Hot Climate Conjures Trio of Nasty Halloween Tricks — Heatwaves, Record-Low Sea Ice, Fall Greenland Melt

With each passing year, the effects of human-caused climate change become more and more visible. But for some reason, Halloween appears to be a preferred time for the emergence of various hothouse hobgoblins. In 2012, the Atlantic seaboard was reeling after a vicious strike from Hurricane Sandy. Over the past three years, powerful North Atlantic storms had begun to build at this time of year, setting sights on the UK and Europe. This year, as a hurricane-force low roars toward the Aleutians, the nastiness comes in the form of weird heatwaves, record-low global sea ice coverage, and hints of odd late-fall Greenland melt.

Record Heat Strikes Arctic, U.S.

NASA’s Gavin Schmidt has been warning for months that 2016 will be a global scorcher for the record books. Nowhere has this heat been more apparent than in the Arctic. Halloween only serves to reinforce the rule as today’s temperature departure for the entire region above 66 degrees north latitude hit 5.94 degrees Celsius above average:

global-anomaly-map-halloween

(The extreme Arctic warmth that has already caused so much in the way of climate disruption remains firmly entrenched on Halloween. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Yesterday, those temperatures exceeded the 6-C-above-normal mark. And later this week, temperatures for the region could approach 6.3 to 6.5 C above average.

These are the average departure ranges for the entire area above the Arctic Circle. Localities within that broader region are hitting as much as 20 C (36 Fahrenheit) or more above average on an almost daily basis, bringing temperatures more typical of the Arctic during late summer than in the middle of fall.

In Barrow, Alaska, Jonathan Erdman reports that Saturday saw the proverbial mercury hit 41 F. This temperature, at about 26 degrees above average, smashed the previous daily high and pushed the latest day Barrow has ever seen a reading above 40 F fully one week forward.

record-temperatures-us

(Daily high and high min temperature records for the U.S. were broken at an alarming rate over the past week, producing a Halloween heatwave. Image source:  NOAA.)

Farther south, the lower 48 is experiencing what Bob Henson over at Weather Underground is calling the Halloween Heatwave. Over the past week alone, nearly 300 daytime high marks were broken. But the measure of record-high minimum temperatures — a key indicator of human-forced warming — is off the charts with 639 total records smashed over the past seven days.

What’s even more odd is a near-total lack of cool temperatures. Bob Henson finds that:

Even more noteworthy than the degree of warmth is the lack of widespread autumn chill. For example, Minneapolis has yet to dip below 36°F as of Friday, October 28. That doesn’t look likely to happen before at least next weekend (November 5 – 6). In records going back to 1873, the latest Minneapolis has ever gone before seeing its first 35°F of the autumn is November 1, way back in 1931. The city’s latest first freeze was on Nov. 7, 1900.

Reinforcing this point, NOAA finds that over the past week just 40 record low high temperatures were achieved (about one-seventh the number of record highs). Meanwhile, record low nighttime temperatures were only achieved in six instances, about one-one-hundredth the rate of record high minimum temperatures! Furthermore, at no location in the U.S. for this week, this month, or even this past year has snow depth achieved a new record high. That’s a pretty ridiculous indicator that the U.S. has reached a rather disturbing climate threshold for heat overall.

Record Low Global Sea Ice Coverage

Even as new warm temperature records were being set with amazing frequency across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, another duo of worrisome indicators were popping up in the Arctic and Antarctic. In the Arctic, the ocean has been loaded up with a ridiculous amount of heat. This heat is preventing the ocean from refreezing, creating various regional barriers to ice formation as the waters ventilate this excess heat into the atmosphere. As a result, Arctic sea-ice extent record lows continue to deepen.

Fall 2016 sea ice extent values — which have consistently lagged behind average daily refreeze rates for most of the season — are now more than 600,000 square kilometers below the previous record set during 2012. It’s, quite frankly, an insane shattering of the previous record low value; a warming-spurred melt that has erased an area of sea ice coverage nearly the size of Texas in just four years.

arctic-sea-ice-jaxa

(Current Arctic sea ice extent values are 6.92 million square kilometers [October 30]. This is 600,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set on the same day during 2012. It is also about 3 million square kilometers below average values seen for this day back during the 1980s. Image source: JAXA.)

The Washington Post this past Friday provided a good article explaining the dynamics involved and highlighted predictions by prominent Arctic researchers that ice-free summers could occur by the 2030s. This is a marked departure from earlier estimates that had put off ice-free summers until the 2050s or even the 2080s. However, it’s worth noting that there’s a decent risk that even these more advanced predictions may prove conservative in the end. Under current trends, ice-free periods for the Arctic Ocean during summer become statistically possible as soon as the early to mid 2020s, and a strong outlier year — where an abnormally warm winter is followed by an abnormally warm summer — could produce such a result even sooner.

On the other side of the world, the Antarctic is also experiencing record-low ranges for sea ice extents. There, regional temperatures are near 4 C above average for the entire Antarctic. Though these departures are not as extreme as those currently seen in the Arctic, they are certainly enough to impact sea ice. Now, sea ice extent values there are at their second lowest ever recorded in the daily measure.

Over recent years, storminess in the Southern Ocean and an expanding fresh water lens running out from Antarctica due to glacial melt have generated a seemingly contradictory expansion of sea ice near Antarctica. This happens because fresh water at the ocean’s surface acts to deflect heat toward the ocean bottom, a feature that has enabled the melting of various glacier undersides in Antarctica. But as the global ocean and atmosphere warm in general, larger melt outflows are necessary to reinforce this surface freshwater lens effect. As a result, we appear to be experiencing a seesaw in Antarctic sea ice extent as a pulse of atmospheric and ocean warming overrides the impact of initial fresh water lensing.

global_sea_ice_extent_zoomed_2016_day_301_1981-2010

(MASIE global sea ice extent shows a severe negative departure through October 28, 2016. Image source: Sunshine Hours.)

The combination of significant sea ice losses in the north and second-lowest sea ice extents in the south has resulted in a global sea-ice measure that is well below anything seen in the past for this time of year. It is also one of the largest global negative sea-ice departures seen for any part of the record for any time of year — even when compared to the extreme period of Arctic sea ice loss during September of 2012.

Halloween Greenland Melt?

In addition to producing heatwaves, new temperature records, and ever more extreme sea ice melt, the odd Halloween warmth appears to also be generating flashes of surface melt over parts of northeastern Greenland. There, over the past few days, temperatures have approached or even exceeded the freezing point as warm winds have blown in from the heating Greenland Strait.

(A warm front crosses over northeastern Greenland on October 27, 2016. The associated warm winds blowing off the heating waters of the Greenland Strait produced near or above freezing temperatures for isolated parts of this section of Greenland. This abnormal warmth appears to have tripped NSIDC’s melt sensor, producing a possible odd late-season melt event for sections of this frozen island. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This heat has been enough to trip NSIDC’s Greenland melt indicators for the region of the Zachariæ Isstrøm glacier. These indicators, over the past couple of days, have shown relatively extensive melt in this sector of Greenland. During summer 2016, northeastern Greenland was one of the regions that saw strongest indications of surface melt. Typically isolated by sea ice from warm ocean breezes, northeast Greenland does not usually see such long-lasting periods of surface melt. This is especially true for late October as melt during this time for any portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet is practically unheard of. However, as warm ocean water has advanced further and further north, this region has become more vulnerable to invasions of warm air. And it appears that the melt-forcing effect of this ocean warming for nearby Greenland glaciers may well be extending into fall.

Though unconfirmed by NSIDC, these periods of possible melt have occurred coincident with temperature departures in the range of 10-20 degrees C above average. However, since near or above freezing temperatures have mostly been isolated to the very far northeastern sections of Zachariæ Isstrøm near the coast, it’s likely that any potential and brief periods of melt were located in a more limited band than what has shown up on the NSIDC melt maps for October 27, 28, and 29. That said, as noted above, any surface melt over glaicers in Greenland for this time of year would be very odd and concerning — no matter how isolated.

Nasty Global Warming Tricks for Halloween

Halloween heatwaves, record-low sea ice extents and possible periods of fall Greenland melt are all indicators that human-forced climate change is starting to generate more and more obvious effects. Though the most extreme impacts are hitting remote regions like Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic, the related abnormal warmth has filtered into the middle latitudes and is now affecting millions of people across the U.S. And what’s happening in the U.S. is linked to these related warming events on a global scale.

So happy Halloween, everyone. Enjoy the holiday. But remember that if it’s oddly warm where you are, it’s not just a freak warm weather treat, but one of the many and worsening tricks conjured up by global climate change.

Links:

NOAA

The Climate of Gavin

Climate Reanalyzer

Jonathan Erdman

Zack Labe

Earth Nullschool

NSIDC

Sunshine Hours

Half a Kilometer of Ice Gone in Just 7 Years

JAXA

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to June

Advertisements

California Drought To Enter 6th Year, Colorado River States Struggle to Avert Water Crisis, Southeast Drought Worsens

Around the world, global warming is starting to have a serious impact on rainfall in the subtropics and middle latitudes. The tropical atmospheric circulation known as the Hadley Cell is expanding toward the poles. This expansion is causing clouds and storms to move further north. And as a result, regions in the middle latitudes are starting to dry out.

According to The World Resources Institute:

A changing climate means less rain and lower water supplies in regions where many people live and much of the planet’s food is produced: the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, including the U.S. Southwest, southern Europe and parts of the Middle East, southern Africa, Australia and Chile.

Such a fundamental shift in global weather patterns due to human-caused climate change is expected to reduce the food and water security of numerous nations. The World Resources Institute recently warned that food and water crises were imminent as a result. And, apparently, these kinds of changes to the world’s weather are already generating profound shocks in parts of the U.S.

Colorado River and California Droughts Expected to Persist

For the Colorado River, this combined warming and movement of clouds northward has produced a 16-year-long drought. Hotter average seasons result in greater rates of evaporation. So even if rainfall averages remain, grounds, lands and rivers are drier. But the Hadley Cell’s expansion has also moved rain bearing weather systems north.

It’s a compounding drying influence that has pushed Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, to record low levels. And states dependent on the great river’s water supply for farming and industry are now involved in negotiations to avert a water crisis in 2018. Forecasts predict a 50 percent possibility that Lake Mead’s water levels will fall below its mandatory rationing line. Such an event would result in water cut-offs for Arizona and Nevada.

us-drought-map-current

(Over recent years, the U.S. has experienced numerous severe and long-running droughts. These worsening drought conditions have impacted everything from Colorado River levels to wildfires, to the health of forests, to commerce on the Mississippi River, to the productivity of state agriculture. As human fossil fuel burning continues, atmospheric changes will force rainfall toward the poles which will tend to further worsen drought conditions in middle-latitude regions like the lower 48 states of the U.S. Image source: Drought Monitor.)

In an attempt to prevent crisis in the coming months, California and other Colorado River states are attempting to cut water consumption now. Such a planned regional belt-tightening would help to avert conflict over the Colorado River’s dwindling stores and smooth out any losses over time. But, sadly, climate conditions are only likely to continue to worsen — increasing the risk of mandatory rationing for 2019, 2020 and beyond.

In California, a five-year-long drought that is the worst in state history now threatens to enter its 6th year. Rains during 2016 did help to reduce the severity of drought conditions for some parts of the state. And during recent days, a series of Pacific storms has helped to deliver moisture to some northern and central regions. However, with record warmth settling in over the Arctic and with a La Nina developing in the Pacific, long range forecasts indicate a high risk that California will experience a warm, dry winter. Such predicted conditions would result in a persistence of the present drought with continued impacts to the state’s forests and agriculture.

Southeastern Drought Expected to Expand

seasonal-drought-outlook-cpc

(Drought conditions are expected to worsen across the US Southeast this fall and winter. Drought in the Colorado River region is expected to persist or worsen. Drought in California and in parts of the US Northeast is expected to persist. Image Source: Climate Prediction Center.)

Further east, a flash drought that has settled into the US south is expected to worsen over the coming months. Abnormal warmth in the range of 5-15 degrees (F) above average for the region during the past month has combined with dry weather to spur severe to extreme drought conditions over a six state area. Now, parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi are under the gun — with drought zones expected to persist or expand through at least early February.

US Drought Conditions to Worsen as the Globe Warms

In total, more than 120 million people in the lower 48 states are experiencing drought. And the systemic impacts of multi-year, persistent droughts are widespread and growing. This drying is consistent with the impacts associated with a warming climate. And, unfortunately, such worsening of droughts is likely to continue until atmospheric warming is halted and/or reversed.

Links:

The Tropics are Pushing High Altitude Clouds Toward the Poles

As Clouds Head Toward Poles, it’s Time to Prepare for Food and Water Shocks

Drought Monitor

Climate Prediction Center

States Plan to Avert River Crash

Why is Southern California so Dry?

Droughts in California

Hat tip to Wili

Half a Kilometer of Ice Gone in Just 7 Years — West Antarctica’s Smith Glacier Points To Nightmare Melt Scenario

The nightmare global warming melt scenario for West Antarctica goes something like this —

First, ocean waters warmed by climate change approach the vast frozen continent. Melt already running out from the continent forms a fresh water lens that pushes these warmer waters toward the ocean bottom. The waters then get caught up in currents surrounding Antarctica that draw them in toward numerous submerged glacial faces. The added ocean heat combines with falling melting points at depth to produce rapid melt along sea fronting glacier bases. Since many of these glaciers sit on below sea level beds that slope downward toward the interior of Antarctica, a small amount of initial melt sets off an inland flood of these warmer waters that then produces a cascade of melt. This glacial melt chain reaction ultimately generates a Heinrich Event in which armadas of icebergs burst out from Antarctica — forcing global sea levels to rapidly rise.

This is Why We Worry So Much About Multi-Meter Sea Level Rise

Ultimately, seas rising by multiple meters this Century are a very real possibility under current warming scenarios in which such a series of cascading melt events occurs in West Antarctica.

(NASA video narrated by Dr. Eric Rignot, a prominent glacial scientist. Concerns about the origin of melt water pulse 1A during the end of the last ice age led to investigation of large Antarctic melt pulses as a potential source. Subsequent investigation identified melt vulnerabilities at the bases of large sea fronting glaciers in West Antarctica to present and predicted levels of ocean warming. At issue was the fact that bottom waters were warming and that because many glaciers rested on sea beds that sloped inland, melt rates had the potential to very rapidly accelerate.)

Though such a nightmare melt scenario was recently theoretical, it represented a very real potential near-future event as global temperatures rose into the 1-2 degrees Celsius above 1880s range during recent years. For times in the geological past around 115,000 years ago also produced large glacial melt pulses and related sea level rises of 15-25 feet during periods of similar warmth.

However, direct evidence of such a powerful melt dynamic had not yet been directly observed in Antarctica’s glaciers. Fresh water lenses were developing, rates of glacial loss were quickening. Basal melt rates looked bad. But the kind of tremendous losses necessary to produce rapid sea level rise were not yet fully in evidence.

Smith Glacier Loses Half a Kilometer of Ice in Seven Years

That situation changed during recent weeks when two scientific papers broke the news that some of West Antarctica’s glaciers had lost upwards of a half a kilometer of ice thickness due to contact with warm ocean waters over the past decade.

The studies, entitled Rapid Submarine Ice Melting in the Grounding Zones of Ice Shelves in West Antarctica and Grounding Line Retreat of Pope, Smith and Kohler Glaciers took a comprehensive look at both surface and underside melt of three major west Antarctic glaciers near the Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier systems. These glaciers included Pope, Smith and Kohler — which have seen increasing instability and rates of seaward movement during recent years. Using multiple instruments, the scientists found evidence of massive ice losses and speeding ice flows.

pope-smith-and-kholer-glacial-flow-velocities

(Surface velocity of Kohler, Smith and Pope Glaciers provided by NASA. More rapid seaward movement of glaciers = faster rates of sea level rise.)

The losses occurred at a time when an influx of warmer water (warming circumpolar deep water) was heating the ice shelves and grounding lines buttressing these three partially submerged glaciers. This warming was found to have produced melt along the grounding zones of these glaciers in the range of 300 to 490 meters from 2002 to 2009. In other words, about 1/3 to 1/2 a kilometer of ice thickness at the grounding line was lost in just seven years. Melted away from below by warming deep ocean conditions at the rate of up to 70 meters or around 230 feet per annum.

The studies found that the Pope and Kohler glaciers, which rested on up-sloping sea beds, produced slower rates of melt. While Smith, which sat on a retrograde (or down-sloping bed) produced very rapid rates of melt. According to the Nature study:

We attribute the different evolution of Smith Glacier to the retreat of its grounding line deeper allowing warmer waters to flood its grounding zone, and increasing ocean thermal forcing due to the lowering of the in situ melting point; as well as to the exposure of the glacier bottom to ocean water as the grounding line retreated rapidly.

A Context of Worsening Risks

Unfortunately, numerous glaciers in the Amundsen Sea region including parts of the Thwaites system and the massive Pine Island Glacier also sit on retrograde slopes. These glaciers are seeing increasing fluxes of warm, deep water. By themselves they represent multiple feet of sea level rise (4-7 feet). Furthermore, Thwaites and Pine Island Glacier currently buttress a number of massive inland glaciers that become vulnerable to melt if inland-running retrograde slopes become flooded with warming ocean waters.

The very real concern is that Smith Glacier serves as a harbinger for near future events to come. As a result, coastal regions around the world are now under a heightened risk of swiftly rising seas and rapid coastal inundation over the coming years and decades.

Links:

Rapid Submarine Ice Melting in the Grounding Zones of Ice Shelves in West Antarctica

Grounding Line Retreat of Pope, Smith and Kholer Glaciers

Heinrich Event

Dr. Eric Rignot

Studies Offer Glimpse of Melting Under Antarctic Glaciers

Thwaites Glacier

Pine Island Glacier

Hat tip to Zack Labe

Hat tip to Miles h

“We Have Nowhere to Go” — Sea Level Rise is Devouring the Coast of West Africa

“I am very afraid for the future of this place. Sooner or later we will have to leave, but we have nowhere to go.” — Buabasah a resident of Fuvemeh, a West African town being swallowed by the sea as reported by Matteo Fagotto.

*****

A new, must read, report out in Foreign Policy by Matteo Fagotto highlights a widespread ongoing disruption due to sea level rise to the vulnerable coastal region of West Africa. And, for years now, scientists at the IPCC have been warning that just such an event could occur.

The coastal zone of West Africa stretches for 4,000 miles from Mauritania to the Congo. It includes highly populated regions surrounding low elevation cities and towns in such African nations as Gabon, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, The Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Liberia, and Ghana. Most industrial activity and food-growing is located near the coast of these nations — accounting for 56 percent of GDP for the region according to the World Bank. And coastal population concentrations in regions vulnerable to sea level rise are very high. In all about 31 percent of the 245 million people dwelling in West Africa live in this fragile land.

global-sea-level-rise

(Due to global warming and glacial melt spurred by fossil fuel burning, oceans are now rising at their fastest rates in 10,000 years. As a result, many coastal towns and cities around the world are under increasing threat of flooding. In West Africa, a recent report by Foreign Policy paints a picture of broadening inundation. Unfortunately, current rates of ocean rise are far slower than what human-caused climate change may set off over the coming decades. Image source: AVISO.)

Most of the coastline features a lagoonal geography that is very low-lying. Meanwhile, funds for coastal defenses like planting mangrove forests and pumping in sand to re-nourish beaches are difficult to procure. As a result, these large cities and population centers are highly vulnerable to impacts from human-forced climate change related to sea level rise.

The Great Flooding Begins

Ever since the early 1990s, scientific reports have highlighted the vulnerability of West Africa to inundation, flooding and loss of key industries, food growing and infrastructure due to glacial melt, thermal expansion of ocean waters set off by warming, and an increase in storm strength in the North Atlantic. All impacts that scientists feared would be coming due to a human-forced warming of the world. Now, just such an inundation and loss appears to be underway.

According to the recent report out in Foreign Policy, and according to other eyewitness accounts and news reports coming in from coastal West Africa during recent years, sea level rise and increasing erosion due to powerful storms continue to produce worsening impacts for the region. In one of the most glaring instances, the swelling surf is now in the process of destroying a Ghana fishing village (Fuvemeh) that recently housed 2,500 people. Homes, coconut plantations, and fishing wharfs have all been taken by the seas and swirling sands. But Fuvemeh is just one of thousands of like communities now confronting an onrush of waves that each year bites off as much as 80-120 feet of coastline.

(House destroyed by waves in Fuvemeh, Ghana. Sadly, sea level rise related impacts like this are now being seen all up and down West Africa’s 4,000 mile long coastline.)

Moreover, Foreigh Policy finds that megacities like Lagos (population 5.6 million) and large cities like Accra (population 1.6 million) are increasingly threatened by the encroaching waters. In Accra, the rainy season now causes an annual inundation of sections of the city — a new impact that resulted in 25 people losing their lives last year. Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania and home to approximately 1 million people, now sees the loss of 80 feet of coastline along its Atlantic shore every year. Meanwhile, parts of Togo lost 118 feet of shore line last year alone. Along the coast from Gambia to Senegal and including communities like Cotonou and Lome, growing numbers of houses, hotels, restaurants, roads, and even water treatment plants are now little more than washed out husks and crumbling bits of infrastructure — lapped by a rising tide.

Heartbreak, Loss of Homes, Dislocation

As the waters rise, residents are forced to move inland. Younger, more mobile residents have often fled the region entirely. Others have rebuilt their homes further inland only to have them flooded again. Ocean productivity is on the decline in the region. Fish and other animals that supported coastal industries have migrated northward or succumbed to worsening ocean conditions. The combined losses have produced economic hardships as coastal cities see increasing gang activity, drug use, theft and violence.

Overall, the United Nations estimates that 5-10 percent of West Africa’s GDP will ultimately be lost due to impacts related to sea level rise. And the recent report by Foreign Policy points to growing evidence that the crisis is starting now. But the ever-more-human toll is nothing less than heart-wrenching.

West Africa Just One of Many Vulnerable Regions

Reports by Foreign Policy and others on the plight of coastal West Africa shines a light on sea level rise related hardships and losses throughout that region. However, numerous low-lying stretches of coastline are now facing similar problems. Bangladesh is currently seeing a wave of mass migration inland due to sea level rise related flooding. The Mi Cong Delta region is seeing its rice farms threatened by an influx of salt water. The Indus River Delta region in Pakistan is also experiencing mass migration away from coastlines. Coastal Pacific Islands are facing an existential threat due to sea level rise now. And the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coasts are facing their own problems from worsening storm surge flooding and more widespread nuisance flooding due to sea level rise. So what we’re seeing in West Africa is part of a much larger overall global context.

Links:

West Africa is Being Swallowed by the Sea

West Africa Map

AVISO Sea Level Rise

IPCC: The Regional Impacts of Climate Change

Ghana’s Coastal Erosion — The Village Buried in Sand

Ghana Accra Floods

How The World’s Oceans Could be Running out of Fish

Drugs and Crime Mobilise International Support For West Africa Coast Initiative

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Wili

How Goliath Might Fall — Fossil Fuel Industry to Experience Market Crashes Over Next 10 Years

There’s a very real David vs Goliath conflict now underway in the global energy markets. On one side is a loose coalition made up of renewable energy producers and advocates, individuals who are increasingly concerned about global warming, environmentalists, technophiles, people promoting a democratization of the energy markets, and energy efficiency advocates. On the other side is a vast and powerful global fossil fuel industry backed by wealthy billionaires like the Koch Brothers and various national and nationally supported corporations around the world.

Up to 3.4 Trillion Dollars in Bad Fossil Fuel Investments

By the end of the next 1-3 decades, one set of these two forces will have won out — which will, in turn, decide whether the world continues along the path of climate devastation that is business as usual fossil fuel burning, or sees a rapid reduction in burning-related emissions to near zero which will help to mitigate climate harms while effectively crashing the 3.4 trillion dollar global fossil fuel market.

At issue is the fact that wind, solar, and electric vehicles together have the potential to rapidly take over energy markets that were traditionally monopolized by the fossil fuel industry. Earlier this year, a report out from Bloomberg vividly illustrated the stakes of this currently-raging conflict as it relates to oil and a burgeoning electric vehicles industry.

bloomberg-oil-crash

(Electrical vehicles provide hopes for keeping massive volumes of fossil fuels in the ground and similarly huge volumes of carbon out of the atmosphere. This is achieved by greatly reducing oil demand which could crash the oil markets by as soon as the 2020s. Image source: Bloomberg.)

According to Bloomberg, present rates of electrical vehicle (EV) growth in the range of 60 percent per year would be enough to, on their own, produce an oil glut in the range of 2 million barrels of oil per day by the early to middle 2020s. Continued rapid electric vehicle adoption rates would then swiftly shrink the oil market, resulting in a very large pool of stranded assets held by oil producers, investors and associated industries. Bloomberg noted that even if EV growth rates lagged, continued expansion would eventually result in an oil market crash:

“One thing is certain: Whenever the oil crash comes, it will be only the beginning. Every year that follows will bring more electric cars to the road, and less demand for oil. Someone will be left holding the barrel.”

Bloomberg also noted that LED light bulbs are increasing market penetration by 140 percent each year all while the global solar market is growing at a rate of 50 percent per year. And when technologies like LEDs, solar, wind, and increasingly low cost batteries combine, they generate a market synergy that has the capacity to displace all fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas.

Coal Already Seeing Severe Declines — Oil and Gas are Next

During 2010 to 2016, we’ve already seen a severe disruption of the coal markets globally and this was due in part to strong wind and solar adoption rates. Coal capacity factors are falling, coal demand is anemic and the coal industry has suffered the worst series of bankruptcies in its history. “The coal industry fundamentals remain very bleak in my opinion,” noted Matthew Miller, a coal industry analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence in a recent report by the Sierra Club. “If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t see it yet.”

But as bad as things are for the coal industry now, in the timeframe of 2017 through the early to middle 2020s we have a reasonable expectation that renewable energy and efficiencies will produce even stronger market impacts through competition with fossil fuels. Though not as bad off as coal, natural gas has now entered an unenviable market position where rising fuel costs would cause a ramping rate of renewable energy encroachment. A feature that has tended to check natural gas price increases. Meanwhile, presently rising oil prices will only serve to incentivize the current wave of electrical vehicle adoption.

rapidly-falling-battery-prices

(Rapidly falling battery prices along with falling solar and wind energy prices will eventually make fossil fuels non-competitive on the basis of cost. Meanwhile, ramping climate harms produce strong incentives for switching energy sources now. Image source: Bloomberg.)

During this time, first cheap renewables and then cheap batteries will increasingly flood the energy markets. Applications that directly replace fossil fuels in core markets will expand. Meanwhile polices like the Clean Power Plan in the US and COP 21 on the global level will continue to erode policy supports for traditionally dominant but dirty fuels.

Coal, Oil and Gas — Noncompetitive Bad Energy Actors

The choices for fossil fuel industry will tend to be winnowed down. Competition will be less and less of an option. Meanwhile, direct attempts to dominate markets through regulatory capture by placing aligned politicians in positions of power in order to strong-arm energy policy will tend to take place more and more often. But such attempts require the expense of political capital and can quickly turn sour — resulting in public backlash. As we have seen in Nevada, Hawaii, Australia and the UK, such actions have only served to slow renewable energy advances in markets — not to halt them entirely. Furthermore, reprisals against agencies promoting fossil fuels have gained a good deal of sting — as we saw in Nevada this year when a major casino and big utility customer decided to pull the plug on its fossil fueled electricity and switch to off-grid solar in the wake of increasing net metering costs.

All that said, we should be very clear that the outcome of this fight over market dominance and for effective climate change mitigation isn’t certain. The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful political and economic forces in the world. And even though they are now bad actors on the issue of climate change — which threatens both human civilization and many of the species now living on Earth with collapse and mass extinction — they still, in 2016, retain a great deal of economic and political clout. And this clout endows these industries with an ability to enforce monopolies that effectively capture various markets and delay or halt renewable energy development in certain regions.

Trends Still Favor Renewables

Nonetheless, the trends for renewable energy currently remain pretty strong, despite widespread fossil fuel industry attempts to freeze out development of these alternative sources. And collapsing economic power through expanding competition by renewables would ultimately result in a loss of political power as well. In such cases, we wouldn’t expect a crash in economic power and political influence by fossil fuel interests to occur in a linear fashion — but instead to reach tipping points after which radical change occurs. And over the next 10 years there’s a high likelihood that a number of these energy market tipping points will be reached.

Links:

Here’s How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis

Vegas Casino Plans to Leave Warren Buffet’s Nevada Utility

The Coal Industry is Bankrupt

Clean Power Plan

COP 21

Global Warming is Winning the Battle Against Arctic Sea Ice — Extent Drops to New Record Lows

Ever since human-forced climate change started to kick off dramatically worsening polar warming events in the 2000s, the Arctic has struggled to cool down to normal temperatures during fall and winter. However, for 2016, this failure of Arctic cooling appears to have grown even more pronounced.

Over the past few weeks, temperature anomalies for the entire region north of the 66th parallel have ranged between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius above average. These are very extreme departures — ones we typically have only seen during winter when the poleward heat energy transfer effects of human-caused climate change are at their strongest. But this fall, high local ocean temperatures have combined with a north-bound flood of warmth to turn the Arctic into a glaring global hot spot — featuring the highest above normal temperature readings for any region of the Earth.

New Record Daily Lows for Arctic Sea Ice

So much added heat has had a marked effect on sea ice. Last week, Arctic sea ice again dipped into record low ranges. Edging sideways away from the usual rapid refreeze trend line, by today these record low readings have become rather prominent in measures like those produced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

nsidc-sea-ice-record-low-october-24

(On October 23rd, 2016, Arctic sea ice hit a new record daily low extent of 6,434,000 square kilometers [pink line]. This beat out 2007’s previous record of 6,501,000 square kilometers [blue line] and is now trailing 2012’s October 23 measure of 6,785,000 square kilometers [dashed green line] by a substantial margin. 2016’s record low readings are now about 3 million square kilometers below same day readings for October 23 of 1981 [light orange line at top]. In other words, an area of sea ice approximately the size of one and a half Greenlands has disappeared over the intervening 35 year period.  Image source: NSIDC.)

As a result, sea ice extents are today ranging fully 3 million square kilometers below levels seen during the early 1980s. In other words, an area approximately one and one half times the size of Greenland has been lost over the last 35 years.

Arctic Temperature Anomalies to Worsen over the Coming Week

The anomalous heat build-up in the Arctic pushing sea ice levels to new all-time record low daily ranges is, unfortunately, expected to worsen over the coming week. Today’s beyond-normal temperature departures of around 4.35 degrees Celsius above average are predicted by GFS models to rise to around 6.45 C above average by Sunday.

These high temperature readings are expected to concentrate in regions near the sea ice edge. And so much heat focusing exactly in the region where sea ice is attempting to expand risks a continued lagging of seasonal ice accumulation. 15-20 C above average temperatures are predicted to stretch from the Beaufort through the Chukchi, into the East Siberian Sea, on through the Kara, down along the Northern Edge of the Barents and into an Arctic Ocean zone just north of Greenland.

global-warmings-heat-battles-sea-ice

(We’re currently witnessing a level of heat transfer into the Arctic that is probably unprecedented. So much heat heading north and building up at the pole due to local and global greenhouse gas buildup, ocean warming, loss of summer reflectivity, and increasingly powerful atmospheric gravity waves is now pushing Arctic sea ice into record low daily ranges. As October shifts toward November, this Arctic heat is likely to begin to produce some severe late fall and early winter weather conditions. In the above map, we begin to see a signature hot west, cool east dipole over the US. During past years, polar amplification has helped to generate this extreme weather pattern in the US where heat and drought is prevalent in the west while severe winter weather dominates the east. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

You can see these extraordinary predicted temperature anomalies in the form of a spiky red swirl surrounding the Central Arctic in the GFS temperature anomaly map provided by Climate Reanalyzer above. So much heat at the ice edge reveals a big battle taking place between powerful oceanic and atmospheric heat transfers into the Arctic and a seasonal sea ice expansion that is fading in the face of a human-forced warming of the world.

Links:

NSIDC

Climate Reanalyzer

NASA GISS

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

NOAA NCEP Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

Scientific Hat tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis

Hat tip to Leslie Graham

Hat tip to Marcel Guldemond

Message to Presidential Debate Moderators: Failure to Ask Climate Questions = Climate Change Denial

115,000 — that’s about how many years back into Earth’s past we’d likely have to go to find one that was hotter than 2016 globally. 0 — that’s the number of Presidential debate questions that raised the issue of human-caused climate change during this critical election year.

What do we call this? According to David Leonhardt at The New York Times, it’s a complete failure of journalism.

Debate Moderators Fall Asleep as Climate Threats Worsen

In a year in which the very existence of the 25 million year old Great Barrier Reef was threatened by climate change, at a time during which climate change has brought more droughts, fires, floods, extreme weather events, sea ice losses, glacial melt, threats to global security, and negative impacts to ocean health than at any time in human history, and during a period in which the formation of dangerous entities like ISIS and the generation of mass waves of refugees now crossing the world are being spurred by droughts and floods and losses to food and water security related to climate change, you’d think that just one Presidential Debate question would have mentioned the subject.

(Climate change has been linked to the 1,000 year scale drought event that spurred unrest, mass migration and extremism in Syria. As the world warms, climate change will threaten the stability of an increasing number of states. Failure to adequately mitigate climate change multiplies threats across the globe. From Michael Mann’s twitter feed.)

Instead, a critical issue of security and survival for every child, woman and man now living in the United States and around the world was utterly and completely ignored.

In fact, based on the questions presented, we can only assume that the mainstream media entities hosting the U.S. Presidential Debates were dramatically uninformed on an issue that is now guaranteed to represent the greatest threat of our age. And the simple failure to ask these essential climate questions generates a state of denial in both our politics and in our news reporting. A denial that helps to freeze a necessary societal response to a growing existential threat facing our nation.

Failed Journalism Presents False Frame to American Public

How did some among us become so irresponsible? So willing to turn a mass media deaf ear to the pack of climate wolves now howling at our collective doors? The level of failure in journalism is so great that it generates bafflement over possible, understandably rational causes.

To be very clear, not all mass media sources are contributing to the problem. And there are many responsible journalists who are aghast that moderators have so greatly failed the public interest in this way. David Leonhardt from the New York Times noted today:

The failure to ask about climate change is a failure of journalism. I thought that the debate moderators had some very fine moments over the last few weeks, calmly drawing out the candidates. But the lack of a single question on the world’s biggest problem was a grievous error.

But Lester Holter of NBC, Anderson Cooper of CNN, and Chris Wallace of the climate change denial proliferating Fox News, all failed the public in this respect. One might especially expect more from Cooper, who at least seems to show some appropriate concern for climate change related threats. But even this somewhat more responsible debate moderator failed to deliver on a subject of serious concern for the American people.

september-of-2016-hottest-on-record

(According to NASA, September of 2016 was the hottest September in the 136 year climate record. This most recent record hot month occurred during a year in which global temperatures are fast approaching the dangerous 1.5 C climate threshold. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Climate Change Debate Denial Prevents Awareness and Response

What I can say is that there is no way to generate an adequate response to climate change unless the issue is taken seriously and presented to the public in an honest and open fashion. One that includes how our fossil fuel burning is generating worsening climate impacts with each passing year. A rational person observing us from afar might think that by 2016, during a year in which global temperatures will hit 1.19 to 1.25 C above 1880s averages, in which very damaging events due to climate change are now encroaching and multiplying, this issue would be placed squarely in the public eye by moderators who are at least concerned about the well being of their own properties and families.

But no. Nothing. Nada. Not a chirp.

As a result, the debate moderators and their hosting media agencies have presented a false framing of issues during 2016. For all practical purposes — an alternate reality in which climate change does not appear to be happening in the media sphere has been generated by this lack of discussion. And so we are all once again tumbling down the rabbit hole of unreality as outside conditions continue to worsen. This essential failure is as tragic as it is both shameful and morally wrong.

Links:

The Debates Were a Failure of Journalism

Michael Mann

Climate Change Creates Existential Crisis For Great Barrier Reef

NASA GISS

Hat tip to Wili

North Dakota Tramples Journalist Deia Schlosberg’s Constitutional Right to Cover Historic Climate Protests

“We already have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as any scientist thinks is safe to burn.” — Bill McKibben

*****

Deia Schlosberg seems to me to be an exceptionally responsible person. A producer of the Josh Fox film How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t ChangeDeia has already helped thousands of people to more deeply understand the very serious risks associated with our continued burning of fossil fuels. To understand it on an intimate, personal level. And for this we owe her not only our gratitude, but the firm affirmation of our voices lifted to support her during her time of unjust persecution.

deia-schlosberg_climate-direction-action-activists

(Deia Schlosberg [left] and climate activists who briefly shut down TransCanada Tar Sands production on October 11 [right]. Image source: Desmogblog.)

For Deia appears to have earned herself the ire of some of the most powerful and destructive private economic interests on planet Earth. Interests that are apparently now involved in leveraging the loyalty of politically aligned persons within North Dakota law enforcement in an attempt to intimidate and silence this responsible and compassionate journalist.

Journalistic Documentation of an Unprecedented Protest Action

Back on October 11th, Deia provided journalistic coverage of a pipeline protest in Walhalla, North Dakota. The protest involved an act of civil disobedience in which 5 people used shut-off valves to stop tar sands crude transported by TransCanada pipelines from entering the U.S. These five locations were private holdings of TransCanada and represented the main access points for corporate-produced tar sands. When the protesters operated the shut-off valves, TransCanada’s significant flow of greenhouse gas producing syncrude was temporarily halted.

tar-sands-mordor

(TransCanada is a corporate producer of tar sands — one of the most environmentally and climatologically  destructive fuels on planet Earth. An energy source whose continued use risks extraordinarily damaging climate outcomes. Now that replacement fuels and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biofuels, and electric vehicles are much more readily available, we have an opportunity to turn away from such dangerous activities. For years now, climate activists have been fighting to make the public aware of risks and harms associated with tar sands extraction all while challenging an unhealthy level of economic dominance by fossil fuel interests that prevents and delays access to far less damaging energy sources. Image source: Desmogblog.)

Deia, according to her statements to Desmogblog, was recording the act of civil disobedience by one of the activists operating the shut-off valves — documenting what is likely to become an event of historic importance as a filmmaker and a climate journalist.

Deia noted to Desmogblog:

In general, I felt like this was an extremely important action to document because it was unprecedented — shutting down all of the oil sands coming into the U.S. from Canada. And as a climate reporter and someone who worries about the impacts of climate change and our future, I know that the Canadian oil sands are a pretty scary source of energy to be exploiting at this point.

False Charges That Violate a Journalist’s Constitutionally Protected Freedoms

To be very clear, Deia was both performing a public service by recording an event of historic significance and exercising journalistic freedoms that are held sacred by the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution plainly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Prosecutors apparently aligned with fossil fuel special interests in North Dakota obviously did not agree. Instead, on October 13th, they brought unwarranted, trumped-up charges against Deia for simply excising her Constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. Prosecutors claimed that Deia was involved in a conspiracy to steal property, a conspiracy to steal services, and a conspiracy to tamper with or damage a public service.

Ironically, not only do these charges serve to infringe upon the protected freedoms of an American citizen, they also have no legal basis whatsoever. For, acting as an event-documenting journalist, Deia in no way served as an accessory to or conspirator for any crime. Furthermore, the charges leveled by North Dakota do not in any way fit events as they transpired or match the legal definitions of possible crimes as they are technically defined. No property or services were stolen as part of the protest action. Access to tar sands crude was simply briefly interrupted. And since TransCanada is a private corporation that profits from its sales of tar sands to agencies within the U.S., labeling its wealth-seeking activity as a ‘public service’ is the very definition of inaccurate legalistic contortion.

Moreover, Deia’s record of the pipeline shut-off by activists has been unjustly and probably unlawfully confiscated. An action that removes from the public eye a critical piece of reporting related to an event of historic human welfare significance.

The Risk From Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels is Human Civilization Collapse, Mass Extinction

In the context of Deia’s climate journalism, we should very clearly identify the climate harms and risks that arise from continuing to burn fossil fuels and in expanding that rate of burning. And we should also state plainly that it is these harms, these risks which provide strong justification on moral, survival, and human safety and welfare grounds for the actions made by protesters covered by Deia.

The science is pretty clear on the fact that of the five major mass extinction events that have occurred on planet Earth, at least four were set off or greatly contributed to by large environmental carbon releases and related rising global temperatures. This includes the worst mass extinction event — the Permian — in which hothouse temperatures may have produced a Canfield Ocean that, in turn, wiped out most of life on Earth.

Based on our best understanding, it takes an atmospheric equivalent CO2 level (CO2e) of around 550 to 1000 parts per million under current conditions to generate an appreciable risk of setting off a hothouse mass extinction event. This is particularly true if, as is the case today, such an initial carbon spike occurs following periods of glaciation when Earth’s available carbon stores for providing added warming feedbacks are at their highest levels. Meanwhile, the currently unprecedented rate at which human beings are adding carbon to the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning presents further risks outside the context of past hothouse events.

(Neil Degrasse Tyson —  ‘I don’t want Earth to look like Venus.’)

We’ve already pushed CO2 levels, through our burning of fossil fuels and through other industrial activities, to above 400 parts per million (and to around 490 parts per million on the CO2 equivalent scale during 2016). The amount of carbon in the atmosphere already is currently enough to risk raising global temperatures this Century to 1.6 to 2.1 degrees Celsius above 188os values, to risk amplifying feedbacks in which the Earth System produces its own carbon spike that adds to the human sources, and to present serious challenges to the resiliency of human civilization and life on Earth.

But, even worse, there’s presently enough carbon listed as proven reserves on the books of coal, oil, and gas companies across the world to push atmospheric CO2 equivalent levels well above 900 parts per million. If we burn all this carbon, or if we discover and extract even more, we will see between 4 and 9 degrees Celsius warming this century and possibly as much as 9-18 C warming in the centuries to follow. So much burning and resulting heating of the Earth would set off a catastrophe that no current human civilization would be likely to survive. One that could also cause the worst mass extinction event in all of the deep, deep time of Earth’s long history.

These basic facts may be difficult for some to hear and understand — especially when they’ve staked their aspirations for economic growth on the false hope represented by fossil fuels. But, as tough as these facts are to listen to, they remain. Continuing to burn fossil fuels will wreck civilizations, disrupt growing seasons, raise sea levels, generate storms the likes of which we have never seen, evaporate water supplies, and transform our now benevolent and life-supporting oceans into a toxin-producing mass extinction engine.

In the face of such terrible harms, we as American citizens and as human beings have the responsibility to stand up and do what we can to help people avoid them. To help people make the right choices and to shine a light in the dark places where harms are currently being committed. Deia was within her rights to do just that in documenting a climate action by protesters who voluntarily risked arrest so that the rest of us could, yet again, have the opportunity to make the right choices before it’s too late.

Links:

How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t Change

Petition (Please Sign): Drop Charges Against Deia Schlosberg

350.org Please Support

Exclusive Q&A With Deia Schlosberg on Her Arrest While Filming Activist Shutdown of Tar Sands Pipeline

Fossil Fuel Reliance: Tar Sands

First Amendment of the Constitution

Canfield Ocean

Neil Degrasse Tyson Climate Change

NOAA ESRL

Carbon Tracker

Hat tip to Bill McKibben

Hat tip to Seal

Hat tip to DT Lange

Climate Change — Seas Are Now So High it Only Takes a King Tide to Flood the US East Coast

“It gets higher every year. I imagine it will be worse next year.” Guido Pena, Miami marina employee commenting on water levels during king tides.

*****

King tide. It’s a new term for an old phenomena. One that few people noticed before human-forced climate change began to push the world’s oceans higher and higher.

During spring and fall, the sun lines up with the moon and other astronomical bodies to produce a stronger gravitational pull on the Earth. This pull, in its turn, affects the tides — generating higher and lower tides over certain regions of the world.

(Rising ocean levels due to human-forced climate change is resulting in worsening instances of tidal flooding at times of high tide. In this video, a simple seasonal high tide is enough to flood major roads in Fort Lauderdale on October 17.)

King Tides — Turned into Flooding Events by Climate Change

During past years, these events were called astronomical high and low tides. They weren’t typically a news item because such tides often did not produce flooding. Past construction had placed buildings and key infrastructure above the typical annual range of even the astronomical high tides.

However, during the past century and, ever more-so during recent years, seas have been rising more and more rapidly due to human-caused climate change. A warming of the Earth due to fossil fuel burning that has melted glacial ice — flooding the oceans and causing its waters to thermally expand. As a result, parts of the U.S. East Coast now see ocean levels that are 1.5 feet or more higher than they were at the start of the 20th Century.

This rise, though modest compared to what will happen if global temperatures and greenhouse gas levels remain at currently elevated levels or continue to ramp higher, is now enough to turn astronomical high tides into a notable flooding event. An event that we have begun to call a king tide.

miami-sea-level-trend

(In places like Miami along the US East Coast, sea levels are rising at a swifter and swifter rate due to human-caused climate change. Note the acceleration in the rate of water rise since 2008 indicated in the above graph. Image source: FSU.)

A Climate Change Enabled Tidal Flooding Event Impacting Most of the U.S. East Coast

And over the past few days, from Florida to Boston, the US East Coast has been feeling the effects of just such a climate change caused sea level rise. In Florida, a debate between climate change denier republican Marco Rubio and his democratic opponent Patrick Murphy was held at a site where the local street was flooding due to salt water incursion. Murphy, responding to his opponent’s doubts that seas were actually rising stated:

“Look out your window, right? There’s two or three inches of saltwater on the roads right now. They were not built underwater. Go down to the Florida Keys. The reefs are dying from acidification and bleaching.”

All across Florida, residents were posting pictures on twitter of the rising ocean waters and commenting on the intensification of coastal flooding due to sea level rise during recent years. “It gets higher every year,” said Guido Peña, a Miami Marina employee where the water was shin deep Monday morning, in a statement to the Miami Herald. “I imagine it will be worse next year.”

All up and down the coastline, communities reeling after a raking blow from Hurricane Matthew were again seeing waters rushing up and past the dune line or invading low-lying streets and neighborhoods. But this flooding was due to no hurricane, just the added rise of waters caused by a fossil-fueled warming of the Earth, a melting of her glaciers, and the thermal expansion of her seas.

(King tide flooding enhanced by climate change is now able to completely submerge Long Wharf in Boston.)

In Boston, residents took pictures of a completely submerged Long Wharf yesterday. Mentions of climate change came along with the observations of flooding waters. These included some ominous notes for a future in which scientists are projecting at least another 2 feet of sea level rise for the US East Coast by mid-century (and possibly quite a bit more).

High Vulnerability for U.S. East Coast

Overall, the US East Coast is particularly vulnerable to climate change induced sea level rise. Much of the southeast is subsiding due to crustal rebound following the last ice age which compounds any overall ocean rise. In addition, changes in North Atlantic Ocean currents and wind patterns due to climate change will tend to cause water previously pulled north by the Gulf Stream to rebound against the coastline. An effect that could also add another 1-3 feet of water rise to any baseline total provided by glacial melt and thermal expansion.

Larger news sources like The Weather Channel have provided little context with regards to the impact of climate change on current king tides — simply stating that climate change may affect king tides in the future. However, we should be very clear that without climate change we would not see the flooding from these tides that is now apparent today.

Links:

When the Ocean Rolls onto the Roads, King Tide Sends a Message

What’s a King Tide and Why is it Flooding Boston’s Waterfront?

Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change as King Tides Flood Miami Streets

FSU

Hat tip to Jack Ridley

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Jean Nagy

Hat tip to Ben Kennedy

Haima, A Storm Nearly as Powerful as Haiyan, Barrels Toward Philippines

As of the most recent update from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, minimum central pressures in Super Typhoon Haima had plunged to 900 hPa. That’s nearly as low as those for Typhoon Haiyan at peak strength (895 hPa). Haima is running in toward the northern Philippines packing maximum sustained winds of 160 mph with gusts to 190 mph (somewhat lower than Haiyan’s peak sustained winds of 185 mph). As a result, we have a storm following a similar track to the comparable strength 2013 super-typhoon which caused so much severe loss and damage during 2013.

haima

(Haima strengthens over hotter than normal ocean waters as it tracks towards the Philippines. Image source: NOAA.)

Record Hot Global Ocean Conditions A Contributing Factor

Like Haiyan, Haima has emerged over much warmer than normal waters in the range of 1-2 C above average temperature. Warmer waters at depth have also helped to allow Haima to reach an intensity that rivals Haiyan as well as aid its potential extreme strength at landfall. Haima also follows just days after a major hurricane strike by Sarika to the south Philippines as a Category 4 storm. An event which displaced 15,000 people and has resulted in the tragic loss of at least 2 lives.

Only unusually high ocean heat content and high atmospheric moisture levels — as those that have now become more prevalent due to human-forced climate change — could support such a back-to-back strike by powerful storms of this kind running along similar ocean tracks. Typically, a single strong storm would be enough to deplete the oceanic heat and atmospheric moisture stores that serve as fuel for such intense tropical systems. Through the process of Ekman pumping, storms tend to pull up cooler waters from below the surface and leave them behind in their wake. And this is one of the chief reasons why major hurricanes or typhoons do not typically follow one right after another. But in the new world created by human fossil fuel burning this is less and less the case. Ocean heat and atmospheric moisture fuel for these storms abound. And the waters are warmer at depth, so upwelling of cooler waters can become less of an inhibiting factor. So risks for abnormally intense events are higher.

extreme-sea-surface-temperatures-haima

(Sea surface temperatures in the range of 29 to 31 C or 1-2 C above average have helped to fuel Haima and Sarika’s extreme intensity. Unfortunately for the Philippines, waters warm just off shore as these storms have approached — providing a lift to storm strength just prior to landfall. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Haima is expected to make landfall in the northern Philippines late on the 19th as a super-typhoon packing 155+ maximum sustained winds, severe rains and an extreme storm surge. Very warm waters in the range of 30 degrees Celsius and low wind shear in Haima’s path also add the possibility for continued strengthening in the 24 hours prior to landfall. As such, this is a very dangerous situation and all interests along the path of this terrible storm should monitor its progress closely and heed any evacuation warnings issued by emergency officials.

Links:

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

NOAA

Earth Nullschool

Typhoon Haiyan

Super Typhoon Haiyan

2016 Pacific Cyclones

Sarika Strikes Philippines

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

Arctic Sea Ice Falls into Record Low Ranges — Again

Extreme Arctic warmth this fall has again pushed sea ice levels into record low ranges.

Across the Arctic, temperatures for the months of September and October have ranged between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius above normal for the entire region above the 66 degree north latitude line. Such extremely high temperatures have served to slow the rate of sea ice accumulation. The result is that the line in the sea ice graphs appears to be moving more sideways than following the traditional upward trend for this time of year.

arctic-sea-ice-nsidc

(2016 enters near record low extent ranges on October 17 of 2016. Green dashed line represents 2012 sea ice extent, blue line represents 2007, black line the 1981 to 2010 average, orange line 2003, blue line 1994, and yellow line 1980. The gray border represents the 2 standard deviation from trend boundary. Image source: NSIDC.)

Trend lines for 2016 are also now within 90,000 square kilometers of exceeding previous record lows for sea ice extent set in 2007 and nearly matched in 2012 for the date of October 17.

Big Arctic Temperature Spike Driving Losses

Over the next few days, GFS model runs predict that a strong warming trend will take hold over the Arctic Ocean environment. As a result, temperature anomalies for the region above 66 North are expected to again spike to near 5 C above average for this time of year.

Given this predicted heat build-up, it’s certainly possible that refreeze rates will continue to be inhibited and that new record daily lows will be breached this week. Meanwhile, the overall trend for 2016 from January through middle October shows a year that is likely to see the lowest averaged levels of sea ice ever recorded for an entire year.

arctic-heat

(Arctic temperatures have remained high throughout the fall — which has contributed to a very slow sea ice re-freeze so far. By Sunday, GFS model runs predict that temperatures over the Arctic Ocean will again push into much warmer than normal ranges for this time of year — possibly further delaying this region’s return to an ice-covered state. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Polar Amplification in Evidence

Loss of sea ice is a primary feature of polar amplification in the Arctic due to human-forced climate change.  Under polar amplification, warming of this region occurs faster than in the rest of the world. During summer, lower sea ice levels allow more sunlight to be absorbed by dark ocean waters — which preferentially traps heat in the Arctic environment. Less ice coverage during winter allows ocean heat to re-radiate into the Arctic which provides a significant boost to temperatures during the cold season.

mean-t-dmi-arctic-warmth-anomalous

(Anomalously warm temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have represented more a strange hybrid between fall and summer than a typical drop-off toward winter patterns during 2016. In the graph above, global warming appears to have basically levitated temperatures in the region above 80 North right off the chart. Image source: DMI.)

Last year, a never-before-seen late December warming of the Arctic pushed temperatures at the North Pole above freezing. If human fossil fuel burning continues and greenhouse gas accumulations in the Earth’s atmosphere keep rising, the Arctic is in for more dramatic fall, winter, and spring warming events than even those it is experiencing today. And with global temperatures entering a range of 1-2 C above preindustrial averages, the risk of a complete loss of Arctic sea ice over the coming years is on the rise.

Links:

NSIDC

Climate Reanalyzer

The Sydney Morning Herald

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Marcel Guldemond

Record-Hot 2016 Marks the Start of Bad Climate Consequences, Provides “Fierce Urgency” to Halt Worse Harms to Come

“…there is now strong evidence linking specific [extreme] events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate.” — Coumou and Rahmstorf 2012.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. …We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.'” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [emphasis added]

****

2016 is on track to be a record-hot year for the history books. Accumulations of heat-trapping gasses in the range of 402 ppm CO2 and 490 ppm CO2e have pushed the global temperature trend into an inexorable upward rise. Meanwhile, increasingly severe climate change-related events ranging from mass coral bleaching, to glacial and sea ice melt, to tree death, to ocean health decline, to the expanding ranges of tropical infectious diseases, to worsening extreme weather events have occurred the world over. This global temperature spike and related ramp-up of extreme events continued throughout a year that is setting up to follow 2014 and 2015 as the third record-hot year in a row.

(2015 saw a substantial jump in global temperatures. 2016 is also on track to hit new record highs. The above graph, by Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS, provides a vivid illustration of an inexorable warming trend with 2016 as the hottest year yet. According to Gavin, a strong new record for 2016 appears to be a lock. Image source: Climate of Gavin.)

Now, after NASA’s report showing that September 2016 was 1.13 C hotter than 1880s averages (or 0.91 C hotter than NASA’s 20th-century baseline measure), this year is setting up to be the warmest ever recorded by a wide margin. Overall, the first nine months of 2016 have averaged 1.25 C above 1880s temperatures. Meanwhile, the climate year — which runs from December through November — is tracking 1.26 C above 1880s temperatures during the ten-month period of December to September.

2016 as much as 1.25 C Hotter than 1880s Averages

As a result, it appears likely that 2016 will see temperatures in the range of 1.19 C to 1.25 C hotter than 1880s averages. That’s about 0.1 C hotter than 2015 — which is pretty significant considering the fact that the average rate of decadal warming (the rounded rate of global warming every 10 years) has been in the range of 0.15 C since the late 1970s. This year’s temperatures now appear set to exceed 1998’s values by around 0.35 C — or about one-third of the entire warming total seen since large-scale human greenhouse gas emissions began during the late 19th century. This excession should permanently put to rest previous widely circulated false notions that global warming somehow stopped following the strong El Nino year of 1998.

Many responsible sources are now warning that current temperatures are uncomfortably close to two major climate thresholds — 1.5 C global warming and 2.0 C global warming. At the current rate of warming, we appear set to exceed the 1.5 C mark in the annual measure in just one to two decades. Hitting 2 C by or before mid-century has become a very real possibility. Scientists have been urging the global community to avoid 2 C warming before 2100 (and 1.5 C if at all possible), but the current path brings us to that level of warming in just over 30-50 years, not over the 84 years remaining in this century. And just maintaining current rates of warming without significant added feedbacks from the Earth System would result in Earth hitting close to 3 C warming by 2100 — a level that would inflict severe harm to life on Earth, including human civilizations.

september-of-2016

(According to NASA, September 2016 edged out September 2014 as the hottest September in the 136-year climate record. This occurred while the Equatorial Pacific was flipped into a cool phase, which tends to lower global temperatures. Despite this natural variability-related switch pulling global temperatures down, NASA shows a globe in which few regions experienced below-average temperatures and where the highest concentration of record-warm temperatures are centered near the northern polar region. This display of counter-trend warming and strong polar amplification are both signature effects of human-caused climate change. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Focusing back on 2016, it appears the La Nina that struggled throughout August and early September is again making a decent attempt to form, at least as a weak event. This should tend to pull October, November and December temperatures into the 1 to 1.1 C above 1880s departure range. As a result, final averages for 2016 should be slightly lower than averages for the period running from December to September. But, as noted above, we are still on track to see a very significant jump above the 2015 end atmospheric temperature totals.

Climate Impacts from Added Global Heat Continue to Worsen

All this extra heat in the system will work to worsen the already extreme climate and weather events we are seeing. Potentials for droughts, floods, heatwaves and wildfires will increase. High atmospheric moisture loading will continue to pump up peak storm potentials when storms do form. Added heat will tend to accumulate at the poles more than in the tropics or middle latitudes. As a result, upper-level wind patterns will likely continue to see more anomalous features along a worsening trend line. Ice in all forms will see stronger heat forcings overall, adding risk that both land and sea ice melt rates will increase.

impacts-to-the-cryosphere

(In the mid-2010s, Earth entered a temperature range averaging 1 C above pre-industrial levels. Such temperatures begin to threaten key climate impacts like permafrost thaw, 3-4 meters of sea-level rise from West Antarctic Ice Sheet melt, risk of up to 80 percent mountain glacier loss, complete Arctic sea ice loss during summer, and 6-7 meters of sea level rise from Greenland melt. In the near 1 C range, risks of these impacts, though a possibility, remain somewhat lower. But as temperatures approach 1.5 and 2 C above pre-industrial levels, risks rise even as West Antarctic glacial melt and polar ocean acidification start to become serious factors. Image source: Solving the Climate Stalemate.)

At 1 to 1.3 C above 1880s levels, we should see a quickening in the rate of sea-level rise. How much is uncertain. However, this temperature range is very close to peak Eemian Stage levels when oceans were around 15 to 25 feet higher than they are today. The current rapid rate of temperature change will also continue to have worsening impacts on creatures who are adapted to inhabit specific climate zones. The rapid rise in global temperatures is forcing an equally rapid movement of climate zones toward the poles and up mountains. This affects pretty much all life on Earth and unfortunately some species will be hard-pressed to handle the insult as certain habitats basically move off-planet. This impact is particularly true for corals, trees and other species that are unable to match the rapid pace of climate zone motion. We have already seen very severe impacts in the form of mass coral and tree death the world over. Warming in the 1 to 1.3 C range also provides an increasing ocean stratification pressure — one that has already been observed to increase the prevalence of ocean dead zones and one that will tend to shrink overall ocean vitality and productivity.

Fierce Urgency For Climate Action

Despite all these negative impacts, we are still currently outside the boundary of the worst potential results of climate change. Stresses are on the rise from various related factors, but these stresses have probably not yet reached a point of no return for human civilization and many of the reefs, forests, and living creatures we have grown to cherish. Rapid mitigation through a swift transition away from fossil fuels is still possible. Such a response now has a high likelihood of successfully protecting numerous civilizations while saving plant and animal species across the planet. That said, at this point, some damage is, sadly, unavoidable. But the simple fact that we are now starting to face the harmful consequences of a century and a half of fossil fuel burning is no excuse for inaction. To the contrary, the beginning of these harms should serve as a clarion call for our redoubled efforts.

Links:

NASA GISS

NOAA ESRL

NOAA El Nino

Climate of Gavin

The Truth About Climate Change

COP 21: Why 2 C?

Solving the Climate Stalemate

Hat tip to Kevin Jones

Hat tip to Florifulgurator

Four Thousand Mile Long River of Moisture Could Dump 2 Feet of Rain on The Pacific Northwest

As the U.S. East Coast is still reeling from impacts associated with Hurricane Matthew, the Pacific Northwest is just now confronting its own potential extreme climate event. For a 4,000 mile long river of moisture streaming off ex super typhoon Songda in the Pacific Ocean is now firing a barrage of storms at Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. A series of storms that could, over the next five days, dump as much as two feet of rainfall over parts of this region.

Powerful Atmospheric River May Produce 2 Feet or More of Rainfall This Week

river-of-moisture-takes-aim-at-pacific-northwest

(A powerful atmospheric river is forming over the record hot Pacific Ocean in a record hot atmosphere. Typhoon Songda is delivering a great deal of tropical moisture to this flow — which is expected to impact the Pacific Northwest and produce very heavy rainfall this week. Image source: Weatherbug.)

Jet stream winds running across the Pacific now range between 180 and 220 mph. These strong winds are producing a powerful storm track even as they are tapping a vast plume of tropical moisture over the Eastern Pacific. Embedded in this moisture plume is the rain-rich ex supertyphoon Songda. As the strong upper level winds pull in Songda and draw on the extreme moisture bleed rising up off the record-hot waters of the Pacific Ocean, forecasters expect a resulting atmospheric river to run 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean and deliver storm after powerful storm to the Pacific Northwest.

NOAA model forecasts now show as much as 22 inches of rain falling upon parts of this region over the coming 7 days. However, with so much moisture loading up the atmosphere, it’s possible that locally higher amounts of rainfall will occur.

noaa-rainfall-forecast

(Very heavy rains in the range of 7-22 inches or more are expected to fall over the Pacific Northwest this week in associate with a powerful river of moisture streaming off the record-hot Pacific Ocean. Image source: NOAA.)

Conditions in the Context of Climate Change — Here We Go Again

Over the past year, a record hot atmosphere has helped to generate extreme moisture levels aloft. Such record to near record moisture levels have helped to produce 500 to 1,000 year flood events in places like Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and in other parts of the US and around the world. This week, record high moisture levels contributed to flooding rains falling over Virginia and North Carolina in association with Hurricane Matthew. Now, a similar extreme moisture pattern is taking aim at the Pacific Northwest.

So this is kind of a ‘here we go again’ situation. And, unfortunately, these types of extreme weather events are now more likely due to the fact that a world now in the range of 1-1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 1880s averages is one in which a higher volume of water evaporates from the land and ocean surfaces and into the Earths atmosphere. Such a physical dynamic related to human-forced warming is one that increases rainfall even as it provides more fuel for powerful storms.

Links:

NOAA

Weatherbug

Supertyphoon Songda

Yes, Climate Change Helped Matthew Produce a Massive Swath of Destruction Stretching from Haiti to Virginia

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Greg

Yes, Climate Change Helped Matthew Produce a Massive Swath of Destruction Extending From Haiti to Southeastern Virginia

Too close to home. That’s the sentence that best describes hurricane Matthew’s impacts — at least for this particular observer. And it’s one that I think we will be saying more and more often over the coming years as sea levels rise and peak storm intensities continue to increase due to a human-forced warming of the world’s atmosphere and oceans.

hurricane-matthew-october-8

(Hurricane Matthew interacted with a trough to dump 1 in 1000 year rains over North Carolina and Virginia on October 8th even as its powerful storm surge continued to flood coastal communities. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Severe Damage To Florida Coastline Communities — But it Could Have Been Worse

On Thursday, October 6th, as the storm was barreling in toward the Florida coastline, I was on the phone with numerous Florida relatives — somewhat frantically asking if they’d heeded evacuation orders and gotten away from low-lying areas near the ocean. One uncle had decided to hunker down in an inlet-side New Smyrna Beach home about 6 feet above sea level, but the rest had headed inland. Thankfully, Matthew passed just off shore of New Smyrna at low tide — only giving my uncle a bit of a scare by flooding his neighborhood but not completely inundating his house (as would have happened if Matthew had made landfall in that community as a category 4 storm rather than remaining at sea).

Further north, my college town of St. Augustine, FL did not fair quite so well. Downtown St. Augustine, which borders the Matanzas River — an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean — saw Matthew sweeping by at high tide. As a result, severe storm surge flooding rose up over the sea wall and put the city’s streets under 3-4 feet of water. Local businesses flooded, a 17th Century Fort that is a tourist attraction saw its moat fill and then overtop, and Flagler College, which I attended during the 1990s, had its grounds soaked. Nearby, parts of Route A1A on Flagler Beach were swept out into the Atlantic Ocean even as the dune line at Jacksonville Beach was breached — precipitating significant tidal flooding through parts of that seaside city. But as with New Smyrna Beach, the situation would have been far worse for St. Augustine and Jacksonville if Matthew had made landfall and not remained off shore.

Matthew Delivers Severe Flooding to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia

As the storm passed just to the east of North Florida on October 7th, consensus model guidance at the time suggested that Matthew would re-curve out to sea after battering Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, returning for a possible second hit to Florida by about the 13th as a much weakened system. However, Matthew instead took a more northerly track — hugging the coastline. As a result, moderate to severe coastal flooding impacted beach after beach from Georgia and on through South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia even as heavy rains inundated the region.

(Matthew pushes storm surge flooding into Murrells Inlet — inundating local communities and swamping this marina. Video source: Huge Storm Surge Follows Hurricane Matthew.)

At Murrells Inlet — a late-summer and early fall reunion and beach-going spot for my family — over-wash from the ocean and tidal flooding from the local inlet pushed 1-2 feet of water into numerous neighborhoods. A local marina from which family members have enjoyed both the scenic view of the inlet and such water activities as kayaking through the teeming waterways to experience close-up encounters with local fish and wildlife was completely flooded out on the 8th of October as Matthew passed (see video above).

Meanwhile, severe flooding rains were just starting to sweep into North Carolina on the 8th and 9th — presenting a serious problem even as coastal communities along the Outer Banks received a significant battering. A large swath of the state saw up to 16 inches of rain fall. These rains hit regions already saturated by previous extreme rainfall events. As a result, water-logged grounds could not take in any more precipitation and rainfall runoff swiftly flooded streets and streams. The flooding has, by early Tuesday afternoon, left 14 people dead, three people missing, and thousands of homes inundated by rising waters. A severe flood situation that is still ongoing as of October 12th. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory stated earlier today that:  “Too many people have died, and we don’t want anymore to die. Yet there are going to be conditions during the next 72 hours which will be extremely dangerous.”

granby-street-norfolk-matthew

(Hundreds of vehicles, homes and businesses were flooded across Hampton Roads as a result of Matthew’s severe storm surge and heavy rainfall. The region has grown particularly vulnerable during recent years due to sea level rise — which has added about 1.5 feet of water rise over the past 100 years and could add another 2-3 feet or more by mid-Century under a business as usual fossil fuel burning emissions path. Image source: Hurricane Matthew Causes Widespread Flooding, Power Outages.)

On the 8th and 9th Matthew also began to hurl its flooding rains and storm surge at my parents’, grandparents’, and sister’s homes in the Hampton Roads cities of Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth. A local river backing up to the Albermarle and Pamlico sounds rapidly filled with storm surge flooding — inundating my parents’ neighborhood and leaving them stranded. Flooding in Chesapeake also stranded my sister in her home. Flooding from heavy rains and a significant storm surge swept into houses on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach near my grandmother’s residence. Downtown Norfolk was shut down by storm flooding (see Granby street image above) and the heavy rains of Matthew combined with a previous severe rainfall event just two weeks ago to produce more than 30 inches of accumulated rainfall over the past 30 days for some parts of Hampton Roads. The result of Matthew’s combined heavy rains and storm surge for the region was never-before seen flooding for many areas — including my parents’ neighborhood.

Matthew and the Continuing Erosion of Normalcy

Thankfully, everyone I know is OK. But the same cannot be said for six people living in Florida and Georgia, 14 (and possibly more) people living in North Carolina, and over 1,000 people who are now thought to have lost their lives as Matthew made its first catastrophic landfall in Haiti. There, tens of thousands are estimated to be homeless as a result of the storm which leveled entire forests and towns as it roared ashore packing 130 mph sustained winds. Now, aid agencies are struggling to reach the survivors even as tropical diseases such as cholera threaten to spread in the unsanitary conditions following in the storm’s wake.

hurricane-matthew-track

(Hurricane Matthew maintained strength as a major hurricane for the longest period of time on record for any October storm in the North Atlantic. Near record warm surface waters and a record warm and moist global atmosphere helped to enable Matthew to remain strong for such a long period of time — producing severe damage along a swath stretching for about 1,500 miles. Image source: WLXT.)

As a family, my relatives have suffered dislocation and some property damage from the storm. But we are among the fortunate ones. We did not experience the devastating material losses and loss of life that has impacted some in Haiti or North Carolina. However, what we have experienced is a loss of security. We’ve seen floods that have never happened before in the neighborhoods we occupy and in the places we have grown to love and cherish. And we find ourselves wondering what the next Matthew will bring — or the next, or the next.

Conditions in Context — Climate Change is Making Storms Like Matthew More Powerful and Devastating

Matthew was an extraordinarily powerful storm whose devastating toll will continue to be counted during the coming weeks and months along its broad and wide-ranging swath. But as we pick up the pieces, respond to the still ongoing disasters in North Carolina and Haiti, begin to rebuild, and try return to semi-normalcy, we should also seriously consider the conditions that helped to spawn Matthew and to bring about its record October intensity. For Matthew emerged over near-record hot waters, formed in a record hot world, and produced its damaging storm surges out of seas that are rising due to human-forced climate change.

global-mean-sea-level-change

(Rising sea levels spurred by global warming is an enabler of worsening coastal flooding during storms. In addition, added atmospheric moisture and ocean heat due to global warming increases peak potential storm intensity. Image source: Dr. James Hansen Warns Seas Could Rise by Several Meters This Century.)

Matthew’s heavy rains were unarguably pumped up by near record atmospheric moisture levels due to conditions related to climate change. And Matthew’s long, strong intensity was fed by all that climate change related heat and moisture. Like Sandy and Katrina, Matthew was a fore-runner to the worse storms that are now on the way. Storms made worse by our continued burning of fossil fuels and what is a wholesale global dumping of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere. Until that stops and the Earth starts to cool — freak events like Matthew and Sandy will continue to occur. To grow worse and to have their peak wind intensities pumped higher, their rains intensified, and their storms surges compounded by rising sea levels, larger storm circulations, and stronger wind fields.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Hurricane Matthew’s Toll Worsens: Flooding Hits North Carolina

Matthew’s Storm Surge Floods Downtown St. Augustine

Knee Deep Flooding in Murrells Inlet Neighborhoods

Huge Storm Surge Follows Hurricane Matthew in Murrells Inlet

Haiti Desperate For Help After Matthew

Hurricane Matthew’s Deadly Track From Haiti to the Carolinas

Hurricane Matthew Causes Widespread Flooding in Hampton Roads

Dr. James Hansen Warns Seas Could Rise by Several Meters This Century

UPDATED: Matthew’s Nightmarish Storm Surge Takes Aim at 430-Mile Stretch of U.S. Coast

All throughout yesterday and today the story has been the same — dangerous hurricane Matthew is strengthening in a record-hot atmosphere and ocean environment as it continues to take a course that will result in severe flooding impacts for a massive swath of the southeastern U.S. seaboard.

An Extraordinarily Powerful Category 4 Hurricane

As of 5 PM EST today, the center of Hurricane Matthew was located about 25 miles to the south of Freeport, Bahamas. The storm was tracking off to the north-northwest, making steady progress toward Florida and a large section of the U.S. coastline. Since yesterday, maximum sustained winds have increased from around 120 mph to a present peak wind speed of around 140 mph. More importantly, the storm’s minimum central pressure is falling. As of the 5 PM advisory, the storm’s lowest pressure reading stood at 936 millibars — about 2 mb stronger than Hurricane Sandy’s peak intensity.

very-robust-hurricane-matthew-heads-toward-us-east-coast

(A very robust Hurricane Matthew is starting to look more and more like a CAT 5 than a CAT 4 in the most recent satellite shots. That’s bad news for the southeastern U.S. coastline as this powerful storm is approaching at an oblique angle — one that, if the storm continues along its forecast track, will push a large surge of water topped with powerful breaking waves into numerous coastal communities. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

The National Hurricane Center notes that Matthew may have just gone through an eye-wall replacement cycle, which would result in a brief drop in maximum sustained winds. But pressures continued to drop as the storm got better organized, and now, the satellite picture shows the fearful symmetry of an extremely dangerous storm. As Matthew continues to get more organized, peak wind speeds could continue to rise, hitting 145 mph or higher before ramping wind shear and a long encounter with the U.S. mainland begins to check Matthew’s considerable strength.

Possible Flooding Rains Threaten Lake Okeechobee Dikes

As Matthew approached the coastline this afternoon, large bands of rain began to cover much of Florida even as onshore winds stiffened. Lake Okeechobee — which is now going through a series of dike upgrades to protect communities east of the lake from storm events like Matthew — is starting to see the effects of these heavy rain bands. With 4 to 8 inches or more of rainfall possible over the Lake Okeechobee region from Matthew (and up to 12 inches or more for parts of coastal Florida), pressure to a dike system needing refurbishment is likely to present serious challenges.

matthews-rains-blanket-florida

(Matthew’s considerable rain bands are already blanketing Florida and 4 to 12 inches are possible for parts of the state. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

The Major Hazard Comes From a Potentially Massive Storm Surge

Farther north and east, the main story is that Matthew is pushing a Sandy-like storm surge toward a 430-mile section of the U.S. coastline. According to the National Hurricane Center, a region stretching from Sebastian Inlet in Florida north to Edisto Beach in southeastern South Carolina could experience storm surges in the range of 7 to 11 feet. A 700-mile arc from Deerfield Beach, Florida to the Santee River in South Carolina could see surges above 4 feet.

Such a powerful storm surge over so large an area would swamp numerous coastal communities already facing the difficulties of human-forced sea level rise, like increasing cases of nuisance flooding at times of monthly and seasonal high tides. As with Sandy, Matthew’s storm surge will rush in upon this higher launching pad resulting from thermal expansion of the world’s waters, glacial melt, and ocean current shifts related to climate change.

st-augustine-flooding

(Considerable worst-case storm surge risks are now posed by Matthew to coastal communities like St. Augustine. As Matthew strengthened Thursday, these severe flooding potentials continued to worsen. Compare with earlier flood map here. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

As a result of Matthew’s continued strengthening over near record-hot waters and a moisture-laden atmosphere, prospects for coastal communities along the storm’s path don’t look very good. A 7- to-11 foot surge is enough to swamp many communities. As we can see in the image above, worst-case potential flooding (1 in 10 probability to exceed) for St. Augustine now puts that city under 3 to 10 feet of water — dramatically worse than last night’s initial storm-surge model estimates of a possible 1-to-9 foot inundation for the city.

As Matthew’s expected track runs parallel to the coastline, city after city, from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville to Savannah to Charleston, faces the potential for similarly extreme coastal flooding as Matthew continues to rush shoreward.

UPDATES TO FOLLOW

Note: This is an increasingly dangerous developing weather situation. Coastal interests from the Bahamas through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas should stay abreast of forecasts provided by the National Hurricane Center, stay tuned to local weather statements, and remain to respond to possible evacuation/emergency storm shelter information.

UPDATE 1245 EST FRIDAY: Hurricane Matthew is still a dangerous Category 3 storm, packing winds of 120 mph and hammering coastal Florida with a 6-to-10 foot storm surge. Early reports indicate that the eye wall of Matthew, winds of 100-plus mph, and a strong storm surge severely damaged the barrier islands near Cape Canaveral as Matthew brushed by. Extensive flooding and damage has also been reported in the New Smyrna/Daytona Beach area.

staugjeffgoodell

(Downtown St. Augustine, Florida earlier today. Photo credit: Jeff Goodell.)

Of greater concern is the fact that Matthew’s strongest effects are approaching St. Augustine and Jacksonville at or near the time of high tide. Already, reports are coming in of severe flooding in parts of both of these cities (see image above).

 

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

The National Weather Service

Dangerous Hurricane Matthew Strengthens in Record-Hot Environment

Hat tip to JPL

Dangerous Hurricane Matthew Strengthens in Record Hot Environment — May hit Florida Twice

Hurricane Matthew has already been a storm for the record books. Matthew was the lowest latitude Category 5 storm to form on record in the Atlantic basin. An achievement that bears testament to the amount of heat energy the storm was feeding on — as higher latitude storms can better leverage the Earth’s spin to increase wind speed. It was the longest lasting Category 4-5 storm on record in the Caribbean. And it produced the highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of any hurricane on record for that sea.

matthew-track

(Matthew is predicted to track along the Eastern Seaboard from Central Florida through Georgia as a major hurricane on Friday and Saturday. After this first predicted strike as a major hurricane, long range model guidance is indicating that Matthew could re-curve. Such a path would bring Matthew repeatedly over the near record warm waters of the Gulf Stream and possibly produce a second landfall in Florida by Wednesday of next week. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

Matthew — A Record-Breaking Storm in a Record Hot World

This powerful hurricane has consistently fed on sea surface temperatures in the range of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius (84 to 86 Fahrenheit). These waters are 1-3 degrees Celsius above 20th Century averages and are at or near record hot levels. Furthermore, added heat at the ocean surface has led to greater evaporation which has contributed to 75 percent relative humidity readings at the middle levels of the atmosphere.

Such high levels of heat and atmospheric moisture are not normal. They provide an excessive amount of fuel for powering intense hurricanes like Matthew. And all this heat and moisture is now made more readily available by a record hot global environment resulting from the ever-rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere due to fossil fuel burning.

Maintaining Major Hurricane Intensity Despite Making Landfall Twice

Yesterday this heat-fueled storm vented its fury first on Haiti and then on Cuba. But as the rains fell at rates of up to 5 inches per hour and as the winds howled in at 145 mph, the mountainous terrain of these two islands took its toll on Matthew’s circulation. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, Matthew’s eye wall was disrupted and partially collapsed as the storm tracked over rugged eastern Cuba. As a result, its peak intensity dropped off from 145 mph early Tuesday to around 115 mph or a minimal category 3 storm during the morning on Wednesday.

near-record-warm-waters-off-the-us-east-coast-help-to-fuel-matthew

(Near record warm surface waters in the Caribbean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean off the US East Coast in the range of 1-3 degrees Celsius above average combined with very high atmospheric moisture levels to fuel Matthew’s unprecedented intensity. Such conditions are consistent with those produced by human-caused climate change. Factors that provide more energy for storms to feed on when they do form. Note that the readings depicted in the map are departures from average — with red through orange, yellow and white representing above-normal temperatures. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Matthew Restrengthening

But Matthew has since re-emerged as a major hurricane over very warm waters near the Bahamas and it is again drawing on a nearly unprecedented supply of ocean heat and atmospheric moisture. As a result, the storm is rapidly re-strengthening. Thunderstorms around the center are rising again to towering heights. Pressures are dropping and peak wind speeds are starting to pick up. By tomorrow morning, it’s entirely possible that Matthew will have returned to Category 4 status — boasting a very large circulation and sustained winds in excess of 130 mph as it starts to threaten the Florida coast.

As of 5 PM EST on Wednesday the storm had already regained some intensity — hitting 120 mph maximum sustained winds. Model guidance puts the storm near or over the Coast of Central and Northern Florida by Friday morning with some models (ECMWF) showing a minimum central pressure near 940 to 945 mb by that time — representing a very powerful storm with winds possibly again exceeding 145 mph.

matthew-rapid-bombification

(Rapid bombification? Matthew re-intensifies as it tracks toward the Bahamas and Florida. Very dangerous situation emerging with swift, significant increases in strength possible. Image source: the National Hurricane Center.)

Matthew’s Predicted Track Could Bring Major Hurricane Conditions to Numerous East Coast Communities

Matthew is predicted to run parallel to the coast, with part of its circulation remaining over water. As a result, the storm could maintain intensity even as it drives hurricane force winds and strong storm surges into multiple cities and towns along the coast.

From the National Hurricane Center:

The subtropical ridge over the western Atlantic is still strong, and the flow pattern around this ridge should continue to steer the hurricane toward the northwest during the next day or two with no significant change in forward speed. After that time, the ridge will shift eastward, allowing Matthew to move northward very near or over the north Florida east coast, and then near or to the east of the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

Such a path would tend to keep Matthew strong for a longer period of time. In addition, movement along the coastline could result in severe impacts ranging over a very large region — not just focusing on a particular section of the shore, but running along the oceanfront for hundreds of miles. In the worst case scenario for Matthew, diverse regions from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville to Savannah all experience significant hurricane impacts including major hurricane winds and severe storm surge flooding.

st-augustine-under-water

(Hurricane Matthew has the potential to put multiple communities from Florida through Georgia under severe storm surge flooding. The above map shows a worst case scenario (1 in 10 probability) where most of St. Augustine, FL — a city of about 120,000 people — is under 1-9 feet of water. This potential is repeated in the NHS model on up and down the Florida and Georgia coastlines. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

Matthew Could Hit Florida Twice

But if the current forecast isn’t rough enough, the long range looks even worse. Model guidance is now starting to form a consensus that Matthew may not immediately head out to sea following its first encounter with the US East Coast. In fact, models like GFS, ECMWF and CMC are indicating that Matthew may loop back, possibly even striking Florida a second time by Wednesday (GFS). Though highly uncertain, the possibility of Matthew returning to the warm water environment that so greatly added to its strength initially, before hitting Florida a second time, was enough to draw some pretty strong words from experts like Dr. Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground earlier today.

Dr. Masters noted:

Thanks to my advancing years and a low-stress lifestyle that features daily meditation, there’s not much that can move me to profanity—except the occasional low-skill driver who endangers my life on the road. But this morning while looking at the latest weather model runs, multiple very bad words escaped my lips. I’ve been a meteorologist for 35 years, and am not easily startled by a fresh set of model results: situations in 2005 and 1992 are the only ones that come to mind. However, this morning’s depiction by our top models—the GFS, European, and UKMET—of Matthew missing getting picked up by the trough to its north this weekend and looping back to potentially punish The Bahamas and Florida next week was worthy of profuse profanity.

Such a loop back and second hit to Florida and the Bahamas is highly uncertain at this time. However, given all the heat and moisture available, there’s a possibility that Matthew could re-strengthen along such a path after the significant wind shear predicted Sunday and Monday subsides — bringing forward the possibility, however unlikely, of the same storm striking Florida and the Bahamas twice as a major hurricane over the course of 5-7 days.

It would be a very odd and unfortunate event if it did happen. One that would have been fueled by all the climate change related hot water and near record moisture readings sitting at the ocean surface and rising on up into the middle levels of the atmosphere. But given the storm now blowing up over the Bahamas this evening, a possible first strike is already looking rough enough.

UPDATES TO FOLLOW

Links/Statements:

Note: This is a potentially highly dangerous developing weather situation. Coastal interests from the Bahamas through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas should stay abreast of forecasts provided by the National Hurricane Center and stay tuned to local weather statements and/or possible evacuation/emergency storm shelter information.

Hurricane Matthew Reorganizing over the Bahamas

Hurricane Matthew has Already Shattered Records in the Caribbean Sea

It’s not hype: Hurricane Matthew has Been Blasting Through Records

The National Hurricane Center

Scientific Hat tip to Dr. Jeff Masters

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Abnormal Fall Arctic Warmth Intensifies; September 2016 Probably Another Record Hot Month Globally

Polar amplification” usually refers to greater climate change near the pole compared to the rest of the hemisphere or globe in response to a change in global climate forcing, such as the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs)… RealClimate [emphasis added]

*****

It’s fall. The Arctic is trying to cool down, but what would typically be a steady decline into frigid temperatures is being held back by the increasingly strong hand of human-forced climate change.

warm-fall-for-region-above-80-degrees-north-latitude

(Over recent weeks, temperature departures above the 1958-to-2002 average line [green line above] have grown in the region north of the 80th parallel. In general, the Arctic has experienced much warmer than normal temperatures. Failure of the Arctic to rapidly cool down during fall has been a feature of recent years that is related to human-forced climate change. Image source: DMI.)

Over the past month, temperature anomalies for the entire Arctic have ranged near 3 degrees Celsius or more above average. These temperatures appear to have represented the highest departures from average for any world region for the past month. Overall, they’ve greatly contributed to what is likely to be another record hot month globally.

Into the first week of October, this trend is expected to intensify. By Friday, according to GFS model runs, temperatures above the 66° North Latitude line are expected to range near 4.5 C (8 degrees Fahrenheit) above average for the entire region. Meanwhile, areas of Greenland, the Arctic Ocean and Northeastern Siberia are expected to see 10-18 C (18 to 32 F) above-average temperature departures for the day.

arctic-heat-forecast-gfs

(Extreme Arctic heat is likely to lead record-high global temperatures for the month of September. Such heat is also likely to help push October into top 3 record-hot month ranges. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It doesn’t need to be said that these are extraordinary warm temperature departures from normal, which represent near-record or record warm ranges for many locations, but this is what we would expect with human-forced climate change. As the sun falls in the Arctic sky and night lengthens, energy transfer in the form of heat coming in from the warming ocean and atmosphere intensifies. This effect is driven by what is now a great overburden of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Early Indicators Point Toward a Record-Hot September

Powerful heat transfers slowing down the rate of fall cooling in the Arctic came amid what is likely to be the hottest September in the global climate record. Australian scientist Nick Stokes found that September temperature departures were about 0.05 C higher than August’s record temperature departures. Translated to NASA GISS figures, if they were to match this increase, September values would fall around 1.03 C hotter than NASA’s 20th-century baseline and about 1.25 C hotter than 1880s averages.

warmest-august-in-136-years

(August 2016 was the hottest month on Earth in all of the past 136 years. Though the Earth is cooling into fall, September 2016 looks like it will be the hottest September ever recorded. Overall, 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record by a significant margin. Image source: Earth Observatory.)

Temperatures in these ranges would represent the hottest September on record by a pretty big margin (about 0.13 C globally). Meanwhile, the annual averages for the first nine months of the year would hit near 1.27 C above 1880s averages if the NASA measure saw a warming similar to that showing up in Stokes’s early NCEP/NCAR reanalysis figures — a measure disturbingly close to the 1.5 C departure levels that represent the first major global climate threshold, a level that many scientists have advised us we’d be wise to avoid.

Links:

RealClimate

Reanalysis Index Up 0.047 C in September

DMI

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Observatory

%d bloggers like this: