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.

 

One for the All-Time Record Books

If you follow my blog regularly, you know that I frequently post about the record-breaking temperatures our planet has been breaking, particularly with alarming regularity this last couple of years. Well last month was one for the ages. Yes it was the hottest July ever recorded. But it turns out it was the hottest temperature for any month we’ve ever recorded.

Ever!

Since accurate records started being kept back in January 1880, last month was the hottest of the 1627 months ever since. This doesn’t bode well for a few things. First of all, 2015 is on track to beat 2014 as the hottest year on record, and not by a little but by a lot. also, anyone who is still on the “Global warming stopped in 1998” bandwagon really doesn’t have any credibility any longer.

For the sake of completeness, here are some of the other records our hottest-July-ever helped to break, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

  • this was the hottest first seven months of any year ever recorded
  • Austria recorded its hottest July ever as well, and their particular dataset goes back to 1767

It really is time that we stop simply documenting the plight of our planet and actually do something about it. Here’s hoping that such in-your-face records help contribute toward real solutions at COP21 in Paris this December.

Does Climate Change = Global Economic Disaster?

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.”
—former NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco

You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect before. Coined by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz—a pioneer of chaos theory—it helps to illustrate an important principle: minor change can have a major ripple effect. What might seem like a minor thing such as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can lead to a major thing such as a hurricane weeks later in another part of the world.

Most of the world is aware of the effects that global warming is having on the Arctic. Melting sea ice is the most obvious. Some people (i.e. people who want to continue business as usual and burn every last fossil fuel making themselves richer in the process) refer to the economic benefits that arise from the loss of Arctic sea ice. Some of these benefits include increasing shipping lanes, greater fishing, and easier access to more fossil fuel reserves leading to even more places to drill for oil.

But there are other effects from global warming in the Arctic such as loss of permafrost and the associated release of methane that is less well know but no less consequential. A report previously published in Nature by economists and polar scientists from the University of Cambridge and Erasmus University Rotterdam indicated that the economic cost of a warming Arctic far outweighs the benefits. Whereas economic gains might be as much as $100 million within ten years, the cost could be $60 trillion! (That’s close to the total global economy of around $70 trillion!) Continue reading

And the Records Keep on Breaking

The latest monthly report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association just came out and it’s not looking good. Global temperatures continue to confirm that 2015 is extremely likely to be the hottest year we’ve ever recorded. Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded in the 136-year period of accurate records at 0.87 degrees Celsius (1.57 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. This beat the previous record set in May 2014 by a whopping 0.08 degrees Celsius (0.14 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • This was the hottest spring (March–May) ever recorded at 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.53 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average beating the previous record from March–May 2010 by 0.04 degrees Celsius (0.07 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • This was the hottest first five months of a calendar year (January-May) ever recorded by a long shot at a whopping 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.53 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. This beat the previous 2010 record by 0.09 degrees Celsius (0.16 degrees Fahrenheit).

2015 has beaten every temperature record you could come up with so far, so the old argument that 1998 was the year that global warming ended sadly isn’t the case. In addition to gradually warming global temperatures, we have an El Niño added to the mix which helps explain why temperatures are moving so dramatically. (An El Niño year helped explain why 1998 was such an outlier compared to the overall trend back then.) It’s estimated that we might see global temperatures broken by as much as 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit which is significant for an entire planet.

You can bet that deniers won’t be acknowledging that global warming is real about this. They’ll be remarkably quiet. But as soon as this El Niño is over and we fall back to the overall trend but with a cooler year than 2015, be prepared for the claim “Global Warming is Over” to rear its ugly head once again.

The Heat is On… And It's Going to Speed Up

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”
Steven Wright

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that global temperatures are predicted to accelerate in the coming years in a new study. NOAA scientists have found “that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century.”

Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, explains an acceleration in global temperatures this way:

Considering all the short-term factors identified by the scientific community that acted to slow the rate of global warming over the past two decades (volcanoes, ocean heat uptake, solar decreases, predominance of La Niñas, etc.), it is likely the temperature increase would have accelerated in comparison to the late 20th Century increases. Once these factors play out, and they may have already, global temperatures could rise more rapidly than what we have seen so far.

If this prediction is correct, a dramatic rise in global temperatures is going to happen and soon. It’s hard to know by just how much, but climatologist Kevin Trenberth says it could be up to 0.5°F. As 2015 is already on schedule to be the hottest year we’ve ever recorded, it’s very possible that the rise has already begun. Continue reading