We Had a Green Christmas, How About You?

After two nasty winters in a row over my part of the world (curse you polar vortex!), this year we get to experience warmer temperatures just like the vast majority of the planet. Turns out we had a Green Christmas, and so did the rest of the eastern half of North America. In the US alone, several states broke records:

  • 86 degrees in Tampa, Florida
  • 83 degrees in Houston, Texas
  • 67 degrees in Boston, Massachusetts
  • 68 degrees in Burlington, Vermont
  • 66 degrees in New York City

Nobody should be surprised because 2015 will be the hottest year we’ve ever documented. Everybody is experiencing weather that’s more like spring than winter. According to the Weather Channel:

According to preliminary data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), at least 2,693 record daily highs were tied or broken across the U.S. during the first 23 days of December. An additional 3,912 record-warm daily low temperatures have been set during the same time period. By comparison, just 147 daily record lows and 140 additional record cool highs were set in the same time frame.

This on the heels of a record-breaking month as NOAA recently announced that November 2015 was the hottest November ever recorded at 0.97 degrees Celsius, or 1.75 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. That means that November is the seventh consecutive month where a monthly global temperature record has been broken.

And as you may already know, the Arctic is more sensitive to global warming than the most of the planet; parts of the Arctic and Siberian permafrost were a whopping 10.2 degrees Celsius, or 18 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual. And that’s bad news because permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. As it thaws, carbon is released either as carbon dioxide or methane, and that’s only going to contribute to even more global warming, a dangerous positive feedback loop.

Some people want to blame this all on the particularly strong El Niño e’re experiencing, but a recent analysis by Climate Central found that our emissions have been a far bigger player in global warming than natural factors like an El Niño.

So like it or not, we’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it. Someday people will wonder what it was ever like to have a white Christmas.


I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas…

“… just like the ones I used to know.”
—Bing Crosby (along with countless others since)

Yesterday we had a green Christmas. It somehow seems more like Christmas if there’s snow on the ground and a light snowfall, certainly much better than rain with green grass still visible, at least to me.

My recollection is that we had a lot more white Christmases when I was a kid than we do today. I started to wonder if that was simply selective memory or not, but Environment Canada has been able to help confirm my suspicions.

Looking to the city closest to where I live that Environment Canada provides data for on this issue, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had a 65 percent chance of a White Christmas from 1963 to 1982, encompassing almost all of my childhood. From 1992 to 2011, however, that probability dropped down to 35 percent. In other words, the GTA used to enjoy two in three odds to have a white Christmas when I was a kid, but now it’s one in three for me as an adult.

Another parameter Environment Canada has looked at is Continue reading

Santa's Concerns About Climate Change

I recently had the chance to have a brief chat with Santa Claus at my local mall. (I realize that most mall Santas are actually Santa’s helpers and not the real one, but not in my mall. This guy is the real thing!) I asked him how climate change was affecting everyone at the North Pole. How were he and Mrs. Claus coping? What impact was it having on the reindeer? Or the elves?

His responses were blunt and to the point. He pointed out that the melting ice cap was definitely affecting the workshop, and that they’re looking at moving sometime in the next few decades. In Santa’s words:

“We can’t have the ice cap melt away completely because our workshop doesn’t float. My magic only goes so far. You think Miami real estate is in trouble? Scientists are telling me our home will likely sink to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean later this century.”

I asked him where he thought he could relocate. He’s been giving some consideration to Antarctica, because everyone is already used to the cold, but thought maybe they should take the opportunity to reinvent themselves completely.

“Maybe we should move to the Sahara Desert. It’s only getting bigger so there’s no fear the desert will ever disappear. Perhaps instead of a sleigh and reindeer, I’ll use a dune buggy and camels!” Continue reading