NASA: Worst of El Nino Still to Come. With Climate Change in the Mix, 2015-2016 Event May Equal Most Devastating On Record

Like and not like.

When we look at the 2015-2016 El Nino and compare it with the 1997-1998 monster we find both similarities and differences.

First the differences. The 2015-2016 El Nino is firing off in a global atmosphere that is on the order of 0.25 C hotter than 1997-1998. It’s an event that’s spring-boarding off an unprecedented hot blob of water in the Northeastern Pacific. One that some studies have linked to human-forced climate change and that has been associated with a plethora of ills ranging from failing ocean health, to the California drought, to strange and troubling warm air and water invasions entering the Arctic. It’s an event that’s occurring in the context of yet another extreme warm air invasion of the Arctic now ongoing in the North Atlantic. And, likely, it’s an event that has, overall, been torqued and twisted by the ongoing pressure of atmospheric and ocean influences associated with human-forced climate change.

Now the similarity. Though a bit more widespread, the heat content of the current El Nino is about equal to that of the monster 1997-1998 El Nino. In other words, there’s an enormous punch of heat hitting the atmosphere from this thing. As a result, you’re bound to get some extraordinarily profound weather impacts. You can see this heat evidenced in the sea surface heights map provided by NASA yesterday below:

NASA TOPEX Sea Surface Heights

(Sea Surface Heights graphic by NASA shows a very intense El Nino currently ongoing in the Equatorial Pacific. Image source: NASA.)

These extreme and very widespread sea surface heights represent a massive load of heat energy steaming off of Equatorial Pacific waters. And what this means is that more severe weather due to the El Nino influence alone is likely in store.

NASA notes that A Still-Growing El Nino is Set to Bear Down on The US:

The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission. El Niño 2015 has already created weather chaos around the world. Over the next few months, forecasters expect the United States to feel its impacts as well. The latest Jason-2 image bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997, by Jason-2’s predecessor, the NASA/Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Topex/Poseidon mission, during the last large El Niño event.

El Nino May Hit New Peak Amidst Another Strong Westerly Wind Burst

NASA also hints that the current very strong El Nino may not have even reached peak yet. In evidence to NASA’s statement, this week another strong westerly wind burst (WWB) roared out across the Equatorial Pacific. The winds howled with near gale force intensity against the prevailing trades along a broad stretch of water between New Guinea and the Date Line. Such westerlies tend to increase the intensity of El Nino by generating strong down-welling Kelvin Waves that deliver yet more heat to the sea surface in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Heat that then pools out, radiating its energy load into the atmosphere to far-ranging weather impact.

image

(Another strong westerly wind burst runs against the trades on Tuesday, December 29th in the above Earth Nullschool/GFS graphic. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Long range models, though pointing toward a peak in December (which may be subject to revision given the intensity of the current WWB), also indicate a rather long lasting event. NOAA’s CFSv2 ensemble, for example, doesn’t show a transition to Nino neutral status until summer — possibly even late summer. As a result, El Nino effects will likely linger for quite a few more months at least while a second peak in intensity over the coming month would further extend and intensify El Nino-related impacts.

Severe Impacts On the Horizon

Regardless of peak intensity timing or overall duration, there’s rough weather expected in the pipe. Even though we’ve already seen instances of severe weather likely associated with El Nino such as the severe four season storm in the Central US, the Eastern US heatwave, droughts across Central America, India, the Carribean and Brazil, Australian heatwaves and a shift of the storm track toward Iceland in the North Atlantic among other impacts, many forecasters believe the worst is still to come.

As an example, Oxfam International recently warned:

“The El Niño weather system could leave tens of millions of people facing hunger, water shortages and disease next year if early action isn’t taken to prepare vulnerable people from its effects.”

But perhaps some of the most devastating impacts could come as storms finally roar into the US West Coast or even as heavy weather continues over the Central US and Northern England. The recent severe weather is expected this week to bring some of the highest Mississippi River levels on record. But if a new set of severe storms emerge, the floods could repeat or worsen — much as we’ve seen during the historic floods gripping North England this year. Floods that could continue hitting the UK through to April. For the West Coast, the heavy storms could come suddenly, unexpectedly and all at once.

NASA notes that recent strong El Ninos have delivered as much as twice the typical amount of rainfall to Southern California:

In 1982-83 and 1997-98, large El Niños delivered about twice the average amount of rainfall to Southern California, along with mudslides, floods, high winds, lightning strikes and high surf.

Although, historically, very extreme events have been capable of delivering quite a bit more. Something to consider when human-forced warming of the globe by about 1 C since the 1880s has amped up the rate of evaporation and precipitation by about 7-8 percent globally. And to this point, though NASA isn’t saying it directly at this time, it is all-too-possible that human forced climate change is adding more intensity to the El Nino related severe weather events we’ve already seen and are likely to see over the coming months. So when you hear it’s the worst flood ever or the worst drought ever or, especially, the hottest day ever, don’t just think El Nino. Think El Nino on climate change steroids.

Links:

A Still Growing El Nino to Bear Down on US

Sick of El Nino? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

Punishing Four Season Storm Grips US

UK Floods

Extreme Missouri Floods

Warm Arctic Storm Pushes North Pole Above Freezing

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to Alex Vasquez

Hat Tip to DT Lange

 

 

 

 

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109 Comments

  1. PlazaRed

     /  December 30, 2015

    Thank you for posting this blog heading.
    I feel more and more that this El Niño, may be the tipping point there where the global kettle boils over and we sit here looking at the mess, thinking if only we had turned the heat down earlier!
    Too many people wanting too many things.
    Not enough ability to absorb excesses to go around.
    Too many places soon to be unfit to live,
    Too many materialistic desires?

    Reply
  2. @dougwmoore

    I-44 at 141 in w stl county

    Reply
  3. 12/30/15 – Explosive cyclogenesis with intense low passing through Iceland at peak intensity

    NWS OPC

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and commented:
    Perhaps a year of extremes will help bring more people to their senses. Human population pressure (building, farming, logging, grazing, poisoning) has eliminated half of Earth’s accumulated genetic marvels. With population pressure continuing, and with human-caused climate change creating relatively sudden habitat changes, many more of our fellow creatures will surely be lost. Some of the finest minds I’ve encountered have fought for climate prudence. So far, they have failed to slow the change. I’m hopeful that this year’s weather will lend them a hand. Human activities are battering our ecosystems. Harsh weather will be harmful too, but worth it if it wakes up a few more of our too gullible citizens.

    Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  December 31, 2015

      It’s heartbreaking to witness what we are doing to the biosphere, isn’t it Garry?

      Reply
    • Chuck Hughes

       /  December 31, 2015

      Not to sound too pessimistic but I’ve been thinking that for years and it never happens. People are so averse to bad news that they just shut it out. I think Exxon is correct that it will take serious government intervention to accomplish anything, and people are so paranoid of the U.N. and government in general it would create a scary situation, at least here in the U.S. However, I think it will eventually be necessary. Try getting a smoker to quit. You can show them lung slices, cancer victims, anything and they still can’t put it down. In our case it would require a collective will and I just don’t see that right now.

      Reply
      • Ryan, we not only lack will, we also lack knowledge. I am tempted to complain that we are consumers so concerned with our goods and the comings and goings of the luminaries of our species; we have no time for others. However, that isn’t fair. This morning I followed my daily ritual of token feeding of birds, deer, and other wildlife that live by my house. The exposure to these creatures gives me familiarity and fondness that most people can’t experience. There seems no practical solution for the disconnection. I usually conclude that we need to find gentle, but effective ways to reduce the human population.

        Reply
      • Garry…I am very fortunate to live in a setting that sounds very much like yours. Everyday I am surrounded by nature and wildlife (I have a large flock of turkeys who come up to the bird feeders to eat cracked corn I throw out for them). I am very grateful for this, and often wonder if some of the problems we are encountering in our world could be solved if everyone had this experience…or appreciation of this kind of experience. So many people now live “crammed” into one another like sardines with only electronic devices to distract them from the pressures of life… I often wonder if it negatively affects their psyche and thus worldview?

        Reply
  5. NWS Fairbanks ‏@NWSFairbanks 34m34 minutes ago

    The high so far today at the Fairbanks airport was 45°F. This broke the old record for 12/30 set in 1982 by 10°.

    Reply
  6. Phil

     /  December 31, 2015

    What will be really interesting to see is if the PDO remains in positive territory once the effects of current El Nino begin to fade away and also what we transition to in the next year or two – e.g. strong La Nina or perhaps ENSO neutral territory and if the latter, whether there is a La Nina or El Nino bias or perhaps a weak El Nino.

    I recall Trenberth saying that if the positive PDO flip is maintained, then we could possibly expect a step change in temperature to occur over a decade or so taking us very close to or even above the 1.5 degrees C threshold, especially if China becomes aggressive in cleaning up pollution from their electricity generation sector.

    In the past, I recall that increases of 0.3 degrees C have occurred when positive PDO was prevalent over a decade or so.

    Will also be interesting to see what the current WWB goes – for example, the extent to which it might reinforce and produce a latter peak in the current El Nino or whether it just extends its extent, making the fade from current peak slower and more gradual in terms of its duration. From Neven’s site, it seems that Earth nullschool site indicates that it is expected to get stronger.

    Certainly, interesting times ahead..

    Reply
    • One of the issues RE the current El Niño vs 1997 that I didn’t mention above is the greater western extent of warm surface waters for this time of year. It’s one bit that’s supporting this recent strong WWB and that implies this thing still has legs. So we may well be setting up for some surprises. The impact of WWB is on the months timescale. So we’ll have to see in a few weeks what this does to upper ocean heat content. What is striking to me is the near immediate atmospheric response to the drop in ocean heat content now ongoing. At least from the ocean atmosphere standpoint, the Kelvin Wave gun just keeps firing off.

      Reply
      • Phil

         /  December 31, 2015

        That is interesting because it took some time to get full ocean-atmospheric coupling going earlier on this year as the El Nino was gathering strength.

        Also, sometime in the future the past will not be a good guide to future trends. Not sure if we are there yet but with SST’s off of the USA, it has important differences to 1997/98. This will have implications for using ‘corrected’ PDF as is done with some of the models used to assess ENSO conditions.

        Also, the last position of the last couple of WWB’s have been much more centrally located than the earlier ones which originated from around PNG or Solomon islands.

        Reply
  7. I am amazed at the amount of information available for us from all around the world. For someone who has been studying weather – slightly over 50 years – from points in Alaska (El Nino 82), Hawaii (El Nino 09 New Mexico (El Nino 97) and now ElNino 15 from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Fascinating to put the current info together with the my personal observations as a trained weather observer so I’m not frittering time away with what ignorant individuals with little experience have to say about it. Thanks for the information you provide in this blog and carry on!

    Reply
  8. rustj2015

     /  December 31, 2015

    I’ll step out of the shadows and express thanks for your sincere dedication to revealing what we’re heading into.
    Power to you!

    Reply
    • Best to you, Rustj. No reason to stay in the shadows. Looks like I’ve got some responsibilities to take on. Will do my best for you guys. Voice of America wants me for a climate chat. Will be at a round table with a meteorologist and someone concerned about climate change impacts in Africa.

      Reply
      • Ryan in New England

         /  December 31, 2015

        That’s great, Robert! Good luck in your appearance, you will be great!

        Reply
        • We’ll be covering Frank, El Nino and extreme weather in 2016. I think one of the big issues post El Nino, or at least post peak El Nino will be rains. You’ve got all this atmospheric heat holding a massive load of moisture in the air. You cool it down just a bit and it’s got to wring out. We’re dancing along that line now and probably through to at least spring. But these sudden flash, heavy rains that Bob’s been alluding to are probably starting to settle in more and more now. Of course we see some of the zones setting up now — Midwest, all of the southern US, England, US West Coast probably. These things have come in hard and fast and they’ll dominate at least the first quarter of next year. Still thinking we’ll see some strong coastal lows in the east, especially if AO keeps going negative. But like SW California, they’re later in coming than some would have expected.

          Thanks for the kind thoughts, Ryan. Will do my best for you guys.

      • Excellent to see you getting all this exposure, Robert. Please let us know when the VOA program will air.

        Reply
  9. Griffin

     /  December 31, 2015

    Robert, I know that we have discussed the 1997 NorCal flood event in previous posts. Given the similarities in the El Nino pattern, it is worth it to take a look at what happened in that event. This webpage from NOAA is incredibly informative and worth a look. It may be good for comparison purposes should meteorological conditions turn towards heavy precip over the area again. I found it especially interesting to note that the models of the time had forecast quiet weather right up until a few days before this extreme event was imminent. Wish you the best with your new endeavors!
    http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/storm_summaries/jan1997storms.php

    Reply
    • Thanks Griff. I’ll give this a read.

      Reply
    • Thanks for this. I’ve given it a once over before a deeper read later this evening. I think it’s a good reference even though the context for Nor Cal is pretty radically different with low reserviors and heightened snow levels. But the snow/warm rain combo may well be a wonderful reference to what we’re in for. It’s worth noting that SoCal is now predicted to see its first in a train of storms by Monday in the GFS model. Looks like the switch is in the process of flipping.

      Reply
      • Griffin

         /  December 31, 2015

        Yes, more of just an interesting reference rather than any direct comparison or prediction. I found it very detailed as to the factors involved. Maybe you will find something useful out of it. Cheers Robert!

        Reply
        • Already quite a bit. But almost more as a reference to how much conditions have already changed in California. Those reservoirs are still very low, for example. And as the NASA study notes, even a strong El Nino’s not going to bring a full drought recovery. Lots of barren hillsides from all the fires to consider as well.

      • Griffin

         /  December 31, 2015

        Oh yes, great point. I am sure that the flood control managers are comfortable knowing that they have enormous storage capacity that is waiting for the rain. I was impressed at how much the orographic lift was able to enhance the rainfall rates though. Given how much more moisture may one day be available in the next event, I couldn’t help but be amazed at just how efficient the Sierra can be with precip generation! I would not want to be anywhere near a burn scar in the next storm.

        Reply
        • Exactly. You get this compounding effect in hot spots in this way. You’ve got this river of moisture that hits those mountains and it’s going to squeeze a huge volume of that moisture out. Now your warm up the ocean by say 1 or 2 or 3 degrees hotter than its ever been at the surface and that river of moisture just gets so much denser. And it’s not at all like those mountains are moving. They just sit there, waiting to wring all that extra moisture out.

          We are bringing back the primordial floods. And the geophysical features of the Earth will show us what they’re capable of. The machinery’s in place. We’re just dumping more fuel into that fearsome engine.

  10. This is good to hear – you are an excellent advocate.

    Reply
  11. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    How true. Churchill knew it and used it. Time to give this thing a shot, wouldn’t you say?

    We are your Huckleberry, You have several thousand fans. Time to step up.
    You are not some jackass that just fell from a fig tree.

    Reply
  12. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

    Winston Churchill

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu163144.html#G41xX7UX6ShpUk5s.99

    Reply
  13. Apneaman

     /  December 31, 2015

    Extinction is forever
    Robert J. Burrowes

    30th December 2015

    Humanity is continuing to drive species into extinction at a terrifying rate, writes Robert J. Burrowes – not just nameless beetles and midges, but mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and trees. The biggest causes are habitat destruction, pollution and hunting … and unless we stop soon, we too will be among the victims of our ecocidal attack on Earth.

    http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2986610/extinction_is_forever.html

    Reply
  14. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    What a slender thread the greatest of things can hang by.

    10 August 1940,

    Reply
  15. redskylite

     /  December 31, 2015

    Sadly it takes more than science, warnings and modeling to alert folks to the real dangers. The reality is beginning to sink in at least in a few countries. Éire have got the message.

    “I think we really have to plan now for how we deal with this. Climate change is becoming a real issue in our daily lives. We have to face up to that in a serious way to stop situations like this happening year in and year out.”

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/storm-frank-we-must-face-up-to-climate-change-says-minister-373757.html

    Reply
  16. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    When Hitler began, Germany lay prostrate at the feet of the Allies. He may yet see the day when what is left of Europe will be prostrate at the feet of Germany.

    Churchill, ‘The Truth about Hitler’, Strand Magazine, November 1935.

    Reply
  17. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    When danger is far off we may think of our weakness; when it is near we must not forget our strength.

    Churchill, 28 June 1939

    Reply
  18. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    We are defeated at sea because our admirals have learned – where I know not– that war can be made without running risks.

    Napoleon, quoted by Churchill in a note intended for Fleet Admiral Lord Fisher, 8 April 1915

    Reply
  19. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Here life itself, life at its best and healthiest, awaits the caprice of the bullet … Existence is never so sweet as when it is at hazard.

    Churchill, 4 February 1900

    Reply
  20. Ken Barrows

     /  December 31, 2015

    Churchill would be a denier today. He was enthralled with being an imperialist. Throw a couple of quotes by Churchill regarding Gandhi.

    Reply
  21. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    [With the Malakand Field Force in 1897] I wore my long cavalry sword well sharpened. After all, I had won the Public Schools fencing medal.

    Churchill, My Early Life

    Reply
  22. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

    Churchill, 11 November 1937

    Reply
  23. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Let him go to hell – as soon as there’s a vacant passage.

    Churchill on P. G. Wodehouse, who made anti-British broadcasts to the US on German radio, 6 December 1944

    Reply
  24. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Writing a long and substantial book is like having a friend and companion at your side, to whom you can always turn for comfort and amusement.

    Churchill, The Second World War, Vol I

    Reply
  25. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all Parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.

    Churchill, 23 January 1948

    Reply
    • Mblanc

       /  December 31, 2015

      And he did write it himself, and he got the starring part!

      These have made me laugh though, there are some corkers, so thank you for them.

      Reply
  26. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

    Churchill, 30 November 1949

    Reply
  27. Colorado Bob

     /  December 31, 2015

    Nowadays we are assailed by a chorus of horrid threats. The Nazi government exudes through every neutral state inside information about the frightful vengeance they are going to wreak upon us, and they also bawl it around the world by their propaganda machinery. If words could kill, we shall be dead already.

    Churchill, broadcast to the nation, 12 November 1939

    Reply
  28. Ben Leonard

     /  December 31, 2015

    I like your superb reports and share them on fb. Not many people read them, however, such is the power of heads in the sand, fear of terrorism and shopping for more stuff. People must wake up! This climate change will effect more humans than terrorism.

    Reply
  29. Andy in SD

     /  December 31, 2015

    Firstly,

    I’m glad Robert has gathered a few more ears via the news such that people may begin to look that the evidence / data / information and make an unbiased evaluation. It is also credit long over due.

    ======================================================

    The past week or so I have been pondering how animal / plant migration plays out in a rapidly warming world where we are exceeding the ability for natural selection and reproduction to keep up.

    It is evidenced world wide that life forms are migrating due to climatic changes. This much is well known and indisputable by any intelligent person. However, these marches towards the poles can not continue unabated. This is due to the boundaries where a plant / fish / herbivore or what have you enters an extreme that is harmful.

    For example, plants spring up further north due to a hospitable summer, and die off closer to the equator as that territory becomes difficult to survive in. Eventually a “headwind” develops as summers become shorter, winters darker and colder. At this point, genetic mutation must be relied upon in order to continue migration.

    The same logic may apply to fish, corals, herbivores, predators, birds, insects et al.

    In a best case situation, it takes 14 to 27 million failed mutations in order to advance a desirable trait. It is more realistic to see iterations in the billions.

    Therefore if we plot the deceleration of migration / advance we can roughly establish the endpoint where a species faces it’s extinction (without a genetic fluke). From that we can determine the survival of it’s predators and so on. The deceleration of the advance is a quantification of the “head wind” with an end point which can be roughly determined.

    Reply
  30. Apneaman

     /  December 31, 2015

    Andy, we moved to the Vancouver area in 1976. I was visiting my mom today in Maple Ridge and there was a hummingbird at the feeder on her patio. I love hummingbirds – fascinating. I just never saw one in late December before.

    Reply
    • – PDX OR – I saw a hummingbird at a feeder yesterday. Low temp. was in the low 30s F. Now we have a weeks of lows in the mid 20s F. What bloomed or animated in the warmer temps will now freeze.

      Ps: Maple Ridge, eh? I lived in nearby Steelhead for 5 yrs in the 1970’s then 5 across the river in Aldergrove.

      Reply
    • Griffin

       /  December 31, 2015

      It is observations such as this that really teach more than a hundred stats. Hummingbird, Vancouver, December. Just wow.

      Reply
  31. NWS New Orleans ‏@NWSNewOrleans 5h5 hours ago

    The MS River is rising & many points along the river are fcst to surpass flood stage. #MSRiverFlooding #lawx #mswx

    Reply
  32. NWS St. Louis ‏@NWSStLouis 2h2 hours ago

    Record crests expected on area rivers the next several days. #flooding #mowx #ilwx #stlwx

    Reply
  33. Andy in SD

     /  December 31, 2015

    Apneaman,

    I grew up in North Van and lived all over the lower mainland until 87. I never, ever saw hummingbirds in December. That is unthinkable.

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  December 31, 2015

      Our feathered friends are more evolved than we realise
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223141159.htm

      Crows caught on camera fashioning special hook tools
      Scientists have been given an extraordinary glimpse into how wild New Caledonian crows make and use ‘hooked stick tools’ to hunt for insect prey

      Date:
      December 23, 2015
      Source:
      University of Exeter
      Summary:
      Scientists have been given an extraordinary glimpse into how wild New Caledonian crows make and use ‘hooked stick tools’ to hunt for insect prey. Biologists have captured first recordings documenting how these tropical corvids fashion these particularly complex tools in the wild.

      You chose your symbol well Robert

      Reply
  34. Andy in SD

     /  December 31, 2015

    Hay River, NWT. ~10C above historical normal (historical = old and not applicable anymore).

    Reply
    • Dear god, Andy. Between the hummingbirds and the forced migrations and the habitat loss and the ridiculous warmth that is starting to crop up in so many places it’s really hard to say what, from the old world, is still applicable.

      Reply
  35. phil s

     /  December 31, 2015

    Hey Robert et al.
    Nice to see the blog go from strength to strength over the last few years, particularly pleasing to have the female perspective and presence come to the fore.
    Your popularity does have one unexpected drawback for me however. Living in a rural area, with stone age internet access, I’m missing out on these great long conversations. My connection has convulsions, and then pretends nothing ever happened. Must be in denial!
    As you said recently, if you’re not reading the comments, you’re only getting half of it.

    All the best for the new year. Stay safe, and warm (not too warm), and dry.

    CB:’ You are not some jackass that just fell from a fig tree.’
    You just got yet another big smile from me.

    Reply
    • CB is a wise old crow, wouldn’t you say?

      I think the internet tends to have convulsions no matter where you are these days. Unfortunately, I am mostly limited to the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. Perhaps one day I’ll see if I can compile these comments into a climate conversations volume. But considering their rate of production (at nearly 50,000 comments on this blog now) that would be a stupendous work!

      Reply
  36. This has Cowspiracy written all over it–plain & simple!

    Reply
  37. Caroline

     /  December 31, 2015

    For those who may have missed this yesterday (apologies if this has been posted on previous thread!)
    Best to all of you on this last day of 2015 . . . much gratitude for your most excellent blog Robert.
    http://www.democracynow.org/2015/12/30/erin_brockovich_california_methane_gas_leak

    Reply
    • Thanks for posting this. And I’ll happily host any further updates on the progress of this catastrophe. Hopefully, I’ll have some time to put my hat in on this as well, but am more than happy to support the investigative journalism of others on this event.

      I honestly can’t believe we’re breaking the Earth up in this way. Creating more and more pathways for this old carbon to come seeping out. Coal mining was bad enough for mining legacy methane emissions. Now we’re creating manmade earthquakes to bring the stuff up. With wind and solar so inexpensive and readily available, there’s no excuse for this kind of destructive activity to continue.

      Reply
  38. Climate Chaos, Across the Map

    “As scientists, it’s a little humbling that we’ve kind of been saying this for 20 years now, and it’s not until people notice daffodils coming out in December that they start to say, ‘Maybe they’re right,’ ” said Myles R. Allen, a climate scientist at Oxford University in Britain.

    Dr. Allen’s group, in collaboration with American and Dutch researchers, recently completed a report calculating that extreme rainstorms in the British Isles in December had become about 40 percent more likely as a consequence of human emissions. That document — inspired by a storm in early December that dumped stupendous rains, including 13 inches on one town in 24 hours — was barely finished when the skies opened up again.

    The warmth means there is more fuel for these weather systems to feed upon,” Dr. Trenberth said. “This is the sort of thing we will see more as we go decades into the future.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/science/climate-chaos-across-the-map.html

    Reply
    • Great article…thanks.
      Also in the NYTimes today in the world section…a related climate change article about the mosquito borne virus “Zika”…which may be responsible for babies born in Brazil with microcephaly. The article does link the “possibility” of mosquito borne illnesses with climate change.
      “Some researchers emphasize the role that climate change may play in Zika’s spread. As temperatures increase in some areas, they argue, mosquitoes can multiply more quickly, potentially enhancing their collective ability to transmit diseases.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/world/americas/alarm-spreads-in-brazil-over-a-virus-and-a-surge-in-malformed-infants.html?ref=world

      Some doctors in Brazil are telling patients to not get pregnant…or to avoid mosquito bites.
      Wow..just wow.

      Reply
      • Looks like there may be a few more lurkers in the comments section here than one would expect😉. Very glad to see this, very important, story hit the New York Times.

        Reply
  39. More attention to GW on the front page (online) at the WP this morning:
    “Cataclysms from the North Pole to South America”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/freakish-weather-runs-from-top-of-the-world-to-the-bottom/2015/12/30/61203efa-af2c-11e5-b711-1998289ffcea_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_northpole-846pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

    Also,let us hope that all the exposure Robert’s blog has been getting across the globe in the past couple days is the beginnings of a “global wake up”. Fingers crossed.

    My wish for the New Year:
    2015…Ringing out the deniers and inaction
    2016…Ringing in awareness and action

    Reply
    • Excellent post by WP!

      Reply
      • Thanks..I thought so too. I was also happy to see how many comments are being generated. So many times when I read the “buried” GW articles at the WP there are often less than a dozen or so comments (sigh)…Not with this article. The comment section seems to be on fire…Though for the sake of my BP I am staying clear!🙂

        Reply
      • Jonzo

         /  December 31, 2015

        The WP is the only widely circulated daily American newspaper worth reading. The NYT and WSJ have become paid advertisements for Corporate America.

        Reply
    • uilyam

       /  December 31, 2015

      Keeping my fingers crossed, too, and sharing your wish for the New Year.

      Reply
  40. Connecticut Gordon

     /  December 31, 2015

    Robert, you have mentioned needing to be very accurate now that the media focus is on what is happening right now. If only the media themselves could be bothered to reciprocate.
    Twice in the past week on different channels, one of which I think I recall was NBC, I have heard ‘weather forecasters’ state that El Nino is weakening and will soon be transforming itself into La Nina. How on earth did these people qualify as knowledgeable enough to tell us about weather when they make such crass comments?
    Similarly, it is criminal that the British Government has recently dropped the meteorological office [Met Office] after 93 years of service to the BBC, for budgeting reasons. Yes, the Met Office made mistakes, but at least they tried to use science and did have qualified staff. A replacement service was supposed to be announced before year end, but I have not heard that it has been done. So, I am unsure who will provide the forecasts in future – probably starting Q4 in 2016. The backlash that occurred is based on fears that a foreign company will get the contract and will not employ fully qualified staff, and simply divert funds away from future British forecasters.
    I recall listening to an after-dinner speech by Jack Scott, a retired Met Office forecaster, about 25 years ago, before I moved to USA, who derided some of the flashy forecasters on [the then recently launched] Sky TV, owned by Murdoch and therefore the British FOX channel. He explained that the women were selected for their looks rather than any scientific experience and stated that if one of these women said ‘GOOD MORNING’ to you the they were already straying outside of their qualifications and abilities. That got a good laugh. Unfortunately that may now be where the BBC is now headed.
    An old joke in Wales, could well be all that is needed for future forecasts in Britain anyhow. “If you can see Snowdon, then it is going to rain; if you cannot see it then it is raining already.”

    Reply
    • The state of media, at this point, is pretty reprehensible — with much of it being owned by the worst kinds of troglodytes imaginable. It’s very sad to see BBC decline in this way. But you may take heart that more and more people at getting their weather news direct from Met itself. I suppose that’s what happens when you degrade the quality of media. People tend to realize and go directly to the source. Of course, there a lag and an adjustment period that can take time.

      Reply
      • Connecticut Gordon

         /  December 31, 2015

        Yes, lets hope people can ‘cut out the middleman’ especially where the middleman is corrupt or incompetent or politically motivated.

        Reply
        • How sadly true. The fall of BBC will be greatly lamented. Along with that of Time and National Geographic and oh so many others.

    • What’s interesting to me is that most Americans are not climate change deniers (according to this map). It’s just a very vocal minority whose been given a megaphone by fossil fuel special interests and their allies.

      Reply
    • Also, I’m going to have to ask you to lay off the blaming and shaming of whole groups of people. The mission here is not to lay blame on groups or nationalities or to determine who deserves to be impacted by climate change. If there is any blame, it should be laid at the feet of the fossil fuel industry that has done so much to delay responses to this crisis. But the peoples of nations themselves are more the victims than anything else. My view is that no-one deserves any of this and that such thinking and talk is a divisive distraction.

      So fair warning.

      Reply
    • wili

       /  December 31, 2015

      Interesting maps. Kinda depressing how few places have a majority of their population that understands that current GW is primarily driven by human activity. Interesting that part of rural southern WI consistently shows the highest rates of accurate knowledge about these issues. A lot of organic farmers in that area, iirc.

      Meanwhile, millennials seem to be starting to catch on: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-millennials-idUSKBN0U621120151223

      “Unusual winter has millennials concerned about climate change”

      “Unusual weather is dominating the conversation on social media for the holidays, especially among millennials, who are increasingly concerned about climate change.

      Yik Yak, a location-based mobile app popular with millennials, surveyed its audience and found nearly 70 percent are worried about climate change. More than a quarter of them say their concern has grown due to the unusual winter weather this year.

      In New York City, 65-degree-plus weather is predicted for Christmas Day, potentially breaking the record high of 64 degrees in 1982. In Europe, Alpine ski slopes are facing one of the warmest Decembers on record and even glacial Moscow has been chalking up above-zero thermometer readings.”

      Really, all that needs to happen is for people to talk about the weather across lots of areas on social media, and they will see that really strange things are happening all over the place.

      Unfortunately, in our oligarchy, what the majority think or believe or value now has little influence on what national policies get implemented.

      Reply
  41. Oil platforms evacuated in North Sea due to drifting barge

    STOCKHOLM (AP) — Norwegian rescuers say a potential disaster was narrowly avoided Thursday as an unmanned barge drifted past a North Sea oil field where it had been at risk of colliding with offshore platforms.

    BP had evacuated 150 people from installations in the Valhall field as the barge owned by Eide Marine drifted into Norwegian waters.
    http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/ap/oil-platforms-evacuated-in-north-sea-due-to-drifting-barge/article_dcf214e4-4f60-56ae-ab9f-6ab3660f8032.html

    Reply
  42. NWS New Orleans ‏@NWSNewOrleans 15h15 hours ago

    The MS River is rising & many points along the river are fcst to surpass flood stage.

    Reply
  43. JPL

     /  December 31, 2015

    Hey Robert –
    I’m chiming in to thank you for all of your hard work this year. Spurred on by everything I’m learning here in the last 12 months I’ve put solar array on my house, picked up a used electric car for my daily driver, and built a greenhouse to extend the veggie growing season up here in Seattle. Progress!

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – your site is an oasis of scientific discovery and information, fearlessly moderated. And for that… we all thank you!

    And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with your paypal crow in the upper right corner of the page.

    Cheers, all!

    John

    Reply
  44. Jeremy

     /  December 31, 2015

    Reply
  45. Jeremy

     /  December 31, 2015

    Reply
  46. Bryan Stairs

     /  December 31, 2015

    Remember that the general population are like sheep. They will go where the most vocal person takes them. They tend to agree with whatever the latest loud voice says. Unfortunately that means they will follow ones like Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt who were both relatively green along with the PR firms of big tobacco, oil, cotton (one of the most polluting crops in the world) and corn (which is not as green as they say).
    It will get ‘fixed’ somewhat like DDT and ozone killing chemicals and find that the consequences will stick around for centuries. The WWII and baby boomer generations will go down in history as same as those who destroyed Easter Island. On top of that will be the well earned vilification that we had all those bad examples to learn from and still repeated the very same mistakes.

    Reply
  47. MarkR

     /  January 1, 2016

    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for providing such a neat summary and pointing out interesting bits and pieces. I’ve got one question though based on:
    “human-forced warming of the globe by about 1 C since the 1880s has amped up the rate of evaporation and precipitation by about 7-8 percent globally.”

    Are you sure that you mean 7-8 % increase in precipitation? Atmospheric water vapour should increase at 7 %/C but we expect precipitation to increase at 1-3 %/C warming. A recent Nature paper suggests it’s closer to 1 %/C.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v528/n7581/full/nature15770.html

    Please point out if I’ve missed something!

    If you’re not familiar with the stuff behind that Nature paper then I recommend taking a look, especially at the earlier references. It’s an area that I think is fascinating and its results are a little counterintuitive so not widely appreciated just yet.

    Reply
    • OK. So this is one of those bits where I think I need to refine my language a little. My understanding is that atmospheric water carrying increases by about 7 percent for each degree Celsius and that climate models assume a 1-3 percent increase in the rate of evaporation and precipitation.

      However, we seem to have a number of sources stating that climate models underestimate the evaporation and precipitation effect. For example, some sources cite Trenberth and others as stating that rainfall intensity should also increase at about the same rate as atmospheric water carrying capacity (7 percent). Please see:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=BhhFyiLSEuMC&pg=PA41&lpg=PA41&dq=increase+in+the+rate+of+evaporation+and+precipitation+per+degree+celsius+7+percent&source=bl&ots=1vTUQKO4T1&sig=TalEFQTRPyYC1s023IvN8Xl1ib4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBh57L9YfKAhUGjz4KHW0kDJYQ6AEIHzAB#v=onepage&q=increase%20in%20the%20rate%20of%20evaporation%20and%20precipitation%20per%20degree%20celsius%207%20percent&f=false

      In addition, for regions over land, the NAS finds that precipitation changes by 5-10 percent per degree Celsius over many land regions (either increase or decrease) and in such a way that impacts most of the populated world.

      http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/booklets/warming_world_final.pdf

      My statement is therefore a bit of a simplification of the data taking these factors into account. However, a more accurate statement would probably be —

      Precipitation is generally expected to increase or decrease by about 7 percent with each degree C in temperature increase. However, that particular statement seems to come across as too complex and too incomplete for good reading. At issue here is that evapotranspiration rates do become quite a bit more intense over land with each degree C of warming resulting in increased instances of flash drought and severe drought, as well as wildfires, which can increase by 200 percent or more with each degree C of warming.

      I’ll go back to this language in a bit after I’ve given this a good think. But part of the problem here is that models have tended to underestimate some of the precipitation and evaporation impacts and we need appropriate language to convey the intensity of the changes.

      Reply
      • uilyam

         /  January 1, 2016

        I think it is also very important to carefully distinguish global-mean effects from local weather events. Looking at global means has some (rather limited IMO) use in characterizing the total system, but few people experience global means. Most people experience quite significant deviations from the global mean in one or the other direction.

        Reply
      • MarkR

         /  January 4, 2016

        I think the Trenberth book you link to agrees with DeAngelis and the other energy budget papers. It says individual rain events may get more intense by 7 %/C, but you expect fewer of them so that the worldwide precip increases around 1-3 %/C.

        CMIP5 shows an increase in the area that sees light or heavy precip, but a decrease in moderate precip. Wu & Lau just published a new paper on TRMM observations showing this sort of pattern over a decade or so:
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL067371/full
        Even though TRMM is excellent for heavier precip, I think we still need lots more data on this to confirm the expected longer term changes.

        There’s solid evidence that some dry areas are drying and wet regions like the NE U.S. are seeing heavier precip events, which is bad news for people, but I think the evidence shows that global precip growth is more likely to be 1-3 %/C warming rather than 7 %/C. The heaviest events might increase by 7 %/C, but in terms of damages it might still not be as bad as a global increase of 7 % if a region gets more dryer days afterwards to recover.

        Thanks for your response, I now feel more confident in my original comment. I’d like to know if the evidence I showed is enough to persuade you once you’ve had a thought about it as well.

        Reply
  48. HJ van Rooyen

     /  January 2, 2016

    What will the impact on South Africa? We experience drought conditions.

    Reply
  49. Deon Le Roux

     /  January 2, 2016

    South Africa. Can some of the learned experts please relate the contents of the NASA passage above to our country. We presently have a heatwave pushing temps far higher than we are used to. Large rivers are absolutely dry – the first time in history! 80%+ of our country is bone dry in some places with no
    drinking water even for Human consumption. Let alone for animals and fodder. In many ways I think our people have been caught napping.
    Could we please have some info as to what we can expect in this year 2016. I thank you.

    Reply
  1. NASA: Worst of El Nino Still to Come. With Climate Change in the Mix, 2015-2016 Event May Equal Most Devastating On Record | Making Waves Outreach ⚘ Flyers For Animal Rights

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