Gigantic Gravity Waves to Mix Summer With Winter? Wrecked Jet Stream Now Runs From Pole-to-Pole

It’s as if global warming were ringing the Earth’s atmosphere like some great, cacophonous alarm bell. The upper level zonal winds are swinging wildly from record high positive anomalies to record low negative anomalies. Gravity waves — the kinds of big atmospheric waves that tend to move air from the Tropics all the way to the Poles and are powerful enough to cause the Caribbean Sea to ‘whistle’ in the satellite monitors — are growing larger. And the Jet Stream now has redefined all boundaries — flowing at times from the East Siberian Sea in the Arctic across the Equator and all the way south to West Antarctica.

Jet Stream Runs from Pole to Pole

(Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream runs from near 80 degrees North Latitude across the Equator in this Earth Nullschool screen capture to merge with the Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream and eventually reach West Antarctica. It’s the very picture of weather weirding due to climate change. Something that would not tend to happen under normal Holocene climate conditions. Something, that if it continues on a significant scale, may threaten seasonal integrity.)

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The big trough today begins near the Northern Hemisphere Pole. It pulls Arctic air down over Eastern Siberia and into a Pacific Ocean storm track. There, a second big dip in the Jet Stream pulls a crazy loop of this upper air flow further south. And here is where things get really weird — for the upper level river of air that began in the Arctic then makes a jump directly across the Equator.

But our story of a wayward Jet Stream doesn’t end there. The upper level air flow that originated near the North Pole joins with a building Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream ridge pattern over the Southeast Pacific. Feeding into very strong upper level winds, it turns southward into a high amplitude wave that crosses the Horn of South America and slams itself, carrying with it a big pulse of extreme warmth, into the upper level airs over Western Antarctica.

West Antarctic Heat

(An injection of hot, Summer air from the Northern Hemisphere into Southern Hemisphere Winter appears to have aided in the generation of 8 C above average temperatures over Western Antarctica during June of 2016. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

A Climate Change-Driven Loss of Seasonal Integrity?

Like many extreme events resulting from human-forced climate change — this co-mingling of upper level airs from one Hemisphere with another is pretty strange. Historically, the Tropics — which produce the tallest and thickest air mass in the world — have served as a barrier to upper level winds moving from one Hemisphere to another. This barrier can tend to erode during seasonal flips. And so you sometimes get this mixing of sub-tropical Jet Stream winds over the Equator.

But as the Poles have warmed due to human-forced climate change, the Polar Jet Streams have moved out of the Middle Latitudes more and more. More and more they have invaded regions both within the Polar zone and within the Tropics — linking broadening Latitudinal zones. Now, it appears that the old dividing lines are weakening and that flows of upper level air between Hemispheres can be exchanged to a greater degree.

If this is the case, then it’s bad news for seasonality. Prevention and reduction of a mixing of air parcels between Hemispheres by the thick, hot tropical air mass is what has generated a strong division between Summer and Winter during the Holocene Climate Epoch. However, erode that boundary and you get more Summer heat spilling over into the Winter zone and vice versa. You get this weather-destabilizing and extreme weather generating mixing of seasons that is all part of a very difficult to deal with ‘Death of Winter’ type warming scenario.

In the very recent past, scientists favored a view that such a large-scale mixing between Hemispheres was not possible. But recent observations of Rossby Wave patterns seem to indicate instances where upper level air flows link Poles to Tropics and, in this case, where an upper level air pattern has linked Pole to Pole.

In addition, we have some rather weird behavior going on with the Equatorial zonal winds that may also be linked to climate change, but that currently remains a bit of a mystery. Sam Lillo and others have been tracking record variations in the Equatorial zonal wind pattern called Quasi Biennial Oscillation. And these variations may be linking up with the rest of the downstream climate system (Rossby-gravity waves etc).

QBO goes from record high to record low amplitude

(Upper level Equatorial zonal winds moved from record positive anomalies to record negative anomalies within a mere three month timeframe. Image source: Sam Lillo.)

All these observations combined highlight some serious concerns. Polar warming appears to be flattening the atmospheric slope from Equator to Pole to such an extent that an increasing violation of the Hemisphere to Hemisphere seasonal dividing line may be a new climate change related trend. And that’s a kind of weather weirding that we are not at all really prepared to deal with.

UPDATE — A Necessary Statement on the Accuracy of the Above Article and Related Edits

The original article prompted a reaction from a few atmospheric scientists (including noted climate skeptic Roy Spencer) as shown here in this Washington Post opinion piece by Jason Samenow, weather editor for the Post. In consideration of the information shared in this piece, I have made a couple of corrections to the information concerning upper-level equatorial wind patterns.

However, the inference taken from my article was somewhat misconstrued. Stating that a global climate emergency due to loss of seasonality is currently upon us and is far-reaching. The message in my article is that the situation appears to be worsening and that this particular global climate crisis may be something that we’ll face over the coming years and decades. The article was intended to highlight the risk posed by weakening dividing lines between climate zones, an apparent observed increase in meridional upper air patterns, and in this case, an observation of the upper-level wind pattern that crossed from pole to pole.

As I mentioned in my article, large meridional upper-level wind flows and related extreme weather, along with what appears to be a growing trend toward a loss of seasonality is a very big deal. Apparently not everyone agrees with me on this point. Regardless, the concern over loss of seasonal variation due to human-caused climate change remains an issue. While there is no guarantee that risk and climate meta-analysis will result in 100 percent accuracy, it is a worthwhile process nonetheless to both identify potential risks under the rapidly changing climate states of our world and to ask the hard questions.

In closing, I must gently disagree with the assertions Mr. Samenow put forth in his opinion piece. On the contrary, it is the height of responsibility to highlight issues that so many others have tended to ignore or discount at great risk to our global civilization.

Paul Beckwith has made his own statements in response to the above article. His statements and conclusions are his own.

If you do not listen to me, then please listen to what the Earth System is telling us. It is very, very concerning. Regards to all and best wishes.

–R

Links:

Earth Nullschool

NOAA ESRL

Sam Lillo

Something Absolutely Gigantic Appears to Be Whistling in the Caribbean Sea

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Sheri

Britain Succumbs to Fear — Europe Shattered by Deteriorating Physical and Political Climate

In Central India, during 2016, millions of farmers who have lost their livelihoods due to a persistent drought made worse by climate change are migrating to the cities. The climate change induced monsoonal delays and ever-worsening drought conditions forced this most recent wave of climate change refugees to make a stark choice — move or watch their families starve.

It’s a repeat of a scene that happened in Syria during 2006 through 2010, but on a much larger scale. A scene that will repeat again and again. In Bangladesh and the other low lying coastal and delta regions of the world, hundreds of millions will be uprooted by sea level rise. In the US Southwest, India, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Southern Europe hundreds of millions more will be uprooted by drought. All because we, as a global civilization, failed to work together to halt fossil fuel burning soon enough and prevent a temperature increase great enough to wreck cities, states, and regions and to start to destabilize human civilization.

Punjab Well

(In India, water sources like this Punjab well and major rivers are running dry. Climate change is melting glaciers in the Himalayas even as it is helping to delay the seasonal monsoon. As a result, millions of farmers have lost their livelihoods and are migrating to the cities. It’s a situation similar to what occurred in Syria, but one that is likely to ultimately produce a much larger wave of migrants. Will we, as a global community, do all we can to help and welcome these migrants? Will we provide the systems of global and national equality that are necessary to achieve this result? Or will we fear them, allowing such fear to have a deleterious effect on our various political systems as occurred in Britain last week? Image source: Commons.)

The Need For Global Unity and Equality in the Face of Severe Climate Externalities

It has always been a wondrous and difficult ideal to strive for global unity. During the 20th Century, the United Nations was established in the hopes of preventing cataclysmic world wars lead by nuclear-armed states. From these global treaties sprang numerous other agreements. These in turn facilitated trade and cooperation on a larger scale than ever before. In the 1980s and 1990s an international treaty called The Montreal Protocal enabled the prevention of a global catastrophe in the form of the loss of the protective ozone layer by internationally regulating the use of ozone-destroying chemicals. This was the first time global governments effectively worked together to prevent a major harmful geophysical change to the Earth System by reigning in corporate excess and, to one degree or another, agreeing to set aside short term gain in favor of long term sustainability.

The hope and example provided by this rational policy has since been undermined by what could best be defined as the deleterious influence of individual and corporate special interests. In many cases, international trade agreements — the upshot of global cooperation — have been co-opted by various corporate powers to promote private interests in the name of international unity. Trade has been used to erode the political power of national unions, to force fossil fuel dependence in various regions, and to undermine equality based policies of national governments around the world. Such use of international trade policies has promoted an increasing tragedy of exploitation of public and natural resources by private entities in which equality has been undermined, wealth has been concentrated at the top, environmental regulations have been removed, circumvented, or ignored, and the global atmosphere has been polluted with a devastating volume of greenhouse gasses.

Extreme Rainfall Events

(Greenhouse gas pollution forces global temperatures higher which in turn increases evaporation and loads the atmosphere up with moisture, which in turn drives increasing instances of extreme rainfall events on one end of the weather spectrum and extreme drought conditions on the other end. Over recent years, rainfall records have been shattered with greater and greater frequency as a result. And incidences of extreme flooding, like that seen last week in West Virginia, which has damaged or destroyed 500 homes, adds to the wave of climate refugees and lends urgency to need to work together on a global scale to mitigate the damage by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to help the displaced. Hat tip to Peter Sinclair for the above image provided by the 2015 Lehmann extreme rainfall study.)

If the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Climate Summit represent the best face of global cooperation, then trade agreements like TTIP can represent its dark side. One set gives an example of how the world must work together now in order to preserve the foundation of global civilization. The other has often become little more than a divisive monetary and political power grab by numerous giant corporations now ranging the globe (the Godzilla Zombie Corps of Growth Shock). One has the potential to save the world. The other — if it leads to increasing wealth inequality, increasing externalization of harms, loss of government regulatory control of corporations, and privatization of public assets — will inevitably wreck it.

Brexit — The Culmination of Greed, Fear, and Climate Change

By the end of the 20th Century and the start of the 21st Century global unity was coming under strain due to these forces of systemic inequality and harm eroding global monetary policies coupling with the rising impacts of human caused climate change. Creation of laissez-faire markets combined with fossil fuel based energy dominance to first help drive major commodity price spikes in the early to mid 2000s and then to generate the wave of crashes during the 2008 financial meltdown. Corporate pushed austerity measures generated increasing inequality in Europe post collapse even as climate change enabled a wave of Middle Eastern refugees moving westward — spurred on by the Syrian drought. The synergistically destructive forces of rising inequality and fear of migrants — fueled by right wing political voices across Europe — generated large cracks in Europe’s economic union. Failure to identify the causes of loss of income, pensions, and healthcare among Europeans as the result of corporate-driven austerity measures lead to a wrongful scape-goating of migrants and inflamed hatred across the continent.

In Europe last week, these socially destructive cracks widened yet again. A campaign emerging out of a xenophobic UK-based right wing group named Brexit (feeding on the same anxieties as Trump in the US) leveraged mass migration fears to run a successful campaign against the UK remaining within the European Union. A primary focus of the Brexit movement was targeting Syrian migrants — the very individuals who lost their livelihoods due to a climate change induced drought. People who basically had to make the same choice as many living in India today — move or starve.

Underlying the xenophobic fears that helped spur the UK’s vote for EU succession was concern over the TTIP — a treaty that the EU is now considering and that many think would open the UK’s National Healthcare System to a deleterious privatization. Brexit capitalized on these fears by claiming that both migrants and the EU were a threat to UK citizens’ access to healthcare. In truth, TTIP is probably a worse threat to UK healthcare than migrants, but this particular concern fed into the overall Brexit fear mongering. And it was this combination of a very real threat of loss of equality and economic security driven by laissez-faire economic policies together with the ultimately imagined and inflamed fear of scapegoat migrants that spurred the UK’s economic secession.

The Dark Consequences of Economic Systems Engineered to Optimize Wealth Concentration and Externalize Harm

The thing to learn from all this is that market liberalization (a negative venture that all too often fosters wealth concentration, market collapse, and extremely harmful pollution and is not to be confused with the liberation of people, which is an entirely positive venture) and a failure to regulate and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions leads to very destructive political consequences. On the right, what we’ve seen is a fostering of immigrant scape-goating and climate change denial as a political smoke screen to mask the environmental and economic harms that their policies are causing. And the reliance on these two explosive communications strategies seeds a combined attack on science and destabilization of political systems. One that by itself represents a threat to the underpinnings of functioning and benevolent advanced societies.

Bakersfield Fire

(Erskine Fire burns along the southern rim of California’s Central Valley in 105 degree [F] heat on Sunday. The fire, which has now destroyed 250 structures and killed two people, is just one of many examples of how extreme events spurred by climate change can render people homeless. Sea level rise, drought, extreme rains, extreme cyclones, wildfires, and crop loss are all caused or made worse by climate change. Such events will inevitably result in a growing wave of global migrants. If we are to expect human civilization to survive without spiraling into worsening conflict, we must establish plans now to help those displaced by climate change and to ensure that those hosting migrant populations do not have fears and hatreds inflamed by rising inequality. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

When facing climate change, we will have to first deal with the problems caused by failed neo-liberal thinking. We cannot deal with climate change without the necessary regulations on greenhouse gasses. And we absolutely cannot deal with climate change effectively in a situation where global inequality is worsened and social stresses threaten to tear the very institutions that allow us to cooperate apart. Joe Romm was absolutely right in his most recent essay — we have a choice now. Cooperate to deal with climate change and inequality — or fail. Fail in the ugliest most heinous way possible as hatred, xenophobia, and competition for resources tears international institutions and states apart. For, in the end, cooperation in dealing with climate change means that we will have to promote fairness and equality as a means to reduce a stability-wrecking panic. We will have to make the solemn and reassuring promise to help each other. To help those who are starving and migrating. To help those who are losing healthcare benefits and economic prospects. To help them both and to at the same time stem the spread of combined exploitation and global poverty.

In places like India and Bangladesh, in the US Southwest, in Brazil, in Southern Europe, in Africa, and along the coastal cities of the world, the next wave of migrants is building. They include many of the people who are now reading this blog. Will we do the moral, just thing — as the Pope has urged us — and resolve ourselves to help them? Will we ultimately resolve to help ourselves? For climate change is a crisis that prefers no race, no location, no nationality. And in the end it will make refugees of us all.

Links:

Drought Migrants Flee to India’s Cities

Brexit, Trump Just the Beginning, Climate Will Drive Refugees and Resentment

LANCE-MODIS

Commons

West Virginia’s Deadly Flooding Disaster

Extreme Rainfall Events Increased Under Global Warming

Growth Shock

California Today: Wildfires Earlier Than Ever

Cameron Forced to Back Down From NHS TTIP Deal

The Keeling Curve (Please Support Public, Non Special Interest Based Science)

Pope Francis’s Encyclical

Hat tip to Peter Sinclair

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to 65 Karin

Hat tip to Webej

Bad Rains Fall Across Globe — 700,000 Evacuated in Kyushu Deluge as Worst Flood in 100 Years Inundates West Virginia

In Kyushu, Japan on Friday, government officials urged 700,000 residents to evacuate as record heavy rains and severe flooding inundated the city for the fifth day in a row. Half a world away in West Virginia, another unpredicted record deluge dumped 8.2 inches of rain, washed out roads, cut off shopping malls, flushed burning homes down raging rivers, and left more than 14 people dead and hundreds more stranded.

Individually, these events would be odd. But taken together with what are now scores of other extreme flooding events happening around the world in the space of just a few months and the context begins to look a lot like what scientists expected to happen due to human-forced climate change.

700,000 Urged to Evacuate in Kyushu Deluge

Kyushu Rains

(Heavy rains fall over Kyushu on Friday in the most recent wave of extreme storms to blanket the island. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In Kyushu, the skies opened up on Monday. An extension of a seasonal front draped across China and feeding on moisture bleeding off of record hot ocean surfaces edged out over Japan. Mountainous cloud banks unloaded. Record rains in the range of five inches an hour then began to inundate the southern Japanese island. This mass dumping of water eventually accumulated to half a meter (or 1.6 feet) over some sections of the island over the course of just one 24 hour period.

The rains set loose raging rivers of water through Kyushu streets and saturated hillsides already weakened by an April earthquake. The flooding and resulting landslides killed 6 people on Monday alone and resulted in calls for tens of thousands of people to evacuate the hardest hit areas. Over the week, hourly rainfall totals of 1-3 inches and daily rainfall rates of 4-8 inches continued as more and more of the region succumbed to flooding. By Friday, bridges and roads had been washed out, an elderly man, a university student, and a child had gone missing, trains had been blocked by mudslides and the evacuation calls extended to include 700,000 people.

Unexpected Record Floods Hit West Virginia

By early Wednesday in West Virginia the weather was starting to get a little rough. Strong storms had been running over the region since Tuesday as an unstable air mass funneled lines of thunderstorms into the Appalachian Mountain region. The forecast did indicate some potential for severe weather, but nothing near so extreme as what emerged.

NOAA QPC predictions called for peak rainfall amounts in the range of 3.24 inches from Wednesday through Friday. But the inundation that occurred on just Thursday alone resulted in rainfall totals of more than two and a half times that:

Forecast Beat By Climate Change Again

(In another instance that calls into question whether current forecast models are keeping up with the heavy rainfall potentials that are now made possible by a record hot global atmosphere NOAA’s predicted rainfall totals are again greatly exceeded by events — this time in West Virginia where 14 people have been reported dead due to flooding. An indication that weather prediction may not be fully taking into account the added threat posed by human-forced warming. And also an indication that endemic climate change denial in the US political system [in vast majority among republicans] — which has resulted in a dramatic failure to fund needed and necessary climate change monitoring — is having a harmful overall impact to public safety and disaster preparedness. Image source: NOAA QPC.)

Reports indicate that 8.17 inches of rain fell in just one 24 hour period in Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. But it was just the center mass of the worst flood in a century for parts of the state. One that has so far resulted in the deaths of more than fourteen people. Five hundred people are also currently stranded in a shopping mall that has now been cut off by the flood.

(A burning home floats down a West Virginia creek swollen to a raging torrent by the worst flood to hit the state in 100 years.)

Numerous homes and hundreds of cars have also been lost due to the flash floods that swept through West Virginia’s valleys. In one instance, a burning house was filmed floating down a river. As a result of the severe and unexpected rains, 44 of the state’s 55 counties have now been declared a disaster area.

Conditions in Context — Global Warming Fuels More Extreme Rainfall Events

These severe flooding events add to those this week occurring in China, Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Great Britian over just the past seven days. In addition, extreme floods have swept through Texas, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, Ghana and Argentina over the past couple of months.

The floods occur at a time when global temperatures are just coming off of new record highs during the first part of 2016. Temperatures that, in February peaked near 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages. For each 1 degree Celsius that you add to global temperature, you increase the atmospheric moisture loading by about 7 percent. This is a physical fact of the Earth’s climate system. If you heat the atmosphere, you increase evaporation and that results, in turn, in more moisture held up in the world’s airs.

It’s this well understood dynamic of atmospheric physics that scientists have long warned would result in more extreme droughts and downpours as a result a human-forced warming of the world. Chris Fields, a climate scientist cited by US News and World Report in an article covering the record Paris floods earlier this month also noted:

“One of the clearest signs of climate change, over much of the world, is the increase in the fraction of the rain that falls in the heaviest events.”

So not only does a loading up of the hydrological cycle with moisture result in heavier rainfall events generally, it also results in a greater fraction of overall rainfall coming in the form of heavy rain. In other words climate change causes heavier rain on top of heavier rain. The worst events, as a result do not just get worse, they get much, much worse. And this is due to the added convection — or updrafts — that keep moisture in the air longer. In other words, the rain in a hotter world needs to be heavier to fall out of clouds that are pushed higher and with greater force by heat rising up off the Earth’s surface.

image

(In a record-warm world, a transition from El Nino to La Nina can result in an unprecedented amount of moisture being wrung out into trough and storm zones. Extraordinarily heavy rainfall events like those experienced across the world over the past few months is the all-too-likely result. It’s a feature that has been added by global temperatures that are now about 1.2 C hotter than 1880s in the annual average. As global temperatures increase, heavy precipitation events will continue to grow more intense even as droughts in other regions worsen. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

As for the timing of the most recent heavy rainfall events — the last element to the equation has been a transition from El Nino to La Nina. During the most recent El Nino, the Equatorial Pacific warmed and new record global temperatures were achieved. But as the Equatorial Pacific cooled, so did the atmosphere. And now, some of that record atmospheric moisture load isn’t recieving quite as much heat from beneath keeping it all aloft. So a greater portion of it tends to fall out in the post El Nino period.

And none of this is to say at all that El Nino is causing the increased rate of flooding. The El Nino to La Nina transiton is a natural variability based event that is instead being influenced by human-forced warming in such a way that is resulting in an increasingly extreme period of rainfall. And we’re experiencing that globally now.

Links:

Kyushu Deluge Continues, 700,000 Urged to Evacuate

Flooding, Landslides in Southwest Japan Kill 6

Heavy Rains Kill 6 in Kumamoto

14 Dead in West Virginia Flooding, Body of Missing Child Found

Flooding in West Virginia is So Bad a Burning House Flooded Down a Creek

French President: The Paris Floods are Exceptional

NOAA (please support funding for public climate change monitoring)

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Climate Hawk

Water Knives in the Near Future — 16 Year Drought Brings Lake Mead To New Record Low

It’s been ridiculously hot along the unstoppable shrinking shoreline at Lake Mead. Over the past four days, highs have peaked at a scorching 109 to 111 F (42 to 44 C). Similar heat blasted all up and down the Colorado River Basin, squeezing moisture out of a key water supply for 25 million people in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

(NASA predicts that 20-30 year droughts in the US West will become 80 percent more likely due to human-forced warming. For Lake Mead, the reality of mega-drought appears to already be settling in.)

But these record hot days are just the most recent of many for the river and its water. For over the past 16 years the Colorado River has been assailed by drought. A new kind of mega-drought that has almost certainly been spurred by a human-forced warming of the world. A condition of endemic drying that will likely continue to worsen for the foreseeable future.

Lake Mead Approaching Mandatory Rationing Levels

1072.24 feet — that’s the water level for Lake Mead as of June 21, 2016. It’s about 3 feet below the 1075 mark breached for the first time in the reservoir’s history last year. And if Lake Mead remains below that line by the end of this year, it will mean mandatory cuts to Arizona and Nevada’s water supply.

That could happen either this year (2016) or next (2017) and will almost certainly happen by 2018. In fact, the US Bureau of Reclamation predicts a 64 percent likelihood that Lake Mead will not only remain below the 1075 foot level by 2019, but that it will plunge to as low as 1025 feet at that time.

Lake Mead Water Levels

(Lake Mead may average near or below the 1075 line requiring mandatory cuts in water supplies to Arizona and Nevada this year. Image source: Lake Mead Water Level.)

This level is only 125 feet above Lake Mead’s dead pool line of 900 feet. And hitting such a low water level would result in mandatory water cuts all up and down the Colorado River Basin.

Lake Mead supplies water to 25 million people in Nevada, Arizona, and California. 19 million of these people reside in California alone. And according to the 1922 Colorado River Compact, California retains senior rights to the river’s water supply. What this means is that when there’s a shortage, Nevada and Arizona have to take the first hits. And that’s bad news for the six million people and related industries supported by the river in this region. It means that if the 16 year drought along the Colorado River basin continues — and that will likely be the case due to impacts related to human-caused climate change — then water rationing is almost certain to take effect in Arizona and Nevada over the next few years.

Southwest Becoming Drier

(Weather systems that bring rain to the US Southwest are becoming more rare. Scientific studies indicate that this condition is caused by human forced climate change and will continue to worsen this Century if fossil fuel burning and human based carbon emissions do not halt soon. Image source: Climate Central.)

If the climate change driven drought continues and Bureau of Reclamation forecasts are correct, then hitting 1025 feet at Lake Mead by 2019 to 2022 will result in The Department of the Interior stepping in to take control of Lake Mead’s water management. At that point, all bets are off even for California — which would likely then see a 10 percent reduction in the water provided to it by Lake Mead.

Water Knives in the Hothouse Sun

Scientific studies indicate that factors related to human-caused climate change prevent weather systems bearing precipitation from reaching the US West Coast. This problem is particularly acute for the Southwest, where the most intense drying is expected to occur. In addition, added heat — like the record to near record high temperatures experienced across the Southwest over the past few days — results in greatly increased rates of evaporation. So what rain does fall doesn’t stay in rivers or in the soil as long.

Drought Animation NASA

(If you thought the current drought was bad, then this animation will knock your socks off. Loss of soil moisture for the US is ridiculously extreme under business as usual fossil fuel burning in this NASA projection.)

As you can see in the NASA soil moisture prediction measure above, this added heat due to climate change is expected to make currently bad drought conditions absolutely terrible over the coming decades. NASA notes that reductions in fossil fuel emissions help to blunt the intensity of the coming droughts, but that worsening drought conditions will still occur. Considering the current state of Lake Mead and the Colorado River basin, we are likely to see worsening water cuts to communities across the Southwest as climate change related heat and drought conditions worsen.

Links:

NASA

US Bureau of Reclamation

Lake Mead Water Data

Climate Central

Lake Mead Water Level

What Lake Mead’s Record Low Means For California

Lake Mead Helps Supply Water to 25 Million People — And it Just Hit a Record Low

The Water Knife

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

CO2’s Vertigo-Inducing Rate of Rise — In First 5 Months of 2016 Hothouse Gas Concentration Rocketed 3.7 Parts Per Million Above 2015

“Perhaps the most worrisome threat is that because the Arctic is warming so much faster than the globe as a whole, the permafrost — soil that remains frozen year-round — is thawing. As it does, organic matter which is trapped within can decay, and when it does it releases CO2 into the atmosphere, except those places where instead of releasing CO2 it releases CH4.”Tamino.

With the Northern Hemisphere Pole warming at a rate 2-3 times faster than the rest of the globe, there’s a risk that we start to set off a kind of runaway warming feedback. We may be near that threshold now… God help us if we’ve crossed it…

*****

Prior to 2015, the highest annual rate of atmospheric CO2 increase occurred in 1998 at 2.9 ppm. This record was broken in 2015 when atmospheric CO2 levels climbed by 3.05 ppm. But so far this year, the rate of increase for this heat-trapping gas is a stunning 3.68 parts per million above comparable monthly averages seen during 2015. That’s nearly four times the rate of atmospheric accumulation since the early 1960s. A level of increase that almost guarantees that 2016 will shatter 2015’s record for CO2 gain and set a new ominous benchmark for a ramping accumulation of hothouse gasses.

Record Rate of CO2 Rise 2016

(Big jumps in month to month, 2015 to 2016 CO2 concentrations make it almost certain that the annual rate of increase in this greenhouse gas’s concentration will be a new global record. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Human Fossil Fuel Burning, A Carbon Saturated Ocean, and Amplifying Feedbacks

The baseline driver for this amazing rate of increase is a global carbon emission in the range of 13 billion tons every year (a rate that is about 30 percent faster than during 1998). Efforts on the part of China and the rest of the world to curtail coal emissions did result in a leveling off of these human emissions during 2014 and 2015. But this action only managed to achieved a plateau in the rate at which heat-trapping gasses hit the atmosphere at or near new record high levels. A rate of emissions that is about ten times faster than the out-gassing of heat trapping airs which set off the Paleocene – Eocene Extinction about 55 million years ago.

Wagging that baseline was a strong El Nino. During El Nino years, the Tropics heat up. This results in less CO2 being absorbed by the global Equatorial Ocean even as droughts and wildfires related to the Nino climate variation pump more carbon out of the world’s soils and vegetation.

But also impacting rate of CO2 rise is what is now an ongoing set of Earth System Feedbacks related to human-caused climate change. The added 1.2 C worth of warming since 1880 that 2016 is likely to experience helps to amplify the El Nino drought and ocean warming signal resulting in even less carbon uptake and producing even more carbon feedback. In addition, oceans saturated with carbon due to atmospheric CO2 levels hitting near 408 ppm are already able to hold less of the stuff in suspension. So it takes less relative heat force to further shut down that uptake. In addition, the warming Arctic is starting to unearth a number of previously frozen carbon stores. And record high global temperatures are now generating a weak but troubling signal that some of these stores may be starting to release.

According to NASA:

Deposits of frozen methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide lie beneath permafrost in Arctic regions. About a quarter of the Northern hemisphere is covered by permafrost. As the environment warms and the permafrost thaws, these deposits can be released into the atmosphere and present a risk of runaway warming.

Smoothed Annual rate of Atmospheric CO2 Increase

(Smoothed annual rate of atmospheric CO2 increase provided by Tamino shows that the pace of CO2 accumulation has increased by about 0.25 ppm per decade since the 1960s. The primary driver of this increase is human fossil fuel burning. But an increasingly substantial driver is the saturation of global carbon stores coupled with emerging amplifying feedbacks. Failure to reduce and halt fossil fuel burning as soon as possible will result in a worsening and intensifying of these warming feedbacks — putting at risk a catastrophic runaway warming scenario that we should strive to avoid at all costs. Image source: Tamino.)

In this context, the big 2016 jump in atmospheric CO2 levels looks pretty grim. And we’ve seen no respite in June when the first three weeks were about 4.4 ppm CO2 higher than during the same period in 2015. In fact, it appears that the rate of CO2 drop off for this year is lagging a bit behind trend line. A reduced pace of loss that looks pretty bad coming off of such amazing highs for the first five months of the year and during a time when the carbon-loaded Arctic has been so ridiculously warm.

Links:

NOAA ESRL

NASA (please support public, non special interest based science like the fantastic and often life-saving work done at NASA and NOAA)

Tamino

Paleocene – Eocene Extinction

Hat tip to Wili

Hat tip to John McCormack

In Defiance of Harmful Fuels — Is Tesla/Solar City the New Model For What an Energy Company Should Look Like?

It could well be said that we are subsidizing our own destruction. Despite centuries of use, fossil fuels around the world today receive about 500 billion dollars annually in the form of economic incentives from Earth’s various governing bodies. With alternatives to fossil fuels becoming less costly and more widely available, and with the impacts of human-forced climate change growing dramatically worse with each passing year, such wasteful and harmful misuse of public monies is starting to look actively suicidal.

Fossil Fuel Funding for Global Catastrophe

Given so much money going into the hands of what are already the wealthiest corporations in existence, one would expect that the practice of providing these economic powerhouses with such a massive largess of public generosity would result in some kind of amazing overall benefit.

Energy itself is certainly a benefit. It allows for the rapid and easy transportation of groups and individuals. It lights up homes, powers machinery, keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the increasingly hot summers. But despite what the industry would like you to believe, fossil fuels themselves only represent a small fraction of the global energy available to human civilizations. And the kinds of energy fossil fuels provide is often in its lowest efficiency and most highly externally destructive forms.

What these deleterious industries instead provide is the dirtiest sources of energy in the world. Harmful energy whose particulate pollution alone results in the death of 7 million people each year. More deaths than warfare, more than natural calamities such as earthquakes, and more than even those two combined. That doesn’t even begin to add water pollution from practices like coal burning and fracking. Nor does it add in the ramping up of a global mass extinction event due to the pumping out of hothouse gasses at the rate of 13 billion tons of carbon every single year. A rate that is likely faster than during even the worst previous periods of hothouse extinction in all of Earth’s long geological past. Probably faster than during the Permian, and certainly faster than the last heat spurred mass die off — the PETM of 55 million years ago. A harmful emission that threatens to, by mid Century, wreck much of global civilization and ruin the prospects of all of the children of humankind, not to mention that of millions of species living on this planet.

(Arctic glacier melts under the heat of human-forced climate change as Ludovico Einaudi plays a haunting requiem. Fossil fuel burning has led us to this pass, and things are now about to get much worse. But, for some inexplicably immoral reason, we continue to pump billions of dollars every year into the very industries that are causing the trouble in the first place.)

As such, the fossil fuel industry produces the exact opposite of a public good and its very continued operation is a dire existential threat. One that grows worse each and every time any of us light up a fossil fuel fire. Back during the 1930s, at a time when the US was recovering from another destructive period of corporate excess, it was thought that a corporation should not exist unless it produced some form of benefit to civilization. So the question must be asked — why do the destructive fossil fuel industries continue to receive so much support from the political bodies of the world when the use of these fuels results in so much harm inflicted upon the very publics they are supposed to serve?

It’s not as if there aren’t any viable alternatives.

Tesla Plans to Merge With Solar City

One example of a corporation that could produce an amazing public benefit by speeding the transition away from harmful fossil fuels is Tesla. Since its inception, this auto company has dedicated itself to producing only electrical vehicles. And it was the first Western company to do this successfully on a large scale despite a massive opposition coming from the fossil fuel special interest political and economic bodies themselves.

The reason for such opposition is due to the fact that the electric vehicle represents the potential to radically transform the way people across the world use energy. The electric motors and batteries that drive electric vehicles are themselves 2-3 times more efficient than fossil fuel based internal combustion engines. So even if the global EV fleet were powered by fossil fuels, it would result in less overall fossil fuel demand.

But an EV can be charged by anything, including wind turbines and solar panels. And this mating of battery powered vehicle with these two sources provides an amazing opportunity for individuals to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use yet again. Finally, the batteries produced in electrical vehicle manufacturing can be used, after and during their use in cars, as a device to store renewable energy produced in homes, commercial buildings or cities.

Energy Storage Tesla

(Tesla has long marketed itself as an energy storage provider. Its expanding battery supply chain, increasing reductions in battery cost, and recent proposed merger with Solar City provides the potential for Tesla to provide fully integrated renewable energy systems. Image source: Tesla Motors.)

The average home in the US uses about 10 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity on any given day. The Tesla Model 3 will come with a 60 kwh battery pack. Fully charged, this battery could power a home for nearly a week. But just sitting in the garage or driveway, the vehicle could take in energy from rooftop solar panels during the afternoon and evening hours, and with the simple application of some smart electronics and software, provide that energy back to a home during the night.

It’s an integrated system that largely can remove a person’s dependence on oil, gas, and coal for energy all in one shot. One that can reduce individual carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent. And one that can result in greater systemic carbon emissions reductions if it becomes integrated into the full chain of manufacturing and transportation. And even more alluring is the fact that the more batteries are produced, the more solar panels that are sent down manufacturing lines, the lower the prices and the greater the public access to these energy transforming technologies. In such cases, it becomes more and more likely that an EV + solar combo will be supplemented by an inexpensive home battery capable of smoothing out times when the vehicle is not longer parked.

It’s a combination that the fossil fuel industry is apoplectic to prevent from hitting the market in a way that is broadly accessible. And, up until this point, there has never been one company that had the ability to integrate all these various systems in one go and under one roof. It’s a situation that changed yesterday when Tesla Motors offered to purchase Solar City.

Solar City Tesla

(The Solar City + Tesla merger has the potential to provide a number of integrated renewable energy solutions there were not previously available. EV charging stations mated with solar power generation is just one of many potential innovations that are likely to provide the opportunity to transition away from fossil fuel use. Image source: Clean Technica.)

The announcement came as CEO Elon Musk spoke of Tesla’s plans to fully solarize its network of charging stations. An innovation that would essentially begin to replace gas stations with solar and battery stations — and a huge step away from fossil fuels in itself. But the real transformative potential of the first fully vertically integrated renewable energy company in the form of Tesla + Solar City would be in its ability to provide single family homes with the potential to operate on renewable energy in a manner that is completely independent of any outside fossil fuel based source. And that, unlike oil, gas, and coal, is a public benefit that is entirely worthy of a government subsidy.

Links:

Fossil Fuels with 550 Billion in Subsidies Hurt Renewables

Tesla Offers to Buy Solar City

Tesla Motors

The National Recovery Administration

Air Pollution Kills 7 Million Each Year

Historic Performance on the Arctic Ocean

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Greg

The Increasingly Dangerous Hothouse — Local Reports Show It Felt Like 160 F (71 C) in India on June 13th, 2016

The climate change induced delay of India’s monsoon is a pretty big deal. Not only does it reduce the amount of moisture — necessary for the provision of life-giving crops for this country of 1.2 billion — provided by the annual rains, it also increases the potential for life threatening heatwave conditions. And according to local reports, some of the highest heat index values ever recorded on the face of the Earth were seen in Bhubaneswar, India during a period of record heat and high humidity as the Asian Monsoon struggled to advance.

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The Indian province of Odisha sweltered under high heat and humidity that may well have represented the most miserable conditions ever recorded on Earth at any time or place on June 12th and 13th of 2016. Cooling monsoonal rains should have arrived over this eastern section along the Bay of Bengal by that time. But this year, the rains were delayed by about a week and were still about 5 days away. The heat was firmly entrenched. A great wall that seemed to fend the monsoon off.

India Monsoon 2016

(The India Monsoon is finally starting to catch up. After being delayed by 1-2 weeks during early June, the monsoon is now on time for some locations even as it still delayed by 5-7 days for parts of western India. The early June delay, however, has probably lowered overall moisture content of the monsoon even as it contributed to record heat index and wet bulb readings for sections of Odisha on June 12 to 13. Image source: India Meteorological Department.)

As the frontal edge of the monsoonal flow began to run into a region of high temperatures over Odisha, humidity levels spiked even as temperatures remained high. On the 12th and 13th of June, 2016, thermometers topped out at between 101 F (38 C) and 109 F (43 C) even as humidity levels rose. This combination generated a spike in what is called the Misery Index (or an indicator of how hot if felt to be outside). And it also, apparently, pushed wet bulb temperatures in some areas to record levels for any place on Earth.

Wet Bulb at 38 C?

For an unconfirmed report out of Bhubaneswar indicates that temperatures on June 13th hit 103.5 F (39.7 C) even as relative humidity readings were at 87 percent. That’s a wet bulb reading of 37.6 C. And if this report is true, that means it felt like 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius for a brief period in Bhubaneswar that day. If so, this would be near the highest Misery Index value ever recorded on the planet — just a hair below last year’s peak measure in Iraq of a 163 F or 73 C heat index (38.4 C wet bulb) reading. And outright crushing periods during 2015 when India’s wet bulb measures in Andhra Pradesh hit 30 C.

image

(According to Earth Nullschool, it felt like 41 to 54 C [104 to 127 F] outside over Eastern India on June 12th and 13th of 2016 due to combined high levels of heat and humidity. Local reports from Bhubaneswar indicate that this Misery Index hit a stunning 71 C [160 F] on June 13th. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

A wet bulb measure is a kind of thermometer for latent heat in the atmosphere. It uses a wet bladder to measure the temperature of a membrane at the point at which water evaporates. It’s meant to simulate the lowest temperature the human skin can reach through evaporative cooling as the body sweats. The higher the combined heat and humidity, the higher the wet bulb temperature and the hotter it feels. We’ve all experienced this when stepping outside on a day during which both the temperature and humidity are high. And we intuitively know that it’s the combination of heat and atmospheric moisture that makes hot days feel even more oppressive.

It’s a combo that’s also dangerous to human health. At a certain point, the human body becomes unable to cool itself by sweating. And this level of latent heat at which the human body becomes incapable of transporting heat away from the skin is a wet bulb reading of 35 degrees Celsius.

Wet bulb readings do not need to hit 35 C to risk loss of life and heat injury. Wet bulbs above 25 C are considered dangerous and readings for extended periods near 30 C have resulted in mass injury and loss of life in places like Europe during the early 2000s, in Chicago during 1995 and in India during 2015 and 2016. However, exceeding wet bulb readings of 35 C over extended periods of time is an extraordinarily dangerous event. It’s also a new hazard related to human caused climate change. For last year was the first time a wet bulb reading above 35 C was ever recorded on the face of the Earth. And the 2016 37.6 C wet bulb reading for Bhubaneswar, if it bears out, is an extraordinary measure.

Readings this high over large regions over any extended period would make staying outdoors without access to cool water or climate controlled environments unlivable for human beings. And a human forced warming of the world by fossil fuel burning appears to now be in the process of bringing those conditions about. A condition of dangerous added latent heat to the atmosphere that has caused some scientists to sound the alarm that a global hothouse emergency is already upon us. And that unless a massive curtailment of fossil fuel burning takes place soon — large sections of the Earth’s surface will be rendered uninhabitable to human beings due to atmospheric latent heat content alone.

For as ocean surface temperatures rise, more moisture is pumped into the atmosphere in the form of humidity. This extra humidity hits regions of airs that have already been warmed to much higher readings by the over-burden of heat trapping gasses, like CO2, in the atmosphere. The result is a higher latent heat content of the airs of the Earth, and the breaching of wet bulb readings that are deadly to human beings who lack access to climate controlled environments.

UPDATED 11:00 PM EST, June 21

Links:

India Meteorological Department

Odisha Sizzles Under High Heat and Humidity

Odisha Continues to Sizzle Under Heat Wave

Earth Nullschool

Understanding Wet Bulb Temperatures

Dr. James Hansen: We Have a Global Emergency

Hat tip to Wili

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Scott

This is What A Fossil Fuel Dystopia Looks Like — The Arctic Sea Ice is Breaking Up North of Greenland in June

The Arctic sea ice is breaking up to the north of Greenland during June. It’s the fossil fuel burning global dystopia phrase of the day. Another cognitive dissonance producing instance of something that would have never happened without the added heat kick provided by human-forced climate change. But now, with atmospheric CO2 topping out at near 408 ppm during May of this year, it appears that all sorts of weather weirdness is currently possible.

Arctic Sea Ice breaking up north of Greenland in June

(1-3 mile wide cracks appear in the sea ice north of Greenland in this NASA satellite shot on June 19 of 2016. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 400 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

It was an odd break-up spurred by the onrush of warm winds rising up from Continental North America. These winds of climate change fueled record temperatures as they crossed the northern islands of the Canadian Archipelago over the past week. On Axel Heiburg Island, temperatures hit near 54 degrees F (12.3 C) along the 80 degree North Latitude line. Readings that are about 15-20 degrees F (7 to 12 C) above average for this time of year and highly anomalous readings for what should be a permanently frozen island.

These southerly winds then bore the record warm to near record warm airs across a region just north of Greenland — pushing temperatures over this section of the Arctic Ocean into the mid to upper 30s. This extra heat was then enough to shatter the thinning ice. 1-3 Mile wide cracks opened up as the ice drifted off its moorings between Northern Greenland and the North Pole.

image

(Warm, moist winds flowing over the Canadian Archipelago and into the Arctic Ocean on June 15-18 set up conditions that shattered sea ice to the North of Greenland. Image capture at 00:00 UTC on June 18 by Earth Nullschool.)

Now, the entire Arctic Ocean ice pack from the Beaufort to the East Siberian Sea, to the Laptev, across the Kara and north of the Barents on to north of Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago is floating free in June. A condition that was unheard of in August or September just a decade and a half ago, but one that is now occurring before the Summer Solstice.

Overall, for this time of year, Arctic sea ice extent remains in or near record low ranges despite weather conditions that would have traditionally helped to preserve sea ice. Storms over the central ice have provided cloudy conditions, preventing direct sunlight from hitting the ice and speeding melt. However, despite these conditions, temperatures over most of the Arctic have remained above average — with some regions along the coast experiencing substantially above average temperatures.

Record Low Sea Ice Extent June 19

(Arctic sea ice extent continues in record low ranges on June 19 of 2016 according to JAXA’s sea ice monitor.)

After record Arctic warmth this Winter and Spring, storms churning over the sea ice during June have done little to prevent continued record low extents throughout the Northern Polar zone or to disallow strange events like the early-season break-up of ice to the north of Greenland. To the contrary, we have numerous instances where storms are drawing in warm, wet winds from the south and are increasingly dumping rainfall over the sea ice. A condition that also tends to speed melt.

By yesterday, Japan’s sea ice measure (JAXA) had dropped to 9,730,000 square kilometers or about three days ahead of record melt year 2012’s all time low line. Rates of loss steepened over recent days as the anomalous Arctic heat bit in and numerous shattered ice flows lost integrity under relentless elemental punishment.

Rainstorms Over Arctic Sea Ice

(Rainstorms over Arctic sea ice, like this one which is predicted to form by Tuesday in the GFS Model, can be even more damaging to ice coverage than direct sunlight. High amplitude Jet Stream waves often deliver these storms — born upon warm, wet winds — to the Arctic during summers that have now been dramatically warmed by human fossil fuel emissions. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer GFS capture for 00:00 UTC Tuesday June 21.)

Record low sea ice extents for 2016 are likely to continue to have an influence on Northern Hemisphere weather — assisting the formation of high amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns. These waves are associated with extreme and persistent weather conditions to include — heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods. One such wave pattern is now facilitating record hot temperatures and increased wildfire hazards over the US West and has the potential to set off heatwaves over the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic even as anomalous rainstorms form over wide sections of the Arctic Ocean during the next couple of weeks.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

JAXA

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to DT Lange

Another Ridiculous Ridge — Western Wildfires Grow as US Heatwave Casualties Mount

In Borrego Springs, CA at 10 AM this morning, the temperature was a scorching 116 degrees F. Temperatures today are expected to hit 122 degrees F (50 degrees C) for this California location — which would tie the all-time high for any date there. But it’s just a microcosm of the record-shattering heat that is now settling in over the US West. Heat that looks like it will remain in place for days and possibly weeks. Heat that is now resulting in tragic instances of loss of life even as it is sparking numerous massive widlfires, melting snowpacks, worsening droughts, and otherwise sparking conditions that are related to a human-forced heating of the globe.

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In Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, temperatures rocketed to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 C or 14 degrees F above average) as numerous locales recorded temperatures well in excess of 120 throughout the region (see map below). Tuscon hit 115 (46 C or 15 F above average) and Phoenix soared to 118 (48 C or 15 degrees F above average). California saw its own spate of record heat with Los Angeles soaring to 96 F (36 C which is 23 F above average), Burbank hitting 109 F (43 C and also 23 F above average), Riverside seeing 111 F readings (44 C and 19 F above average) and Thermal rising all the way to 119 F (48 C and 13 F above average). Seven communities in New Mexico also saw record hot readings for the day.

Google Maps Phoenix Temperatures on Sunday

(Sections of Phoenix scorched on Sunday with this Google Map from Ben Newmann showing some areas experiencing 127 degree F [or 53 C] readings. Image source: Google Maps via Ben Newmann.)

The record heat resulted in 4 separate incidents of hiker deaths as rescue personnel responded to trail-goers suffering from heat injuries Sunday. Two of the fatalities occurred along trails near Tuscon while another pair of fatalities cropped up just outside of Phoenix. A fifth hiker is now also reported missing.

Today, the extreme heat is predicted to make a repeat comeback as readings are expected to hit or exceed 121 F in some regions. Meanwhile, Tuesday is expected to be even hotter.

Thousands of Firefighters Battling Blazes

As heat expanded beneath a sprawling dome of high pressure, groups of firefighters the size of small armies battled numerous blazes.

In Los Angeles 2,000 firefighters and 23 aircraft were engaged with the Sherpa Fire raging through the Santa Barbara region. By late Sunday, nearly 8,000 acres had burned (12 square miles), a section of a water treatment plant was consumed, and the fire was 54 percent contained. However, 55 mph winds overnight and temperatures rising to or near triple digit heat today were expected to give those fighting the blaze a grueling challenge.

Near Albuquerque, the Dog Head fire had consumed fully 18,000 acres and was only 9 percent contained by late Sunday evening. The swift moving and raging fire had damaged or consumed 45 structures by that time as 1,000 firefighters fought to contain it. Continued extreme heat in the region through at least Tuesday is expected to make fighting the blaze a very difficult prospect over the next two days.

Cedar Fire Changes Direction Late Sunday

(Cedar Creek Fire grows in size as it changes direction late Sunday. Image source: Chris Gross.)

North of Phoenix, the Cedar Creek Fire had swelled to 26,000 acres Monday, cut off route 60, and jumped the containment line. A shift in the wind caused the fire to dramatically alter course Sunday night — outflanking firefighting efforts in the process. The blaze had been 40 percent contained as of late Sunday, but these estimates will have to be revised downward. The fire is now threatening the town of Carrizo — which is expected to receive evacuation orders later today.

Conditions in Context

Fueling both the extreme heat and wildfire outbreaks across the Western US are conditions consistent with human-caused climate change. Very strong high pressure ridges dominate both the ocean zones of the Northeastern Pacific and the North Atlantic. These high pressure systems are both more powerful and extend further north than is typical. In addition, water temperatures both off the Eastern Seaboard and off the US West Coast are much warmer than normal. These features have all fed the development of a powerful heat dome high pressure system that is now forming over the US.

Another Ridiculous Ridge

(Ten day forecast shows an extremely powerful ridge in the Jet Stream extending all the way into the Arctic as an associated heat dome swells beneath. This kind of system threatens to propel 90 degree heat all the way to the shores of the Arctic Ocean over the next two weeks. To be very clear, these conditions are not normal. They represent an extreme south to north transfer of heat that threatens to deliver a brutal blow, not only to the US and Canada, but also to the Arctic itself. Image source: NOAA NCEP via Zack Labe.)

Over the coming days, this ridge is expected to swell and strengthen as it drives the Jet Stream far north over Canada and into the Arctic. There, sea ice extents continue to range in record lows for this time of year — lending power to the forming ridge and the heatwave inducing dome high pressure system developing underneath. As a result, we will likely continue to see fire hazards spike throughout the Central and Western US, we will likely continue to see record or near record heat, and we will likely see a re-expansion of drought conditions in the US West.

In addition, this heat dome is so powerful and has such a strong predicted northward extent that temperatures in the 80s or even 90s may extend as far north as the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Canada and Alaska. So wildfire and heatwave risks will be moving north into Arctic regions over the coming days as well.

Links:

Heatwave Scorching the Southwest Proves Fatal

National Interagency Fire Center

Sherpa Fire 51 Percent Contained

Wildfires Burn as Southwest Swelters Under Triple-Digit Heat

US Climate Data

NOAA NCEP

Zack Labe

Chris Gross

Ben Newmann

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat tip to Caroline

Rapid Polar Warming Kicks ENSO Out of Climate Driver’s Seat, Sets off Big 2014-2016 Global Temperature Spike

“What is happening right now is we are catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene, which is the geological epoch that human civilisation has been able to develop in, because of the relatively stable climate. It allowed us to invent agriculture, rather than living as nomads. It allowed a big population growth, it allowed the foundation of cities, all of which required a stable climate.” — Stefan Rahmstorf

A strong El Nino in 2015 helped to contribute to record hot global temperatures over the past three years. But with so much heat unexpectedly showing up in the global climate system, there’s clearly something else going on. And indicators are that the natural climate variability that human beings have grown accustomed to over the last 10,000 years may now be a thing of the past — as it is steadily overwhelmed by a stronger overall greenhouse gas based warming signature. One that is concentrating more and more warming near the poles.

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2014 was the hottest year on record. But that lasted only until the end of 2015 — which shattered the 2014 global heat record by a big margin. Then 2016 rolled around and produced what could best be described as an insane heat spike during the January through May period. Now, it’s about 95 percent certain that the 2015 record will also fall, leaving 2016 as the new hottest year on record in yet one more climate vertigo inducing temperature jump.

noaa-jan-may-temps

(The rate of warming for 2014 through 2015 is just off the charts. This scares scientists, and it should. This makes many climate experts wonder about causes, and it should. Prime suspect for the increased rate of change — amplifying feedbacks in the Arctic. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis and Weather Underground.)

In the end, temperatures are expected to level off near 1 C above 20th Century averages and around 1.2 C above 1880s averages by the end of this year. That’s a 0.3 C leap up since the mid 2000s. A screaming rate of decadal warming that is about twice as fast as that experienced since 1979. That’s an insanely fast pace of heat build-up. And it’s got many scientists seriously concerned. The records, as the Guardian aptly notes, were not just broken, they were obliterated. Adam Scaife, a scientist at the Met Office in the UK, agrees:

“The numbers are completely unprecedented. They really stick out like a sore thumb… Including this year so far, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have been since 2000 – it’s a shocking statistic.”

So what the heck is going on? We know that a strong El Nino just passed. But, though a real beast of a thing, the 2015-2016 event wasn’t quite as powerful as the 1997-1998 El Nino. And global temperatures will end up being about 50 percent hotter than 1998 averages by the end of this year. Essentially leaving this great El Nino’s heat spike in the dust. Meanwhile, scientists attribute about 1/5th of the 2014 to 2016 heat spike to El Nino. The rest came from someplace else. But where?

The first obvious suspect is greenhouse gasses. In 1998, atmospheric CO2 levels peaked at around 365 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory. This year, that heat trapping gas hit near 408 parts per million in the same measure. That’s a 43 parts per million jump peak to peak in just 18 years. A 12 percent increase in a gas that is capable of causing severe geo-physical changes in what, geologically speaking, is not even a blink of an eye. And you have to go back millions of years into Earth’s history to find times when CO2 readings were so high.

So the big build-up of heat trapping gasses is the obvious driver of the overall insane rate of warming that we are now seeing. But that doesn’t account for what is an unexpected acceleration over the past three years. And to puzzle out that speed-up we need to dig a little deeper. To consider factors that are known as amplifying feedbacks.

And, thankfully, in this investigation, we are not flying completely blind. NASA and the other global climate monitors give us a rough global overview of where the Earth is warming up the fastest. And an investigation of comparable temperature anomalies at the Earth’s surface can give us some indication where the extra heat is coming from and why.

1997 — Some Polar Amplification (aka Death of Winter), But Mostly Equatorial Warming

The obvious choice is to pick two relevant years for comparison. And for our purposes we’ll pick 2015 and 1997. The reason for this pick is that both 1997 and 2015 were years in which strong El Ninos were building up and having their impact on the global climate system. And based on what we know about El Nino, we can expect a lot of heat coming out of the Equatorial Pacific as sea surface temperatures there ramp up. In a climate system that is only driven by a natural variability related El Nino, what you’d expect is that the primary heat spike would be in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific region. Any other heat spike would be a possible indicator of another climate driver for global temperatures.

1997 Temperature Anomaly

(1997 may have been the last year in which a big El Nino still maintained a tenuous grip as the primary driver for the global climate system. Image source: NASA.)

So for the year of 1997 (Jan-Dec) we find that a strong heat pulse does originate from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific region. In fact, it’s the largest zone containing temperature anomalies in the range of 2 to 4 C above average. But during this year we also find some pretty big anomalies in Central and North Asia. These flow across the Bering Sea into Alaska, Northwest Canada, and the Beaufort. High Arctic temperatures are somewhat cooler, though still anomalously warm. And West Antartica also shows its own, not insignificant temperature spike.

Given the fact that El Nino will tend to strengthen the Jet Stream and generate a warming bias in the tropical zones, we can already see that there’s probably some polar amplification going on in 1997. And overall, the northern polar zone from 66 North to 90 North shows a positive anomaly signature that is just 0.1 C shy of the equatorial anomaly produced by El Nino. But the heat signal between El Nino and Northern Hemisphere polar amplification appears to be more balanced, with El Nino still providing a slightly stronger share of the overall heat contribution.

Understanding Polar Amplification’s Impact Due to Global Warming

For reference — polar amplification is an expected more rapid increase in polar temperatures as global greenhouse gas concentrations increase. Under pressure from greenhouse gasses, the poles warm faster for a number of reasons. The first is due to albedo or reflectivity loss as ice melts. White ice changing to brown earth or blue ocean due to melt absorbs more sunlight and creates a preferential warming at the poles. In addition, greenhouse gasses (especially CO2) capture and re-radiate sunlight’s heat energy like a blanket. As a result, temperatures tend to homogenize more over the globe resulting in a greater rate of temperature increase where it’s coolest and darkest. And the poles are the coolest and darkest places on Earth.

A third cause of polar amplification involves added heat resulting in natural carbon store release. And some of the greatest concentrations of the world’s sequestered carbon stores are locked in frozen ground and water at or near the poles. If ice at the poles thaws, you tend to end up with a higher overburden of greenhouse gasses in these regions. This is particularly true in the Northern Hemisphere where large regions of permafrost and ocean carbon stores are more vulnerable to release from early warming than the deeply sequestered stores in Antarctica.

(Dr. Jennifer Francis’s observations on Jet Stream weakening and polar amplification have big implications both down [Pole] and up [Equator] stream.)

Finally, as the polar zones warm up, they tend to generate weaknesses in the circumpolar Jet Stream. This is due to the fact that temperature differences between pole and tropics drive both Jet Stream speed and strength. As the relative difference drops off, the Jet Stream slows. And when the Jet Stream slows it meanders — creating big troughs and ridges centering on the middle Latitudes but sometimes extending all the way up to the poles. In the ridge zones, warm air is able to drive further north or south. And this feeds polar amplification by linking hot Equatorial air masses with the Pole itself. Over recent years, high amplitude Jet Stream waves have become a regular feature of the global climate system and have been associated with numerous extreme weather events — some of the most notable being the Russian Heatwave and Pakistan floods of 2011 and the anomalous late December 2015 warming of the North Pole above freezing.

2015 — Polar Amplification in the Driver’s Seat

By 2015, the polar amplification signature, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, started to look ridiculously strong.

2015 El Nino Polar Amplification

(2015’s picture of Polar Amplification during an El Nino year should disturb anyone who knows anything about how global climate systems should work. Image source: NASA.)

And during this year we find that the zone of greatest temperature anomalies lies not over the Equatorial Pacific — but over the high Latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere. 2-4 C above average temperatures dominate a huge zone stretching from North Central Asia and Europe and on up to the North Pole. A similar zone dominates Northwestern Canada, Alaska and the Beaufort Sea. And pretty much the entire Northern Hemisphere Polar and near Polar zone falls under 1-4 C above average temperatures for the year.

By comparison, the Eastern Equatorial Pacific appears to play second fiddle to the Polar and near Polar heat build up. A broad region across the Central and Eastern Equatorial Pacific does see 1-2 C above average temperatures, with a small pool of 2-4 C deltas off South America. But it’s not that much greater a signal than a significant heat pool over the Indian Ocean. And the Northern Hemisphere near Polar zone is altogether the area that’s clearly the global heat center of gravity. An observation bearing out in NASA’s zonal anomaly measure which finds that Latitudes  66 to 90 North were about 1.6 C above average and the highest relative temperature anomaly zone on the planet. Meanwhile, the Equator lags at +1.2 C above normal. That’s a relative Equator to Pole anomaly change of +0.5 C from El Nino years 1997 to 2015. An indicator that El Nino may no longer be the primary driver of the global temperature and climate engine. And that its overall role is greatly diminished over the 1997 to 2015 timeframe. And, finally, that a greenhouse gas based warming polar amplification signature is now in the driver’s seat.

So, basically what we have during an El Nino year is the pole warming relative to the Equator and under any condition other than human forced climate change — this is something that definitely should not happen. In other words, you’re not in Kansas anymore and Kansas isn’t on Earth anymore. At least the Earth that human civilization is used to. For what we’re experiencing is the climate of a planet that is definitely not operating under Holocene norms — but under the transitionally destabilizing forces of greenhouse gas based warming.

Warm Air Slots and The Death of Winter

So in comparison to 1997, it appears that during 2015 the Northern Pole gained heat very rapidly (increasing by +1 C over these 18 years) while Equatorial heat continued to build (adding +0.4 C over the same period). In other words, Polar warming was about 2.5 times faster than Equatorial warming during the 18 year interval. The result is that by the El Nino year of 2015, the Pole showed dramatically higher relative global temperature anomaly spikes. This, in a few simple words, is the evidence of a greenhouse gas warming based polar amplification writ large. But digging down into the details a bit more we find a number of further disturbing clues as to what’s really going on in the grinding gears of our global climate machinery.

September of 2015's Crushed Polar Vortex During a Spiking El Nino is a Bad Sign

(September of 2015’s crushed polar vortex and high amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns during a peak period of Equatorial heat known as El Nino is a bad, bad sign. A clear indication that polar amplification is starting the drive and destabilize the global climate regime. September 10 of 2015’s Northern Hemisphere Polar reference Jet Stream capture is by Earth Nullschool.)

The first is the appearance of a big warm air slot running directly from the Equatorial Pacific over the Eastern Pacific and North America and on up into the Northern Polar zone. Here we find the signature of 2015’s ridiculously resilient ridge (RRR) pattern in the NASA global anomaly map for the year. Warm air consistently funneled directly from the Equator, was drawn through the high amplitude ridge (see Dr Francis’s video above) and pulled into the polar zone.

But the RRR zone wasn’t the only big warm air slot pulling air north during 2015 — just, perhaps, the most obvious. A second big warm air slot appeared over the Eastern North Atlantic, Western Europe and extended to cover most of Asia. And this enormous Equatorial air sucking beast really ramped into high gear during late December of 2015 when it drove North Pole temperatures above freezing.

QBO Gravity Wave

(Upper level Equatorial zonal winds all peaked at the same time during September of 2015. A sign that Equatorial heat went north in a manner that produces some potentially bad implications for Northern Hemisphere Winter under a regime of human-forced climate change. Image source: Anthony Masiello.)

Taken in total, these warm air slots were enormous — exerting an amazing influence over the totality of global weather. The overall story is one in which the polar vortex was basically getting smashed during an El Nino year. Another big indication that things are teetering pretty far off kilter. One indicator of this was an anomalous spiking of all the upper level Equatorial wind speeds at the same time (in the Quasi Biennial Oscillation measure) during September of 2015. An event that current climate theory says shouldn’t happen, but it did. And yet one more hint that the Hadley Cell produced a huge northward bulge at the time. It’s also an indicator that Northern Hemisphere Winter is getting steadily beaten back to the ropes by the bully of northward running heat.

So what we’ve seen from 1997 to 2015 is a dramatic transition in which El Nino appears to have lost climate influence powers and become a slave to what is now a heat-sucking engine at the pole. It’s an emerging first phase of a death of winter type scenario. And the upshot is that the extra heat in the system that scientists are getting pretty concerned about appears now to be coming in large part from a ramping Northern Hemisphere polar amplification.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

NASA GISS

NOAA and NASA — Earth’s Warmest May on Record

Dr Jennifer Francis on Polar Amplification and the Jet Stream

Anthony Masiello

Quasi Biennial Oscillation

Earth Nullschool

Shattered Global Temperature Records Reveals Climate Change Emergency

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Jeff Masters and his best-in-class Weather Underground

Scientific hat tip to the prescient Dr. Jennifer Francis

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf

Scientific hat tip to Adam Scaife

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

 

Heat-Stoked Wildfires Erupt Across US West — Out of Control Blaze Rages Near Oil Processing Facility

A potential record southwestern heatwave is building — predicted to hit peak intensity by the middle of next week. But, already, higher than normal temperatures and strong southerly winds are lighting off severe wildfires throughout the drought-stricken US West.

Fires Prompt Evacuations, Declarations of Emergency Across US Southwest

In Central New Mexico, a three acre fire exploded to three square miles in size Wednesday — prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and spurring evacuations in the mountains southeast of Albequeque. Belching out a mountainous plume of smoke, the fire had forced 50 people to flee from their homes by late Wednesday. By 10 AM Thursday, the fire had again ballooned — this time expanding to 19 square miles in an outward rush that consumed an unconfirmed number of structures.

Doghead Fire June 15 New Mexico

(A crown fire southeast of Albuquerque forces the residents of 50 homes to flee as the governor of New Mexico declared a state of emergency Wednesday. Satellite image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In eastern Arizona, a small town was evacuated and residents of five more were given orders to prepare to leave as the Cedar Creek Fire devoured 4 square miles Wednesday evening. The fire continued to grow throughout the night and by Thursday morning had expanded to cover fully 8.5 square miles. Firefighters are now struggling to contain the blaze but hot weather and 30 mile per hour winds predicted Thursday present serious challenges.

Homes in Utah were also blanketed by smoke and haze as fires threatened. In Iron county, 40 mile per hour winds stoked yet another explosive blaze, cutting off Bumblebee Road and forcing 20 residences to be evacuated. As of last report, the fire was 400 acres in size, but this is likely to be a low estimate as 80 firefighters are now attempting to contain the blaze.

Southwest Drought Fuels Wildfire Near Santa Barbara Oil Refinery

It’s a rash of wildfires fueled by above normal temperatures and an endemic and steadily worsening drying of the region. Ongoing conditions related to human-caused climate change. And California has seen the worst of it. There, extreme drought has now lasted for three years. And in all of the past nine years, California has only seen two non-drought years.

Dry US West

(Dry US West. Dry conditions expanded to cover much of the US West this week ahead of a powerful and potentially record heatwave. Coincident with human-forced warming, an expansion of drought is expected in the US West. A condition that has born out in the form of worsening drying conditions for this region of the US over the past 2-3 decades. Image source: US Drought Monitor.)

In the south, near Santa Barbara, rainfall totals again fell short of average this Winter. Another dry season in a very dry decade that has provided ample bone-dry vegetation as fuel for wildfires.

By late Wednesday, these dry, warm conditions combined with strong sundowner winds to stoke fire dangers near the city. At that time, a 300 acre blaze burning near an oil facility exploded to cover about 2 miles of ground. By early Thursday, the huge blaze was raging out of control along a ridge near an Exxon-Mobile oil processing station.

Hundreds of campers were evacuated from the burning ridge as firefighters rushed in. The oil facility has now been emptied of non-essential personnel and more than 500 firefighters are attempting to erect a defensive line in order to contain the blaze. Currently, there appears to be no severe threat the fire will ignite fuels within the Exxon facility. But 40 mile per hour winds are predicted for later today and the nearby fire could be poised for more explosive growth.

Sherpa fire Near Exxon Mobile Oil Refinery

(Fire rages near Exxon Mobile oil processing facility in Santa Barbara, California on Wednesday. Firefighters had a brief respite as winds died down Thursday morning. However, fire conditions are expected to rapidly worsen by Thursday afternoon with the return of strong sundowner winds. Image source: Pete Demetriou.)

Dangerous Infrastructure — Oil Facilities Vulnerable to the Fires of Climate Change

This is the second time that a large oil facility has been threatened this year by a wildfire. In Canada, the Fort McMurray Fire forced the evacuation and shut down of large tar sands production facilities as barracks for oil workers succumbed to that massive blaze.

Human caused climate change is increasing instances of wildfires around the world through the combined forces of increased drought, rising temperatures, and more intense rates of evaporation. And in what could well be called an ironic twist of fate, the very fossil fuel infrastructure that is causing the warming is also quite vulnerable to the fires it has helped to light off.

If we were to use a metaphor, we could compare it to playing with fireworks on a 100+ degree (F) Fourth of July day in a big puddle of gasoline. In other words, this is the very definition of irresponsible. And the potential for tragedy here is enormous. Fossil fuel facilities contain massive amounts of volatile explosive compounds. Explosions at refineries due to accidents are among the most powerful manmade (if unintended) violent outbursts on Earth. And the very use and production of that fuel makes it more and more likely that a wildfire will set off a very real manmade firestorm at one of these many massive facilities.

Fire danger map US

(US fire danger map shows high to extreme potentials for wildfires across large sections of the country. Fire risk is likely to intensify over the coming week as a record heatwave is predicted to build across the country. Today’s outbreak, therefore, may just be the start. Image source: US Fire Service.)

It’s just one more example of how dangerous and irresponsible the global fossil fuel industry has become. And in this instance they are increasing risks to life and property not just to those who live anywhere near an oil or gas facility — but for anyone living pretty much anywhere at all. In other words, the fires are getting worse because we are burning fossil fuels. And the very fossil fuel facilities that are causing this problem are threatened.

Links:

Cedar Creek Fire Threatens Show Low

Wildfire Near California Oil Facility is Burning Out of Control

Santa Barbara Fire Burning Out of Control

Death Valley Like Heat to Blanket Southwest

US Fire Service

Pete Demetriou

LANCE MODIS

US Drought Monitor

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Al Gore’s Revenge — Internal Combustion Engines Stink and This Ridiculously Powerful Electric Turbine Truck Proves It

As of yesterday, Nikola Motors announced the performance specs and preorders for its new hybrid electric long-haul truck. It’s a ridiculously awesome design — one that boasts across the board superior performance when compared to internal combustion engine based trucks that are currently available. The company producing this amazing feat of electrical hybrid vehicle engineering calls its new vehicle the Nikola One. But we’re going to have some fun at the expense of climate change deniers and electric vehicle detractors both here and call this thing Al Gore’s Revenge.

*****

Nikola One

(Nikola One aka Al Gore’s Revenge. It’s big, it’s red, it’s mean, it’s electric — and it’s about to eat internal combustion engine based trucking market share for lunch. Image source: Nikola Motor Company.)

If there’s ever been a name that climate change deniers tried to turn into a nasty joke, it’s Al Gore. Back in the late 1990s, Al Gore displayed amazing foresight and did the prescient, responsible thing by working to incentivize a transition to electrical vehicles. He rightfully attacked internal combustion engines for the inefficient, wasteful and fossil-fuel dependent beasts that they were. Calling them infernal internals, he was probably the first person of political standing to make the apt link, in reference, between climate change and hell on Earth.

For his good deeds and for his speaking truth to the political and economic powers of the day, Gore was largely demonized in the fossil fuels industry supported republican media. Pretty much anyone who defended Al Gore was attacked. And, for a while, despite a glaringly huge and growing scientific consensus, climate change deniers pretended that the notion of human caused climate change itself was the sole mental invention of this sensitive and thoughtful man.

Now, though, the joke is on the climate change deniers and on the fossil fuel industries, like Peabody Coal, who paid to support their demonization of climate leaders. For now even the fossil fuel haven that was long haul trucking is starting to fall due to the superior physical performance potentials of electric engines.

Al Gore’s Revenge — Electric Engines Aren’t Just Cleaner, They’re Better

Nikola One is an 18 wheel long haul trucking rig. Powered by an electric turbine engine, its 320 kwh battery pack is capable of propelling the vehicle, without the aid of any additional tanked fuel source, more than 190 miles. Tanked fuel then lengthens the legs of the more efficient electrical turbine giving it an ultimate total systems range of 1,200 miles. By comparison, an ICE-powered standard truck typically boasts a range of just 500 miles. As a result, the combined fuel efficiency of this massive rig is between 10 and 15 miles per gallon. This is 2-3 times the fuel efficiency rating of standard long haul trucks and about the fuel efficiency average of a relatively long-legged 1990s SUV.

An electrical vehicle powered by a battery that is capable of recharging either through regenerative breaking or a wall socket, the Nikola One is already capable of achieving a zero emissions ride. But that’s if truckers are willing to stop every 190 miles for a recharge or to put net zero carbon biofuels into its ‘agnostic’ fuel tank. In all likelihood, most rigs will be refueled for some time by compressed natural gas stations on many long haul routes. A combination that implies about a 75 percent reduction in carbon emissions during driving. However, the ability to place 190 miles worth of all electric range on a long haul truck now, means that battery technology needs to only see prices fall by another 60 percent in order for ICE comparable ranges to be achieved by an all-electric truck with a weight similar to the Nikola One (see more below).

But the superior performance specs don’t end at range, fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions. This vehicle boasts 2,000 horsepower (regular ICE trucks only have 500 horsepower), the ability to travel up hill at 65 miles per hour (ICEs really lag going up hill and can only do 20-40 mph on an incline) and to regenerate electricity from breaking while going downhill (ICEs regenerate nada). The Nikola One can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 30 seconds, or half the time it takes for a comparable ICE to make the mark. And the Nikola One saves weight — coming in at 2,000 pounds less than a typical ICE truck (one wonders what the all electric range would be if the 2,000 pound weight difference was instead used to add more batteries — possibly near 350 miles). In other words, the Nikola One is expected by be 10 percent leaner and a whole lot meaner than the fossil fuel combustion engine trucks that have dominated the roads for nearly a Century.

Nikola One Side View

(Side view of Nikola One. Nikola One boasts a 320 kw chargeable battery pack and a fuels agnostic ‘gas’ tank that can run on compressed natural gas, petroleum, diesel, or biofuels like ethanol or biodeisel. The truck can make a 190 mile range on all electric power and is capable of net zero carbon emissions travel in its full 1,200 mile range if the appropriate biofuel is used in its tank. The Nikola One is, therefore, more similar to the Chevy Volt than it is to the Tesla Model S. However, it represents a massive leap forward in sustainable trucking design. Image source: Nikola Motors.)

All of these amazing capabilities have generated a notable amount of excitement. And, in total, more than 7,000 preorders for these beasts have been logged so far. A value of 2.3 billion dollars for the emerging electric vehicle trucking company. Nicola’s CEO noted in a press release yesterday:

“Our technology is 10-15 years ahead of any other OEM in fuel efficiencies, MPG and emissions. We are the only OEM to have a near zero emission truck and still outperform diesel trucks running at 80,000 pounds. To have over 7,000 reservations totaling more than 2.3 billion dollars, with five months remaining until our unveiling ceremony, is unprecedented.”

The technology that allows Nikola One to achieve these weight saving and performance results centers around an electrical turbine engine and lithium based battery pack. The electrical engine is in itself about twice as efficient as an ICE. The battery pack allows for 190 miles of additional electrical range per charge and for the recuperation of electrical energy from regenerative breaking and from the action of the electrical engine itself. The result is a total system that possesses more power, weighs less, and is overall 2-3 times as efficient as an internal combustion based design. Though this system does use a fuel thank (which can be filled with CNG, petroleum, diesel or biofuel) to extend the base electrical range, it represents a huge leap forward in the sustainability of long haul trucking. And looking at the base numbers for weight and electric battery potential, it would be surprising if we did not see a number of 350 to 500 mile all electric truck ranges start to emerge in the time period between now and 2020.

Hybrid Electric Turbine

(If we’re going to tackle climate change, we need to address both long haul trucking and aircraft based fossil fuel emissions. Hybrid electric turbine technology like that used in Nikola One can also be used in jet aircraft. It’s a form of technology that both promises to make energy use more efficient and to provide a path to zero carbon emissions from these modes of transportation. In January, NASA performed an aircraft electric turbine demonstration that was capable of greatly reducing carbon emissions from air travel. Image source: NASA.)

Nikola One costs 375,000 dollars, which is about twice the price of a traditional long haul truck. However, the company notes that fuel costs for the vehicle are halved. Since fuel costs are a major primary expense for truckers and shipping companies, Nikola One’s added energy efficiency is expected to be very appealing to the current market. Superior performance will give the truck a time of travel edge over traditional vehicles along hilly routes or in areas where stop and go traffic is an issue. The company also plans to lease the trucks for $5,000 dollars a month and states that this offering a better value than a traditional ICE truck when accounting for the costs of fuel.

If Nikola is able to make good on its performance and cost promises for this truck, then one of the last bastions of fossil fuel dominance appears to be falling. Long haul trucking has long represented a sustainability challenge due to the high weight, long range, and high horsepower requirement of the industry. It was long thought that the energy density of fossil fuels would represent an impenetrable barrier to renewable energy systems in this market. But detractors apparently didn’t take into account the basic fact that Al Gore was right — the internal combustion engine is a laggard. And superior electrical engine performance now provides an avenue for renewable energy systems to begin to compete with fossil fuels in the long haul trucking arena. And one final note is that the hybrid turbine based electrical engine design used by Nikola may also provide a useful sustainability innovation for air travel — which also relies on turbines for jet propulsion (see NASA link below).

Al Gore’s Revenge indeed.

Links:

Nikola Motors Logs 7,000 Electric Long Haul Truck Preorders

Nikola Motor Company

Nikola Motors Gets 2.3 Billion Worth of Preorders For its Electric Semi

Peabody Coal Funded Climate Change Deniers

Researchers Advance Propulsion Toward Low Carbon Aircraft

Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Monster African Thunderstorm Hurls Enormous Haboob at Europe, 100 + Degree (F) Heat to Follow

An expansion of the Sahara Desert northward into Europe. A scenario that has long been a concern raised by scientists modeling potential extreme weather and climate scenarios related to human-caused climate change. And this week, it appears that Southern and Eastern Europe are going to get a taste of Sahara Desert-type weather conditions. It’s just unfolding a bit more dramatically than scientists at first anticipated.

Haboob the Size of England Ireland and Scotland Combined

(Monster thunderstorm explodes over Northwestern Africa last night, hurling a huge dust storm or Haboob northward toward Europe. Image source: The Met Office.)

Last night, a massive thunderstorm large enough to cover the England, Scotland and Ireland combined blew up over western Africa. The storm, larger than most hurricanes, drew in strong, hot winds from North Africa and the Sahara Desert. These winds bore upon them a great load of dust. Dust which the strong outflow of the storm then turned northward along a frontal boundary draped across the Mediterranean toward Europe.

As of early today, a large mass of dust with a front spanning approximately 600 miles covered sections of Mali, Algeria and Niger even as strong, hot southerly winds gathered to propel it northward. Over the next three days, this dust storm, or Haboob, is expected to rage across North Africa’s Algeria and Tunesia, leap the Mediterranean, roar across Central Italy, and vent its fury on the Balkan states and Poland before finally terminating in the Ukraine.

Dust Storm Forecast

(Large dust storm is now forecast to cross from North Africa and into Southeastern Europe. A high amplitude Jet Stream wave pattern and related strong ridge formation is providing the atmospheric slot that is propelling the dust further north than is typical. Image source: Barcelona Dust Forecast Center.)

From its origin over Northwest Africa, to its termination over the Ukraine, this anomalous dust storm is predicted to travel more than 2,500 miles. The storm will be borne by hot southerly winds. Saharan winds, some could say. And those winds will bring with them not only the choking dusts of North Africa, but also a taste of its heat.

In Sofia, Bulgaria, temperatures are expected to hit 95 (F) degrees over the next few days. In Bucharest, Romania, the mercury is expected to top 96 by Saturday. Sections of central Bulgaria are likely to see readings as high as 104 (F) by Saturday. Athens, Greece may reach 102 F temperatures on Saturday and 100 degree (F) temperatures Sunday. Further up the Balkan Peninsula, Larissa’s forecast is for 107 degree F temperatures by Saturday. All are readings in ranges about 15-20 degree Fahrenheit above average for this European region during this time of year. Record to near record hot temperatures that have more in common with typical North African climates than those usually associated with Southern Europe.

Southeastern European Heatwave

(Dust storms will travel north along a frontal boundary associated with a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream over the next three days. To the east, sections of Southern and Eastern Europe are expected to experience record or near record heat. Image source: Pivotal Weather. Note, forecast above is in degrees Celsius for Saturday, June 18.)

Very large thunderstorms do tend to fire now and then over Africa. But the typical range is more to the south along a band that feeds into the North Atlantic Inter-tropical Convergence Zone. Over the past day, a big dip in the Jet Stream has run down from Western Europe and into North Africa. This dip created atmospheric instability that fueled the development of the massive thunderstorm and generated the strong southerly winds that are now propelling the resulting Haboob toward Europe.

As has been typical with climate change related high amplitude Jet Stream waves during recent years, the deep trough over Western Europe is encouraging a strong dipole associated ridge to form over Eastern Europe. And it is into this ridge that both the Haboob and the record heat are now rushing.

Africa-originating Haboobs and 95 to 107 degree heat blanketing large sections of Southern and Eastern Europe are not at all typical weather for mid to late June. But weather extremes associated with human-caused climate change will tend to make these kinds of North African hot air and dust storm invasions more and more likely as time progresses.

Links:

The Met Office

Barcelona Dust Forecast Center

Pivotal Weather

Tyler B Roys (Meteorologist)

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Spike

Ten Mile Wide Chunks of Arctic Sea Ice are Disintegrating North of Svalbard

Over the past 10 days, the rate of sea ice extent loss in the Arctic has slowed down somewhat. And as a result sea ice extent measures, though maintaining in record low ranges, are much closer now to the 2012 line. Low pressure systems have come to dominate the Arctic Ocean zone. And the outwardly expanding counter-clockwise winds from these systems have tended to cause the ice to spread out and to thin. In the past, such events were seen as an ice preserving feature. But this year, there’s cause for a little doubt.

The first cause comes in the form of record Arctic temperatures for all of 2016. As Zack Labe shows in the compelling graphic below, not only has the first half of 2016 been a record warm six months for the Arctic, it’s been a record warm half-year like no other.

Zach Labe

(The first half of 2016 is about 1.5 C hotter in the Arctic than the previous record hot year. It’s a huge jump to new record warmth that should cause pretty much everyone to feel a deep sense of concern about this sensitive region. Image source: Zack Labe.)

And if extra heat is guaranteed to do one thing — it’s melt frozen water. We can see that in the current near record low snow coverages for the Northern Hemisphere. We can see it in the fact that — despite what would be ‘bad melt’ weather conditions such as cloud cover and low pressure systems dominating the Arctic during the middle of June — Arctic sea ice extents are still in record low ranges and Arctic sea ice volume continues to track just below 2012’s record low trajectory. And we can certainly see it in the fact that despite the clouds that would normally promote cooler Arctic conditions during this time of year, surface temperatures have remained well above normal for the majority of June.

Overall, these conditions are unprecedented for the Arctic. And, in microcosm, we can tell a little bit of this story of heat by tracking the life of a ten mile wide hunk of ice that was recently blown away from the ice pack and into the warming waters north of Svalbard.

Ocean Zone North of Svalbard — A New Sea Ice Melt Field

Ice Chunk June 8

(June 8 — a 10 mile wide hunk of sea ice exits the ice pack North of Svalbard. LANCE MODIS image.)

On June 8th, this ten-mile wide chunk of ice was ushered away from a thinning but concentrated grouping of ice about 80 miles to the North of the Island Archipelago of Svalbard. In past decades during June, the sea ice had tended to remain closer to Svalbard, often enveloping this Arctic island chain straddling the 80th parallel. But during recent years sea surfaces around Svalbard have dramatically warmed due to a human-forced heating of the atmosphere and oceans. And today, sea surface temperatures surrounding Svalbard range from 1 to 8 degrees Celsius above 20th Century averages.

That’s still cold water in the range of 32 to 46 F. At least to the human perspective — as neither you nor I would find it a pleasant experience to plunge into sea waters that are still relatively close to freezing. But to sea ice, this water is basically warm enough to represent an oceanic killing field.

Arctic sea ice june 10 frame 2

(June 10 — the large ice island shatters in waters warmed by climate change. LANCE MODIS image.)

By June 10, our ten mile wide hunk of ice had been ejected about 30 miles into this warm water zone north of Svalbard. After only two days, the previously contiguous structure of the ice is riddled with cracks large enough to be plainly visible in the 250 meter satellite resolution. The sudden contact with warmer waters was more than enough to shatter the surface of this island-sized hunk of Arctic sea ice.

Export into warmer waters has long been a melt issue for ice moving out through the Fram Strait. And loss of ice in this fashion due to strong winds circulating clockwise around Greenland has become a growing concern. Ice originating in the thick (though much thinner than in past decades) ice pack north of Greenland can be funneled along the Greenland Coast and eventually propelled out into the warmer waters of the North Atlantic where it has no chance to survive.

Arctic sea ice June 13 frame 3

(June 13 — the ice island breaks into tiny pieces. LANCE MODIS image.)

But this is exactly what happened to this 10 mile wide chunk of ice as it entered waters North of Svalbard. It exited the ice pack, lost access to the fresh water field protecting the ice. It entered 1-3 C surface waters. And it basically disintegrated.

Arctic Ocean Near Summer Melt Tipping Points?

Added Arctic heat is not just a measure, therefore, of atmospheric temperatures. It’s a measure of implied ocean surface heat and ocean heat lurking just beneath the surface. In the end, what we see is that new ways to lose sea ice are now emerging. And it appears that sea ice export into the northern Barents and near Svalbard waters is yet one more sea ice melt risk potential. It’s a matter worth bringing up due to the simple fact that this zone of ocean water was once frozen, was once a consistent part of the Northern Hemisphere ice pack. And after warming just enough, it’s a region that is now hostile to sea ice.

ARC model June 2016

(More reliable US Navy ARCc model shows rapid thinning of remaining Beaufort sea ice taking hold over the next seven days. With so much heat baked into the Arctic over the past six months, we should remain vigilant regarding outlier melt possibilities for 2016. Image source: US Navy.)

Looking north, there’s risk that human caused climate change will drive that ice hostility zone into the near polar region itself. During the melt phase, broken ice can generate a bit of negative feedback by promoting cloud formation through increased water evaporation and reduced albedo as surface melt ponds are essentially dumped back into the ocean. But such floes are at the mercy of transport and waves. And they sit upon a warming surface ocean. A discontinuous floe can hit a melt tipping point pretty rapidly — covering a large region and then disappearing in a very short period. We’ve seen instances of such events during late June for Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, and the Kara Sea.

Now, much of the Arctic Ocean is covered by these floes. And with so much heat in the system, it’s worth considering that the old rules no longer fully apply. It’s worth realize that the ice is dancing in an increasingly tenuous temperature zone between the warming waters below and the warming airs above.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

CIRES

NOAA’s Environmental Monitoring System

Zack Labe

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Hat tip to Neven

JAXA Sea Ice

US Navy

Death Valley Like Heat Predicted to Blanket the Southwest By Next Week

Drought is again expanding over the US West. Oregon, after a very rapid April and May snowmelt, is being advised to conserve water. And with high pressure building in over the Southwest, weather models are predicting the emergence of an extreme heatwave by late this weekend. One that current guidance is indicating will bring 100 to 120 degree (F) temperatures to a wide region stretching from California’s Central Valley, through Southern California, Northwestern Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and into Southern Utah.

Strong High Pressure System

(The US is expected to swelter under a heat dome that is predicted to form this weekend and expand on into next week. Record heat is predicted to first impact the US Southwest before building into the Central US by late next week. Image source: NCEP/NOAA.)

The trigger for what may become a record-shattering heatwave is the predicted development of a powerful atmospheric ridge. Model guidance now shows a strong high pressure system currently over the Northeastern Pacific extending its influence eastward over the coming days. By the middle of next week, most of the US is predicted to fall under the atmospheric sway of a big bully of a high pressure system centered over the Southwestern States. Spiking atmospheric pressures and clear skies are expected to then usher in record temperatures for much of the US Southwest.

For parts of California’s Central Valley near Fresno, temperatures could rise as high as 116 F by Wednesday of next week (June 21). That’s about 23 degrees (F) above average for this time of year and would beat the hottest reading ever recorded in any month for the city. The same day prediction for Sacramento is in the range of 110 F — a little shy of the all-time record, but a reading that would shatter the June 21 daily record by a good margin.

110 degree + readings are expected to blanket Southeastern California, Sections of Northwestern Mexico, Southwestern Arizona, and Southeastern Nevada. Near 100 degree readings are expected to extend as far north as Redding, California. In other words, a huge section of the Southwestern US is expected to experience Death Valley like weather conditions.

Extreme Southwest Heatwave

(Record heat is predicted to blanket most of the Southwest US by next week. This graphic shows predicted peak daily temperatures on Wednesday, June 21. Image source: Pivotal Weather.)

This kind of record heatwave is something one might have expected during an extreme year of the 20th Century in July. But what we’re seeing is its potential to emerge now in mid-to-late June. An indication that record global atmospheric temperatures are starting to have some rather serious regional impacts along the lines predicted by various Global Circulation Models. These models indicated a particular vulnerability of the US Southwest to extreme heat and drying under the atmospheric forces set off by human fossil fuel burning. And this predicted heatwave is building up in an atmospheric context in which global temperatures will likely be around 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages during 2016.

In this context, the potentially building record heatwave threatens to greatly expand and reassert drought conditions in the US Southwest this Summer. Should it emerge as models are currently predicting, it will greatly increase soil moisture evaporation and remaining snowpack melt across the region — amplifying drought conditions in over a region where many had hoped a strong El Nino would stave off these kinds of climate change related impacts for at least another few years. And for these reasons along with the direct risks of heat injury to human beings, interests should closely monitor its development.

Links:

US Drought Monitor

Quick Oregon Snowmelt Dampens Water Outlook

US Climate Data

Pivotal Weather

NCEP/NOAA

Hat tip to Zack Labe

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

May Marks 8th Consecutive Record Hot Month in NASA’s Global Temperature Measure

According to NASA, the world has just experienced another record hot month.

May of 2016 was the warmest May since record keeping began for NASA 137 years ago. It is now the 8th record hot month in row. In other words, since October, every month has been the hottest such month ever recorded (October vs October comparison, November vs November etc). And May’s record is just the most recent high mark during a period that has now vastly exceeded all previous measures for global temperature tracking.

The month itself was 0.93 C above NASA’s 1951-1980 baseline measure. It’s the first month since October that readings fell below the 1 C anomaly mark. A range that before 2015 had never before been breached in the 136 year climate record and likely during all of the approximate 12,000 year period that marks the Holocene geological epoch.

It’s a reading that is fully 1.15 C above 1880s averages. A very warm measure in its own right but one that is thankfully somewhat removed from the 1.55 C monthly peak back during February of 2016. To this point, it’s worth noting that hitting 1.5 C above 1880s temps in the annual measure is the first major temperature break that scientists consider to be seriously threatening to human civilization and the life support systems of planet Earth. And we’re getting close to that mark now. However, considering the fact that El Nino is now transitioning toward La Nina, it appears that 2016 averages may peak closer to 1.2 C.

May Was Hot Pretty Much Everywhere

Geospatially, hottest readings again centered near the Poles. Particularly, a region of the Barents Sea experienced temperatures above 4 C hotter than average for the month in the north. More disturbingly, in the south, a region of 4 to 9.4 C above average readings dominated a large zone over West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula. This area is of particular concern due to numerous destabilized ice masses that are now accelerating toward the Southern Ocean and that have the ability to dramatically raise global sea levels over rather short time intervals.

Global Temperature record again set in May

(Another picture of a record warm month globally provided by NASA. This time, highest above normal temperatures centered over the near polar regions of the Barents Sea and the vulnerable and rapidly destabilizing ice sheets of West Antarctica. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Overall, extents of above average readings covered most areas of the globe. Exceptions included the North Atlantic cool pool southeast of Greenland that has been prevalent now for the better part of two years, a storm and trough related cool pool in the North Central Pacific, and storm and trough related cool zones over the Central US, Central Asia, and the Southern half of South America. Storms in these regions generated record rainfall amounts over Texas, Argentina and Russia during the month as global temperatures fell from El Nino peaks and some of the record atmospheric moisture load was wrung out.

Analysis of the May Global Zonal Anomalies Map finds that polar amplification dominated — resulting in peak temperature readings in zones near 75 North and 75 South Latitude.

NASA zonal anomalies May 2016

(Hot poles, cooler, stormy mid-Latitudes is a sign that climate and weather impacts related to human-caused climate change are starting to ramp up. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Cooler readings in the mid 40s North Latitude and mid 50s South Latitude indicates that the climate change related deep trough zones are starting to get more fully involved (highlighted by various severe and record flooding events occurring around the world during this time).

As climate change advances and global temperatures push toward the 2 C mark, we can expect more heavy involvement in storm generation as the Poles continue to more rapidly warm and as ice sheets speed destabilization — generating the powerful regional climate variations and greater atmospheric moisture loading that greatly amps up peak storm potential energy.

Looks Like 2016 is Settling into a Range near 1.2 C Above 1880s

On the whole, the first six months of the climate year starting in December have averaged 1.36 C above 1880s readings. A strong departure that the second half of the year will almost certainly not repeat. Given current guidance along with a developing transition to La Nina, temperatures should fall into a range between 0.95 and 1.15 C above 1880s for the second half of the climate year.

A 1.2 C annual 2016 departure is firmly within the range of estimates for global temperatures that occurred within the Eemian climate period around 115,000 years ago. At that time, global ocean levels were between 16 and 25 feet higher than they are today. And if such warm temperatures continue for any significant duration, we could expect oceans to at least rise by as much (especially considering the fact that about 15-20 feet worth of sea level rise is locked into the ice of glaciers that are now in the process of heading into the global ocean).

We’re Well Behind the Curve in Providing Adequate Mitigations to a Rapidly Worsening Climate Situation

Atmospheric CO2 levels peaked at 407.7 parts per million in May as well. A jump of about 3.8 parts per million above peak readings during May of 2015. A new record that not only represents the highest levels of atmospheric carbon ever experienced by human beings (and likely the highest ever seen in the past 15 million years), but one that also marks a record rate of accumulation. A combined overburden and unprecedented rate of increase in heat trapping gasses that now represents a very serious global hazard.

If carbon dioxide levels were to remain so high we could expect global temperatures to, over the course of 300-500 years, hit near 3 C above 1880s levels and oceans to rise by as much as 60-120 feet. Adding in methane and other greenhouse gasses — current CO2 equivalent for all global heating gas estimates are now in the range of 490 parts per million. Enough to warm the Earth by about 4.6 C over hundreds of years and to, among other things, eventually raise oceans by 120 t0 200 feet.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide The Keeling Curve

(Record May temperatures coincided with record levels of atmospheric CO2. We haven’t seen such high levels of CO2 since the Middle Miocene Climate epoch — a period that occurred 15 million years ago. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Continued human fossil fuel burning makes an already bad climate situation worse. The rate of emission from human sources is probably at least ten times faster than the build-up of heat trapping gasses that set off the last hothouse mass extinction event — the PETM — about 55 million years ago. In addition, an Earth System response in the range of 10-30+ percent of the human emission each year is possible by the end of this Century. A dangerous amplifying feedback whose emergence grows more likely the longer human beings continue to add heat to the global atmosphere and ocean system.

May of 2016, therefore, is just the most recent heat record along a path toward an ever-worsening global climate situation. Current rising rates of renewable energy and efficiency adoption do provide a growing mitigation effort to combat the harmful systemic problem of fossil fuel burning and a related very high rate of human carbon emission. But the fact that we are, at best, looking at a decades-long energy transition and an eventual dropping of the human emission to near zero by 2030 to 2050, means that climate hazards will continue to rise for some time to come (an absolute practical best case will probably achieve 450 ppm CO2 and 550 ppm CO2e at peak — very dangerous levels of heat trapping gasses that we’ll want to reduce at the most rapid rates possible). In addition, serious challenges both to the rate of energy transition and carbon emissions cuts coming from various political and economic powers around the world threaten to either push the time of hitting zero carbon emissions back or to remove the possibility of such a necessary mitigation altogether.

Links:

GISS Global Temperature Analysis

Eemian Sea Level Rise

Holocene Geological Epoch

The Keeling Curve

Ten Times Faster Than a Hothouse Extinction

Hat Tip to Kevin Jones

India’s Monsoon is Delayed For Third Year in a Row — Climate Change is Likely Cause

“It has been observed that since 2001, places in northern India, especially in Rajasthan, are witnessing a rising temperature trend every year. The main reason is the excessive … emission of carbon dioxide.” — Laxman Singh Rathore, the director general of the India Meteorological Department.

*****

The reduction in India’s monsoon rains is a big deal. It generates systemic drought, creates a prevalence for heatwaves, and locally amplifies the impacts of human-caused climate change. For three years now, the Indian monsoon has been delayed. India is experiencing its worst heatwaves ever recorded and water shortages across the country are growing dire. The monsoonal rains are coming, again late. And people across India — residents as well as weather and climate experts — are beginning to wonder if the endemic drought and heat stress will ever end.

Historically, there was only one climate condition known to bring about a delay in India’s Monsoon — El Nino. And last year, a strong El Nino is thought to have contributed both to the Monsoon’s late arrival and to a very severe drought that is now gripping the state. What the 2015 El Nino cannot also account for is the 2014 delay and weakening of monsoonal rains. And during 2016, as India’s monsoon has again been held back by 1-2 weeks, and El Nino is now but a memory, it’s beginning to become quite clear that there’s something else involved in the weakening of India’s annual rains.

Indian Monsoon Delayed Third Year in a Row

India's Monsoon is Delayed Yet Again

(Onset of the Indian Monsoon has been delayed for three years in a row now. A condition likely caused by a human-forced warming of the world and one that is worsening an extreme drought and heatwave situation across the country. Image source: The India Meteorological Department.)

As of today, the eastern edge of the Southeast Asian monsoon had only advanced to the middle of Myanmar. This late progress is two weeks behind the typical advance of the monsoon in this part of the world at this time of year. Further west, the monsoon has extended somewhat futher — only trailing the typical monsoon’s advance by 5 days along the western coast of India.

With La Nina blooming in the Eastern Pacific, there’s no other climatological excuse for this delay. The El Nino influence is mostly gone. And all that’s left is a global climate context in which temperatures have now risen to around 1.3 C hotter than 1880s averages.

Climate Change is Likely Cause

Scientific studies modeling the impacts of human-forced warming have long found that heating the Earth atmosphere resulted in an eventual delay and weakening of the Indian monsoon. A study published last year in Geoscience Frontiers continued this line of study. Global Circulation Model (GCM) runs found that the Indian monsoon was expected to be delayed by 15 days on average during the 21st Century due to human caused climate change. That the amount of precipitation provided by the monsoon would be reduced by about 70 percent. And that the eastern section of the monsoon would tend to be subject to greater delays than the west.

image

(Extreme heat in the range of 45 to 51 degrees Celsius [113 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit] is expected to continue to impact a broad region of Northern India and Eastern Pakistan tomorrow. These temperatures are in record ranges and threaten to again break the all-time hottest temperatures ever recorded in India this week. By now, the onset of monsoonal rains should be taking the edge off a good portion of this heat. But a monsoon apparently delayed by a human forced warming of the world still holds back its cooling loads of moisture. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Delays in the Indian Monsoon result in a loss of precipitation due to the fact that the duration of the event is greatly reduced. Rainfall has to therefore be more intense over a shorter period of time in order to make up for losses. Increasing drought prevalence results in further moisture losses due to a kind of atmospheric heat and dryness barrier that tends to sap storms of precipitation even as they start to form. The net result for India is a prediction of severe moisture loss due to human-caused climate change.

This year’s India monsoonal delay — as with the delay during 2014 — falls into that pattern. And the massive drought that India is now experiencing as a result appears to be emerging from a set of atmospheric conditions that are consistent with human-caused climate change. India’s risk for continued drought and increasingly extreme heatwaves over the coming years is therefore on the rise. And it is yet to be seen if this year’s monsoon will deliver the hoped-for and desperately-needed relief. Already, the rain-bearing storm system is lagging. And that’s not a good sign.

Links:

The Effects of Climate Change on the Seasonal Monsoon in Asia

Earth Nullschool

The India Meteorological Department

India’s Heatwave Breaks Records

Record Drop in Coal Burning Raises Question — Is Peak Fossil Fuel Use Happening Now?

Peak oil, gas, and coal.

It’s a possibility that many who believe the fossil fuel industry’s false dependency mantra look at with fear and trembling. Because, for years, that industry, through various public relations efforts, has perpetuated a myth that a loss of access to fossil fuels would ruin the modern global economy. That fossil fuels were so high-quality no other energy source could effectively replace them.

It’s a myth that, in many ways, competes with the threat of human-caused climate change for space in the public’s collective imagination. One that is not without a few valid supports. For the shifting of energy use away from one set of sources and on toward another set is a massive, disruptive undertaking even in the case where the new energy sources are superior to the old.

November Through April 2015 2016

(This is what a real existential threat to global civilization looks like. From the 1880s to the six month cold season of 2015-2016, global temperatures warmed by 1.38 degrees Celsius. At the end of the last ice age, it took about 3,000 years for as much warming to occur as human fossil fuel burning has achieved over just the last 136 years. Dealing with what is a problem of geological scale ramping up with lightning speed will require a necessarily rapid reduction to zero fossil fuel burning over the coming decades. Recent swift curtailments of coal use provide some hope that such a reduction may be possible. But rates of fossil fuel use will have to peak soon and be cut even more swiftly to prevent a very rapidly intensifying global emergency. Image source: NASA GISS.)

But despite a few reasonable worries, the overall effect is to generate a decoy existential threat to the very real threat of a new global mass extinction event if fossil fuel burning isn’t somehow halted in very short order. One that removes innovative thinking and generates a false impression that there really is no way to effectively mitigate and respond to the impacts of an ever-worsening long climate emergency.

The World Health Organization implicates fossil fuel based carbon emissions as one of the greatest risks to human health this Century stating:

Climate change is among the greatest health risks of the 21st Century. Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events cost lives directly, increase transmission and spread of infectious diseases, and undermine the environmental determinants of health, including clean air and water, and sufficient food.

At the same time, many of the same policy and technology choices that drive climate change, such as polluting energy sources and unsustainable transport systems, also have large immediate and local health impacts – most notably the more than seven million deaths that are caused each year by air pollution (emphasis added).

Given what is a very real danger to human health and well-being arising out of the practice of burning fossil fuels coupled with potential human civilization collapses due to severe climate change, sea level rise, disruptions to the growing season, and extreme weather, it’s worth considering the notion that a functional world without them is not only possible — it is absolutely necessary. For shift away from what some have called energy sources from hell and we open up the potential to expand prosperity, to increase prospects for not just the rich, but for practically everyone. For by doing so we shift away from fuels that result in severe systemic harms in a transition to new, less damaging, more distributed and democratic fuels.

And with a massive curtailment of coal energy use, with a rapidly growing adoption of renewables, and with increasing challenges to growth in natural gas and oil consumption all showing up during 2015, it appears that just such a shift may have already started.

*****

Today’s harbinger of what may well now be an ongoing massive move away from harmful fossil fuel energy is itself a bit ironic. For the message comes in the form of a new report out from the fossil fuel giant British Petroleum. And it’s a real eye-catcher. For this fossil fuel industry based report found that global coal use fell by the largest margin ever recorded. With oil and gas struggling to make up the difference, with the fortunes of renewable energy on the rise, and with fossil fuel energy use growing at a very sluggish net annual rate of about 0.56 percent, we’ve got to ask the question — have we reached the age of peak fossil fuels? And, if so, why isn’t the world economy falling apart as some predicted?

Record Drop in Coal Use

The big shock comes in the form of a massive 1.8 percent annual drop in coal use globally. Lead by China and the US, total global coal curtailment reached 71 million tons of oil equivalent during 2015. This was the greatest single annual drop in coal use in the entirety of the 50 year BP record.

Plummeting Coal Use

(According to fossil fuel industry giant, BP, global coal use fell by its largest margin ever. Image source: Carbon Brief.)

The massive drop in coal also occurred at a time when prices for the carbon-emitting commodity were at or near historical lows. A situation that would normally stimulate demand — all other things being equal.

But with coal, all things are not equal. China suffers from some of the worst air and water pollution conditions in the world due to its reliance on the stuff. Its people are getting sick from emissions particulate related lung damage and from coal-based water contamination. Many are dying prematurely as a result. And since coal use is the greatest contributor to China’s air and water woes, China has undertaken a massive effort to curtail its burning.

Globally, coal is also the worst fossil fuel contributor to Earth System warming on a pound-burned for pound-burned comparison. With global temperatures now hitting near the 1.3 C above 1880s temperature marks on an annual basis — a level high enough to begin to inflict severe climate change related harms — world leaders are increasingly feeling the heat to cut coal.

No Global Recession, But Fossil Fuel Use Stagnates

Curtailment of coal use on such a large scale due to climate, health, welfare, and environmental concerns is unprecedented. In the past, large drops in coal use have only occurred during times of economic recession or when another major fossil fuel source such as natural gas out-competed coal on the global market. During this year of greatest coal losses, neither was the case. Coal remained competitive with natural gas on a cost vs cost comparison basis during 2015 even as the global economy grew by about 3 percent according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

Global Growth International monetary fund

(Despite stagnating fossil fuel use and plummeting rates of coal use, the global economy grew by 3.1 percent during 2015. Image source: The International Monetary Fund.)

Coal’s loss also comes in the context of a declining fossil fuel share in the global energy mix. According to BP, fossil fuels accounted for only 86 percent of global energy use — which was the lowest level ever recorded. Non fossil fuel interest sources such as the recent REN21 paper on the global state of renewable energy put that number even lower — close to 80 percent.

But the BP numbers look bad enough from the fossil fuel industry perspective. Globally, both gas and oil use increased by a combined 134 million tons of oil equivalent. A gradual rate of growth that follows historical lines for those two sources. However, when you account for the loss of coal, net fossil fuel energy use only grew by 63 million tons of oil equivalent — and that represents just a 0.56 percent annual rate of growth for the fossil fuel sector. This compares to a historical annual growth rate in fossil fuel use of 1 to 3 percent during non recession years.

Peak Fossil Fuel Use as Boon Not Bane

Rising rates of renewable energy adoption are the primary reason for coal’s fall and fossil fuel stagnation. Globally, according to BP figures, the net add in non-hydro renewables energy use was equivalent to 48 million tons of oil. A number that, if BP is correct, is nipping away at fossil fuel market dominance by achieving a rate of adoption similar to that of a mainstream energy source.

Renewables Rise Fossil Fuels Stagnate

(Renewable rise while coal plummets, dragging down fossil fuels’ overall share of the global energy supply during 2015. Image source: Carbon Brief.)

Falling rates of overall energy gain for fossil fuels may well represent the start of a period when oil, gas, and coal begin to go into net decline. This has not happened yet. But it will be necessary if the world is to have much hope of preventing extremely catastrophic rates of warming by greater than 2 C above pre-industrial levels this Century. So the big coal curtailment during 2015 as the global economy continued a 3 percent annual growth rate was a huge step in the right direction. But to prevent a future in which ever-more-harmful rates of warming occur. In which 3 C, 4 C, or even 5 C warming becomes likely during this Century, then we will need to continue seeing renewables advance. Then we will need to see what would be a benevolent peak in fossil fuel use. One that is coming on a bit late for comfort and that couldn’t happen soon enough.

Links:

BP — Coal Use Fell By Largest Recorded Margin in 2015

The International Monetary Fund

Choose Between Fuels From Hell and Renewable Jobs Economy

Renewables Global Status Report

NASA GISS

Norway, India and Netherlands May Ban Fossil Fuel Driven Vehicles by 2025-2030

New national policy proposals from the four ruling parties of Norway spurred a flurry of headlines this week as leaders explored the possibility of banning all fossil fuel based vehicle sales by 2025.

The country, which already has a 24 percent national all-electric vehicle sales rate — is pursuing ways to ensure that number grows to 100 percent in very short order. Note that these vehicles are of the all-electric, battery-driven variety and do not include hybrids or plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt.

Norway’s Push Implies a Big Shift for Fossil Fuel Exporter

Leaders from both parties within Norway were considering the ban which, if enacted, would dramatically reduce Norway’s vehicle fleet carbon emissions. Fully 90 percent of Norway’s electricity is generated by renewable hydro-electric power. And hooking vehicles up to this energy source would push their use and chain of fuel emissions to zero.

Tesla Model S Supercharger

(A Tesla Model S recharges its battery at a solar powered electrical station. A combination that provides a clear path out of a transportation-based hothouse gas emissions trap. Enabled by this technology, a number of countries are considering a complete ban on fossil fuel use for vehicle transport from 2025 through 2030. Image source: Green Car Reports.)

A fossil fuel exporter, about 20 percent of Norway’s GDP comes from the sale of oil to the rest of the world. And this represents a bit of an irony in Norway’s policies. But Norway, for its part, appears to be very serious about transitioning away from fossil fuels and setting an example for the rest of the world. A challenge it will necessarily have to meet by diversifying its economy as global fossil fuel demand falls.

Norway May Be Signalling Global Transition Away From Fossil Fuel Powered Automobiles

Norway’s 5 million populace switching to all electric vehicles wouldn’t put a huge dent in global oil demand. But if other countries start to follow Norway’s lead, then a strong global trend could assert. Already, both the Netherlands and India are exploring similar policies — with the Netherlands looking to enact a 100 percent non fossil fuel vehicle fleet standard by 2025 and India exploring a similar option for 2030.

Increasing electric vehicle capabilities, lower battery prices, and expanding electric vehicle production are now allowing countries like Norway to consider the possibility of fossil-fuel free automobile fleets. By 2017, both Tesla and GM will be offering 200 mile range electric vehicles from a price of under 35,000 US dollars. Sales of these two vehicles alone are expected to top 150,000 in 2017 and with Tesla seeing nearly half a million preorders for the Model 3, production is likely to continue to ramp up.

Following expected trends, it appears that range performance and cost for the battery + electric motor combo will hit parity with fossil fuel driven vehicles by the early 2020s. Other measures of performance such as engine efficiency, noise, horsepower, particulate emissions, carbon emissions, and torque are all already superior in electric vehicles.

Rapid Ramp Toward Catastrophic Climate Change Provides a Sense of Urgency

From the standpoint of climate change, a shift to electric vehicles and away from internal combustion engines provides a number of systemic benefits. The electric engine is 2-3 times as efficient as an internal combustion engine and so it takes less energy power overall.

NOAA global temperature anomalies

(Global temperatures have been nearly 1.5 C hotter than 1880s averages during the first four months of 2016. By end of year, temperatures should fall in a range that is about 1.25 to 1.3 C hotter. A level very close to the dangerous 1.5 C climate threshold and far too close for comfort to the 2 C threshold. If we are to have much hope of avoiding temperature ranges well above these danger zones, the rate of carbon emissions reduction from human civilizations around the globe will have to be extraordinarily swift. Image source: NOAA.)

This increased efficiency alone results in a net, large-scale conservation across the fuel chain. Secondly, electric vehicles have the option of powering their engines using wind, solar, or hydro. And in doing so, vehicle use and fuel based emissions both drop to zero. The only remaining factor of emissions related to electric vehicles are found in the materials used to construct EVs and in the supply chains used to transport vehicles components and finished products. And since transport emissions figure heavily in this aspect, a large-scale shift away from fossil fuel based transport will cut this number down as well.

With many nations considering 100 percent fossil fuel based vehicle bans and with EV production and quality rapidly ramping up, it appears that there’s a possibility that a big chunk of modern transportation could be shifted away from fossil fuels over the next 15 years. And that event couldn’t come sooner — as the effects of catastrophic climate change appear to already be howling at the door.

Links:

Norway Considers Ban of Gas Fueled Vehicles by 2025

Norway May Become First Country to Ban the Use of Gas Powered Cars

Green Car Reports

NOAA

Hat tip to Cate

Extent of Ocean Surface Above 86 Degrees (F) Hits New Record During May of 2016

Not only is a human-forced warming of the globe expected to increase average surface ocean and land temperatures, it is also expected to generate higher peak readings over larger and larger regions. Such was the case during May of 2016 as a massive expanse of the world ocean saw temperatures rocket to above 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Area of World Ocean Above 30 C

(A record hot global ocean has brewed up yet one more new extreme in the form of a 32.7 million square kilometer expanse of steaming hot waters above 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius. Image source: Brian Brettschneider.)

According to climatologist Brian Brettschneider, 32.7 million square kilometers of the world ocean saw temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius during May of 2016. A new record for the largest sea surface area above a high temperature threshold that typically sets off a range of harmful ocean conditions — including coral bleaching, lower levels of seawater oxygen, and increased rates of algae growth — even as it dumps copious volumes of high latent heat water vapor into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The new record belittled 2015’s May 30 C + extent of about 28.5 million square kilometers — beating it by over 4 million square kilometers. For reference, the new 32.7 million square kilometer record extent of such steamy ocean waters is about equal in area to the size of Africa and Greenland combined.

image

(A huge expanse of Equatorial waters saw sea surface temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit during May. A record expanse of hot water that is also now in the process of dumping a record amount of high latent heat moisture into the Earth’s atmosphere. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

High water temperatures in the range of 30 C greatly increase the latent heat energy of the Earth system. Such warm waters pump out an extraordinary volume of high heat content water vapor into the atmosphere. And May’s record 30 C extent has almost certainly contributed to numerous extreme rainfall events occurring around the globe during late May and extending into early June.

Rising Sea and Land Surface Temperatures as Global Health Risk

Record extents of 30+ C waters also increase the potential for combinations of high heat and humidity over the Earth’s surface that result in a rising risk of human heat injuries or even death. In India this year nearly 400 people are thought to have died directly due to excessive heat. Thousands more are reported injured in what is now a record heatwave and drought affecting the highly populated country.

Field workers are also suffering from increasing instances of chronic kidney failure — a condition that health professionals are starting to link to the extreme heat, humidity and other conditions related to climate change. Though highest instances of kidney disease show up among those working outside during the heat of the day, 1 in 13 people in India now suffer from it. Lack of available water due to drought, rising temperatures due to climate change, a lack of air conditioning in the increasingly sweltering country, and a dearth of breaks in which outdoor workers can retreat to the shade are all identified as  factors that have led to such amazingly high rates of kidney illness and kidney failure in India.

In the worst instances of the most dangerous periods of high heat, wet bulb readings — which are meant to simulate the lowest temperature evaporation can cool the human skin to — have approached 35 C. A combination of temperature and humidity that renders the human body unable to transport heat away from the skin and a reading that greatly increases the risk of heat injury and death. And since maximum ocean surface temperatures are a good proxy for peak potential wet bulb readings, a record extent of 30+ C sea surface temperatures is a context of rising risk for the new kinds of heatwave mass casualties associated with human-caused climate change.

Links:

Brian Brettschneider

Earth Nullschool

Thousands Injured by High Temperatures in India

The Mysterious Disease That’s Killing India’s Farmers

Climate Change Linked to Increased Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Cate

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

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