With Temperatures Hitting 1.2 C Hotter than Pre-Industrial, Drought Now Spans the Globe

Jeff Goodell, an American author and editor at Rolling Stone, is noted for saying this: “once we deliberately start messing with the climate, we could inadvertantly shift rainfall patterns (climate models have shown that the Amazon is particularly vulnerable) causing collapse of ecosystems, drought, famine and more.”

We are in the process of testing that theory. In the case of drought, which used to just be a regional affair but has now gone global, Goodell appears to have been right on the money.

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According to a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization, the Earth is on track to hit 1.2 degrees Celsius hotter than pre-industrial temperatures during 2016. From sea-level rise, to melting polar ice, to extreme weather, to increasing numbers of displaced persons, this temperature jump is producing steadily worsening impacts. Among the more vivid of these is the current extent of global drought.

The Four-Year Global Drought

During El Nino years, drought conditions tend to expand through various regions as ocean surfaces heat up. From 2015 to 2016, the world experienced a powerful El Nino. However, despite the noted influence of this warming of surface waters in the Equatorial Pacific, widely expansive global drought extends back through 2013 and farther.

four-year-precipitation-anomalies-updated

(The Global Drought Monitor finds that dry conditions have been prevalent over much of the globe throughout the past four years. For some regions, like the Colorado River area, drought has already extended for more than a decade. Image source: SPEI Global Drought Monitor.)

In the above image, we see soil moisture deficits over the past 48 months. What we find is that large sections of pretty much every major continent are undergoing at least a four-year drought. Drought conditions were predicted by climate models to intensify in the middle latitudes as the world heated up. It appears that this is already the case, but the Equatorial zone and the higher latitudes are also experiencing widespread drought. If there is a detectable pattern in present conditions, it is that few regions have avoided drying. Drought is so wide-ranging as to be practically global in its extent.

Widespread Severe Impacts

These drought conditions have noted impacts.

In California alone, more than 102 million trees have died due to rising temperatures and a drought that has lasted since 2010. Of those, 62 million have perished just this year. Drought’s relationship to tree mortality is pretty simple — the longer drought lasts, the more trees perish as water stores in roots are used up. California has, so far, lost 2.5 percent of its live trees due to what is now the worst tree mortality event in the state’s history.

world-vegetative-health-index

(It’s not just California. Numerous regions around the world show plants undergoing life-threatening levels of stress. In the above map, vegetative health is shown to be moderately stressed [yellow] to severely stressed [pink] over broad regions of the world. Image source: Global Drought Information System.)

The California drought is just an aspect of a larger drought that encompasses much of the North American West. For the Colorado River area, this includes a 16-year-long drought that has pushed Lake Mead to its lowest levels ever recorded. With rationing of the river’s water supplies looming if a miraculous break in the drought doesn’t suddenly appear, states are scrambling to figure out how to manage a worsening scarcity. Meanwhile, reports indicate that cities like Phoenix will require executive action on the part of the President to ensure water supplies to millions of residents over the coming years, should conditions fail to improve.

Further east, drought has flickered on and off in the central and southern U.S. In the southeast, a flash drought has recently helped to spur an unseasonable spate of wildfires over the Smoky Mountain region. Yesterday, at Gaitlinburg, TN, raging flames fed by winds ahead of a cold front forced 14,000 people to evacuate, damaged or destroyed 100 homes, and took three lives.

siberian-wildfires-july-2016

(Siberian wildfires burning on July 23, 2016 occur in the context of severe drought. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In the upper northern latitudes, the primary upshot of drought has also been wildfires. Wildfires are often fanned by heat and drought in heavily forested regions that see reduced soil moisture levels. Thawing permafrost and reduced snow cover levels exacerbate the situation by further reducing moisture storage in dry regions and by adding peat-like fuels for fires.

From Alaska to Canada to Siberia, this has increasingly been the case. Last year, Alaska experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons on record. This year, both heat and drought contributed to the severe fires raging around the Fort McMurray region in Canada. And over recent years, wildfires running through a tremendously dry Siberia have been so extreme that satellites orbiting one million miles away could detect the smoke plumes.

Drought and wildfires in or near the Arctic justifiably seem odd, but when one considers the fact that many climate models had predicted that the higher northern latitudes would be one of the few major regions to experience increases in precipitation, that oddity turns ominous. If the present trend toward widespread Arctic drought is representative, then warming presents a drought issue from Equator to Pole.

A dwindling Lake Baikal — which feeds on water flowing in from rain and snow in Central Siberia — bears grim testament to an expanding drought over central and northern Russia. Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and oldest lake, is threatened by climate change-related drying of the lands that drain into it. In 2015, water levels in Baikal hit record-low levels, and over the past few years, fires raging around the lake have increasingly endangered local communities and wildlife.

To the south and west, the Gansu province of China was placed under a level 4 drought alert this past summerThere, large swaths of crops were lost; half a billion dollars in damages mounted. The Chinese government rushed aid to 6.2 million affected residents, trucking potable water into regions rendered bereft of local supplies.

india-drought-baked-and-bleached-riverbeds

(Lakes and river beds dried up across India earlier this year as the monsoon was delayed for the third year in a row. Image source: India Water Portal.)

India this year experienced similar, but far more widespread, water shortages. In April, 330 million people within India experienced water stress. Water resupply trains wound through the countryside, delivering bottles of potable liquid to residents who’d lost access. A return of India’s monsoon provided some relief, but drought in India and Tibet’s highlands remains in place as glaciers shrink in the warming air.

Africa has recently seen various food crises crop up as wildfires raged through its equatorial forests. Stresses to humans, plants, and animals due to dryness, water and food shortage, and fires have been notably severe. Earlier this year, 36 million people across Africa faced hunger due to drought-related impacts. Nearer term, South Africa has been forced to cull hippo and buffalo herds as a multi-year drought continues there.

Shifting north into Europe, we also find widespread and expanding drought conditions. This situation is not unexpected for Southern Europe, where global climate models show incursions of desert climates from across the Mediterranean. But as with northern Russia and North America, Northern Europe is also experiencing drought. These droughts across Europe helped to spark severe wildfires in Portugal and Spain in the summer, as corn yields for the region are predicted to fall.

drought-wildfires-peru

(During November, drought spurred wildfires that erupted along the Amazon Rainforest’s boundary zone in Peru. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Finally finding our way back into the Americas, we see widespread drought conditions covering much of Brazil and Columbia, winding down the Andes Mountains through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. In sections of the increasingly clear-cut and fire-stricken Amazon Rainforest and running on into northeastern Brazil, drought conditions have now lasted for five years. There, half of the region’s cities face water rationing and more than 20 million people are currently confronted with water stress. From September to November 2015, more than 100,000 acres of drought-stricken Amazonian rainforest has burned in Peru. Meanwhile, Bolivia has seen its second-largest lake dry up and critical water-supplying glaciers melt as hundreds of thousands of people fall under water rationing.

Impacts to Food

Ongoing drought and extreme weather have created local impacts to food supplies in various regions. However, these impacts have not yet seriously affected global food markets. Drought in Brazil and India, for example, has significantly impacted sugar production, which in turn is pushing global food prices higher. Cereal production is a bit off which is also resulting in higher prices, though not the big jumps we see in sugar. But a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Index for October of 2016 (173 approx) at 9 percent higher than last year’s measure for this time of year is still quite a ways off the 229 peak value during 2011 that helped to set off so much unrest around the globe.

food-index

(Rising food prices during 2016 in the face of relatively low energy prices and significant climate-related challenges to farmers is some cause for concern. Image source: FAO.)

That said, with energy prices falling into comparatively low ranges, relatively high (and rising) food prices are some cause for concern. Traditionally, falling energy prices also push food prices lower as production costs drop, but it appears that these gains by farmers are being offset by various environmental and climate impacts. Furthermore, though very widespread, drought appears to have thus far avoided large grain-producing regions like the central U.S., and central and east Asia. So the global food picture, if not entirely rosy, isn’t as bad as it could be.

Conditions in Context — Increasing Evaporation, Melting Glaciers, Less Snow Cover, Shifting Climate Zones

With the world now likely to hit 1.5 C above pre-industrial temperatures over the next 15 to 20 years, overall drought conditions will likely worsen. Higher rates of evaporation are a primary feature of warming, meaning more rain must fall just to keep pace. In addition, loss of glacial ice in various mountain ranges and loss of snow cover in drier Arctic and near-Arctic environments will further reduce river levels and soil moisture. Increasing prevalence of extreme rainfall events versus steady rainfall events will further stress the vegetation that aids in soil moisture capture. Finally, changes to atmospheric circulation due to polar amplification will combine with a poleward movement of climate zones to generally confuse traditional growing seasons. As a result, everything that relies on steady water supplies and predictable weather patterns will face challenges as the world shifts into a state of more obvious climate change.

Links:

Global Drought Monitor

Global Drought Information System

LANCE MODIS

#ThankYouNASA 

India Water Portal

FAO

The World Meteorological Organization

Hat tip to ClimateHawk1

Hat tip to June

Hat tip to Ryan

Hat tip to Griffon

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Greg

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71 Comments

  1. John S

     /  November 30, 2016

    Thanks for the post Robert. As always appreciate your work, and also for putting your voice out there.

    Right on cue lots of Oz media reporting weather warnings for an extreme heatwave this weekend, covering about 1000 miles of eastern Oz, but not a single mention anywhere to that which must not be named.

    (article didn’t want to link)
    Queensland weather: Locals warned to prepare for the worst ahead of forecast weekend heatwave
    Madura McCormack and AAP, The Courier-Mail
    an hour ago

    QUEENSLANDERS have been warned to prepare for the worst as a community safety plan typically reserved for cyclones has been activated for the extreme heatwave this weekend.

    Most of south Queensland will face temperatures about 10C above December averages from tomorrow…

    Like an old Hitchcock move, the music score is giving the game away to the audience but the passengers haven’t realised yet the train driver is dead at the wheel…cue the screams

    Reply
    • Wow. A 10 C departure over typical summer time averages is pretty extreme. Thanks for the head’s up. Going to check wet bulb/heat index. I suppose they expect high risk for heat casualties. Otherwise, why activate the cyclone warning system?

      Looks like 10-15 C positive anomaly in the 147 hour GFS forecast for parts of Queensland…

      Queensland Heatwave

      On the plus side, relative humidity is predicted to be somewhat low, which should help with heat index values.

      Reply
      • According to Michael Mann, pre-industrial era dates back to 1750. According to Wikipedia, the industrial era began with the first trains in 1848.
        Michael Manns study shows that we need to add close to 0,3°C to the IPCC’s mean of 1850 to 1910, which means that since the “pre-industrial era” (1750), AGW sets at 1,5°C.
        Someone has to dot those “I”s and cross those T’s🙂
        Thanks for the article and take care.

        Jack

        Reply
        • Actually, I’m using the World Meteorological Organisation’s definition which is 1880 to 1899. As in ‘according to…’ Nice try, though. And understandable considering that multiple definitions for this term are used.

          Here’s the direct quote from the WMO:

          “It is very likely that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, with global temperatures even higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015. Preliminary data shows that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to an assessment by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).”

          And from the notes section of the report:

          “A number of definitions exist for the pre-industrial period, the most commonly used being 1850-99 and 1880-99. The value of 1.2 °C is valid (to the nearest 0.1 °C) whichever of these periods is chosen.”

        • DroughtMonitor

           /  November 30, 2016

          I agree. By 1880 the Industrial Revolution was well underway not only in England, but Germany, U.S. and much more. Pre-Industrial Revolution would be 1750. Of course, many fossil vested interests would rather use 1880. Let’s be objective and use 1750.

        • Well, Drought Monitor, if I’m using a report, I should use their definitions. Otherwise, I have to create a caveat and explain why I’m using different definitions. In any case, there are many reasons for using 1880 to 1899 as a baseline. It’s the one I prefer due to commonality and ease of use. For example, most of the major monitors use it.

          Also, 1750 is somewhat problematic due to its proximity to the little ice age. 1880-1899 measures are closer to Holocene baseline in general.

        • Here is a relevant Holocene baseline graph:

          Here is the near term one Mann uses to justify his perspective:

          Note that the more recent period of 1600 to 1800 is cool relative to the Holocene.

        • Jeremy in Wales

           /  November 30, 2016

          I think we have to be clear that CO2 was being added to the atmosphere well before 1880, for example coal was being drift mined in NE England by 1350 and was then shipped to London (since there was no wood available in sufficient quanties.) The first of Thomas Newcomen’s steam engines was installed by 1712, pumping water from coal mines, leading to increased coal production. The first factories using machinery and division of labour were established in the 1700’s.
          But a date has to be picked and consistently used so 1880 it is, just do not say it is the begining of the industrial age.

        • Yes. I agree. And it would be helpful if we could be very clear about definitions and why we have them. For example, it makes better sense to start baseline temperature measurements in a period that is closer to holocene baseline. If we start at 1750, we are starting below the baseline. Starting at 1880 gives us a more realistic assessment of what 1 or 2 C relative warming is.

          The initiation of fossil fuel burning during the 18th Century is important from a carbon dioxide accumulation standpoint. But we shouldn’t mix that apple with the orange that is accurately tracking holocene temperature departures. It’s just that the use of the term ‘preindustrial’ becomes technically problematic. Perhaps pre-mass industrialization would be a better term.

          From the standpoint of the amount of carbon dumped into the atmosphere and large changes in CO2 concentration, 1880 is actually a very good start year. For example, net atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increase is about 5-8 ppm from 1750 through 1880 or about 0.05 ppm per year.

          An annual rate of accumulation that is multiplied by 6-7 from 1880 to 1960 and then again by approximately the same amount from 1960 to the 2000s.

          Further, the warming experienced from 1750 to 1880 is far more due to cycling out of Little Ice Age conditions than due to the radiative forcing change provided by the approximate addition of 5-8 ppm of CO2 over the period. For reference, we increase radiative forcing by about the same amount every 2-3 years today or approximately 50 times faster.

        • In any case, I think what we have here is a reasonable disagreement. My methodology for temperature tracking uses 1880 as the baseline for the reasons I’ve just stated. I’m not willing to change that at this time. I do hope that the scientific community does provide a standardized baseline that everyone can agree on at some point. But the difference between Mann and WMO is one of semantics.

    • John S

       /  November 30, 2016

      Heatwave is expected to peak on the first day of SH summer. Unwelcome portents.

      Reply
      • Not liking what it might do to region near the GBR. … SSTs are in the 26-27 C range which is still safe. Get up to 29 and then we start to possibly have trouble again.

        Reply
  2. Tigertown

     /  November 30, 2016

    Many lakes are drying up all over the world.

    Lakes drying up

    Reply
  3. Tigertown

     /  November 30, 2016

    I had this in a file but will try to find where i got it from, unless I can email to myself and copy. not sure if that will work.

    Disappearing lakes

    Reply
    • Hmm. Still not working. Probably needs to come from a live web page. Will try to find in browser.

      Edit: No luck in browser.

      Reply
    • Tigertown

       /  November 30, 2016

      Looks good now. There were several articles out this last summer about Lake Urmia. The picture shows boats sitting on the dry bed.

      Reply
      • Third time’s a charm:

        Disappearing Lake Urmia

        Reply
        • annielittlehawk

           /  December 2, 2016

          I googled to find articles containing this image because I wanted to read more about this lake, and I found this statement in this article linked below
          It says this: “The results of this investigation, which recently appeared in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, revealed that in September 2014 the lake’s surface area was about 12% of its average size in the 1970s, a far bigger fall than previously realised. The research undermines any notion of a crisis caused primarily by climate changes. It shows that the pattern of droughts in the region has not changed significantly, and that Lake Urmia survived more severe droughts in the past.”

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2015/jan/23/iran-lake-urmia-drying-up-new-research-scientists-urge-action

  4. Andy_in_SD

     /  November 30, 2016

    FAO correlates extremely well will civil unrest. That rising line on it is what we watch to see the triggers.

    The Mid East is still reeling from that large FAO spike as it manifested itself in the desperate act of one man in Tunisia, and ripped past the Nile throughout the region.

    Watch FAO, watch net exporters and what they are able to export. Watch water, surface and subsurface. Those are the tea leaves that portend troubles that manifest into human conflict and migration.

    Reply
    • Good point. Approx 210 was trigger point for past instances. Water is a similar issue. To my knowledge, we don’t have an index value for that.

      Reply
      • Andy_in_SD

         /  November 30, 2016

        Remember when this graph came out? It caught all of us with it’s impact.

        fao conflict correlation

        Reply
        • Yes! I think we discussed this pretty extensively a few years back. As an instability indicator, it helps to keep one eye on the FAO index. Thanks for bringing this one back, Andy.

  5. Veronica Desmond

     /  November 30, 2016

    Here in Southern Ireland we have had eight weeks with relatively little rain. This is quite amazing for our Emerald Isle. October/November are usually wet stormy cold and almost always overcast. We are experiencing weather conditions that we would rarely get in summer. It would be so nice to just accept it but knowing what it indicates is very frightening. Again I thank all of you that research and give us so much vital information

    Reply
    • There’s been pretty consistent ridging in the NE Atlantic for a while now. That would tend to lock Ireland into much warmer averages. The ocean has a pretty powerful effect at this time.

      Reply
  6. Looking at the interactive sea ice chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), it shows that the curve for sea ice is at an all time low in the satellite record right now. So, as Robert has pointed out in his articles, the Arctic is experiencing a delayed freezing event. Air temperatures and probably more importantly ocean temperatures are anomalous.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

    Earthnullschool dot net shows sea surface temperature anomalies near the Svalbard islands as high as 11.2 degrees C above normal – that’s 20 degrees F above normal.

    So will this delayed freezing event have lasting effects on Arctic sea ice extent?

    In 2006, there looks like a similar delayed freezing event to 2016, looking at the interactive sea ice chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This was followed by 2007, the year with the third lowest summer sea ice extent on record. This may be an artifact caused by wind blowing the sea ice around, though.

    Interestingly enough, 2011 appears to show no delayed freezing event, looking relatively normal compared to recent years on the chart, but 2012 showed the lowest summer Arctic sea ice extent on record.

    So, should we be more concerned about delayed freezing events like 2006 might be, or enhanced melting events like 2012, or years with both like 2016?

    I think delayed freezing events may be the most important. Some of the modeling shows very rapid transitions to an almost ice free winter state, but not until roughly 100 years from now, and some scientists associate this rapid transition with high ocean temperatures above freezing in the winter in some areas of the Arctic.

    Are we getting significant delayed freezing events 100 years early? If so, will this lead to a sudden transition in the Arctic, within the next couple of decades?

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  November 30, 2016

      Just came across this youtube video by “Burning Earth Radio”…where he does, IMO a good job of explained the current weather pattern and how it is affecting the Arctic and North America….using the current satellite imagery.

      “Dakota Cyclone and the North American Heat Wave” Released November 30th.

      Reply
      • So, a few points here.

        1. The heat transfer is generally from equator to pole. So heat doesn’t spill out of the Arctic. It’s more that relative warming in the Arctic provides avenues for more warm air coming in from the south.
        2. This is manifest in atmospheric circulation patterns where we tend to get strong dipoles. On one side, we have warm, northbound moving air and on the other side we have cold, southbound moving air.
        3. This is visible both at the surface and in the Jet Stream.
        4. Ocean warming is a primary driver for the anomalously warm air mass over the central Arctic. Loss of sea ice and ocean surface warming results in heat ventilating into the atmosphere over and near the Arctic Ocean. And there’s a kind of feedback process in play where less sea ice means more ocean surface warming and vice versa.
        5. In the end, you have a taller, moister, warmer air mass over the Arctic. This tends to shove the cold air back toward the continents. Siberia is the primary haven for this air due to its ability to separate somewhat from the ocean influence. Cananda, Alaska and Greenland are more interspersed with waterways, so they make a less effective haven for refugee cold air.
        6. General movement of climate zones northward adds to this overall effect. But the dynamic between the Arctic Ocean region and the rest of the world appears to have been fundamentally altered.
        7. There are three warm air slots running into the Arctic at this time. 1. Pacific 2. Atlantic 3. North America.
        8. The North American warm air slot is a bit odd in that we are seeing continental warming during fall/winter. However, there’s a few oceanic influences at play. First the abnormally warm Gulf of Mexico, similarly warm Atlantic off the Eastern Seaboard, and abnormally warm Hudson and Baffin Bays generates a kind of atmospheric vent running north. The natural tendency of fronts to form in the downslope of the Rockies adds impetus to this northbound flux. And a longer term La Nina like pattern tends to warm and dry the Central and Eastern US. In other words, there are more variables at play than simple continental features.

        Reply
    • Astute commentary, Leland. 2006, 2011 and 2016 (winter) are similar in that they all occurred during La Nina or La Nina-ish patterns. 2011 was during a pretty decent La Nina. 2006, like the current event, was considerably weaker and tended closer to ENSO neutral.

      This may suggest that 2016 would tend to act more in a 2006ish fashion than 2011. And Nino is a big driver considering downstream effects.

      That said, the atmospheric circulation has tended to shift over the 2000 to 2016 timeframe. Climate zones run further north. Sea ice is greatly reduced. And polar amplification is hitting a higher gear. The tendency, in this case, is that Equator to Pole energy transfers and teleconnections would tend to be enhanced during the 2016 timeframe. As a result, the extreme conditions that we saw during 2006 would tend to be further amplified if applied to the 2016 context.

      Interestingly, the Dec-Feb precipitation pattern during 2006-2007 may look a bit familiar for those of us sitting here in 2016:

      Reply
      • Thanks, Robert. I think I need to read a book or two about meteorology and climatology.

        What worries me is that 2017 might be similar to 2012, the current record holder for the lowest summer sea ice extent, but worse. 2006, with its delayed freezing event, was followed by 2007, the third lowest summer sea ice extent in the satellite record. Maybe, like you say, the delayed freezing events and the low summer sea ice extent in the following year are both associated, and maybe are driven by La Nina.

        Those hot spots near Svalbard in the sea surface temperature anomaly have me freaked out. I’m not sure if these are totally unprecedented or not, but they look damned unusual.

        So, maybe the sea ice will recover slightly after this El Nino /La Nina cycle, and next summer’s possible new record low in sea ice extent. But what happens during the next El Nino /La Nina cycle? Will we get our blue water summer Arctic sea ice event, then, and be beyond the tipping point in the Arctic Ice / Albedo positive feedback?

        Each delayed freezing event with high sea surface temperature anomalies will chip away at the Arctic sea ice volume, it seems.

        Reply
  7. redskylite

     /  November 30, 2016

    Thanks (Robert) for that fact filled narrative of the downhill condition we natives of Earth find ourselves in, early on in the 21st Century.

    In the 1990’s I visited Bali and watched a beatiful, traditional Hindu play on good vs. evil, a recurring theme in their beliefs.

    I get a sense of Déjà vu in watching the current political events unfolding, so far limited to the U.K and the U.S.A.

    Let me be wrong, but reading Dr. Jeff Masters wunderblog column doen’t give me much confidence. I just hope I will be able to read the Scribbler and Wunderblog through these tough four years.

    “Climate science and climate scientists in the United States are likely to be under unprecedented assault by powerful politicians in the coming four years. Climate-change-denying politicians are already in high positions in Congress, and soon we will have a president who has publicly denied climate change science. On Giving Tuesday, November 29, I urge you to make a tax-deductible donation to the nonprofit Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) to help protect the crucial research of climate scientists from political interference.

    Multiple climate scientists are currently involved in litigation in state and federal courts across the United States. Most noteworthy have been the cases brought by Lamar Smith (R-Texas), head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and a major recipient of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. According to Wikipedia, Smith’s House Science committee issued more subpoenas in his first three years than the committee had for its entire 54-year history; many of these subpoenas demanded the records and communications of scientists who published papers that Smith disapproved of. In one of his 2016 subpoenas, Smith called on court decisions defending the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s as valid legal precedent for his investigation—explicitly equating his investigation with the dark McCarthy era in our history when the government trampled on civil liberties.

    Trump has little knowledge of climate science, and low regard for climate scientists
    President-elect Trump’s remarks on climate change last week to the New York Times demonstrate that the president-elect has little knowledge of climate science, and low regard for climate scientists. Some examples from the interview:

    Trump on climate change: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views.”

    My commentary: Climate change is a matter of scientific fact. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. The hottest day on Earth since records began probably came in 2016–Earth’s third consecutive warmest year on record. The year 1898 was one of the coldest years in global recorded history, ranking as the 18th coldest year since 1880. The hottest day globally is a statistic that is not computed by climate scientists, and is largely irrelevant to the discussion of climate, which is measured on timescales of many years.

    Trump on wind turbines: “They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere.”

    My commentary: Steel in the atmosphere? That’s completely insignificant.”

    https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/on-giving-tuesday-support-increasingly-embattled-climate-scientists

    Reply
    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  November 30, 2016

      redsky,if the USA turns its back on science and rationality, it will just have to be up to China, India, Germany, Japan etc to do the heavy lifting. Then, if the USA ever regains its marbles, you can join in.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  November 30, 2016

        I fear that the U.S.A….did turn its back..firmly…on science and rationality on November 8th. The attack started with Republicans and right wing radio/tv many decades ago…and has climaxed with the election of the Lunatic. I am not sure if we have four years to wait out this Lunatic and his regime….which is why Resistance is all we have now…to mitigate as much of the damage as possible.

        Reply
        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  December 1, 2016

          Suzanne, we in Australia are in the grips of the same sort of Rightwing psychotics. The ruling Federal regime is chock-full of the most vicious and moronic denialists imaginable, who are exulting in Trump’s triumph. The Murdoch MSM cancer just grows ever more fanatical in its denialism, and have a coterie of denialist opinion writers and super-moronic letter writers. The regime has destroyed climate science research at the Government CSIRO (just like in Canada under Harper). The new boss at the Government ABC broadcaster (a ‘former’ Murdoch droog) has just axed the flagship ‘Catalyst’ science program, and ALL music shows??!! The latter has roused more fury than the former. The Federal regime is tearing up the water plan for our major river system, to return water to highly inefficient irrigators rather than the ecology of the system. Broad-scale land-clearing has returned to Queensland and NSW, despite the catastrophe for fauna and carbon emissions. It’s the farmers’ PROPERTY after all, and property rights are SACRED! And the Forest Agreement in Tasmania, worked out over years of negotiation, is being simply trashed, and logging is to return to various precious, remnant, forests. Everywhere you look, Rightwing fanatics are attacking Life, with a demented fury, oblivious to evidence or science (‘experts’ are loathed by our Right)or the fate of their own children. Who needs alien invasion or lizard extra-galactics, when monsters like these walk among us?

        • Suzanne

           /  December 1, 2016

          Mulga….I appreciate your thoughtful post. I am normally rational person…who doesn’t cave in to the “sky is falling” kind of thinking…but I have to say…I am finding it harder and harder to believe that somehow….rationality and science will prevail over the right wing nuts. The election of the Lunatic on November 8th…along with the really disturbing news coming out of the Arctic and Antarctica ….is leading me towards believing that we are never going to come out of this death spiral we are in…and have now accelerated the 6th extinction event by decades.

        • Maybe. My wife tells me NYT subscriptions are up by over 100,000 since the election, so not everyone is being seduced by fake news.

    • @ Redskylite

      Trump on wind turbines: “They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere.”

      My commentary: Steel in the atmosphere? That’s completely insignificant.”

      He’s probably referring to the amounts of fossil fuels needed to process the steel and other metals. That is actually factual in the short term but as more clean energy becomes available, less dirty energy will be used for anything.

      I get the impression that he’s being coached by others and losing a lot in the translation.

      Reply
      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  November 30, 2016

        Some see producing steel by using scrap and renewable energy as a profit making opportunity. A new producer in S. Wales, Liberty Steel, has taken over a rolling mill in Newport, a coal power station (Uskmouth) being converted to wood chip to power electric arc furnaces and has a stake in the company proposing tidal laggons in the Severn Estuary (Mor y Hafren)
        http://www.libertyhousegroup.com/news/tidal-lagoons-to-power-greensteel-vision/
        Greenwash? or a real economic opportunity?

        Reply
    • Thanks for this, Redsky. And thanks to Weather Underground for the very salient commentary. We face monetarily inspired ignorance in this country. An ignorance that is working as hard as it can to demonize climate scientists, environmentalists, and anyone who supports renewable energy, conservation, and protecting the natural world. I think we need to be ready to fight on all fronts. And donating to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to organize and work together to defend people and agencies who are singled out for attack. And I don’t think we can rationally hope that the attacks are not coming. That they will not be severe and brutal. We need to be ready.

      Reply
    • annielittlehawk

       /  December 2, 2016

      just relative to one thing Trump said about steel going back into the atmosphere….I think what he was saying (poorly) was that the C02 from the manufacturing process for steel goes back into the atmosphere. He’s not exactly a professor or an English major LOL…certainly I’m not defending Trump at all in any generalized way, but he does take a lot of short cuts and circuitous meanderings in his way of speaking that can make him sound dumber than he actually is. I suspect that he may be an ADD/ADHD type of person and as a result may be too impatient to construct proper sentences.

      Reply
      • How can we say ‘there are so many things wrong with this?’ Even if we count the emissions that go into producing steel to make wind turbines, it’s a fraction of 1 percent when compared to fossil fuel generation. Further, as you decarbonize thermal capacity for steel, you remove that carbon. So even if we give Trump the benefit of the doubt, it’s still a bunk argument.

        Reply
        • Seems pretty similar to Taiwan. He doesn’t like the way wind turbines look, and the Scottish courts didn’t roll over for him, so that’s reason enough to eternally oppose a zero-emitting energy source that has doubly offended him.

  8. Plus there’s the cultural impact, for example the Snow Star Festival in the Andes where ice from the glacier, believed to have healing powers, is/was cut annually..

    “No longer are people guaranteed an area of pristine snow to carry out their rituals- instead, many people find themselves assigned a section of muddy field where there was once snow as far as the eye could see.”

    http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=27690http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/climate-change-is-melting-qoyllur-riti-a-sacred-ice-tradition-in-andes-mountains

    Reply
  9. There are so many indicators weather is getting more extreme. While increasingly more regions are suffering increasingly worse drought conditions, other regions are again drowning, Northern Italy for example has just been hit badly http://www.euronews.com/2016/11/26/deadly-torrential-rains-cause-havoc-and-destruction-in-northern-italy (Greece, too, has been heavily hit)

    Reply
  10. Suzanne

     /  November 30, 2016

    “Antarctica Ice Shelf Breaking from the Inside Out” at Scientific American 10 hours ago:
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/antarctica-ice-shelf-is-breaking-from-the-inside-out/
    The significant new findings published yesterday in Geophysical Research Letters show that the ocean is melting the interior of the Pine Island Glacier, which is about the size of Texas. The crack seems to be accelerating, said Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author. The findings are the first confirmation of something glaciologists have long suspected was happening, he said.

    Reply
  11. Henri

     /  November 30, 2016

    India now hosts the world’s biggest solar power plant.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/india-unveils-world-largest-solar-power-plant-161129101022044.html

    Why do i often get the feeling the developing nations are doing much better on the renewable front than the traditional economic super powers when taking the means in to consideration?

    Reply
    • We could have been doing this in the US back in the 80s if we’d set our minds to it. Instead, we’ve been afflicted by this plague of climate change denial and related fossil fuel monetary influence on our politics.

      Reply
      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  November 30, 2016

        There has to be the hope that economics overwhelms the deniers and that widespread adoption worldwide and in the US is inevitable.
        This video seems really hopeful especially on the price undercutting

        (I have posted this once before but think it deserves to be watched)

        Reply
        • Thanks, Jeremy. I really appreciate it. Could use a bit of hope at this time.

        • Joe Romm, who worked with Amory way back when, is also quite good to similar effect in this video, which I believe was posted elsewhere here earlier:

          Speech before Colorado Renewable Energy Society in October 2016.

  12. Suzanne

     /  November 30, 2016

    “Tennessee Wildfire is ‘unlike anything we’ve ever seen’ ” at Scientific American:
    A prolonged drought that has engulfed much of the Southeast created conditions that were ripe for this fire as well as others that have dogged the region this fall. Areas in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park are dealing with year-to-date rainfall deficits of up to 20 inches. Through October, Tennessee is also having its third-warmest year on record. That’s ensured the entire state is mired in drought with the epicenter in the southeast part of the state that’s currently ablaze.

    Whether climate change will make fires more common in the region is an ongoing area of research. It’s unclear if the Southeast will become wetter or drier due to climate change and that will have a big influence on future wildfire activity.
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tennessee-wildfire-is-unlike-anything-weve-ever-seen/

    Reply
  13. DroughtMonitor

     /  November 30, 2016

    The implication is that more than abrupt climate change, we’ll see Abrupt Worldwide Social Change.

    Reply
    • That’s a good way to put it. But it’s abrupt social change spurred by a transforming climate that is generating economic and physical dislocation.

      Reply
  14. bostonblorp

     /  November 30, 2016

    It’s hard to truly believe rising food prices would be a good thing but my regard for humanity has slumped to the extent that I feel full bellies and our unending supply of infotainment are significant obstacles to any meaningful action. Maybe when folks are faced with $12/gallon of milk they will start to connect some dots and call for change. Maybe.

    On the other hand, as I’m sure most have read, “anarchy is only nine meals away.”

    Reply
    • I don’t think we can rely on crisis to produce rational responses. Look at how the republicans have dug in their heels despite all evidence going the other way. I think the most effective method of changing how people behave is communication. He need to be able to change hearts and minds. Otherwise, starvation is just going to make people even angrier than they are now and some demagogue will come along to exploit that fear as a source of power. We are in crisis now and we need to be telling people that. Trump is as much a symptom of the problem as anything. He’s as much a sign of the coming trouble as rising seas.

      Reply
      • Jeremy in Wales

         /  November 30, 2016

        It seems to me that the Republicans response to climate change has nothing to do with evidence it is all based on belief. They are scared that the emergency leads to big government interferring with everyones “choice”.
        Make it an arguement for cheap energy and profit to tune your people in?

        Reply
        • A lot of people have tried a lot of angles. I think the main block is coming from the monied fossil fuel interests. That said, I think the American psyche is particularly vulnerable to this myth of the super-individual who just does it all on his/her own without any outside help. Oddly enough, this makes some of us particularly open to being manipulated and victimized. It’s a tough thing to talk through, Jeremy. But I think there’s a lot going on beyond that particular predilection. This Trump election just feels wrong.

        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  December 1, 2016

          Jeremy, by definition 50% of the populace are of below median intelligence. They are also easily manipulated by propaganda brainwashing, and in the West, and much of the rest of the world, the MSM is totally controlled by the Right. These MSM organs have been concentrated in ownership more and more over the last forty years, and pushed further and further Right by creatures like Murdoch. I work where I meet people all the time, and the stupid and ignorant are invariably deniers, and I do not pursue argument once they begin digging their heels in, because, for the type, stubbornness is strength, after all. The idea of actually changing your mind when better informed seems to them quite terrifying, and ‘politically correct’, the all-purpose denunciation for any proposition they cannot comprehend. Even after narrowly escaping wildfire, as the districts here did two years ago, most of them refuse to see the hand of climate destabilisation at work. ‘We’ve always had fires…’, goes the mantra. And we are primed for big ones this year, after record winter rain, and grasses and woody weeds up to the skies and rapidly drying out, and temperatures up north, where our summer weather comes from, reaching 45 Celsius(113 F)today.

  15. That climate-caused food supply mentioned above? It’s been going on for YEARS already. Just not here. Yet. When it does expect the US to look like…the Middle East. Won’t that be lovely?

    Arctic: This came up today.

    The Arctic Goes Bonkers
    by Robert Hunziker

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/30/the-arctic-goes-bonkers/

    Recent news out of the Arctic is alarming scientists, as for example the Union of Concerned Scientists discussed further on in this article. This extreme bad news is far-reaching, out of the ordinary, and chilling to the bone.

    Global warming is getting worse and worse by the month and by the year and now, all of a sudden, frighteningly worse yet. Worldwide temperature sets monthly records, but who really cares in the public domain, other than scientists, the Pope, and the parties to COP, the Conference of the Parties, which is the gabfest for climate change. It’s where thousands of climate diplomats consume Bordeaux and caviar whilst staying in $250/$750/night hotel rooms and talk and talk and drink and eat and talk. Finally, agreeing to “voluntarily” hold average global temperature increase below 2°C vis a vis pre-industrial temps, which few people outside of their inner circle fully understand. As it happens, 2°C seems like such a small number, and after all it is voluntary! But, for complicated reasons not discussed herein, it is not a small number, truth be known, 1.5°C will cause big problems in the climate. Nevertheless, forget all of the handwringing over 2°C, or 1.5°C for that matter, because humongous problems are already here, right now!

    The voluntary commitments at COP21 to reduce global CO2 emissions need to be rock solid, and hopefully, they’ll happen soon enough to stave off ecosystem collapse, which looks more threatening today than yesterday. Otherwise, there’ll be worldwide famine and brutal war amongst warring tribes fighting over tillable land, as global warming cranks up, disrupting the biosphere, scorching agricultural land, like Syria from 2007 to 2011, a drought that drove 1.5 million farmers off ancient Fertile Crescent land into the cities for work and food. Shortly thereafter, all hell broke lose.

    Meanwhile, the eastern Mediterranean is drying up, guaranteeing more climate refugees. “A new NASA study finds that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, which comprises Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past nine centuries,” (Source: NASA Finds Drought in Eastern Mediterranean Worst of Past 900 Years, nasa.gov, March 1, 2016). Did somebody say, “global warming”?

    Meanwhile, and only very recently, extraordinarily bad news is coming out 0f the Arctic: The Siberian Times d/d October 4tth has an article about an expedition to the Laptev Sea (Arctic) bringing forth awful news, simply awful, as scientists discover severe underwater permafrost degradation. Dr. Igor Semiletov of Tomsk Polytechnic University led the charge on the research vessel Academic M.A. Lavrentyev on a 40-day mission.

    Accordingly, the East Siberian Shelf is one of the world’s most active and dangerous sources of methane (CH4) release into the atmosphere: Back in 2014, according to Dr. Semiletov: ‘Emissions of methane from the East Siberian Shelf – which is the widest and most shallow shelf of the World Ocean – exceed the average estimate emissions of all the world’s oceans. We have reason to believe that such emissions may change the climate. This is due to the fact that the reserves of methane under the submarine permafrost exceed the methane content in the atmosphere by many thousands of times,” Arctic Methane Gas Emission ‘Significantly Increased Since 2014’ – Major New Research, The Siberian Times, October 4, 2016.

    This year’s new expedition revealed significant methane release noticeably more so than past expeditions in the same area explored 2011 thru 2014. Alarmingly, the degradation of underwater permafrost is only getting worse. However, truth be told, nobody really knows for sure how much locked-in-ice-methane is in the permafrost, but scientists witness enormous plumes of methane within water columns, spewing into the atmosphere. At some point in time, that’s immensely problematic for life on Earth. Still, nobody really knows for sure when runaway global warming hits hard, 5 years, 20 years, 100 years. It happens unannounced!

    Five years ago, Dr. Semiletov said: “We found more than 100 fountains each of more than a kilometer across. These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful, and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 meters in diameter,” Ibid.

    That is dreadful news, especially if and when the Arctic loses its protective ice cap, like right now! It’s a likely precursor to runaway global warming, which, over time, has the potential to incinerate any and all human life, assuming some people are fortunate enough to survive brutal bloodthirsty food/land wars along the way, kinda like the post-apocalyptic dystopian film Mad Max (1979), societal collapse, feud, and vengeance. Runaway global warning has that kind of dystopian power.

    Here’s the genesis of the current impending disaster alert: For thousands of years, thick multi-year Arctic ice has prevented frozen methane release into the atmosphere, but nowadays the Arctic has turned into a slush pit, losing its multi-year thickness which reflects up to 90% of incoming solar radiation back out into outer space. But, slush doesn’t measure up to the job!

    Already, it is well established that anthropogenic (human-caused) fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are responsible for the severe Arctic meltdown, whereas, up until 10 years ago, the Arctic had substantial multi-year ice 5-10-25 feet thick, actually throughout the course of human history, but no longer, as the once almighty Arctic has turned into a weakling, a slush pool.

    Now, solar radiation has a clear pathway to permafrost to heat-up frozen methane trapped under the thick ice ever since the last Ice Age 10,000-12,000 years ago. Not only that but CH4 is much, much more powerful at accelerating global warming than is CO2.

    For those who happen to be standing, please sit down to handle a knuckle sandwich: “It is polar night in the Arctic—a darkness that lasts from early October to early March. Temperatures rarely escape freezing in that darkness, averaging -30° F until the light begins to return in spring. Right now, however, temperatures across much of the Arctic are 36 degrees F above normal. Large areas are well above freezing. And instead of rapidly expanding, sea ice extent is in decline. Taken together, this is not unusual. It’s unheard of.” (Source: Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Global Warming in the Arctic: A Sensitive Climate Gone Off the Rails, Union of Concerned Scientists, November 21, 2016).

    The Union of Concerned Scientists statement that Arctic conditions have gone off the rails and “unheard of” is kinda like a 105 mph fastball whizzing across the plate in the World Series; all heads turn.

    Today’s Arctic conditions are unprecedented. Global sea ice extent is literally falling off the edge of the cliff on a graph of Global Sea Ice Extent provided by NSDIC (National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, Co), which displays yearly ice extent since 1978. The 2016 graph line horrifyingly plummets straight down, steeply below all previous years. It’s hard to imagine worse news.

    “Global sea ice extent began 2016 (thick red line) at low levels. Just in recent days, the Arctic has lost more than a million square kilometers of sea ice, reaching a new record low and contributing to a steep decline in November’s total global sea ice extent. Antarctic sea ice extent is also at record low levels,” (Source: NSDIC).

    But, it’s November! The Arctic is supposed to be frozen, not melting away.

    “By many available measures, the oncoming Arctic winter is in a nose dive unprecedented in recent record keeping,” (NSDIC). A “nose dive” says a lot.

    The Arctic is breaking records left and right!

    Here’s more horrible news from Union of Concerned Scientists: “Myron Ebell—one of the world’s most prominent and vocal climate change deniers—has been tasked with overseeing the [Trump] transition of the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency. The very agency tasked with implementing the nation’s leading plan for curbing global warming pollution—the Clean Power Plan,” (The Union of Concerned Scientists).

    And, that’s not all, here’s more horrible news: “Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation was named to lead president-elect Trump’s State Department transition. Groves penned, just last week, an article advocating a speedy withdrawal from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which we’ve been a party since its ratification in 1992. It’s a move that would scrap our commitments under the landmark Paris Climate Agreement—you know, that thing that stands between us and catastrophic warming,” (The Union of Concerned Scientists).

    Nobody really has any idea if and/or when Runaway Global Warming (RGW) will hit civilization like a ton of bricks, but lo and behold scientists do have knowledge of an extreme case in the paleoclimate record: Fifty-five (55) million years ago, global temps increased by 5° C within 13 years; CO2 in the atmosphere was 1,000 ppm and there was no ice on the planet, gulp. That’s remarkable because it should take hundreds of years, or longer, for global temps to increase by that amount, not a measly 13 years, and probably never to be duplicated, but even a lesser number today would be catastrophic.

    One Hundred Ninety-Five (195) delegate nations to the Paris Climate Agreement agreed to voluntarily try to hold global temps to 2° C pre-industrial. Obviously, there can be no guarantees, and incidentally, how could there be?

    But, wait a moment, what about the endless supply of drought-stricken eastern Mediterranean climate migrants spreading all across Europe, and how about the smashingly perilous Arctic meltdown?

    After all, the planet hasn’t even come close to hitting the 2° C marker, yet all hell is breaking lose!

    Reply
    • Syd Bridges

       /  November 30, 2016

      A fair summary of where we are now. We are driving towards a cliff edge in the dark, but with no indication as to where the actual edge is. The new driver has just filled up with gas and welded the accelerator pedal to the floor. He has also promised to turn off the headlights because “they are wasting the battery.” His associates have cut the seat belts because they “are Liberal nonsense.” Rumour is that it’s a 600 foot drop, but the topo map was shredded, because the driver couldn’t read maps. I can now sit back and relax for the duration of the journey, while the cheerleaders at the front of the bus wave vermilion flags with white circles containing black swastikas. Life couldn’t be better!

      Reply
  16. Syd Bridges

     /  November 30, 2016

    Thank you for this update, Robert. The quantity of dark red on that map is staggering. So far, it is not badly affecting major food-growing areas, but that is surely only a matter of time before one or more major arable regions are hit. Then we also see threats like salt intrusion into productive deltas like the Mekong. The Dumpster may face a few crises he’s totally unprepared for in the next four years.

    Reply
  17. climatehawk1

     /  December 1, 2016

    Huh, missed this one for some reason. Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  1. to 2 December Australian climate and nuclear news | Nuclear Australia
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