. How terribly ironic that such an opportune hacking of emails –  cat-nip for the likes of Inhofe –  should come in the midst of a climate change debate in the Senate and the upcoming COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen.

Hundreds of emails were stolen last week from the research unit based in Norfolk, England and subsequently posted on several websites. The episode came to light when hackers attempted to post the stolen data on RealClimate, a leading climate change blog run by prominent climate scientists.

Some of the emails highlight the grudge held between climate scientists and deniers, with one email from Ben Santer at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory saying he was tempted to "beat the crap out of" noted skeptic Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

One email from Kevin Trenberth, the head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado included a line that said "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." The phrase, which Trenberth says was taken out of context and part of a much longer statement, has been seized upon by Inhofe and the denier community as "proof" that scientists were in collusion to suppress data suggesting there is no human influence on climate change. Trenberth emphasized the importance of considering the phrase in proper context, adding that of the 102 hacked emails in which he is involved, he doesn't "see anything embarrassing to me particularly. There are a few things that can be taken out of context, and they have been." Referring to the "lack of warming" comment, Trenberth said "We've always had some problems with the observing system," he said. "It's obviously not as good as we would like, and that's true of the temperature record, as well. What this is saying is we need better observations. What it's not saying is that global warming is not here."

Trenberth added that the most established climate research tends to be conservative and underestimate the observed evidence of global warming: "The IPCC is actually a fairly conservative process," he said. "It involves people from over 100 countries and different parts of the political spectrum to see what the best statements we can make about global climate change are. They are consensus statements, so by definition that means they are somewhat conservative."

Far from being the "smoking gun" that some, including Senator Inhofe, would like to characterize the stolen emails, they do little more than occasionally expose some scientists "behaving badly." They represent only a "handful" of the thousands of scientists that have contributed to a broad  convergence of data showing a warming planet.

Anthony Leiserowitz, the director or the Yale Project on Climate Change and also a social scientist, said the emails will be remembered as little more than an embarrassment to some of the researchers."It shows that the process of science is not always pristine," said Leiserowitz. "But there's no smoking gun in the e-mails from what I've seen," he said, adding that the episode serves up red meat to the 2 or 3 percent of general public that are hard-core deniers: "For that small group it is like meat to the wolves."

University of Leeds environmental professor Piers Forster concurred that the emails are more telling of human nature than of science: "Whilst some of the e-mails show scientists to be all too human," he said, "nothing I have read makes me doubt the veracity of the peer review process or the general warming trend in the global temperature recorded."

Tilting at windmills

What is most ironic to me is that Senator Inhofe, someone caught time and again supporting or promoting bogus campaigns in his ongoing effort to impugn climate science, would seize on a bunch of stolen emails to charge others with tactics of which he himself is guilty. Claiming that the "science isn't settled" on climate, he continues to belie his own understanding of how science works.

Inhofe's quest for an investigation is a "wild goose chase" says Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.  Inhofe is "talking about emails that were written ten years ago about how to present study data."

As Chris Wood, author of Dry Spring once told me, "Reality always wins."

Senator Inhofe will forever try to deny that simple fact, attempting to bend reality to his own misguided (at best) beliefs, often based on the flimsiest of reasons. It's all so much tilting at windmills.

Sources and further reading:
Climate Progress
ClimateWire (subscription)
E&E News (subscription)
Huffington Post


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