Brazil’s Great Amazon Rainforest Burns as Parched Megacities Fall Under Existential Threat

One need only look at today’s satellite image of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest to notice something’s terribly wrong. A vast 1,000 mile swath of what should be some of the wettest lands on the globe running south of the world’s largest river is covered by a dense pall of smoke. Scores of plumes boil up out of the burning and sweltering forest. Pumping dark clouds into the sky, the fires’ tell-tale streaks out over a drought-parched Brazil, across the Atlantic, and over to Africa where the plume is again thickened by yet more wildfires.

Amazon Rainforest burns

(Massive wildfires belch smoke over a vast section of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. These fires are occurring as much of the country suffers from drought. In the north, the current drought is the worst in at least 50 years. In the southeast, drought is now said to be the worst in at least 85 years. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The greatest rainforest in the world, sometimes called Earth’s lungs, is burning, blackening, and belching out a thick pulse of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere that is already greatly over-burdened with industry-emitted greenhouse gasses. The world’s largest watershed and remaining largest rainforest combined now finds itself in a crisis of human making. A set of insults that may not now be reversible as the forest begins to succumb to both drought and fire.

It’s a crisis that threatens to turn South Brazil into a desert, to turn one of the world’s vast carbon stores into a carbon emissions source, and to eventually convert the great rainforest itself into dry grasslands. Such a transition would result in yet one more major contributor to increasing global greenhouse gas concentrations even as it puts Brazil’s mega-cities under threat of collapse. And it’s a transition that’s happening now. A violent transformation that likely started during the early 2000s. One now reaching catastrophic new intensities.

Human-Forced Warming, Slash and Burn Agriculture, Godzilla El Nino

The causes for the fires are three-fold and all too often missed in the sparse mainstream media reports of the ongoing catastrophe. First, human-caused warming of the globe is pushing the great rainforest to slowly heat up and dry out. Alone, such warming would be enough to take down the great rainforest if the Earth warmed by between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade. Since we’ve already seen Earth System warming on the order of 1 degree Celsius above 1880s values, the great forest is now feeling the stress of this added heat. But the forest is now also suffering the insults of what amounts to a half century of slash and burn agriculture. Immense swaths of the forest have been cut and burned away, converted into farmlands. Increasingly, large sections of the forest are isolated into smaller, less productive islands. In addition, the ongoing burning of vast tracts of woodland adds a fire pressure to an already heat-stressed rainforest.

Carbon dioxide hotspots Copernicus

(The Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring System [CAMS] shows a significant carbon dioxide plume rising up off of the fires now burning in the Amazon Rainforest. It was a prediction made by global climate models that human forced warming could turn the Amazon into a net carbon emissions source by the middle of this Century. For the period of Fall 2015, heat and drought have done exactly that. Image source: CAMS.)

Finally, this year, Brazil is experiencing the effects of what is likely to become the strongest El Nino ever recorded. Such Pacific Ocean warming events have a tendency to push the rainforest to dry. And with the great Amazon already suffering from at least a decade of drought, the new, extremely intense El Nino is providing yet one more severe insult on top of all the other damage inflicted by both human warming of the atmosphere and by slash and burn agriculture.

Megacities Suffering Severe Water Shortages

As the Amazon rainforest suffers clear cutting, wildfire, and drought, it pumps less and less water into the atmosphere. Its once massive ‘flying rivers’ are drying out. The loss of these immense atmospheric moisture flows has a particularly acute impact on lands bordering the Amazon — especially in the region of Brazil’s coastal cities. Over the past two decades, the massive cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have suffered from increasingly frequent droughts. However, over the past three years, drought has been particularly extreme.

In Sao Paulo, unofficial water rationing began about two years ago and has remained in effect ever since. Today, the region’s largest reservoir — the Cantariera — remains below dead pool levels even as other reservoirs have fallen under increasing stress. The result is that many of the area’s 20 million people are starting to migrate to cities with better water security. Cities like Jundiai where water conservation policies have prevented shortages despite an ongoing drying of the surrounding countryside.

Brazil Drought NOAA El Nino

(In the July-September 2015 rainfall graphic measure provided by NOAA, we see the Amazon Rainforest experiencing severe water deficits in conjunction with the warmest global temperatures on record and what is likely to become the strongest El Nino on record. A heat pressure that has resulted in severe wildfire outbreaks throughout the Amazon this month. Such impacts will further reduce the moisture content of the flying rivers the cities of Southern Brazil depend on. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

In Rio de Janeiro, the situation is still somewhat better than in Sao Paulo. Water cut-offs have not yet begun in this city of 10 million even though local reservoirs are also starting to dry up. But if dry conditions continue, 2016-2017 will almost certainly see Brazil’s second largest city fall into a crisis similar to that of Sao Paulo.

A recent report by NPR highlights the severity of Brazil’s coastal cities drought:

And [Sao Paulo] is not alone. Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro, is also facing water troubles, as are other coastal areas. It’s been an enormous shock to Brazilians, who are used to their country being called “the Saudi Arabia of Water…” But not anymore. Satellite data from NASA shows that the drought in much of southeast Brazil — also home to the region’s breadbasket — is much worse than originally believed.

If these droughts continue, they will threaten to collapse the cities of eastern Brazil. They will put a strain on electricity supplies, on commercial activity, and on practically every aspect of city life — which is largely dependent upon access to water. In eastern Brazil, more than 30 million people now face the threat of this climate change induced destabilization. But what’s worse is the fact that the ongoing burning and drought in the Amazon to the north practically ensures that the flying rivers will continue to wilt, that the droughts in the southeast will grow to become city-killers.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

CAMS Atmospheric Monitoring

As Brazil’s Largest City Struggles with Drought, Residents are Leaving

Drought Takes Hold as Amazon’s Flying Rivers Disappear

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper than Previously Thought

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Drought Threatens Water Truck Lifeline in Northeastern Brazil

Is Brazil Nearly Out of Water?

Brazil, Land of Water, Goes Thirsty

Humankind’s Last Days Below 400 PPM CO2?

Another ominous milestone fades away in the smog behind us…

By mid November of 2015, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory had again risen above 400 parts per million. Over the past two weeks, these levels maintained. And even though we may see a few days during which CO2 levels drop below that key threshold during late November and, perhaps, early December, those days could well be the last.

The last days of below 400 parts per million CO2 may then be behind us. It’s likely that none of us now living will ever see such ‘low’ levels of this critical atmospheric greenhouse gas. And it’s possible that humankind itself will never again see a day in which CO2 levels fall into this range (please see Is This the Last Year Below 400 PPM CO2?).

mlo_one_month

(By November 13 of 2015, atmospheric CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa Observatory had risen above the 400 ppm CO2 threshold. During 2015, just four months of the year have been below that level. For 2016, it’s possible that no month will average below 400 ppm CO2. And after that time, we’ll likely never see below 400 ppm CO2 levels again. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Dr. Ralph Keeling, in a blog over at the Keeling Curve site back in October clearly explained why 2015 may be the last year with monthly readings below 400 ppm CO2. In short, the added global heat from El Nino tends to squeeze more carbon out of the Earth’s lands and oceans. As a result, strong El Nino years have tended to show higher rates of atmospheric CO2 increase when these Earth System feedbacks are added in to the carbon coming from an insane global rate of fossil fuel burning. The last time a strong El Nino emerged during 1998, global CO2 levels rose by 3.7 parts per million during a single year. Since the rate of human fossil fuel burning has substantially increased over the 1998 to 2015 period and as the current El Nino is peaking at or above 1997-1998 intensities, it’s possible that the annual increase in CO2 could match or exceed that seen during 1998. We could see annual CO2 levels rise by 3.5, 3.75, or even 4 parts per million or more during the 2015 to 2016 interval.

If CO2 levels rise so rapidly, 2015 will be the last year seeing any significant period below 400 ppm.

mlo_two_years

(During 2016, CO2 levels as measured at Mauna Loa will peak at between 405 and 408 parts per million CO2. These levels are the highest seen at any time during the last 3-15 million years and are more typical to the early Pliocene or Middle Miocene climate epochs. Such amazingly high levels of CO2 beg equally amazing and harmful geophysical changes to follow. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Unfortunately, due to CO2’s long residence time in the atmosphere and also due to the fact that the added heat provided by that CO2 tends to generate long-lasting carbon feedbacks from the global environment, it is likely that this period of above 400 parts per million CO2 will last for a very, very long time. With a single molecule of CO2 having a warming impact period of at least 500 years so long as the oceans can eventually draw the net carbon increase down (a dubious proposition in the context of warming world), even if human fossil fuel emissions halted after just one or two additional decades, it would mean that above 400 parts per million CO2 levels last for centuries to come. On the other hand, if human fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions continue even into the middle of this Century, then it’s possible that such heightened CO2 levels could last for millennia — possibly outlasting the human race itself. In such an event, the only hope for bringing CO2 back to levels below 400 parts per million is a very significant change in land use, farming, and technological practices to directly draw carbon out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric CO2 levels remaining at 400 parts per million for any significant period will push the Earth climate to warm by between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius. It will push for sea levels to rise by at least 75 feet. In other words, a world at 400 parts per million is a world radically changed. A world that human beings have never seen before. And as a cautionary note, the total forcing from all greenhouse gasses currently emitted by humans is now in the range of 485 parts per million of CO2 equivalent. A level well beyond the current 400 parts per million threshold and one that likely equates to around 4 degrees Celsius worth of long term warming.

These are the stark consequences of fossil fuel burning. A burning, that if it continues, will almost certainly ensure that human beings living after 2015 or 2016 never again see CO2 levels below 400 parts per million.

Links:

The Keeling Curve

Is This the Last Year Below 400?

Pliocene Climate

Miocene Climate

Skeptical Science on CO2 Residence Times

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Interests: In Lead-up to Paris Summit, Conservative Politicians Around the World are Fighting to Kill Renewable Energy

We have seen the enemy and he is us.

‘He,’ in this case, is those among us now fighting an all-out war against government programs aimed at reducing the damage caused by human-forced climate change. And in this present time of ramping climate catastrophe, there is no excuse at all for this morally reprehensible activity. Yet, excuse or no, the foul actions of these shameless ignoramuses continue. For all around the world conservatives (called [neo] liberals in Australia) with ties to fossil fuel based industry continue to scuttle programs that would result in the more rapid adoption of renewable energy systems even as they undermine related initiatives to increase energy efficiency.

At a time when the world faces down a growing climate crisis — one that will have dramatically worsening impacts as the decades progress — these failed and corruption-born policies represent the most abhorrent of political activities. And as the world convenes to consider how best to lessen the danger posed by an unfolding global tragedy, there are many in power who are now actively working to increase that danger.

More than anything else, this corrupt group is fighting to enforce ramping dangers, an ever-broadening harm, and untold future tragedy.

Shutting Down Coal to Build Natural Gas in The UK

This week, the conservative government of the United Kingdom made what seemed to be an optimistic announcement. It now plans to phase out all coal generation by 2025. Because coal power generation is the worst of the worst among carbon polluters, this news was rather good. Good, that is, when one doesn’t take a look at the broader context of current UK energy policy. And taking that look, we find what could best be described as an utterly abysmal state of affairs.

wind_power

(Wind power, produced by these and many other majestic towers turning over the UK countryside, is a critical solution to human-based fossil fuel emissions and a target of conservative energy policies. Image source: British Wind Energy Association.)

Ever since coming to power this summer, the conservative government has consistently cut subsidies for renewable energy while providing subsidies for some of the worst polluting facilities imaginable. Recently, UK Energy Secretary Rudd received stark criticism for this move along with pointed words over related backward policies like the provision of subsidies for expensive and polluting diesel-electric generators. Pointed words that came from both politicians and scientists alike. One such scientist was chief of the UN’s environmental programme Jacqueline McGlade who recently stated in the Financial Times:

“What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going — we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced.”

So even as conservatives in the UK are phasing out coal, they are replacing it with oil and natural gas. Fossil fuel replacements for fossil fuels at the expense of both zero-carbon renewables and a climate capable of supporting human civilization. For both oil and gas are still major carbon emitters. Especially when one considers the UK conservatives’ intention of fracking the countryside in search of these dangerous fuels. A method of extraction that has proven to increase emissions of volatile methane gas. And each new gas or oil plant built will continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere for decades even as it risks having its production lifespan cut short as the damages caused by carbon pollution become ever more obvious.

From the Financial Times:

Ms Rudd told the Today programme she wanted to rewrite the rules of the scheme to encourage gas instead. She said: “We have a capacity market auction coming up. We are going to review it carefully afterwards and ensure we do get the new gas we need.”

Conservatives, in this case, who have ideologically (and ludicrously) campaigned against all subsidies have instead decided to subsidize the bad climate outcomes all while cutting funding for solutions.

Fighting Renewable Energy Subsidies, Clean Power Plan in the US

In the US, the situation is only slightly better. Slightly better in that conservatives do not currently hold the Presidency. That said, conservatives are still doing their damnedest to kill off practically every renewable energy program the United States has to offer.

In May, House Republicans presented a bill (HR 1901) that would completely kill off the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy in the US. This in contrast to a permanent wind Production Tax Credit proposed by Obama. Meanwhile, the same Republican clowns who bring snowballs into the halls of Congress as supposed proof that global warming isn’t happening repeatedly try to de-fund the PTC for both wind and solar at each and every new budget session.

And it’s primarily due these efforts on behalf of fossil fuel backers by Republicans that the PTC is set to expire again by 2017. A move that will inject volatility into the renewable energy markets and bite into what has been an amazing period of growth by both Wind and Solar energy across the US. Growth that has happened despite Republicans’ apparent best efforts to halt it (see Paul Krugman’s Enemies of the Sun).

US Solar Energy Adoption rate

(US Solar energy adoption rates continued to soar in 2015, jumping to 40 percent of all new installed energy capacity for the first half of the year. These great gains have occurred despite broad based assaults on public policies supporting the rapid adoption of this critical renewable energy source. Image source: US Solar Market Summary.)

Though the PTC represents the Federal Government’s big support program for wind and solar energy development, any program that would reduce carbon emissions falls under attack. Republicans, who have hypocritically spoken in favor of US energy independence, mount repeated attacks on increases in Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency Standards. Republicans incessantly assault the EPA and its underlying Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. But more recently, Republican attacks against EPA have focused on the underpinnings of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The plan, which sets modest goals to reduce US carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels through 2030, would also greatly increase the rate of US renewable energy adoption, force the early retirement of the worst polluting power plants, and push for further increases in energy efficiency. Exactly the kind of progress against human forced climate change and toward US energy independence that Republicans apparently abhor.

By contrast, there hasn’t been a bit of legislation supporting fossil fuels that Republicans haven’t loved. Republicans constantly call for ending the oil export ban — a move that would greatly benefit US-based oil corporations. They wholeheartedly support the polluting and groundwater destroying process that is fracking. They’ve repeatedly called for increased drilling of all kinds everywhere including offshore drilling, Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Drilling, and Arctic Ocean Drilling. And they continuously support the dirtiest, highest carbon emitting fuel sources imaginable such as Canada’s Tar Sands and Coal. In fact, Republicans support for coal extends to the point that they frequently pass bills like this one which would allow toxic fly ash the enter groundwater supplies.

At the State level conservative republicans have repeatedly attempted to ram through ALEC and Koch funded bills to roll back net metering laws and renewable energy targets (see Koch Brothers, Big Utilities Attack Solar Energy). All while attempting to open public lands and waters to every variety of drilling and coal mining.

But despite these broad based attacks, renewable energy in the United States continues to make major gains even as energy efficiency measures advance. Sadly, the pace of carbon emission reduction and related renewable energy adoption has been greatly slowed by these continuous attacks by conservative Republicans.

Australia — From Terrible to Not Much Better

In the Southern Hemisphere, recent years have seen a wholesale gutting of renewable energy based policies by the Tony Abbott government in Australia. Time and time again, Abbott (which like northern conservatives foists laizzez faire markets and supports destructive industries like fossil fuels) pushed for a roll back in Australia’s previously aggressive renewable energy adoption rate all while trying to breathe new life into a zombie coal mining, export and power industry.

By Summer of 2015 the situation had gotten so dire that solar energy industry leaders were calling Abbott’s actions a ‘vindictive crusade’ against the renewable energy industry. John Grimes, head of the Australian Solar Council, this July launched an attack on the Abbott government after Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation decided to stop funding new wind projects.

In a statement to the Saturday Paper, Grimes asserted:

“If Abbott continues this way, we’re [the solar industry] finished. We know that solar and other renewables are competing with coal, and Abbott is intent upon protecting that industry. So, this is our WorkChoices moment. We will be mobilising, and we’ll be campaigning in marginal seats. We’re starting to plan this now.”

RET cut

(During June of 2015, the Tony Abbott government cut Australia’s Renewable Energy Target [RET] from 41 gigawatts by 2020 to 33 gigawatts. Unfortunately, the new Prime Minister — Malcolm Turnbull — hasn’t moved to support previous, more aggressive targets. As such, Tony Abbott’s legacy of cutting renewable energy in favor of coal lives on. Image source: Renew Economy.)

By Fall, the Abbott government had fractured. This development likely in no small part due to campaigning by renewable energy supporters and those concerned about human caused climate change. The new head of the Australian Liberal Party (don’t let the name fool you, they’re just like conservatives everywhere else) Malcolm Turnbull, when considering past performance, might want to support cutting edge solar technology for Australia. However, in his first months as Prime Minister he appears to have done little but cowtow to his numerous coal industry supporting party colleagues.

As an example, Turnbull’s appointed Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel recently stated:

“My vision is for a country, a society, or world, where we don’t use any coal, oil, or natural gas, because we have zero-emissions electricity in huge abundance”.

But Turnbull, who is now being pushed by his political colleagues to make it illegal for environmentalists to sue coal companies if they open up new land to mining, felt the need to defend coal on the same stage by making the following and highly fallacious statement:

“If Australia were to stop all of its coal exports … it would not reduce global emissions one iota.”

Due to renewable energy’s popularity in Australia, due to Turnbull’s own likely affinity for the development of cutting edge wind and solar ventures, but also due to the terrible and intransigent institutional legacy of coal support in his party, the Turnbull government has come across as schizophrenic on the issues of renewable energy and climate change. On the one hand, some within Turnbull’s administration make statements like that of Dr. Finkel above. But when it comes to actual policy, Turnbull has continued to support many of the disastrous initiatives set forward by Tony Abbott. Which makes the Turnbull government look like it’s attempting to greenwash a facade over a rather ugly coal-ash face.

If Leaders Can’t Support Renewable Energy and Work to Halt Fossil Fuel Burning, Then They Need To Go

Though the UK, the US and Australia do not make up the entirety of the western world, the conservative anti-renewable energy and pro-fossil fuel sentiment represented in these three countries is wide-ranging. Such sentiment is common to conservative governing groups around the world — from Canada to Europe to New Zealand and beyond. In the western democracies of the world this crippling ideology is preventing a necessarily rapid push to adopt non-carbon energy and prevent the worst impacts of global climate change.

As we approach the Paris Climate Summit, we should be very clear on this one political issue of key importance. If these people continue to hold political power, we will not act rapidly or decisively enough. We will find ourselves overwhelmed by consequences as their delaying actions stymie any effective response. It is therefore crucial that the supporters of the fossil fuel industries of the world are removed from office. They have shown themselves for their true colors — they’ll continue to support these harmful and wretched fuels regardless of consequences, regardless of any, even the most extreme, risks to their own nations and to the nations of the world.

Links:

Top UN Scientist Criticizes UK Cuts To Renewable Subsidy

UK Coal Fired Plants to be Phased Out

Ministers Accused of Trying to Sneak Through New Fracking Rules

Methane Leaks Wipe Out any Benefit of Fracking

Republicans Fight to Repeal PTC for Wind

House Panel Passes Extenders Package Without PTC

Enemies of the Sun

The GOP Assault on Environmental Laws

The Clean Power Plan

GOP Attacks on Clean Power Plan Going Nowhere

163 Republicans Push for More Offshore Drilling

Republicans Push for Renewed Drilling in Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge

Republican House Passes Bill Forcing Keystone XL Approval for the 9th Time

Republican House Passes Bill That Would Allow Toxic Coal Ash to Enter Groundwater

Koch Brothers, Big Utilities Attack Solar Energy

US Solar Market Summary

Abbott’s Campaign to Kill the Renewable Energy Sector

Renew Economy

Australia Slashes its Renewable Energy Target by 20 Percent

 

 

Polar Amplification, El Nino or Both? NASA Shows October of 2015 Was Hotter Than All of the Previous 1617 Months

If it seems we are doing a never-ending marathon of hottest posts, it’s simply because the world right now is ridiculously hot. Hotter than at any time ever seen before and being driven inexorably hotter by a combination of human greenhouse gas emissions and what appears to be a global warming weirdified El Nino that doesn’t look anything like a normal El Nino, but instead shows up as an intense blob of extreme heat sitting in a massive hot blob that makes up pretty much all of the Pacific Ocean from the Equator on north.

Busting the Top of the Global Temperature Graph

It’s in this rather crazy weather context that we find, according to NASA, October of 2015 set the bar for new hottest month in the global climate record for all of the past 135 years. That’s right, out of 1618 months in NASA’s global climate record, when comparing current readings to rolling baseline temperature averages, October of 2015 was the hottest one ever seen. A confirmation of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s findings from earlier this week. But one that, in true NASA fashion, also provides a boatload of additional data worth peeping at.

NASA global temperature graph

(With one month remaining in the December-through-November climate year, global temperature averages for the first 11 months of 2015 are now +0.819 C above the 1950-1981 NASA baseline. With November also likely to come in between +0.90 and +1.1 C hotter than normal, the 2015 yearly average is likely to come in well above the top of the chart. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Taking a glimpse at NASA’s Land-Ocean Temperature Index (LOTI), we find that October of 2015 came in at an extraordinary +1.04 C hotter than the 1950 to 1981 average or about 1.26 C hotter than 1880s averages. That’s an extreme temperature departure hitting within 0.74 C of the so-called safe limit of 2 C warming set by the UN. To put into perspective how weird and scary it is to hit such a high temperature departure, the last time temperatures were so high globally for any period of note, sea levels were between 10 and 30 feet higher than they are today. It’s another unfortunate passing of another bad climate marker on the way toward worse and worse to come if we can’t manage to stop emitting so much carbon into the atmosphere.

Overall, October of 2015 beat out the previous record hot month of January of 2007 (0.97 C above the NASA baseline) by 0.07 C. It is also the first month in the NASA monitor to exceed 1 C above the mid-to-late 20th Century range. In total, all of the top five hottest months in the global climate record have now occurred since 2007 with October 2015 (+1.04 C) coming in as hottest, January of 2007 (+0.97 C) coming in as second hottest, March of 2010 (+0.93 C) third hottest, March of 2015 (+0.90 C) fourth hottest, and September of 2014 (+0.89 C) as fifth hottest. But with the monster El Niño blowing up in the Pacific and with atmospheric greenhouse gasses pushing above 400 ppm CO2, it’s likely that many of these top five months could be replaced by new records into early next year. Moreover, the three month period of September, October, and November of 2015 now looks like it will be the first quarter year to exceed +0.9 C above the 1950-1981 baseline in the NASA record.

Warm Equator, Heating Poles

Moving on to NASA’s geospatial temperature anomalies map for the month of October, we see that much of the abnormal heat remains centered at the Poles. This despite a Godzilla El Nino belching hot air into the Equatorial region and pushing a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation. High polar temperature anomalies are an odd result during powerful El Nino periods due to the fact that warming at the Equator tends to strengthen the Polar wind field, locking cold into the upper and lower Latitudes. But over the past two months, Polar temperatures have remained extremely high despite what looks like the most powerful El Nino ever recorded tearing its way through the Pacific.

Global temperature anomalies map October of 2015

(This is what a record hot world looks like in NASA’s global temperature anomalies map. Note both the heat at the Poles and Equator along with the melt and ocean heat uptake related cool pools in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Image source: NASA GISS.)

With such high polar temperatures giving what amounts to an atmospheric back-hand to the strongest El Nino on record, it’s a sign that a raging greenhouse gas driven polar amplification is becoming ever more heavily entrenched. The poles, in short, are more sensitive to global temperature swings and tend to amplify any overall warming or cooling trend. Such an additional sensitivity is due to a number of unique feedbacks that come into play in the upper Latitudes as greenhouse gas levels and global temperatures rise or fall. A circumstance that was predicted in even the earliest global climate model runs forecasting the impacts of a human forced heating of the Earth System. And it appears that this feedback-generated added warming is starting to take hold with a vengeance.

Overall, we find the highest temperature deltas in the Arctic Ocean just north of the Kara Sea, over various regions of the far South Antarctic, and over Central and Western Australia. These regions ranged into an extreme +4 to +5.1 C positive anomaly for the month. Broader warm regions featuring +2 to +4 C above average temperatures surrounded these hot zones. Strong warm temperature departures in this range also held sway over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific El Nino hot spot, over a band from North Africa through the Middle East, over the Lake Baikal region of Russia, and over South Africa.

Equator-to-Pole heat transport — another feature we really don’t like seeing — also remained plainly visible in the October NASA anomalies graphic. Two slots of warm air transport into the northern polar zone show up clear as day in the above graphic — one maintaining over Western North America and another holding sway over Northeastern Asia.

Somewhat cool regions include the heat sink zone in the Southern Ocean, the tip of South America, Eastern Europe, and the ominous Greenland melt related cool pool in the North Atlantic (something we also really don’t want to see). Overall, most of the world showed above average readings with cooler regions increasingly isolated on the NASA map.

zonal anomalies NASA

(Zonal anomalies map shows a strong polar amplification despite El Nino. Image source: NASA GISS)

At last coming to the zonal anomalies graphic, we again observe a very strong polar amplification for the month of October. Here we note that the highest global temperature anomalies occur at both the South and North Poles. These extreme temperature spikes in the range of +3.3 to +3.5 C above average for the month are plainly visible in the upward tilting ‘devils horns’ (another unfortunate climate change indicator) at both the left and right border of the graph. As we move toward lower Latitudes, temperature departures rapidly fall off into the global cool and stormy zones between 50 and 60 North and South Latitudes. Anomalies then steadily climb to an El Nino-warmed Equatorial region (+1.2 to +1.4 C).

November of 2015 Also Likely to Test New Records

Looking toward November, early indications are that both the record or near-record global surface temperatures and the tendency for polar amplification continue. Land and ocean temperatures appear to have extended their October jump into new record ranges. El Nino, which under the regime of human-forced warming has often nudged global temperatures toward ever-hotter extremes, likely pushed sea surface temperatures to new all-time highs in the Equatorial Pacific for the month. Such a huge amount of heat bleeding off this broad ocean zone will likely to continue to spike global surface temperatures. Given such a context, it appears that we’ll be under the gun for new global surface temperature records for a period of at least the next 4 months. So what we saw during October was almost certainly just the start of the current global temperature spike.

Links:

NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

NASA GISS

NASA Land Ocean Temperature Index

Polar Amplification

October of 2015 Shaping up to be Hottest Month Ever Recorded

 

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

For nearly two years now, we’ve had every indication that Dr. Kevin Trenberth was right. A human-forced warming of the deep and middle ocean was indeed coming back to haunt us. Back during early 2014, signs were that a Monster El Nino was building in the Equatorial Pacific. This slow bleed of added heat to the Earth’s mid-section, in turn, forced global temperatures higher, leading to a record hot year during 2014, what will surely be a record hot year during 2015, and what may well also become a record hot year during 2016.

A primary driver of this record global surface heat was a period of extreme warming throughout the Pacific Ocean. A warming that increasingly centered upon the Equatorial Pacific as a Monster El Nino emerged and grew ever stronger.

The Strongest El Nino on Record

By mid summer, we had early indications that the 2015 event was likely to come in as the 1rst to 3rst strongest on record. Since that time, temperatures within the key NINO 3.4 region gradually built up.

Sea Surface temperature anomalies Nino 3.4

(Sea surface temperature anomalies in the benchmark NINO 3.4 zone hit an extreme high temperature departure of 3.0 degrees Celsius above average in the NOAA monitor this Monday. These temperatures are the hottest ever recorded for this region of the Pacific. An indication that the 2015 El Nino is shaping up to beat out even the 1997-1998 El Nino as the strongest such event ever in the modern meteorological record. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Two weeks ago, according to NOAA’s weekly El Nino monitor, average temperatures for the zone hit a +2.8 C positive anomaly. This extreme high temperature reading tied the weekly peak recorded by the NOAA measure in the same region during the record 1997-1998 El Nino. It looked like the 2015 El Nino was on track to at least tie the all time most intense El Nino ever recorded in the NOAA measure.

The 2015 El Nino, at that time had rocketed into record range. Any further strengthening and 2015 would be a monster El Nino year to beat out every other. And through the intervening time heat continued to build, spilling out of the ocean surface, pumping out volumes of heat and moisture that would have been considered unimaginable just a year and a half ago.

1997 vs 2015 El Nino

(The 1997 El Nino ramped up and peaked rapidly. In contrast, 2015 gradually built up from a start during 2014 and didn’t hit a rapid ramp until summer and fall of 2015. Currently, sea surface temperatures in the critical Nino 3.4 zone well exceed that of the 1997 event in the NOAA monitor. It is also worth noting that overall heat content throughout the 2015 event has been greater — with higher temperatures so far lasting longer than during the 1997-1998 El Nino. Image source: Jan Null at Golden Gate Weather via Twitter and Weather Underground.)

As a result, NOAA this week marked the hottest sea surface temperatures ever recorded in the NINO 3.4 zone of the Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies for the region hit an extraordinary 3.0 degrees Celsius above the climatological average. This new reading shatters the old weekly record set for the 1997-1998 El Nino and is yet one more indication that the 2015 El Nino is a monster event without precedent in the global climate record. In other words, we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Early Indications that Heat Continues to Build

Despite the fact that the current El Nino has already shattered weekly temperature records, it appears that warming for the critical NINO 3.4 zone continued to build through November 16 and 17. Daily Sea Surface Temperature monitors, as provided graphically by Earth Nullschool give us a basis for comparison with the NOAA measure. And over the past two months a very rudimentary grid analysis of the data reimaged through Earth Nullschool has shown sea surface temperatures about 0.2 C hotter than the weekly NINO 3.4 averages provided by NOAA.

Yesterday, this analysis provided a reading of 3.4 degrees Celsius above average in the NINO 3.4 zone — roughly corresponding with a NOAA reading in the range of 3.2 C above average. Today, the reading is in the range of 3.3 C hotter than average — corresponding with a NOAA reading near 3.1 C above average.

image

(The Equatorial Pacific Ocean splits open and disgorges a record amount of heat in today’s Earth Nullschool sea surface temperature anomaly graphic. What we are seeing, at this time, is what is shaping up to be the strongest El Nino ever recorded in the climate record. An event that is likely driven, at least in part, by the extraordinary volume of greenhouse gasses human beings have dumped into the Earth climate system. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Overall, the appearance, during recent days, of a band of 4 to 4.5 C above average sea surface temperatures stretching from 120 to 160 West along and near the Equator is yet one more indication that the current record El Nino has continued to intensify. And a broader look at the entire northern Pacific Ocean shows abnormal heat stretching all the way from Equator to Pole. This extra North Pacific heat, especially the hot zone off the West Coast of North America is providing an atmospheric and ocean inertia which pushes El Nino toward further strengthening even as it aids in the maintenance of El Nino conditions overall.

In other words, we may be near the peak of the 2015 El Nino. But the overall ocean picture and trend still points toward the possibility for more strengthening in store. And what this means is that more records are likely to fall over the coming weeks. That El Nino related weather around the world is likely to hit some amazing and potentially very dangerous extremes over the next four months. And that global temperatures are likely to explore new extreme record ranges, as we have already seen during October, over the coming 4-6 months.

Links:

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths?

El Nino of 2015 Hits All Time Record Strength For A One-Week Period

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Monitor

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to Todaysguestis

 

 

 

 

Japan Met Agency Confirms Early Concerns — October 2015 Shaping up to Be Hottest Month Ever Recorded

There’s no rational reason at all to doubt that the globe is heating up. In fact, those born after 1985 haven’t experienced a single year of average temperatures. For them, even the brief two year period following Pinatubo’s massive injection of shading aerosols into the stratosphere was but a minor less-hot spell. One that failed to, for even a short while, return the world to more normal temperatures.

30yearsofabo

(The global temperature record from 1880 through 2014 as provided by NOAA. As is plainly visible, the temperature increase since 1880 has been extraordinary — particularly during the years following 1975 as greenhouse gas buildup rates rapidly climbed to unprecedented levels. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis.)

Those living in this time of increasingly rarefied and weirded weather may as well be named, not by the colloquially meaningless terms generations Y and Z, but by the more contextually appropriate monikers — generation climate destabilization (Y) and generation climate chaos (Z). It’s worth noting that such names may seem unfair due to the fact that neither generation made the choices that would force them to experience such severe disruptions. No, instead they were the unwitting victims of choices made by the many previous generations who failed or neglected to rein in the power of the fossil fuel giants before climate catastrophes could begin to take hold. These new generations, instead, are the unfortunate ones who would inhabit the years when humankind left any climate context it had ever experienced — at least since the dawn of human civilization itself, and possibly since the birth of humankind altogether. The first of many generations we have doomed to face the long, bad years of a worsening climate disruption.

This year, the year of 2015, is shaping up to be the most recent worst of a hot bunch. And October of this year is looking like a horrendous outlier hot month. A month testing the new extreme range of record heat that continues to build throughout the global climate system. A ramping warmth we have no chance of stopping at all unless we also swiftly halt the burning of fossil fuels.

October of 2015 Starting to Come in as Hottest Month Ever Recorded

As I type these words that represent my 799th plea for the global community to act decisively on climate change, to turn away from the wretched industrial interests that are dragging increasingly large chunks of our world into a climate chaos of ever-worsening scope, the temperature where I live in Gaithersburg Maryland is a balmy 66 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about 8 degrees hotter than the typical high temperature for today. Overall, the month of November will come in, if forecasts are correct, between 1 and 2 degrees C hotter than average for my location. This may not seem like much. But since the region has been sitting in a trough zone — with storms and frontal systems tending to drive in from the north and bring in Canadian and Arctic air, these continuous high temperature departures seem rather odd. Especially when one considers them from the meteorological and climate perspective.

November 16 Temperature Departures

(Polar amplification again starkly visible in the November 16, 2015 Climate Reanalyzer temperature anomalies graphic.)

As we look at the global temperature anomaly map for today, we can see that most places around the globe are experiencing above average heat for even the hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 base period. Sections of Asia, Alaska, East Greenland and parts of the Southern Ocean are the noted exceptions. But when one considers that this snapshot is in the context of a 1979-2000 average that, as we can seen in the NOAA graph (top of this post) was much hotter than normal, we begin to realize that even most of the white and light blue sections should be showing up in various shades of orange. And this is especially true when we consider how much the world has warmed up since the late 1800s.

Most ominous, however, is the massive bloom of heat over the Arctic spiking into the range of 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) above average. This heat spike, directly over a section of the Arctic that some have noted could become a hotbed of oceanic and permafrost methane and CO2 feedback to human heating of the globe, is yet one more plainly visible burst of what is called polar amplification. A kind of tilting of heat toward the poles as the Earth warms up. An unevenly rapid heating of the regions that contain most of the world’s ice capable of raising sea levels. An ominous warming of a zone that contains a great portion of the world’s vast carbon stores. Extreme warming where we want to see it least.

And it is all happening in a time that is certainly the hottest in the 125-135 year global climate records of the major reporting agencies. A period likely hotter than during any time in the Holocene. A period potentially hotter than at any time during the last 110,000 years.

For according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, October of 2015 came in as the hottest month ever recorded in all of its 125 year global climate record. The departure at +0.53 C above the 1981-2000 baseline, +0.85 C above the 20th Century average, and about +1.25 C above temperatures during the late 1890s is far into a range that would well be considered more normal for the Eemian interglacial occurring between 110,000 and 130,000 years ago than for any normal time during the current interglacial. It is also +0.02 C above September of 2015’s new record high set just last month. A continuation of this year’s trend of extreme warming in Japan’s global monitor.

October of 2015 hottest on record

(Global average temperatures for October of 2015 were the hottest for any month in all of Japan’s 125 year global climate record. Image source. Japan Meteorological Agency.)

There’s quite a lot of heat in this graph. For what we see is a temperature range that’s about 0.75 C away from the UN’s so called ‘safe limit’ of 2 C total warming above 1880s values. And what we also see is that the last monster El Nino year of 1997-1998 is increasingly being left in the dust. In fact, 1997 doesn’t show up as any of the top 5 record hot years for October. According to JMA, the new top five record holders are now: 1st. 2015 (+0.53°C), 2nd. 2014 (+0.34°C), 3rd. 2003 (+0.24°C), 4th. 2006 (+0.23°C), and 5th. 2012 (+0.22°C). 1997 now holds the place of sixth hottest on record for October at +0.21 C above the 1981-2000 benchmark or around 0.32 C behind October of 2015. A widening gap that plainly shows that though strong El Ninos have the climatological force to drive new records, the underlying driver pushing the entire record inexorably higher is an unimaginable pace of burning fossils fuels pushing an equally unprecedented rate of global greenhouse gas accumulation.

Pushing us to higher and higher extreme temperature thresholds that are straining the climate and geophysical Earth Systems with which we are currently accustomed to the breaking point.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

Climate Reanalyzer

Japan Meteorological Agency

30 Years of Above Average Temperatures Means the Climate Has Changed

October of 2015 May be the Hottest Month Ever Recorded

Northeast Greenland Begins Ominous Collapse — Giant Zachariae Isstrom Most Recent to Destabilize

November 12, 2015:

North, south, east, and west. At all points of the compass, the entire outer edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet is flooding into the oceans with increasing velocity. For NASA it’s the absolute worst kind of OMG realization. For the world’s warming oceans and airs are clearly worsening an already visible Greenland melt. And a new report just out of the University of California (Irvine) today shows that a massive glacier containing enough water to raise seas by more than 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) is the most recent of a growing number of these ice giants to initiate a swift rush into the ocean.

Called Zachariæ Isstrøm, this enormous glacier dominates a large section of the northeast-facing shores of Greenland. The glacier, hundreds of feet tall and plunging hundreds more feet below the ocean surface, like many in our world, now faces the combined threat of warming airs and waters. A double insult that, according to researchers, over the past 15 years has led to first destabilization and then a rapid seaward acceleration.

Zachariae Isstrom Surges Toward Ocean

(1975 to 2015 time lapse shows recent rapid retreat of the Zachariæ Isstrøm glacier’s front. The dark green line marks the 2003 extent of the glacial front. Note the rapid retreat through 2015 in lighter shades blending toward white. Image source: Jeremie Mouginot/UCI via Climate Central.)

According to the new study — Fast retreat of Zachariæ Isstrøm, northeast Greenland — published today in Science, the glacier’s rate of seaward movement has tripled in velocity even as the pace of ice thinning along its grounding line doubled:

Warmer air and ocean temperatures have caused the glacier to detach from a stabilizing sill and retreat rapidly along a downward-sloping, marine-based bed… After 8 years of decay of its ice shelf, Zachariæ Isstrøm, a major glacier of northeast Greenland that holds a 0.5-meter sea-level rise equivalent, entered a phase of accelerated retreat in fall 2012. The acceleration rate of its ice velocity tripled, melting of its residual ice shelf and thinning of its grounded portion doubled, and calving is now occurring at its grounding line.

In total, more than 4.5 billion tons of ice is now estimated to be flooding out from this glacier and into the ocean each year. That’s a mountain of ice about 4.5 cubic kilometers in size hitting the world’s waters from just this single glacier every time the Earth completes one circuit around the sun. In other words, Greenland just opened a new floodgate to the North Atlantic. Researchers publishing the study estimate that it will take between 20 and 30 years for the glacier to melt back to an underwater ridge line that should somewhat slow its melt. But the real news here is that a human-forced warming of the globe has set a monstrous pile of ice, once thought stable, into a motion that will result in yet more global sea level rise.

To the north of Zachariæ Isstrøm sits the also melting Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden. A giant of ice in equal volume to that of Zachariæ. Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden sits on an upward sloping bed and so is not as subject to rapid destabilization as Zachariæ. However, the study found that the combined total ice mass of both glaciers in the range of 1 meter worth of sea level rise was now involved in a significant melt that would “increase sea-level rise from the Greenland Ice Sheet for decades to come.”

greenland-topography

(Map of Greenland topography showing large sections of the interior resting near or below sea level. As a result, warming waters have numerous avenues for invasion into the Greenland Ice Sheet. Numerous ways to melt Greenland ice from below. Zachariæ Isstrøm covers the upper right hand section of this image — sitting astride a low elevation channel the plunges deep into the heart of the current ice mass. Image source: Livescience.)

Greenland is the last major remaining bastion of glacial ice in the Northern Hemisphere. Surrounded on all sides by warming airs and waters, it is the most vulnerable large ice mass to the forces set in play by a human warming of the global environment. In total, Greenland holds enough ice to raise seas by 23 feet. And, in the geological past, just 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius worth of temperature increase above Holocene averages was enough to melt much or all of it.

Currently, human warming by Greenhouse gasses has pushed global average surface temperatures into a range about 1 degree Celsius hotter than the 1880s. It’s a temperature running into ranges that are now comparable with the Eemian — the interglacial period that occurred between 115,000 to 130,000 years ago. A period when oceans were about 13 to 20 feet higher than they are today.

But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that global greenhouse gas concentrations in the range of 400 ppm CO2 and 485 ppm CO2e are enough now to warm the Earth by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius long-term. It’s a heat forcing that would likely spell the end for Greenland’s ice if it remained in place for any significant period. A heat forcing more comparable with Pliocene and Miocene ranges when the world’s glaciers were even more greatly reduced and seas were 30 to 130+ feet higher than they are presently.

Unfortunately, what the building global heat and currently very high greenhouse gas heat forcing means is that the Earth System will continue to accumulate warmth for some time. And as this happens more and more glaciers — both in Greenland and Antarctica — are going to destabilize, speed up, and contribute increasing melt volumes to the world ocean. Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions at this time and pushing to return to atmospheric levels in ranges below 350 ppm CO2 is therefore absolutely necessary if we are to have much hope of preventing ever-worsening rates of glacier destabilization and related contributions to sea level rise.

Links:

Collapsing Greenland Glacier Could Raise Seas by Half a Meter

Fast retreat of Zachariæ Isstrøm, northeast Greenland

Once Stable Glacier Facing Melt

NASA Science Missions — Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG)

Greenland Just Opened a Major New Floodgate to the Ocean

Livescience

Pliocene Climate

Miocene Climate

Departures in Pliocene Sea Level Record

Greenland Weather Underground

Hat tip to Todaysguestis

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Ryan in New England

More Weather Weirding — Godzilla El Nino vs a Mean Polar Amplification

We may have never seen heat like this before in the Equatorial Pacific. And as for atmospheric temperatures, 2015 is already locking in to shatter all-time global records set just last year. But despite a Monster El Nino raging across the world’s mid-section, despite a strengthening Jet Stream and a roaring storm track, the greatest warm atmospheric temperature anomalies are still centering in on the Arctic.

In other words, it appears that human-forced warming has taken so much cold out of the poles that there isn’t much of it left for the strengthening circumpolar winds to lock in.

A Godzilla El Nino

Equatorial Red Scar

(The angry red scar of anomalous ocean heat that is the tell-tale of a monster El Nino is plainly visible in today’s Climate Reanalyzer Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly [SSTA] graphic.)

All you have to do is look at the great red scar spanning more than half of the Equatorial Pacific Ocean on the upper Climate Reanalyzer map to tell it’s a Monster El Nino year. A zone that in this measure is now showing an amazing +1.26 C sea surface temperature anomaly above the already hotter than normal 1979-to-2000 average. A region where weekly average sea surface temperatures in NOAA’s El Nino monitor are now tied with the record 1997 event. There, according to NOAA, temperatures last week hit 2.8 degrees Celsius above average along an Equatorial band stretching from 120 to 180 West Longitude. As a result, the Equatorial atmosphere continued to heat up, continued to contribute to global temperatures that for 2015 will be the hottest ever recorded over the past 135 years.

Considering such a massive amount of heat boiling up off this key Equatorial zone, we’d tend to think that this region would also show atmospheric temperatures that are much warmer than average. And it does. But strangely, perhaps ominously, the highest average atmospheric temperature departures do not reside over these record hot waters. They instead show up where we might least expect them during a record El Nino year — at or near the poles.

Odd Polar Amplification

Atmospheric temperature anomalies

(El Nino is already contributing to stronger circumpolar wind fields, so why are the Antarctic and Arctic regions still so warm? Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

For both within the Arctic and Antarctic — it’s still much warmer than normal. In the Antarctic, a zone from 70 to 90 South features air temperatures that are between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius hotter than average. In the northern polar zone an even warmer region ranging from 14 to 20+ degrees Celsius above average stretches over the fractured and greatly thinned sea ice along an arc just north of Svalbard and on into Russian Siberia. Overall, the Arctic as a whole shows an extraordinary +1.27 C positive anomaly. The Antarctic is at +0.90 C. And the tropics, which includes our massive El Nino still lags at an admittedly impressive +0.64 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average.

Why is this temperature anomaly pattern so darn weird? It all has to do with atmospheric physics. During times of strong El Ninos, the temperature difference between the poles and the Equator tends to increase as the Equator warms. This, in turn, strengthens the Jet Stream. A strong Jet Stream, for its part, tends to keep cold air locked away at the poles. So, ironically, as the Equator warms with El Nino, the poles have a tendency to cool off a bit.

So far, for the Fall of 2015, this isn’t really what we’ve seen. Sure, the Equator has warmed up quite a bit. Concordantly, the Jet Stream appears to have strengthened somewhat. We still have a big ridge that tends to keep forming over the ridiculously and persistently warm Northeastern Pacific, but it’s not stretching all the way into the Arctic like it did last year. Meanwhile, Jet Stream velocities and related storm track intensities are hitting rather high values. Arctic Oscillation has also recently hit extremely high positive values. A strongly positive Arctic Oscillation traditionally tends to result in cold air remaining locked away in the Arctic, but considering the temperature anomaly maps, Arctic cold hasn’t really been all that cold of late.

image

(North America — surrounded on all sides by ridiculously hot water. How will the influences of this off the charts ocean warming impact North American and North Atlantic weather systems this Winter? Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Is Human Forced Warming Meddling with the El Nino-Polar Interplay?

So why are the poles still tending to remain very warm even as the Equator warms? The first answer is that high greenhouse gas concentrations from human fossil fuel emissions tend to preferentially warm these regions. This is due to the fact that greenhouse gasses have their greatest warming impact during times of darkness or when the sun is at a low angle. Compounding this impact for the Arctic is the fact that a high overburden of both CO2 and methane hangs over the region — possibly due to heightening emissions from thawing permafrost, increasing forest fires, and increasing ocean-to-atmosphere carbon fluxes.

A second answer is that the overall atmospheric impacts of the current Monster El Nino may not have come into full swing yet. We do still have a very warm pool of water in the Northeastern Pacific and this warm pool has tended to somewhat resist the polar wind field intensifying effects of a strong El Nino. This warm pool has also given the current El Nino a springboard upon which to further intensify. So the push and pull between these two hot water zones may not be over yet.

All in all, this pattern points to more and more weather weirding on tap for this Winter. Jet Streams and storm tracks may run further to the north as a result — especially in the areas of the Pacific Northwest and in Northern Europe. Troughs may also tend to dig a bit deeper along the Central and Eastern US and on out into the North Atlantic. This is not exactly the forecast we would expect with such a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation. But the related cool air pool has retreated so far north as to, at least for now, not fully result in a strong El Nino + strong Arctic Oscillation related weather pattern. Instead, for now, what we are seeing is a weird kind of hybrid weather pattern that appears to be incorporating the influences of a Monster El Nino, of ongoing polar amplification, of the cool pool in the North Atlantic, of the abnormally warm Barents Sea, and of the Hot Blob still firmly entrenched in the Northeastern Pacific.

Links:

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

NOAA’s Arctic Oscillation Index

Weather Underground El Nino Reports

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to Ryan in New England

The Frankentides are Coming — US East Coast to See Season of Flooding From El Nino + Sea Level Rise This Winter

According to preliminary reports from NOAA, this Fall, Winter and Spring will likely bring an abnormal number of flooding tides to the US East Coast. These emperor and king tides are primarily driven by sea level rise — a knock on impact of human-forced warming. But during an El Nino year, as with this year, wind patterns along the East Coast tend to drive tides even higher. At El Nino times, lows tend to form off the US East Coast. These lows tend to generate a consistent northeasterly wind that pushes against the northward flow of the Gulf Stream. This action reduces the Gulf Stream’s ability to pull water away from our shores, and some of that water rebounds against the US East Coast.

During a normal year, this would somewhat increase the height of East Coast tides. But, due to Greenland melt pumping fresh water into the North Atlantic, the heat and salt driven circulation that generates the Gulf Stream is weakening (See Signs of Gulf Stream Weakening). So this year’s series of El Nino lows are forming over seas that are already rebounding against the US East Coast. Forming in seas that have already risen due to the melting of glaciers around the world. A NOAA press release from September notes that recent findings:

“…build upon two nuisance flooding reports issued last year led by NOAA scientists William Sweet and John Marra. The previously published reports show coastal communities in the United States have experienced a rapid growth in the frequency of nuisance tidal flooding, a 300 to 925 percent increase since the 1960s, and will likely cross inundation tipping points in the coming decades as tides become higher with sea level rise”

“We know that nuisance flooding is happening more often because of rising sea levels, but it is important to recognize that weather and ocean patterns brought on by El Niño can compound this trend,” said Sweet.”

image

(The 2015 El Nino — the year sea level rise came home to roost for the US East Coast. NOAA predicts a significant increase in the number of tidal flooding events all up and down the East Coast due to a combination of El Nino and impacts related to human-forced climate change. Image source: NOAA.)

It is due to this confluence of factors that we are likely to see some pretty extreme flooding tides anywhere from Miami to Maine. Flooding tides that, according to NOAA, are 33 to 125 percent more frequent than even the recently elevated trend. Tides that, as we have already seen (see below) are much higher than during any typical year — El Nino or no. Such impacts are likely to occur even without the influence of strong Nor’easters. But for the East Coast, Nor’easters and El Nino tend to go hand in hand.

So it’s shaping up to be a flooding season. One that wouldn’t have happened before. One brought on by the impacts of a human-forced warming. And one that is but a harbinger of more flooding to come.

Fall of 2015 Already Seeing Substantial Inundation Events

Over the past few weeks, a freak series of high tides inundated large sections of the U.S. East Coast. In Charleston, South Carolina, on October 27, a high tide peaked at 8.67 feet above mean low water. That’s the highest tide for Charleston since Hurricane Hugo roared ashore in 1989. But in this case, there was no category 4 hurricane. Just a ridiculous amount of water flooding in from the ocean. In Savannah, Georgia tides ran 10.43 feet above mean low water on the same day. Again, no storm, just a rising ocean flooding out roadways and inundating homes and neighborhoods. Only a couple of days later, on October 29th, large sections of Boston Harbor flooded under perfectly blue skies.

Tybee Flood

(Flooding, primarily due to sea level rise and an extreme high tide, inundates coastal lands near Tybee, Georgia on October 27th. It was the worst flooding since a category 2 hurricane hit the region in 1935. This year, there was no hurricane. Just sea level rise caused by human forced warming combined with the typical impacts of El Nino on East Coast tides. Image source: Blame Sea Level Rise.)

For stormless days, this level of tidal flooding is unprecedented. It’s a validation, just one month later, of NOAA predictions. If anything, these tides were even higher than expected. Tides influenced by sea level rise, glacial melt in Greenland, and by an El Nino driven shift in wind patterns. Had these tides coincided with a strong Nor’easter or a Hurricane, what we’d be looking at is a level of flooding that would almost certainly have exceeded the worst such events ever to strike the US East Coast. In effect, what we see is that sea level rise due to human forced warming of the globe is starting to have a greater and greater impact on these shores. An awful and early impact that will only worsen as time and human warming progress.

A Global Problem Set Off By Human Warming

Over the longer term, there are a lot of people in the path of this global trend of rising waters. In the US alone, more than 143 million people live in coastal communities. And the seas, due to human-forced warming are on the rise.

But its not just the US East Coast that’s in trouble. Practically everywhere, seas are rising. Global temperature increases of about 1 degrees Celsius above 1880s values are causing the oceans to thermally expand. In addition, glacial melt from mountain systems, Greenland and Antarctica is contributing ever-increasing volumes of water to the global ocean, forcing on the waters’ rise at ever-increasing rates. Currently, long term trends indicate a 3.3 millimeter per year average increase in the height of the world’s oceans (from 1993 to present). And as the world starts to close in on 2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages, the pace of that rise is expected to ramp up and up.

Already, current sea level rise presents increasing problems to coastal regions across the globe. Much of the impacts we presently see are due to salt water invasion of low lying regions, nuisance flooding events, the amplification of storm driven tides, and increasing instances of what are now called king and emperor tides. Adding complexity to this global warming related problem is the fact that seas do not rise in a uniform manner. This lack of global uniformity of sea level rise results from gravity’s affects on the displacement of waters and from the influence of water outflows from glaciers on ocean currents. As a result, global sea level rise can generate hot spots where rates of rise are significantly in excess of the global average.

US East Coast as Sea Level Rise Hot Spot

Global Sea Surface Height Anomaly NOAA

(Over the past few months, a bulge of water more than 1.3 feet higher than the 1981 to 2013 global average has expanded off the US East Coast. This bulge is driven by a combination of Gulf Stream slowdown due to Greenland melt, overall sea level rise due to global warming, and due to an El Nino pattern that drives northeasterly winds off the US East Coast. This year, this extreme bulge is expected to bring on a significant increase in the number of flooding tides. Tides that could be compounded by the effects of strong nor’easters that tend to be generated during El Nino years. Image source: NOAA CPC.)

Unfortunately, as we have seen above, the impacts of gravity rebound and current changes related to glacial melt put the East Coast of the United States directly in the path of a significant rise in ocean water. Specifically, Greenland melt results in a slowing down of the Gulf Stream. And it is the northward draw of the Gulf Stream that pulls about 3 feet worth of sea level rise away from the US East Coast. Slow down the Gulf Stream by dumping cold water into the North Atlantic and you can get about a foot of sea level increase off the US East Coast. Stop it completely and all that 3 feet of water comes sloshing back. Add any global sea level rise due to ocean warming and glacial melt on top of that and you can see why the US East Coast can quickly get into trouble.

All in all, scientists expect sea level rise for the US East Coast to be nearly double the global average predicted for this Century. And what this means is that more and more coastal flooding is on the way.

Links:

The State Did Warn Us

Can’t Get Home? Blame Sea Level Rise

NOAA: El Nino May Accelerate Nuisance Flooding

Melting Ice in West Antarctica Could Raise Seas by 3 Meters

Historic Tides From Sea Level Rise and Supermoon Flood US East Coast

NOAA CPC

Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Elephant Tears Over Lost Climate Cherries — House Republicans’ Most Recent Witch Hunt Targets NOAA

We live in dark times.

Dark times of rampant, media-supported climate change doubt and denial mongering. Dark times when global temperatures are hitting new all-time record highs and extreme weather and climate change related events are growing in scope, scale, and danger. Dark times when it is becoming all-too-obvious that the fossil fuel companies of the world are committed to continue burning their dangerous and heat amplifying fuels regardless of the cost or pain or devastation inflicted upon others. Inflicted on persons, communities and the very nations of this world. Dark times when public officials level unfounded and baseless attacks against the very science upon which we depend to track the dangerous and growing crisis that is human-forced warming of the globe.

* * * *

NOAA September Hottest On Record

(Most recent NOAA global analysis graph showing that land and ocean temperatures for September of 2015 were the hottest on record. Republican climate change deniers in Congress have singled out NOAA for a Witch Hunt, implying that NOAA scientists aren’t telling the truth about warming. However, every temperature monitor around the globe shows warming since the 1880s and every major monitor shows that we are now experiencing the hottest period ever recorded. The Republican assault on NOAA is therefore not just an attack against a single agency. It’s an attack against the whole of climate science. A false and unfounded attack made for the financial benefit of their fossil fuel backers. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis.)

Over the past few weeks this continued commitment to inflicting climate harm could not have been more plainly obvious than in the actions of the Republican House Science Committee. The Committee, led by Representative Lamar Smith, made baseless accusations that NOAA was intentionally manipulating climate data. Lamar Smith, in a recent statement seen here at Ars Technica blustered:

The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made. NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda. The agency has yet to identify any legal basis for withholding these documents. The Committee intends to use all tools at its disposal to undertake its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.

Representative Smith and his committee, in a now typical tactic among those serving fossil fuel corporate interests over the past two decades, has basically decided to conduct a witch hunt. He has no reason to suspect that NOAA is manipulating data. He has merely accused NOAA of such a manipulation by claiming that NOAA temperature data revisions are somehow a reason to suspect foul play. This despite the fact that NOAA often revises data based on new information as it becomes available. Despite the fact that the data is publicly available and has been published for peer review in the broader scientific community. Data that if it had been inconsistent, manipulated, or baseless, would have been revealed as such during the peer review process. NOAA’s updates and data refinement are not fraud. They are simple due dillegence.

Elephant Tears over Lost Climate Cherries

But despite the fact that both the methods and data are publicly available, Representative Smith, his committee, and the members of the fossil fuel media that support them continue to generate trumped up accusations. This is likely due to the fact that the NOAA revision came up warmer than their previous data set by a margin of 0.06 degrees Celsius. A margin that isn’t really too significant when it comes to overall warming. But it is significant when you look at the most recent years in the climate graph following the monster El Nino year of 1998. The section that climate change deniers claim represents a pause in global warming. With the revision, the new span of the graph really doesn’t look like a pause anymore — much to the grief and outrage of climate change deniers everywhere.

global-temperature-anomaly-time-series-and-trends

(Elephant tears over lost cherries. NOAA’s most recent global temperature trend analysis revision for the period of 1995 through 2014. Note that in both versions the hottest years on record remain 1rst 2014, 2nd 2010, 3rd 2005, 4th 1998. Also note that neither graph really supports the notion of a ‘pause’ in the long term warming trend. Basically what climate change deniers have done is focus in on the section of the graph that follows the record 1998 El Nino year temperature spike. A period that was also followed by a cool phase in natural variability called negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Image source: NOAA.)

As a part of their attack on NOAA for the outrage of making their fake pause look even less like a pause, the Republican Committee (which may as well be named the Fossil Fuel Committee for the sake of accuracy and consistency) continued to single out the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the object of its attacks. This action despite the fact that the whole of climate science basically confirms NOAA’s data even as any rational or informed analysis clearly finds no pause in the rate of atmospheric warming.

Attacking Individual Scientists, Demanding All Internal Communications

Naming individual scientists, particularly scientists who in the words of Andrew Rosenburg had the “temerity to express … views that fossil fuel companies should be held accountable for climate change,” the committee had the audacity to falsely imply, yet again, that global warming isn’t actually happening or that it stopped and that NOAA is somehow at fault for reporting the fact that, yes, it is happening and, no, it didn’t stop. It was, sadly, a scene that could have come straight out of Animal Farm when the Republican House Committee then made the ridiculous and unreasonable demand that NOAA surrender “All Internal Communications” for its review.

Japan Meteorological Agency Global temperatures through 2014 end

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows global annual temperature averages on a consistent and continued rise since the dawn of widespread fossil fuel burning in the late 19th Century. Japan’s data confirms that of NOAA — the Earth is warming, we are hitting new all time record high temperatures now. Image source: Japan’s Meteorological Agency.)

Unfortunately, the top scientists of the world have been subjected to this ridiculous and baseless bullying time and time again. A prime example was the manufactured Climategate scandal in which IPCC scientist emails had sentences taken out of context by members of the conservative media in an effort to claim that global warming science was a fraud. The scientists, after years of fake controversy and doubt-spreading, have since been vindicated time and time again. But not after being subjected to the most heinous bullying to include constant calls for internal records, court appearances, endless attacks and demonizing by the corporate media, and even the receipt of death threats to themselves and members of their families.

In a recent article published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, representative Ed Markie’s (D) outrage at the new order is plainly noted. He points out that all of the scientific data is already public and that requesting all internal documents amounted to basically bullying and harassment:

However, obtaining all of the data and methods used in this study seemingly was not enough for the majority. You also demanded internal communications by NOAA scientists regarding their scientific research. NOAA, rightfully, has been reluctant to waste their time and resources, not to mention break confidence with their superb research scientists by responding to this demand…

I cannot help but note that your requests in this case echo the tactics of notable climate change skeptics, who frequently submit similar FOIA requests of climate scientists in both the federal government and in state universities. One of the most publicized occasions of harassment occurred when then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the American Tradition Institute (ATI) sought email communications of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann.

Knowing that the Republican House Committee was likely involved in another fake fishing expedition, the NOAA head courageously refused to submit to Republicans’ demands. And, now, predictably, the fossil fuel media screams its fake outrage about what NOAA supposedly has to hide.  According to a recent report in Media Matters:

Conservative media outlets are wrongly claiming that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hiding data related to a recent study that challenged the so-called “pause” in global warming, and echoing Republican House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s baseless accusation that NOAA manipulated temperature records to show a warming trend. In reality, the NOAA study’s data is publicly available online, and NOAA routinely makes adjustments to historical temperature records that are peer-reviewed and necessary to account for changes to measuring instruments and other factors.

Every Major Climate Monitor in the World Shows the Earth is Warming — So Why Are Republicans Aiming Their Fake Outrage at NOAA?

It’s not like the NOAA data is new or unique. Sure, NOAA shows the world is warming. But so does everyone else in the global scientific community. NASA GISS shows the world is warming. Japan’s Meteorological Agency — warming. The Hadley Center — warming. NCAR — warming. The UN’s IPCC — warming. Every sensory system, every monitor that tracks global temperatures all shows the same — warming.

NASA Land Ocean Temperature Index

(NASA’s Land-Ocean Temperature Index showing that the world is entering its hottest period ever recorded. Image source: NASA GISS.)

And all this warming backed up by reams and reams of scientific evidence. The Himalayas have lost 20 percent of their ice as 90 percent of the glaciers around the world are melting. Greenland is melting, and at an ever more rapid rate. The North Atlantic Overturning Circulation is weakening. The Oceans are becoming more stratified. The wetlands of the world from the Arctic to the Equator are belching out more methane (a feedback that comes about with warming). And everywhere temperature records are falling, supplanted by new records that last for a few years or maybe a decade before they fall again. Wildfires are increasing in both intensity and frequency. The severity of droughts and rainfall events are increasing. And we, as a global community, are now treated to 100 or even 1,000 year floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires on an annual basis.

Over the past few weeks residents of Texas and South Carolina alike were subject to freakish flood events of the kind that we’ve really never seen before. The intensity of rainfall in South Carolina was so horrific that residents now report that they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Scientists warned us that rainfall events would tend to become more intense as human-forced warming loaded up the atmosphere with more and more moisture. Now, around the world, it’s happening.

And last of all — sea levels are rising. Rising more rapidly than at any time in the Holocene. Rising because they are warming up and because the world’s glaciers are melting.

Sea level rise Hansen

(For most of the Holocene, global seas were remarkably stable — neither rising or falling at a significant rate. By the late 19th Century, seas had begun to slowly rise. As the Earth warmed and oceans sucked up more heat, thermal expansion combined with glacial melt to cause the seas to rise at an ever-more-rapid rate. As the world’s oceans trap more than 90 percent of the excess heat re-radiated by greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, rates of sea level rise are a good confirmation that global temperatures are also rising. Image source: Dr. James Hansen.)

This mountain of scientific proof that global warming is indeed real, worsening, and ongoing is probably greater than any other proof for any other science in existence. And yet the Republican House Committee has the temerity to single out NOAA as some kind of sacrificial offering to their demonic fossil fuel masters. And to imply what is basically the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American public — that climate change somehow isn’t real and that NOAA, somehow, is hiding something in its email that proves that.

What a ridiculous pile of festering nonsense!

Republicans Fighting Against the Public Welfare

The real reason Republicans are conducting a witch hunt against the faithful public servants at NOAA is due to the fact that the corporations who have supported their election campaigns simply cannot continue to exist as they are now in a world that responds to climate change. They would be forced to switch to new energy sources or to learn how to effectively capture the carbon emitted by their operations. Doing this would cost them money and put them in a position where they no longer dominate markets. Where consumers start to have more and more choice regarding what forms of energy they use.

Having enjoyed market dominance for more than a Century, these entities are not at all enamored with the prospect of having to compete or to allow energy customers a broader range of choices or freedoms. They have therefore made the cynical and ridiculously amoral decision to attempt to deceive the public. To generate doubt about the veracity of climate science reports. And to use this doubt to block government policies that address the issue of human-forced climate change.

Since a failure by government to enact effective climate policies will result in a growing risk of inflicting damage to an ever larger group of the US and global populace, those companies, media figures, and politicians involved in this effort are complicit in what amounts to a vast campaign to inflict harm on individuals, communities, and nations. It does not matter if their original intent is simply to preserve the profits of powerful fossil fuel corporations, the net result is the same — the inflicting of harm on the public.

House Republicans and the fossil fuel companies they serve are therefore complicit in a heinous act. And their actions over the past month in their leveling of trumped up charges against NOAA, is a stark proof for what they’re doing — committing themselves to inflicting climate atrocities upon the public for the benefit of fossil fuel companies which they represent.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

Congressman Accuses NOAA of Doctoring Results

Conservative Media Defend Congressman’s Baseless Attacks Against NOAA

Dr James Hansen

NASA/GISS Global Temperature Analysis

Japan Meteorological Agency Global Temperature Analysis

The House Science Committee’s Witch Hunt Against NOAA Scientists

The New Normal — South Carolina Flood Victims Suffer from PTSD

Denying the Neverending Heatwave

Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic work provided by the now politically persecuted scientists at NOAA

October of 2015 May be the Hottest Month Ever Recorded — A Record That May Stand For But a Month

One thousand six hundred and eighteen (1618) — that’s how many months we have in all of the global temperature record starting in 1880. And early indications are that October of 2015 was possibly the hottest month out of them all. A record hot month, during a record hot year, in a record hot world. A new extreme temperature record that may just stand for one or two months as temperatures are likely to continue to climb coordinate with the peak of a Monster El Nino in the Pacific.

* * * *

As of today’s NOAA El Nino report, sea surface temperatures in the key Nino 3.4 zone had hit a range of 2.7 degrees Celsius above the climatological average. These temperatures are about equal to maximum weekly values achieved during the 1997 El Nino — which in many respects was considered to be the strongest on record. This most recent heat spike puts the 2015 El Nino within striking distance of being the most intense El Nino ever witnessed.

ocean-heat-content

(A sky-rocketing global ocean heat content is, through the agency of a monster El Nino, in the process of backing up into the atmosphere — pushing global temperatures to new all-time record highs. Image source: NOAA NODC.)

As with most El Ninos, the result is that excess ocean heat is backing up into the atmosphere at a heightened rate — pushing global temperatures higher. In a normal year, on a normal Holocene Earth, this would have temporarily spiked atmospheric temperatures. But this year, the record El Nino is being fueled by oceans that are taking in an unprecedented amount of heat. Heat re-radiated by an atmosphere loaded with greenhouse gasses in the range of 400 ppm CO2 and 485 ppm CO2e. And now the oceans, being the greatest store of heat energy on Earth and sucking up more than 90 percent of the added heat due to human forced warming, are returning the favor.

Hottest October on Record

As a result, the world is now experiencing some of the hottest temperatures ever seen. The year of 2014, when the Pacific began to settle into the current El Nino trend, was the hottest on record. But that new global high temperature mark didn’t last long. For as that human-accumulated ocean heat continued to bleed back into the atmosphere, 2015 set a path to supplant 2014 as the new record holder. Global temperatures were raging to new heights. But the worst was still to come.

With a record El Nino starting to hit its peak in a hothouse world what we’re in for over the next few months is likely to be something, yet again, unprecedented. And already, early NCAR data reanalysis points toward October of 2015 being the hottest month ever recorded.

NCAR reanalysis

(Reanalysis of NCAR global temperature data shows that October of 2015 was the hottest month in the global climate record. Temperature averages in the above graph are comparable to a 1994 to 2013 baseline that’s about 0.7 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages. The new departure, according to Nick Stoke’s reanalysis is +0.2 C hotter than September and +0.15 C hotter than the previous hottest month ever recorded — January of 2007. Image source: Moyhu.)

According to early reports from Nick Stokes (a retired CSIRO scientist) at the climate blog Moyhu, NCAR temperature reanalysis has put October at the hottest in the global climate record at +0.567 C above the 1994 to 2013 average. This shoves October into the range of +1.18 C above the 1951 to 1980 average and about +1.38 C above 1880s averages (in the NCAR context). Since GISS has tended to range a bit cooler than the NCAR figures this Fall, Nick estimates LOTI temperatures from the NASA analysis are likely to hit a range of +1 C above the NASA baseline or about +1.2 to +1.3 C above 1880s values in that measure.

If these NCAR comparisons bear out, they would make October of 2015 the hottest month in all of the global climate record in both the NCAR and the GISS measures. Notably, Nick Stokes NCAR figure shows a substantial +0.15 C departure above the previous record during January of 2007. A NASA GISS figure of +1 C would also beat out January of 2007 as the hottest month ever in the global climate record, but by a somewhat smaller +0.03 C margin.

Even so, as a record or near record El Nino continues to hit maximum warmth in the Pacific, it is likely that more monthly global temperature records are in the pipe. Peak surface global temperatures typically occur during the months after El Nino hits top intensity. So it is both possible and likely that November, December, January, February and even March could continue to explore new maximum monthly temperature thresholds. Meanwhile, the inertia of all that extra ocean heat bleeding back into the atmosphere presents a decent chance that 2016 could even beat out 2015 as the new yearly record holder. It all really depends on if El Nino spikes still higher and if that peak extends significantly into next year.

In any case, the human hothouse is again re-writing the record books.

Links:

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

NOAA NODC

NCAR/NECP Index up 0.2 C in October

NASA GISS

Hat Tip to Wharf Rat

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