Tag Archives: heat

Weird weather: Seeing global warming’s fingerprints

A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some role in two dozen extreme weather events last year but not in a few other weird weather instances around the world.

An annual report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found climate change was a factor in 24 of 30 strange weather events.

They include 11 cases of high heat, as well as unusual winter sunshine in the United Kingdom, Alaskan wildfires and odd “sunny day” flooding in Miami.

The study documented climate change-goosed weather in Alaska, Washington state, the southeastern United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the western north Pacific cyclone region, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and southern Africa.

“It has to be measureable. It has to be detectable. There has to be evidence for it and that’s what these papers do,” said NOAA scientist Stephanie Herring, co-editor of the report.

In six cases — including cold snaps in the United States and downpours in Nigeria and India — the scientists could not detect climate change’s effects. Other scientists, though, disputed that finding for the cold snap that hit the Northeast.

Herring highlighted the Miami flooding in September 2015. Because of rising sea levels and sinking land, extremely high tides flooded the streets with 22 inches of water.

“This one is just very remarkable because truly, not a cloud in the sky, and these types of tidal nuisance flooding events are clearly become more frequent,” she said.

The report also found an increase in tropical cyclone activity and strength in the western Pacific can be blamed partly on climate change and partly on El Nino, the now-gone natural weather phenomenon. But similar storm strengthening hasn’t increased noticeably around the United States yet, said study co-editor Martin Hoerling, a NOAA scientist.

The report was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Using accepted scientific techniques, 116 scientists from around the world calculated whether the odds of the extreme weather events were increased by global warming. They based their calculations on observed data, understanding of the physics of the climate and computer simulations — techniques that the National Academy of Sciences said were valid earlier this year.

Columbia University meteorology professor Adam Sobel, who was on the national academy panel but not part of this report, praised the NOAA study but noted it wasn’t comprehensive. It picked only certain but not all weather extremes to study.

For the February 2015 Northeast cold snap, other scientists have connected the polar vortex pushing south to shrinking ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Judah Cohen, seasonal forecasting chief at Atmospheric Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, said he even predicted the 2015 polar vortex because of the low sea ice. He said the same thing is happening with the bitter cold hitting the U.S. this week.

NOAA’s Hoerling said the research found a connection between the shrinking ice and the polar vortex but didn’t see one causing the other.

On the web

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Study predicts deserts in Spain if global warming continues

Southern Spain will become desert and deciduous forests will vanish from much of the Mediterranean basin unless global warming is reined in sharply, according to a new study.

Researchers used historical data and computer models to forecast the likely impact of climate change on the Mediterranean region, based on the targets for limiting global warming 195 countries agreed to during a summit in France last year.

“The Paris Agreement says it’s necessary to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), if possible 1.5 degrees,” Joel Guiot, a researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research in France who co-wrote the study, said. “That doesn’t seem much to people, but we wanted to see what the difference would be on a sensitive region like the Mediterranean.”

The authors examined the environmental changes the Mediterranean has undergone during the last 10,000 years, using pollen records to gauge the effect that temperatures had on plant life.

They came up with four scenarios pegged to different concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Three of the scenarios are already widely used by scientists to model future climate change, while the fourth was designed to predict what would happen if global warming remains at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

The fourth scenario is particularly ambitious because average global temperatures have already risen by 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. It is, however, the only one under which Mediterranean basin ecosystems would remain within the range of changes seen in the past 10,000 years, the researchers found.

At the other extreme — the scenario in which global warming hits 2 degrees — deserts would expand in Spain, North Africa and the Near East, while vegetation in the region would undergo a significant change from the coasts right up to the mountains, the study states.

The region is considered a hotspot for biodiversity and its landscape also has long been cultivated by humans, making it a particularly interesting case study for the researchers, whose work was published online in the journal Science.

“Climate has always been important there,” said Guiot, noting that several civilizations — from the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks and the Romans — emerged around the Mediterranean over the past millennia.

While their demise probably resulted from social and political changes, climate conditions may have played a role in the past and could do so again in the future, he said.

Current flows of migrants are being driven largely by political unrest, but prolonged periods of drought could spark mass migrations of people due to climate change, Guiot said.

The researchers acknowledged that their study did not factor in the environmental impact of human activity in the Mediterranean basin. Some areas already are experiencing severe water shortages made worse by intensive agriculture and tree clearance.

“If anything, human action will exacerbate what the study projects, and it could turn out to be too optimistic,” Guiot said.

The Paris climate agreement comes into effect next week.

 

Corn crops ramp up sticky, humid weather

A Minnesota researcher says much of the sticky, humid weather hovering over the state in the summer could be attributed to abundant corn crops.

University of Minnesota biometeorologist Tim Griffis has studied moisture in the air for more than a decade. He tells Minnesota Public Radio News that his research shows that more than 60 percent of local air moisture comes from fields of corn crops — and corn is likely the largest contributor.

“At this time of year, over corn, what we would see is evaporation rates that are about 40 to 50 percent higher than say over restored prairie or natural prairie,” Griffis said.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa, seems to back that up. It recently said mature Iowa corn crops send 49 to 56 billion gallons of water into the atmosphere daily. That can force the dew point up as much as 10 degrees on a hot summer day.

Griffis collects data with sensitive air sampling devices that are in position for several years on a broadcast tower south of the metro area. The devices analyze water vapor — and can pinpoint whether individual droplets likely originated from crops, lakes or more distant sources. The equipment can’t detect exactly how much crops boost the dew point, though.

Other researchers are noting the same findings as the National Weather Service in Iowa.

“When you start looking at the large scale atmospheric processes over the entire corn belt region, it’s not unlikely that we might see 5-, maybe even 10-degree changes in dew point temperature over the corn-related areas versus the non-corn-related areas,” said University of Oklahoma meteorologist Jeffrey Basara.

 

UN: 2016 on track to be hottest year on record

The first six months of this year have continued to shatter global heat records, putting 2016 on track to be the Earth’s hottest year on record, the World Meteorological Organization said this week.

The United Nations-linked body said in a report that June 2016 was the 14th consecutive month of record heat around the planet and the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th Century average.

The organization said that global warming causing carbon dioxide concentrations, so far this year, have surpassed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere.

“Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fuelled by the strong 2015/2016 El Nino,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

The report found that heat has resulted in very early onset of seasonal melting of major ice sheets with Arctic Sea ice now covering about 40 percent less area during the summer melt season than it did in the 1970s.

The heat conditions played havoc with weather conditions with many regions including the United States experiencing drier than normal conditions, while China, central Europe and much of Australia experienced wetter than usual weather.

The increased heat also resulted in widespread bleaching of coral reefs around world, threatening marine ecosystems, the report said.

According to NASA figures cited in the report, the first half of 2016 was on average 2.4 degrees (1.3 C) warmer than in the late 19th Century, prior to industrialization.

On Wednesday, Segolene Royal, who headed the global climate negotiations, said she wants nations to ratify the Paris climate agreement by the time parties to the global climate talks meet again in Morocco in early November.

The agreement will enter into force once 55 countries have ratified it, so far only 19 have done so.

Earth’s heat streak continues for a record 11 months

Earth’s record monthly heat streak has hit 11 months in a row — a record in itself.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that March’s average global temperature of 54.9 degrees (12.7 degrees Celsius) was not only the hottest March, but continues a record streak that started last May.

According to NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, the 11 heat records in a row smashes a streak of 10 set in 1944. Climate scientists say this is a result of El Nino, along with relentless, man-made global warming.

Blunden and Michael Mann at Penn State University worry that people will be desensitized to the drumbeat of broken records and will not realize the real effect they have on weather — for example, massive changes in what is supposed to be winter in the Arctic. Greenland had a record early start for its ice sheet melting. The Arctic had its smallest winter maximum for sea ice and it was the second smallest March snow cover for the Northern Hemisphere.

“It’s becoming monotonous in a way,” said Jason Furtado, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s absolutely disturbing … We’re losing critical elements of our climate system.”

March was 2.2 degrees (1.2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average. That’s a record amount above average for any month, breaking the mark set only the month before. Africa and the Indian Ocean were especially warm, Blunden said.

The first three months of the year were 2.07 degrees warmer than normal (1.15 degrees Celsius) and half a degree (0.28 degrees Celsius) warmer than the previous record start, set last year.

Beyond NOAA, NASA, the Japanese weather agency and satellite tracking measurements have reported that March was a record hot month. Blunden said there’s a good chance April will mark a solid year of records. Eventually, she said, the record setting streak will come to an end as the El Nino dissipates.

El Nino, a warming of parts of the Pacific which changes weather worldwide, tends to push global temperatures up. La Nina, its cooling flip side, is forecast for later this year.

For NOAA, this is the 37th time monthly heat records have been broken since the year 2000, but it has been more than 99 years since the last time a global cold record has been set.

NOAA records go back to 1880.

On the Web

NOAA: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info/global/201603

Earth’s record streak of record heat keeps on sizzling

Earth’s record-breaking heat is sounding an awful lot like a broken record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that August, this past summer and the first eight months of 2015 all smashed global records for heat.

That’s the fifth straight record hot season in a row and the fourth consecutive record hot month. Meteorologists say 2015 is a near certainty to eclipse 2014 as the hottest year on record. This year, six of the eight months have been record breaking, with only April and January failing to set new records.

Since 2000, Earth has broken monthly heat records 30 times and seasonal heat records 11 times. The last time a monthly cold record was broken was in 1916. Records go back to 1880.

“For scientists, these are just a few more data points in an increasingly long list of broken records (that) is due to warming temperatures,” Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said in an email. “As individuals, though, this is yet another reminder of the impact our unprecedented and inadvertent experiment — an experiment that began with the Industrial Revolution — is having on our planet today.”

Scientists blame a combination of human-caused climate change and natural El Nino, a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide.

Global warming is like the steady climbing of stairs and then El Nino “is like standing on your tippy toes” while climbing those stairs, said Deke Arndt, global monitoring chief for NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

August’s global temperature average was 61.7 degrees, breaking the previous record, set last year, by a sixth of a degree. The summer average temperature broke the previous record from last year by a fifth of a degree. Those are “relatively large jumps over the last record” in the world of climate monitoring, Arndt said.

NOAA calculates that there is a 97 percent chance that 2015 will break 2014’s hottest year mark, but that was before August was factored in. August makes that even more likely, Arndt said.

With the El Nino, NOAA forecasts an unusually warm fall for the eastern, western and northern parts of the nation, as well as Alaska, with New Mexico and half of Texas forecast to be cooler than normal. The southern two-thirds of the nation, and parts of Alaska, should be wetter than normal this fall, with New England and the Pacific Northwest forecast to be on the dry side, NOAA forecast.

NOAA’s preliminary winter forecast predicts warmer than normal temperatures for north of the Mason-Dixon line, the West Coast and Alaska. It calls for cooler than normal temperatures from New Mexico to South Carolina. Wetter weather is forecast for the winter for nearly all the U.S. coastal regions.

World breaks monthly heat record 2 times in a row

The globe is on a hot streak, setting a heat record in June. That’s after the world broke a record in May.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month’s average global temperature was 61.2 degrees (16.2 Celsius), which is 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average. It beat 2010’s old record by one-twentieth of a degree.

While one-twentieth of a degree doesn’t sound like much, in temperature records it’s like winning a horse race by several lengths, said NOAA climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt.

And that’s only part of it. The world’s oceans not only broke a monthly heat record at 62.7 degrees (17 Celsius), but it was the hottest the oceans have been on record no matter what the month, Arndt said.

“We are living in the steroid era of the climate system,” Arndt said.

Arndt said both the June and May records were driven by unusually hot oceans, especially the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Heat records in June broke on every continent but Antarctica, especially in New Zealand, northern South America, Greenland, central Africa and southern Asia.

The United States had only its 33rd hottest June.

All 12 of the world’s monthly heat records have been set after 1997, more than half in the last decade. All the global cold monthly records were set before 1917.

And with a likely El Nino this year _ the warming of the tropical Pacific which influences the world’s weather and increases global temperatures — it is starting to look like another extra warm year, said  University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck.

The first six months of the year are the third warmest first six months on record, coming behind 2010 and 1998, according to NOAA

Global temperature records go back to 1880 and this is the 352nd hotter than average month in a row.

“This is what global warming looks like,” Overpeck said in an email. “Not record hot everywhere all the time, but certainly a reflection that the odds of record hot are going up everywhere around the planet.”

On the Web…

NOAA on June tempertures: http://1.usa.gov/1yQQQqb

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