What’s the Real U.S. Weather Story for Fall and Winter of 2017-2018? Abnormally Warm, Abnormally Dry.

It seems that every time a snow storm or burst of cold weather roars out of a less stable and warming Arctic, the news media is all a-buzz. Perhaps this is due to the fact that these events are abnormal in their own right. Perhaps because they are more and more the extreme punctuations and back-blasts of a larger warming climate. Perhaps it is due to the fact that cold events are steadily becoming more of a nostalgic novelty even if, when they do arrive, they can come on with a fierce intensity.


(The overall trend for winter is one of warming. This despite the fact that more extreme Jet Stream patterns due to polar amplification can still produce bursts of cold weather. Note that regions furthest north are warming the fastest. Image source Climate Central.)

In the larger trend of warming and related climate change signaled extremes, the U.S. fall and winter of 2017-2018 is no exception.

Over the past 90 days, temperatures have been well above average across the western two-thirds of the country. Consistent blocking high pressure systems over the Pacific have generated both warmer and drier than normal conditions. In states like Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, sections have experienced 5-6 C (9-11 F) above average temperatures for the entire three month period.

The Northeast, by comparison, which has seen the bulk of news coverage for recent briefer, less consistent, generally less intense cold events, has, at most, seen temperatures ranging 2-3 C (3.6 – 5.4 F) below average. In other words, the peak warm anomalies are beating out the peak cool anomalies by about 3 C — or 2 to 1 on the basis of intensity overall.

(Most of the U.S. has been much warmer and much drier than normal during the Fall and Winter of 2017-2018 with western heat and drought as the prominent feature. Image source: NOAA.)

Meanwhile, the high amplitude jet stream waves featuring cold air driven out of the Arctic by larger warm air invasions have been increasingly linked by scientific studies to human-caused climate change. These intense local cold snaps are now more often identified as a by-product of Arctic warming. Great floods of warm air invade northward, driving remnant cold air into the middle latitudes.

This bullying of cold by hot pushing mid-latitude temperatures into off-kilter extremes overlays a larger warming trend and is related to both sea ice loss and polar warming. But this particular climate change link — the fact that warm air in the Arctic is basically bullying the cold air out and is generating local, if intense, cold snaps — is presently under-reported in major broadcast weather media. Nor is the fact that daily record highs for the U.S. continue to greatly outpace daily record lows in the longer term trend being consistently highlighted.

(Though a handful of regions are experiencing cooler than 30 year average temperatures on February 7 of 2018, most of the globe today is much hotter than normal. Note that cold snaps, where they do occur appear to be concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes. Also note that none of the major climate zones are experiencing below average temperatures even as much warmer than usual conditions are concentrated at the poles. These are all signatures of a warming world. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Despite a general overlooking of the context and causes for mid latitude weather extremes as identified by climate science, perhaps the most under-reported weather and climate change related story of the Winter of 2018 is the return of drought. Presently, more of the Continental U.S. is under drought conditions than not. And we are now experiencing, as a nation, the largest drought footprint in four years.

This is notable due to the fact that four years ago — 2014 — the U.S. west was experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history with California in the grips of a six year long extreme drought period. In other words, it would take both widespread and intense drought conditions to begin to compare to the 2014 drought situation either in extent or intensity.

With California receiving so much rain last winter (2016-2017) it is also notable how rapidly drought conditions have returned. California exited a drought emergency just a little more than a year ago. Now, a similar situation is again looming. Snow packs there are swiftly diminishing — and are presently just 27 percent of average for a normal February. Fire hazard never really went away following the record blazes of spring, summer, and fall of 2017. And concern over water reservoirs is again an issue on the minds of city and state emergency planners.

As is the case in climate change related impacts on Cape Town, South Africa’s own dwindling water supply half a world away, warming related concerns are a serious issue now for California and the U.S. West. And the fact that the most populous state in the U.S. may again be facing a similar crisis so soon after the 2012-2017 drought is a major piece of weather and climate news that everyone should be reporting. It’s part of a larger and ongoing climate crisis that a few flakes of snow or even a few severe cold snaps across the Northeast can’t really even hold a candle to. Especially when a jet stream riled by an Arctic forced to warm through human fossil fuel burning is the common thread running between both the eastern cold snaps and the western heat and drought.

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  1. eleggua

     /  February 7, 2018

    The warm non-winter continues in California. Record-breaking heat expected again today in the Bay Area. If anyone mentions how nice the weather is, there’s an excellent climate change conversation starter. 😉

    ‘Bay Area cities on pace to beat record heat – again’
    Feb 07 2018

    KTVU’s meteorologist Steve Paulson said San Francisco should reach 73 degrees, San Jose could reach 76 and Livermore could reach 74 — all of those numbers would beat or tie records set in 2006 or 2011.

    The warm weather pattern is highly unusual, according to the National Weather Service. Nearly every day has been above 70 degrees, while typically that occurs only three to five times for the entire month of February.

    The reason is a high pressure front that “loves California,” Paulson said, while he and many other experts believe climate change is also behind the heat.

    And in Southern California, the situation is even more dire. This week, a national drought monitor shows that Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties have fallen back into a severe drought and 44 percent of the state is in a moderate drought.

    As for when it might rain again, Paulson said it might not happen until Feb. 22, and even then, that’s not a sure thing….”

    • Still have wildfires burning as well. Note the one in upper left of frame in this satellite shot:

      • wharf rat

         /  February 7, 2018

        Scientists find strong link between climate change and wildfires

        Researchers John T. Abatzoglou and A. Park Williams from Columbia University have found that human-caused climate change is one of the major factors behind the recent spike in wildfire numbers. They came to this conclusion by looking at weather data going back to the 1970s. They included a number of variables such as fuel dryness and global temperature increase.

        What they found was that climate change has increased temperatures in the region, which in turn has dried much of the vegetation in western states. Once the vegetation has dried up, it acts as a fuel for many wildfires. They estimate that human-caused climate change caused an additional 4.2 million hectares of forest to burn between 1984 and 2015. That’s an area three times the size of Connecticut. This increase in wildfires in the United States is not likely to slow down, and basic practices like landscaping will not be enough to prevent wildfires from happening.

      • eleggua

         /  February 8, 2018

        Looks like it’s over by Lassen. CalFire don’t have anything on it, though.

        Burn bans on in several counties in California right now; Texas and Tennesse.
        Over 50 counties in Oklahoma, including 40 by order of Gov. Mary Failing (sp.).

        ‘Burn bans in effect for most of Oklahoma’
        February 5, 2018

        “…The governor’s burn ban supersedes any county burn bans currently in place. It expires at midnight on Feb. 16….

        “Critical fire weather and worsening drought have created an increased risk for devastating wildfires,” said Fallin. “A burn ban is now necessary to reduce the risk of preventable wildfires and to protect lives and property.””

        • eleggua

           /  February 8, 2018

        • The Prisons in Okla are dangerously overcrowded,school teachers driven out by low pay and Mary Fallin insists on keeping oil/gas production taxes the lowest in the country..Her friends also think wind energy needs to be double taxed (Okla now second in wind production)

        • eleggua

           /  February 8, 2018

          Inherit the wind.

  2. wharf rat

     /  February 7, 2018

    Go, Bears

    UC President Janet Napolitano and the leaders of four other universities unveiled the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3, a partnership of 13 North American research universities, during a panel Tuesday.

    UC3 will collaborate to help local and regional communities better implement climate action policies. Each member of the coalition will host its own climate change forum in 2018, and the members will use the information they collect to create a coalitionwide report that will be released in late 2018.

    Arizona State University
    California Institute of Technology
    Tecnológico de Monterrey
    La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
    The Ohio State University
    The State University of New York
    The University of British Columbia The University of California
    University of Colorado, Boulder
    University of Maryland, College Park
    The University of New Mexico
    The University of Toronto
    The University of Washington

    • My new form of activism is to cut and paste such great info on the weather page of newspapers Maybe the poor reporters will read and learn how to sneak info to the public

      • eleggua

         /  February 8, 2018

        ‘TV Meteorologists as Local Climate Change Educators’
        Aug. 2016

        “…it is imperative that the public, professionals, and policy-makers make decisions with an informed understanding of our changing climate. In the United States, broadcast meteorologists are ideally positioned to educate Americans about the current and projected impacts of climate change in their community.
        They have tremendous reach, are trusted sources of climate information, and are highly skilled science communicators.

        When our project began in 2009, we learned that many U.S.-based TV weathercasters were potentially interested in reporting on climate change, but few actually were, citing significant barriers including a lack of time to prepare and air stories, and lack of access to high-quality content that can be rapidly used in their broadcasts, social media, and community presentations.

        To test the premise that TV weathercasters can be effective climate educators—if supported with high-quality localized climate communication content—in 2010 George Mason University, Climate Central, and WLTX-TV (Columbia, SC) developed and pilot-tested Climate Matters, a series of short on-air (and online) segments about the local impacts of climate change, delivered by the station’s chief meteorologist.

        During the first year, more than a dozen stories aired. To formally evaluate Climate Matters, we conducted pre- and post-test surveys of local TV news viewers in Columbia.

        After one year, WLTX viewers had developed a more science-based understanding of climate change than viewers of other local news stations, confirming our premise that when TV weathercasters report on the local implications of climate change, their viewers learn….

        As of March 2016, 313 local weathercasters nationwide (at 202 stations in 111 media markets) are participating in the program, receiving new content on a weekly basis.
        Some leaders in the World Meteorological Organization are now promoting the concept of “TV weather presenters as climate change communicators,” and collaborative discussions are underway with Climate Central.

        In this article, we review the theoretical basis of the program, detail its development and national scale-up, and conclude with insights for how to develop climate communication initiatives for other professional communities of practice in the U.S. and other countries.”

  3. wharf rat

     /  February 7, 2018

    Sea ice tracking low in both hemispheres
    February 6, 2018

    January of 2018 began and ended with satellite-era record lows in Arctic sea ice extent, resulting in a new record low for the month. Combined with low ice extent in the Antarctic, global sea ice extent is also at a record low.

    • Near record lows for Antarctica right now…

      • eleggua

         /  February 8, 2018

        ‘Ice core shows North American ice sheet’s retreat affected Antarctic weather ‘
        February 7, 2018

        “….“Our data are from just one location in Antarctica, but the results provide an indication of how climate variability changed across most of the Southern Hemisphere — and perhaps most of the globe — as the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets receded at the end of the ice age,” said co-author Eric Steig, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences.

        The study relies on information contained in a 2-mile core of ice from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that UW researchers helped to drill from 2006 to 2011. This ice core is the first continuous climate record to preserve year-to-year climate variability of the last 30,000 years….

        “Year-to-year and decade-to-decade climate in Antarctica was extremely variable during the ice age. One year would not necessarily be as similar to the next as it is today,” said co-author Bradley Markle, a UW postdoctoral researcher in Earth and space sciences who contributed to the new paper as part of his UW doctorate. “Our study shows that changed abruptly at the end of the ice age. The scale of this variability was cut nearly in half.”

        The researchers next used climate models to determine the reason for the observed change. They found that it was largely caused by the shrinking of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which affected atmospheric conditions near the equator.

        “When the North American ice sheet receded and disappeared, it changed how the atmosphere in the tropics influenced the storms around Antarctica. The tropics, counterintuitively, exert a strong influence on the storminess around Antarctica through phenomena like El Niño,” Markle said. “As different as they seem, the cold Antarctic and the warm tropics are intimately connected.”

        The new study adds to a growing body of research — including previous studies from the UW — showing connections between climate in different parts of the planet. This is one of only a small handful of studies to make such a connection this far back on the shorter timescales that humans experience.

        “The results demonstrate how seemingly localized effects in one part of the world may have a large impact on climate elsewhere on Earth,” said lead author Tyler Jones, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder……”

        “More photos from Markle’s field research”

        “In addition to securing microscopic evidence from the world’s chilliest climes, Brad Markle uses his artistic eye to capture photographs of vast landscapes.”

        • eleggua

           /  February 8, 2018

          “Last summer, Markle traveled to Greenland as a student in an Advanced Climate Dynamics Course (ACDC) — organized by the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research at the University of Bergen along with the UW and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, while on a hike to look at the ice fjord of Jacobshavn Glacier, students are joined by local sled dogs.”

          “On his way back from Greenland, Markle stopped over in Iceland for a weeklong backpacking trip and snapped this shot of Álftavatn Lake.”

      • eleggua

         /  February 8, 2018

        ‘Climate change impact on Antarctica becomes clearer as scientists make progress with research’

        “….On the 60th birthday of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), there has been a call to arms from top researchers to combat global warming and associated sea level rise before the world’s cities are inundated.

        According to modern satellite records, Antarctic sea ice was on average expanding slightly until 2016, when there was a dramatic decline and levels fell to less than those initially recorded in 1979…..

        “One thing we have learnt is the East Antarctic ice sheet, which is where most of the ice is located, is potentially very vulnerable to human-induced climate change, whereas previously we thought it was stable,” Dr Phipps said….

        “Basically virtually all of the cities we have today, all of them were around 300 years ago,” (England) said.
        “We don’t build cities and expect to move from them a few hundred years later.
        “We need to think about how much of the infrastructure we have tied up on the coast.”

        “It’s a call to arms, but we are not asking people to change much. It is just getting behind the renewable sector, getting completely away from fossil fuels because they are the cause of this melt,” Dr England said.”

  4. Robert E Prue

     /  February 8, 2018

    From my location here in Comanche county Kansas, I can tell you, it’s very dry. Last time there was any measurable precipitation here was October 14th. That’s almost 4 months! And it’s not just here. Most of the country is having some sort of drought conditions. I wonder if there’s a connection of low sea ice and drought in the center of North America?

  5. DJ

     /  February 8, 2018

    Our temperatures here (Alberta, Canada) are about 10 degrees C warmer now (in the winter) than 25 years ago. We used to be zone 3B in terms of what plants you could expect to survive the winter (I think that was lows around -36C in the winter), now we’re 4B (lows around -28C). This year the coldest I’ve seen it was -25C and that was at 6am, in the dark.

    The media here has now taken to reporting that -17C or -20C is ‘extremely cold’. They’ve never even blinked about it. They also harp on the windchill – ‘-25 or -30 with the windchill’.

    We do get more large snowfall events. Maybe less snow in total, but more very large snowstorms that typically exceed forecast amounts by 2 – 3x.

    • eleggua

       /  February 8, 2018

      Here ya go, DJ; this site might be of interest.

      “The Alberta Climate Records website was developed by Christine Clark and Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle, Professor of Hydrology and GIS at the University of Lethbridge. The visualizations feature a dataset of nearly 5 million observed climate records between 1950 and 2010 for 6,833 locations across Alberta.”

      ^^^ “…interactive online map that tracks temperature changes in Alberta between 1950 and 2010” Jan 05, 2016
      “…according to Kienzle, the records tell us the province is getting warmer.

      “The average annual temperature has increased in Alberta by between two and three degrees. Particularly in winter. The winters have warmed much, much faster than the summers have warmed.”

      Back in 1950, Calgarians experienced 20 days where temperatures dropped below -25 C — but only five in 2010. The city also had 17 more frost days 60 years ago than it did six winters ago.

      Users can zoom into the online map to see how the growing season, heat waves, days over 25 C, frost days, full days below 0°C, and days below -25 C have changed over time.

      Kienzle says Alberta’s growing season has changed drastically since 1950.
      “The growing season length has increased between one and up to five weeks across Alberta.”

      He says the weather records also reveal that overall, the number of heat waves in the province has doubled since 1950 — and he doesn’t expect things to cool down anytime soon.
      “The trends we have detected will clearly continue into the future and potentially even accelerate further.””

      • DJ

         /  February 8, 2018

        Thanks for that. More than the temperature increase it’s the increase in severe weather events that’s most noticeable, and also most concerning. Violent flash rainstorms/hailstorms in the summer, and huge snow events (including one happening right now) in the winter.

    • eleggua

       /  February 8, 2018

      Digging up ^that, came across this:

      ‘Over three billion barrels of Alberta bitumen have ‘spilled’ into our oceans… so far’
      February 7th 2018

      “Lost in the heated arguments over Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline is this simple fact: more than a quarter of the bitumen flowing through it will end up as pollution spilling into our oceans — one way or the other….

      Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline aims to pump as much new bitumen as Alberta has extracted in the entire history of the oil sands.

      The pipeline is designed to pump 890,000 barrels a day. Over a forty year operational lifespan that adds up to 13 billion barrels. (Note that the original Trans Mountain pipeline is still pumping after 65 years.)

      Doubling the amount of bitumen extracted will obviously double the amount of bitumen pollution dumped in our environment….

      There is no scenario in which bitumen doesn’t “spill” into our oceans causing harm. And there is no proposal to clean up any of the billions of tonnes of acidifying pollution that will end up there.”

  6. wili

     /  February 8, 2018

    That drought map just keeps looking worse. I hope some spring rains come along for much of the country to mitigate.

    Off topic, but rather important I think:

    ” Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, says top U.S. official”

    Extract: “The U.S. official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking says the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.”

    • eleggua

       /  February 8, 2018

      Washington Post broke that story back in September of last year; I’d posted about it here in December. Interesting to see it recycling in US national news this month, as ^that article’s from today and doesn’t include any new info. Trump really shouldn’t have slurred those folks; they’re not in the habit of forgetting and they are unforgiving.

      ‘DHS tells states about Russian hacking during 2016 election’
      September 22, 2017

      “The Department of Homeland Security contacted election officials in 21 states Friday to notify them that they had been targeted by Russian government hackers during the 2016 election campaign.

      Three months ago, DHS officials said that people connected to the Russian government tried to hack voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states, but Friday was the first time that government officials contacted individual state election officials to let them know their systems had been targeted.

      …He said it was important that the states shore up their systems now “rather than a few weeks before” the 2018 midterm elections.

      …DHS left it to individual states to decide whether to make public whether they had been targeted.

      In only a handful of states, including Illinois, did hackers actually penetrate computer systems, according to U.S. officials, and there is no evidence that hackers tampered with any voting machines.

      In Arizona, the Russian hackers did not compromise the state voter registration system or even any county system. They did, however, steal the username and password of a single election official in Gila County, state officials said.

      …State elections officials in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington were told Friday they were targeted, according to officials and a tally by the Associated Press.

      “What this boils down to is that someone tried the door knob and it was locked,” said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission….”

  7. wharf rat

     /  February 8, 2018

    EU will only make trade deals with nations that ratify Paris climate agreement
    The United States would be excluded.
    E.A. CRUNDENFEB 6, 2018, 5:01 PM

    The European Union will no longer make trade deals with the United States if President Trump follows through on withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, according to a French official whose comments were endorsed by the European Commission.

    Addressing the French parliament on Thursday, French foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne drew a line in the sand.

    “One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground,” said Lemoyne. “No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The [United States] knows what to expect.”

  8. eleggua

     /  February 8, 2018

    ‘Is California Entering Another Drought? Experts Answer Your Questions.’
    February 7, 2018

    “…If storms don’t roll in soon, Jay Lund with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences UC Davis says drought could be on the horizon. “It looks like we are in for a dry year, and that could easily become a drought,” he explained. “If it is the beginning of a drought, the first year is not the worst usually.”

    Lund says if that happens, forests as well as birds and fish could suffer the worst. “We’ve had rebound of some fish this year from the last wet water year we had, but the Delta smelt didn’t come back. So, there’s a lot of concern of some of the species not coming back and what we should do about that,” he said….

    …..With 129 million dead pine trees across the state, Tim Brown, with the Western Regional Climate Center, says there will be more big fires.

    Dry weather means lots of dry brush acting as fuel. “Should we have another hot summer that will further increase the potential for flammability,” Brown said.

    He also explained that there’s still a chance of a wet spring, but that the chances are dwindling. Because of that, he says Southern California is still under significant fire activity.

    “Those same areas that had the severe fires in December, like the Thomas Fire, are highlighted actually through May at this point,” he said. “And as we approach summer we’ll see the areas of significant fire potential increase across the state.””

    • Genomik

       /  February 8, 2018

      Living in San Francisco and understanding climate change makes me think it’s more than california has been in a 7 year drought punctuated by one year of Rain.

      So this dry weather is the new normal, the torrential rains last year was the anomaly.

  9. Here in Oregon we’ve been way above average the entire winter. It’s been scary warm lately. Buds already starting on trees as of Feb. first. Seems a week or two earlier every, single, year now. It’s hit 70 several times this week and last and will probably hit it again tomorrow. The forecast is looking similar and we’ve had almost no snow this winter. Some of the locals are starting to freak out about what this means for fire season.

    I saw a study this morning that brought tears to my eyes. Supposedly we’re not too far away from releasing 10 times the amount of mercury already in the system via permafrost melting in the arctic.

  10. rhymeswithgoalie

     /  February 8, 2018

    “Note that regions furthest north are warming the fastest.”

    There’s an Arctic town (Greenland) that gets spring sunshine days earlier with the ablation of a glacier to its east.

  11. eleggua

     /  February 8, 2018

    Absolutely insane. And absolutely false.

    ‘EPA head Scott Pruitt says global warming may help ‘humans flourish’
    EPA administrator says ‘There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing’’
    7 Feb 2018

    ““Do we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 or year 2018?” he told a TV station in Nevada. “It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.””

    • kassy

       /  February 8, 2018

      Of course you can easily set bounds on upper (and lower) temperature limits which allow us to grow the food we eat.

  12. Robert McLachlan

     /  February 8, 2018

    Next Scott Pruitt interview: “Do we know what the ideal sea level height is in 2100? Is it 2 feet higher than today? 6 feet? It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100. We know that humans have flourished in times of rapidly rising sea levels. There are assumptions made that because the sea levels are rising and the oceans acidifying that that necessarily is a bad thing.”

  13. kassy

     /  February 8, 2018

    Misled Penguins Swim to Feeding Grounds That No Longer Have Food

    In early 2017 researchers revealed the first evidence of a trap in the ocean. Young African Penguins, an endangered species that breeds in South Africa and Namibia, seem hardwired to follow signals up the coast (yellow lines) in search of anchovies (purple) and sardines. Because those species are overfished, however, the food is not there—and 80 percent of the juveniles are dying. Those who do survive manage to find their way south again. But then “they have chicks that will go and get stuck in the trap,” says ecologist Richard Sherley of the University of Exeter in England, who led the study. “It just becomes an extinction vortex.”

  14. kassy

     /  February 8, 2018

    Some good news:

    Major utility fails to get West Virginia customers to bail out its aging coal plant

    FirstEnergy Corp., a strong supporter of President Donald Trump’s pro-coal agenda, conceded defeat this week in its bid to shift the costs of one of its struggling coal-fired plants onto the backs of customers in West Virginia.

    The company’s decision to withdraw its plan represents yet another loss for owners of coal-fired plants who had hoped a pro-coal president would keep their plants profitable.

    FirstEnergy’s coal-fired Pleasants power station — located in Willow Island, West Virginia — has been struggling to compete with lower-cost sources of electricity in the unregulated market. To help revive the coal plant, FirstEnergy wanted to force its utility customers, who don’t have a choice of what type of fuel generates their electricity, to subsidize the plant.

    To do this, for more than a year now, the company has been trying to transfer the Pleansants plant — owned by FirstEnergy’s unregulated subsidiary Allegheny Energy Supply — to Monongahela Power (Mon Power) and Potomac Edison, the company’s regulated utilities in West Virginia.

    If this scheme had succeeded, its West Virginia customers would have assumed all of the plant’s costs and financial risks, while FirstEnergy and its shareholders would receive a guaranteed revenue stream. But on Monday, the company sent a letter to West Virginia regulators informing them that the Pleasants plant transfer agreement “will be terminated.”

    The Pleasants transfer plan was part of a larger strategy by FirstEnergy to re-regulate unprofitable assets in deregulated markets as a way to capture subsidies from its utility customers. Aside from increasing customers’ monthly bills, the transfer of the plant would have given FirstEnergy’s two West Virginia utilities generating capacity they did not need to meet demand.

    more on:

    • eleggua

       /  February 8, 2018

      “…the paradox of a poor people living in a rich land…”

      Coal has dumped death and destruction upon the good people of West Virginia for over 125 years.

      Logan Co. wasn’t lucky on February 26, 1972. From wikip:
      “…the Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam #3, located on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia, burst, four days after having been declared “satisfactory” by a federal mine inspector.

      The resulting flood unleashed approximately 132,000,000 US gallons (500,000 m3) of black waste water, cresting over 30 ft high, upon the residents of 16 coal towns along Buffalo Creek Hollow. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. 507 houses were destroyed, in addition to forty-four mobile homes and 30 businesses. The disaster destroyed or damaged homes in Saunders, Pardee, Lorado, Craneco, Lundale, Stowe, Crites, Latrobe, Robinette, Amherstdale, Becco, Fanco, Braeholm, Accoville, Crown and Kistler. In its legal filings, Pittston Coal referred to the accident as “an Act of God.””

      “Filmed 10 years after the deadly flood in 1972, the film looks at the second disaster on Buffalo Creek, in which survivors’ efforts to rebuild the communities shattered by the flood are thwarted by government insensitivity and a century-old pattern of corporate control of the region’s land and resources. The film explores the psychology of disaster, the value of community, and the paradox of a poor people living in a rich land.”

    • eleggua

       /  February 8, 2018

      This list doesn’t include the Buffalo Creek disaster, as it wasn’t inside of or at a mining site.

      WV MINE DISASTERS 1884 to Present

  15. kassy

     /  February 8, 2018

    Big article on the role of dust in melting snow:

    It’s Not Just High Temps Messing with Snow—It’s Dust

    Schmutz’s deleterious effect on snow is widespread and is increasing at an alarming rate—so much so that Painter and his NASA colleagues believe that climate change has likely been given too much credit for the diminution of mountain snowpacks and particulate matter too little. To wit: In 2013, Painter published a study showing how black carbon particulate from the industrial revolution’s smokestacks snuffed out Europe’s Little Ice Age. His most recent work shows that high-dust years lead to a rise in melt independent of temperature.

  16. Gas hydrate dissociation off Svalbard induced by isostatic rebound rather than global warming.
    Nature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 83 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02550-9 08 January 2018

    Methane seepage from the upper continental slopes of Western Svalbard has previously been attributed to gas hydrate dissociation induced by anthropogenic warming of ambient bottom waters. Here we show that sediment cores drilled off Prins Karls Foreland contain freshwater from dissociating hydrates. However, our modeling indicates that the observed pore water freshening began around 8 ka BP when the rate of isostatic uplift outpaced eustatic sea-level rise. The resultant local shallowing and lowering of hydrostatic pressure forced gas hydrate dissociation and dissolved chloride depletions consistent with our geochemical analysis. Hence, we propose that hydrate dissociation was triggered by postglacial isostatic rebound rather than anthropogenic warming. Furthermore, we show that methane fluxes from dissociating hydrates were considerably smaller than present methane seepage rates implying that gas hydrates were not a major source of methane to the oceans, but rather acted as a dynamic seal, regulating methane release from deep geological reservoirs.

  17. DJ

     /  February 8, 2018

    Climate Reanalyzer’s forecasting a +7.5C anomaly for the arctic by Feb 18

  18. utoutback

     /  February 8, 2018

    OK Does this mean we’re going to need the nice CO2 comforter that we have been creating for the last 100 years? (Tongue in cheek).

  19. hatrack

     /  February 9, 2018

    Drought Monitor – Updated For 2/6/18 – No measurable precipitation in Amarillo for 117 days, none in Lubbock for 91 days, OK winter wheat 79% poor to very poor, OK topsoil moisture 93% rated short or very short;

    Southern Rockies – Western Colorado into southern Utah, Arizona, south to New Mexico – snow-water equivalent at 25% of average, some stations reporting no snow at all so far this winter.


    Rain in eastern portions of the region contrasted with intensifying drought across the southern Plans and environs. Rain totaled 1 to 3 inches (locally more) over central and eastern Mississippi, while two-week totals of 2 to 6 inches extended from southeastern Texas into central Mississippi. Despite the much-needed moisture, considerable longer-term deficits persisted in the Delta’s core Moderate and Severe Drought (D1 and D2) areas, with 90-day precipitation at or below 50 percent of normal (D2 equivalent or worse). Farther west, Extreme Drought (D3) expanded across much of northern Texas and western Oklahoma, with subsequent increases in D2 noted in central Texas and eastern Oklahoma. From Lubbock, Texas, northward into Oklahoma, little — if any — rain or snow has fallen over the past 90 days; the four-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was well below D4 levels (-2.0 or lower) in these locales. Despite the cooler season with minimal agricultural activity on the Plains, impacts were beginning to appear. In Oklahoma, the percent of winter wheat rated poor to very poor jumped from 10 percent at the end of November to 79 percent by the end of January, with 93 percent of the state’s topsoil moisture rated short to very short. In Texas, the lack of precipitation is reaching historic levels. According to the National Weather Service, February 7, 2018, marked the 117th consecutive day without measurable precipitation for Amarillo, shattering the previous mark of 75 days (records date back to 1892). In Lubbock, February 7 marked the 91st consecutive day without measurable precipitation, just 7 days shy of the 98-day benchmark. The situation on the southern Plains is rapidly becoming dire, and precipitation will be needed soon to prevent further expansion or intensification of drought.


    High Plains

    Additional snow in the north and west contrasted with increasingly dry conditions in southern and eastern portions of the region. A continuation of the recent unsettled weather pattern in northeastern Colorado (30-day surplus of 1-2 inches, liquid equivalent) supported the reduction of Moderate Drought (D1). Conversely, a lack of precipitation over the past 90 days coupled with input from experts in the field led to an expansion of D1 in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota. Of particular concern is this winter’s subpar snowfall to date; winter snowfall is important for agriculture (providing runoff to refill stock ponds, protects winter wheat from temperature extremes, provides topsoil moisture) and serves as early spring water supply for ecosystems as the snowmelt season approaches.


    Favorable conditions in the north contrasted sharply with dry, warm weather in central and southern portions of the region. From the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies, the favorable start to the current Water Year continued, with additional rain and mountain snow (1-4 inches liquid equivalent, locally more) reported during the 7-day period. As of Tuesday, February 6, the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) of mountain snowpacks was well above normal (50-100th percentile) from Washington into the northern Rockies, with surpluses extending southward into the east-central Rockies (just west of Denver, Colorado). Conversely, the SWE was approaching or at historical lows (25th percentile or lower, with many stations reporting no snow at all) from western Colorado and much of Utah southward into Arizona and New Mexico. Likewise, the lack of snow — due in part to unseasonable warmth — has raised the specter of re-intensifying western drought in the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascades, and Blue Mountains. The lack of snow is having an immediate impact, forcing some ski areas to close historically early. Furthermore, a significant portion of the western water supply is contingent on snowmelt, and the poor spring runoff prospects will place a higher-than-normal burden on reservoirs. Currently, reservoir supplies are mostly in good shape due to last year’s abundant rain and snow. Nevertheless, the overall lack of precipitation since the beginning of the current Water Year (October 1) is compounding the effects of very low SWE, with season-to-date precipitation tallying a meager 25 percent of normal or less from southern California into the Four Corners region. In many of the aforementioned areas, drought will rapidly expand and intensify if precipitation does not return soon.


  20. The scientist who predicted ice-sheet collapse — 50 years ago
    A seminal 1968 study warned of the demise of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    That year, the late Mercer, a glaciologist at Ohio State University in Columbus, first warned about the potential for rapid sea-level rise from melting ice caps. His landmark paper drew on fieldwork at the Reedy Glacier, which feeds into West Antarctica’s Ross Sea (J. H. Mercer Int. Assoc. Sci. Hydrol. Symp. 79, 217–225; 1968). Geological evidence from a former lake, located at an altitude of 1,400 metres in the Transantarctic Mountains, suggested that the area was once awash with open water and floating icebergs. Mercer took that as evidence that the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet had once melted away. . .

  21. This would make rising CO2 significant in all the past major extinctions.

    A one-two punch may have helped deck the dinosaurs. Seafloor data point to global volcanism after Chicxulub meteor strike. Feb 7, 2018. U. of Oregon

    Progressively improving dating methods indicate that the Deccan Traps volcanoes already were active when the meteor struck. Resulting seiic waves moving through the planet from the meteor strike, Karlstrom said, probably fueled an acceleration of those eruptions.

    “Our work suggests a connection between these exceedingly rare and catastrophic events, distributed over the entire planet,” Karlstrom said. “The meteorite’s impact may have influenced volcanic eruptions that were already going on, making for a one-two punch.”

  22. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 10, 2018

    “We’ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,” says Greg Pillay. “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”

  23. Vic

     /  February 10, 2018

    • Robert in New Orleans

       /  February 13, 2018

      As much as I hate to say this, I honestly think it would take a hailstorm dropping stones like this one on a major American city and I dare say heavy casualties as a result of this before some people would wake up from their denial. :-/

  24. wili

     /  February 11, 2018

    “Devil’s Bargain”

    Eric Holthaus

    “… According to a new study, we might be locked in this deadly embrace. Research by an international team of scientists recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says that the cooling effect of aerosols is so large that it has masked as much as half of the warming effect from greenhouse gases. So aerosols can’t be wiped out. Take them away and temperatures would soar overnight…”

    It looks like Guy M. wasn’t quite as wrong as some thought, perhaps?

    • wili

       /  February 11, 2018

      Link to the study:


      “Limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2.0°C requires strong mitigation of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Concurrently, emissions of anthropogenic aerosols will decline, due to coemission with GHG, and measures to improve air quality. However, the combined climate effect of GHG and aerosol emissions over the industrial era is poorly constrained. Here we show the climate impacts from removing present-day anthropogenic aerosol emissions and compare them to the impacts from moderate GHG-dominated global warming.

      Removing aerosols induces a global mean surface heating of 0.5–1.1°C, and precipitation increase of 2.0–4.6%. Extreme weather indices also increase.

      We find a higher sensitivity of extreme events to aerosol reductions, per degree of surface warming, in particular over the major aerosol emission regions. Under near-term warming, we find that regional climate change will depend strongly on the balance between aerosol and GHG forcing.”

      • wili

         /  February 11, 2018

        As I recall, up to this study, other most recent studies had fixed aerosol cooling at about .5 degrees C, but this study suggests that this represents the very lowest end of a range that extends up above 1 C. So that means a sudden removal of the ‘aerosol parasol’ could lead to a full doubling of all the global warming that we have seen since the industrial revolution, and put above, at, or on the doorstep of the dreaded 2 C above industrial levels.

        I try to remind myself not to get too worked up over just one study, but this one, to me at least, seems rather… significant.

        • wili

           /  February 11, 2018

          I’m still not wild about intentionally trying to geoengineer the planet, though.

        • It’s a bad idea. And the recent study is well outside the climate consensus (IPCC) on the issue of aerosol negative forcing.

        • Global dimming a BBC documentary. A BBC documentary about how unintentional increased reflectance due to man made pollution has actually hidden the affects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
          34.00: Looked at Temperature range after 9/11: Dimming dropped. Temperature range increased by slightly over 1 degree C.

      • IMO, Eric was pretty irresponsible with this piece. See my comments below.

        I’ve unfollowed him on twitter.

        He produces good stuff most of the time. But I think he’s too easily swayed by special interests. A number of whom are pushing the solar radiation management angle hard at this time.

        My first red flag for him came up when he was sympathizing with Trump supporters back in 2016. Sure, he was trying to not demonize them. They were Americans after all. But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

        Will reconsider my move if Eric moderates himself a bit on this issue. But, solar radiation management support is kind of a hard line for me. Not helpful. Especially considering the sideways mischaracterizations of renewables and the serious need for rapid carbon emissions reductions he made in this article. He was actually only calling for ‘slow replacement of fossil fuels’ due to what appears to be a misunderstanding of the overall drivers of radiative forcing.

        Bad article written through a very narrow frame and not looking at the broader context.

        • wili

           /  February 12, 2018

          Thanks for the perspective on
          Holthaus, robert

        • Cheers, Wili.

          I’ve liked his articles in the past and worked to support him. So this particular article saddens me.

        • Jim

           /  February 13, 2018

          You may also want to consider the Eric Holthaus piece was for BBC, which like much of the mass media in the US, serves to protect centers of power and wealth, and hence the status quo. It’s why people truly concerned about a topic need to turn to unbiased experts who cite sources and data, like your site.

        • Jim

           /  February 13, 2018

          Opps, hit send too quickly. The link to the Global Warming Policy Foundation is a climate denial group, that seeks to counter the legitimate criticism of the BBC’s climate coverage, by falsely characterizing BBC coverage as overzealous. The hold “press briefings” for journalists and are know to have close relationships to several media outlets. Yet another way, mass media is used to manipulate facts and mislead the public.

    • bostonblorp

       /  February 12, 2018

      From the archives — RS wrote a piece about the “Faustian bargain” that is aerosols and their cooling effect.

      • The Eric Holthaus article cites a study that overstates the cooling impact of aerosols on the Earth’s atmosphere in an attempt to irresponsibly sell harmful solar radiation management to the public.

        I’ve never seen this level of what I would consider to be manipulation coming from Eric. I hope that he reconsiders his position on the subject.

        IPCC notes a negative RF of approx 0.3 watts per meter squared coming from sulfur dioxide. That is approx 1/10 the present positive RF coming from GHG forcing. Removal of it won’t result in the kind of warming Eric cites.

        Arguments like these are often made to continue the use of coal burning. They also falsely attribute all aerosols in the atmosphere to coal. Coal’s primary aerosol contributor from the point of view of RF is sulfur dioxide.

        My own writing on the Faustian Bargain was to contest some of the more conservative scientific voices who were saying that we hadn’t yet locked in a certain degree of warming and to note how coal burning and fossil fuel burning can become a bit of a trap. To compare my own writing to Eric’s in this regard is a mis-characterization. I did not write the piece to promote harmful solar radiation management.

        • bostonblorp

           /  February 13, 2018

          Perhaps I should have noted that in sharing your link I wasn’t suggesting you were in agreement with Eric’s article. Rather I simply recalled you had written a piece some time ago about the same subject matter and wanted to add it to the conversation. You’re a prolific writer and many of your excellent pieces get cycled off the main page so quickly.

  25. kassy

     /  February 11, 2018

    The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water – like Cape Town

    Sao Paolo
    Mexico City

    All for many different reasons. It will be interesting to see what happens when one of the cities does run out.

  26. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 11, 2018

    Antarctic Sea Ice Extent

    plumbing for a new low?

  27. Hilary

     /  February 12, 2018

    Bad situation for Tonga with Cat 5 Cyclone Gita making potentially a direct hit on the main island tonight:
    Also a good video included on this page.


    Elon and the Arch
    Stashed inside the midnight-cherry Roadster was a mysterious, small object designed to last for millions (perhaps billions) of years – even in extreme environments like space, or on the distant surfaces of far-flung planetary bodies.

    Called an Arch (pronounced ‘Ark’), this tiny storage device is built for long-term data archiving, holding libraries of information encoded on a small disc of quartz crystal, not much larger than a coin.

    According to Arch Mission Foundation, the California-based nonprofit behind the technology, these Archs could “preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations”.

    The Arch looks like a shrunk-down DVD or Blu-ray, but its potential for data storage goes way beyond any optical discs you have in your home.

    The technology, developed by physicist Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton in the UK, can theoretically hold up to 360 terabytes of data, about the same amount as 7,000 Blu-Ray discs.

    • Yeah, like I have an 8″ floppy disk from way back when, pity no drives or readers around, but then from memory it only stored 128Kb of memory and it was a Smart Database (Defunct software great in it’s day (one of first relational that could integrate with a Smart spreadsheet)- but incompatible with anything else, then along came windows


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