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

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

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

Debate Moderators Fall Asleep as Climate Threats Worsen

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

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

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

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

Failed Journalism Presents False Frame to American Public

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

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

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

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


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

Climate Change Debate Denial Prevents Awareness and Response

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

But no. Nothing. Nada. Not a chirp.

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


The Debates Were a Failure of Journalism

Michael Mann

Climate Change Creates Existential Crisis For Great Barrier Reef


Hat tip to Wili

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

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


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


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

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

Journalistic Documentation of an Unprecedented Protest Action

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


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

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

Deia noted to Desmogblog:

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

False Charges That Violate a Journalist’s Constitutionally Protected Freedoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Petition (Please Sign): Drop Charges Against Deia Schlosberg Please Support

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

Fossil Fuel Reliance: Tar Sands

First Amendment of the Constitution

Canfield Ocean

Neil Degrasse Tyson Climate Change


Carbon Tracker

Hat tip to Bill McKibben

Hat tip to Seal

Hat tip to DT Lange

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

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


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

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

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

King Tides — Turned into Flooding Events by Climate Change

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Vulnerability for U.S. East Coast

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

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


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

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

Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change as King Tides Flood Miami Streets


Hat tip to Jack Ridley

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Jean Nagy

Hat tip to Ben Kennedy

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

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


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

Record Hot Global Ocean Conditions A Contributing Factor

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

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


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

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


Joint Typhoon Warning Center


Earth Nullschool

Typhoon Haiyan

Super Typhoon Haiyan

2016 Pacific Cyclones

Sarika Strikes Philippines

Hat tip to Colorado Bob


Arctic Sea Ice Falls into Record Low Ranges — Again

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

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


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

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

Big Arctic Temperature Spike Driving Losses

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

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


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

Polar Amplification in Evidence

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


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

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



Climate Reanalyzer

The Sydney Morning Herald

Arctic Sea Ice Graphs

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Marcel Guldemond

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

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

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


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

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

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

2016 as much as 1.25 C Hotter than 1880s Averages

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

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


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

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

Climate Impacts from Added Global Heat Continue to Worsen

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


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

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

Fierce Urgency For Climate Action

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




NOAA El Nino

Climate of Gavin

The Truth About Climate Change

COP 21: Why 2 C?

Solving the Climate Stalemate

Hat tip to Kevin Jones

Hat tip to Florifulgurator

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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




Supertyphoon Songda

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

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Greg

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Matthew and the Continuing Erosion of Normalcy

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


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

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

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

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


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

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



Hurricane Matthew’s Toll Worsens: Flooding Hits North Carolina

Matthew’s Storm Surge Floods Downtown St. Augustine

Knee Deep Flooding in Murrells Inlet Neighborhoods

Huge Storm Surge Follows Hurricane Matthew in Murrells Inlet

Haiti Desperate For Help After Matthew

Hurricane Matthew’s Deadly Track From Haiti to the Carolinas

Hurricane Matthew Causes Widespread Flooding in Hampton Roads

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

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

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

An Extraordinarily Powerful Category 4 Hurricane

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


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

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

Possible Flooding Rains Threaten Lake Okeechobee Dikes

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


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

The Major Hazard Comes From a Potentially Massive Storm Surge

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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



The National Hurricane Center

The National Weather Service

Dangerous Hurricane Matthew Strengthens in Record-Hot Environment

Hat tip to JPL

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

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


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

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

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

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

Maintaining Major Hurricane Intensity Despite Making Landfall Twice

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


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

Matthew Restrengthening

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

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


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

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

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

From the National Hurricane Center:

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

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


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

Matthew Could Hit Florida Twice

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

Dr. Masters noted:

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

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

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



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

Hurricane Matthew Reorganizing over the Bahamas

Hurricane Matthew has Already Shattered Records in the Caribbean Sea

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

The National Hurricane Center

Scientific Hat tip to Dr. Jeff Masters

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

Early Indicators Point Toward a Record-Hot September

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


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

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



Reanalysis Index Up 0.047 C in September


Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Observatory

“We are Suffocating from Smoke” — For Russia, Climate Change is Already Producing Fires that are Too Big to Fight

“For one month we are suffocating from the smoke. The weather is hot, and there is a strong smell of burning…” — Residents of Bratsk, northwest of Lake Baikal, in a petition to Vladimir Putin pleading him to fight the fires now raging there.


Let’s take a snapshot of the current moment from the climate change perspective: This year, global temperatures will probably hit between 1.2 and 1.25 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages. This new heat, in a range likely not seen for 115,000 years, is catapulting us into dangerous new climate states. We’re starting to see the hard changes happen. Weather is growing more extreme, wildfires are worsening, the seas are rising, the glaciers are melting, and ocean health is declining. Threats of destabilization and disruption are ramping up. But compared to what we will see in the future if the world continues to warm, if we continue to burn fossil fuels, the seemingly rough changes we are experiencing now are minor and easy to manage.

These are the early, easy outliers of human-forced climate change. But for some, even for a nation as powerful as Russia, certain events have already overwhelmed emergency response capabilities.



(Fire season should have ended by late August around the region of Lake Baikal in Russia. However, due to climate change-related influences, massive fires continue to burn through September. The above image is from today, September 28. Bottom edge of frame represents approximately 600 miles. Lake Baikal is visible in the right side of frame. Smoke from large fires currently covering approximately 2.5 million acres is visible throughout the shot. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

Climate Change Spikes Fire Incidence in Siberia

Over the past decade or so, a rapid warming of Siberia has resulted in a dramatic increase in fire incidence. The vast boreal forests were thrust into hotter, dryer conditions by a human-forced warming of the globe. Meanwhile, permafrost thaw added its own massive and growing volumes of peat-like fuel for burning. As the years progressed, very large fires have erupted with rising frequency. Mostly underreported, according to Greenpeace and independent satellite analysis by experts, these fires have covered millions of acres year after year after year:

“If you look at the whole area over the past 30 years, there’s a significant increase in burned area that is very clear by the early 2000s,” Susan Conrad, a former U.S. Forest Service scientist who has spent decades researching the impact of fire on Siberia, told ClimateWire.

Often, fighting such fires has required the effort of thousands of emergency responders supported by hundreds of pieces of equipment. As a result, the growing size of these fires and the lengthening of the season in which they burn has put a strain on the coffers of an already cash-strapped Russia. Firefighting has thus been cut or set aside for instances when a city, town or vital piece of infrastructure requires defending. More and more, these great fires have been abandoned to burn on, uncontrolled.

2016 Lake Baikal Fires Too Dangerous to Fight

This year around the region of Lake Baikal, an unrelenting (climate change-related) drought combined with abnormal heat to produce massive fires. The fires raged and flared throughout the summer. As the typical wildfire season came to an end during late August, the fires continued to burn and spread. According to Greenpeace, the fires burning during September in this region alone covered nearly 5 million acres. That’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. Satellite shots of the massive fires were dramatic, revealing plumes of dense smoke spewing out over hundreds or even thousands of miles. Residents of cities and towns around Lake Baikal experienced terrible conditions due to a suffocating pall of dense smoke covering the area.

Despite the risk to public health and increasing cases where schools, communities and infrastructure were threatened by the fires, the Russian Emergencies Ministry has claimed that such large fires are increasingly uncontrollable. Spokespeople with the agency note that the fires are so intense that they present a danger to firefighting personnel. According to Radio Free Europe:

Aleksandr Bruykhanov, senior researcher at the Forestry Institute in Krasnoyarsk, told the Siberian Times that massive wildfires have become more frequent and cannot be fully controlled by the government. He said they will only be extinguished when rain returns to the region. …”The Emergencies Ministry won’t be able to help here but will only cause some extra work for foresters, who will have to rescue rescuers.” [emphasis added]

For One Month We are Suffocating From Smoke

Hundreds of firefighters have been deployed throughout the region in isolated efforts to stem the more eminent blazes. Near the city of Bratsk, 600 firefighters and about 123 pieces of heavy equipment were reported to be engaged with the fires on September 23. Unfortunately the firefighting has, thus far, been mostly unsuccessful.


(High carbon monoxide readings north and west of Lake Baikal, Russia on September 28. This expansive plume of carbon monoxide is coming from very large fires burning in the region. Residents in a nearby city recently complained of carbon monoxide poisoning in a petition to Vladimir Putin to fight the fires. Emergencies Ministry spokespersons have claimed that the fires are increasingly uncontainable and that the best hope for stopping the fires is when rains return to the area. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Failure to control the massive burning has resulted in abysmal air quality for the region. In some cases, life-threatening conditions have been reported, with adults and children hospitalized. In Bratsk, a city of 250,000 people, thousands of residents are complaining of stifling smoke and incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning. A heavy pall of dense smoke has hung over the city for more than a month. The conditions there are so bad that 3,000 people have signed a petition to Vladimir Putin, urging him to deploy more resources to fight the fires, and stating that:

For one month we are suffocating from the smoke. The weather is hot, and there is a strong smell of burning and smoke. It is not possible to open windows, we cannot go out because we soon feel dizziness… Some adults and children are in hospital with severe carbon monoxide poisoning. We are for clean air! We want to breathe. We have that right. Do not remain indifferent to our health and our future!

Signs of Exhaustion at the Start of a Rough Climate Future

Exhaustion of emergency response resources is one of the big threats posed by climate change. In instances where entire regions see extreme weather conditions that are far outside the norm for an extended period of time, such as as severe droughts, floods, and fires, instances of exhaustion are more likely to occur. Exhaustion also occurs when events appear that are too large or intense to manage. It appears that firefighting efforts in Russia are starting to show some signs of exhaustion. Not good, especially considering the fact that these conditions are tame compared to what will happen in future years without some very serious climate change mitigation and response efforts now.

Whether they realize it or not, the residents of Bratsk are living at the start of a much rougher climate future. And they are just now starting to see a hint of bad conditions that will get worse as the world continues to warm and Siberia becomes one of the places to see the worst of it. It’s a situation caused by the very fossil-fuel burning that Putin currently promotes. This crisis of warming will cause more forests to burn, the fires to continue to enlarge, and the peat-like permafrost to become a fuel as it thaws.

The only way to stop this trend is to halt global temperature rise. That requires a very heavy lift, an international effort on a scale which the world has not yet fully committed to — an effort that would result in the fossil fuels Putin seeks to exploit being left in the ground in favor of far more benevolent energy sources.


Wildfires Increasingly Consuming Siberian Forests, Scientists Warn

People in Bratsk Petition Kremlin over Pollution from Forest Fires


Wildfires Scorch World’s Largest Freshwater Lake

Oil Pipelines Threatened by Wildfires Amid Disputes over the Scale of the Destruction

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to mlparrish

Hat tip to Colorado Bob


From Maryland to the Caribbean to Asia, Record-Hot Ocean Waters Give Extreme Weather Potentials a Big Boost

The forecasts began coming in this morning: Heavy rainfall expected over the next two days. Possible flash flooding. Turn around, don’t drown.

These advisories buzzed up from local news media for the DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia metro areas as a crazy, wavy Jet Stream spawned an upper-level low that’s predicted to gorge on an insane amount of moisture spewing up off the record-hot Atlantic Ocean.

Forecast GFS model guidance shows an upper-level low-pressure system situated over the Great Lakes region in association with a big trough dipping down from the Arctic. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, the low is expected to shift south and east. Becoming cut off from the upper-level flow, the low is then predicted to set up a persistent rainfall pattern over DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia.


(NOAA’s precipitation forecast model shows extreme rainfall predicted for the DC area over the next seven days. Note that record global heat and, in particular, excessively hot sea-surface temperature anomalies off the U.S. east coast are providing an unprecedented amount of fuel for storms. Should such storms fire off, they could produce rainfall totals in excess of those currently predicted. Image source: NOAA.)

Easterly winds are expected to be drawn into the low from a record-hot Atlantic Ocean. These winds will bear upon them an extraordinary burden of atmospheric moisture which has been continuously evaporating up from a very warm Gulf Stream. Such moisture is fuel for powerful rainstorms. Given the destabilizing kick provided by the upper-level low, it is expected to deliver some pretty intense downpours on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

NOAA model guidance shows rainfall amounts of 3 to 6 inches over the area for the next five days. However, given the high atmospheric moisture content and the record atmospheric and ocean heat that’s spiking storm energy potentials, there is a possibility for locally higher amounts.

Extreme Ocean Heat Contributes to Severe Weather

As the DC area prepares for what could be another record or near-record rainfall event, various other regions over the Atlantic and on the other side of the world are also facing the possibility of intense weather. Very warm sea-surface temperatures are the common thread that links all these events.


(Hot sea surfaces are loading up the atmosphere with moisture and helping to produce convective updrafts that heighten storm tops. Such are the results of climate change, which has now dumped an extraordinary amount of heat energy into the Earth’s ocean and atmosphere — energy that now provides fuel for both extreme rainfall events and more-intense hurricanes. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

In the Atlantic Ocean, just off Maryland and DC, sea-surface temperatures running at an amazing 5.7 degrees Celsius above average are helping fuel this week’s possible extreme rainfall event. For reference, ocean temperatures over the course of the 20th century tended to range between 2 C above average to 2 C below average. Any deviation beyond a 2 C departure for any significant length of time was considered pretty out of the ordinary. But off the U.S. east coast over the past couple of years and concurrent with record-hot global temperatures, sea surfaces have regularly hit such high ranges. The heat bleeding off those waters has contributed to a growing number of intense precipitation events.

Possible Strong Cyclone to Form in Caribbean, Track Toward U.S. Coast

Farther south, the Caribbean is also quite hot. Ranging from 1-2 C above average, this region of warmer-than-normal ocean water is about to receive a strong tropical wave running in from the east. Over the next week, this wave is expected to gorge on these hot waters, firing off intense thunderstorms with rising tops around a tightening center of circulation, and developing into a tropical cyclone that could reach hurricane strength by late this week or early next week. Long-range model runs predict all kinds of possible rough weather related to this potential storm for the U.S. east or Gulf coasts or even for the Canadian Maritimes.


(Most recent ECMWF model run shows an extremely powerful 938-millibar hurricane threatening southeast Florida on October 7. If such a storm does form, it will be fueled by hotter-than-normal ocean conditions brought about by human-caused climate change. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

One of the most accurate forecast models, the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), is pointing toward the possibility of a major hurricane of 938-mb intensity threatening the southeast coast of Florida by October 7. Though such long-range forecasts are highly uncertain so far out, the underlying models are obviously picking up on the potential energy provided by all that ocean heat. The result is a kind of climate roulette — with a few extra bullets in the chambers. In other words, with all that ocean heat laying around, the potential for a big storm is just sitting there, waiting for something big to come along and suck it up. This ongoing, worsening situation could result in some serious added weather consequences over the next ten days or so.

Megi is Third Tropical Cyclone to Impact Taiwan

All across the world this year, big rainfall and related storm events have been popping up. Louisiana alone saw two 30-inch plus rainfall events while nearby Texas got hit again and again and again. This week, major floods in Iowa spurred officials to urge thousands to evacuate. Meanwhile, the recent Ellicott City, Maryland flood has people in the DC area on edge over this week’s potential for very heavy rainfall.

Half a world away today, Typhoon Megi roared ashore in Taiwan as a Category 4 tropical cyclone with top sustained winds of 132 miles per hour. Knocking out power for 3 million people across the island, the storm is now reported to have resulted in 250 injuries and the loss of 4 lives. Meanwhile, as much as 36 inches of rain has fallen over parts of the island.

It’s worth noting that rainfall hasn’t stopped over Taiwan yet, even as the massive circulation of Megi plows toward China — which is likely to receive heavy rainfall from the storm as well.

Like the possible extreme weather events related to very-hot surface waters in the North Atlantic and Caribbean, Megi formed over waters that are 1-3 C hotter than normal. But what’s a bit odd about Megi is that she followed almost in the exact tracks of two other cyclones — one which brushed by just to the north of Taiwan, and another which skirted the island’s south side. Typically, upwelling of cooler waters caused by hurricanes and tropical storms is enough to prevent an immediate follow-on by powerful systems, due to the fact that surface waters tend to be warmer than waters below the surface. But Megi followed these two systems and was able to tap enough ocean heat to reach Category 4 intensity even as it supported a massive outflow.


(Typhoon Megi dwarfs Taiwan. Image source: Earth Observatory.)

How did this happen? Well, considering the fact that ocean surfaces in Megi’s path are still 1-2 C hotter than normal, it’s likely that the waters at depth were also much warmer than usual, meaning storm-related upwelling wasn’t able to limit the strength of follow-on storms. This possible new feature of the Western Pacific raises the strange potential for regions to be hit by a train of tropical storms and cyclones, as happened with Taiwan over the past couple of weeks.

Conditions in Context — Record-Hot Ocean, Atmosphere Fuels More Severe Storms

The common link between the forthcoming potential severe weather along the U.S. east coast and the intensity of Typhoon Megi upon following behind two other storms is increased ocean heat. Such heat acts as a kind of energy and moisture engine for more, and more powerful, storms, such as the aforementioned extreme rainfall events and powerful, peak-intensity cyclones. In short, these are aspects of a world undergoing fundamental climate shifts — shifts that continue to ramp up due to the great and ongoing emission of greenhouse gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere.


Heavy Rain, Flood Threat

GFS Model Guidance by Earth Nullschool


Tropical Tidbits

Typhoon Megi Smashes into Taiwan on Path to China

Typhoon Megi Passes Taiwan

Thousands Urged to Evacuate Iowa Floods, Megi’s Threat to Taiwan Escalates

Scientific Hat tip to Dr. Jeff Masters

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

The Most Important Issue Facing this Generation is Climate Change. But Will it Come Up at Tonight’s Presidential Debate?

Climate change is threatening cities and island nations with sea-level rise, spurring mass die-offs of sea life, generating extreme weather events with amazing frequency, and posing a rising threat to global food and water supplies. It is no longer just an issue for future generations. It’s a global crisis now, and it’s getting worse. But will the 2016 presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, even be afforded the opportunity to mention it in tonight’s debate?


(IPCC’s global warming index just recently hit 1 C above 1861-1880 temperatures in the five-year average. These temperatures are in the range of the Eemian interglacial period when global ocean levels were 15-25 feet higher than they are today. Furthermore, the current rate of warming at 0.18 C every ten years is about 30-40 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. We’re now in the process of unleashing geological forces capable of producing a mass extinction event on human timescales. Image source: Global Warming Index.)


The 2016 presidential candidates’ stances on the most important issue facing this generation couldn’t be clearer.

Donald Trump believes climate change is a hoax, wants to increase fossil-fuel burning until the planet bakes and the oceans putrefy, plans to shut down the EPA, wants to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, can’t wait to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and has a noted penchant for attacking climate change solutions like wind power. Trump’s stances on climate change are so appalling that 375 of the world’s top scientists, including Stephen Hawking and 30 Nobel Prize winners, issued an open letter to the U.S. electorate, essentially pleading that we not vote for Trump on the basis of climate change alone.

The letter notes:

The United States can and must be a major player in developing innovative solutions to the problem of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Nations that find innovative ways of decarbonizing energy systems and sequestering CO2 will be the economic leaders of the 21st century. Walking away from Paris makes it less likely that the U.S. will have a global leadership role, politically, economically, or morally. We cannot afford to cross that tipping point.

Hillary Clinton, by comparison, wants to push a big solar energy build-out, support electric vehicles, cut carbon emissions, and ensure that policies like COP 21 and Obama’s Clean Power Plan are enacted and enhanced. Though some climate hawks might not be completely satisfied with Clinton’s record on climate change (we’re going to have to do quite a bit more than what Clinton is shooting for), the reality is that Clinton’s proposed climate policies are aimed at building on and improving Obama’s initial plans.


(Clinton plans to push renewable energy growth even faster than rates that would be achieved under Obama’s Clean Power plan. By contrast, Trump’s policies would severely reduce current initiatives, likely resulting in less than 10 percent of energy generation from clean sources by 2030. Image source: Hillary for America.)

Clinton’s overall push is for U.S. renewable energy leadership and climate action:

I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing an clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.

Hermione versus Voldemort on a Tilted Stage

It’s pretty obvious that the difference between Trump and Clinton on an issue that involves the safety and wellbeing of pretty much everyone living on Earth is stark, so much so that Joe Romm at Climate Progress has aptly characterized the debate as a contest between Hermione Granger and Voldemort.

But will the 80 million viewers of tonight’s debate actually get a chance to listen to the candidates’ stances and views on an issue that will impact them from now until the end of their natural lives? Will the debate moderator Lester Holt, a registered Republican, field questions on climate change? Or will a deafening dome of silence fall over the issue, as ice caps melt, seas rise, droughts expand, extreme weather events worsen, ocean health declines, and global temperature records continue to be shattered?

(Republican downplaying of climate change exposed by Jason Box in this poignant video. It’s stark, really, what we’re dealing with.)

Moreover, will Holt act as a moderator, or will he check out as Matt Lauer did during the dual ‘interviews’ of Clinton and Trump last month, essentially abandoning the field to Trump who is well-known for spewing out a barrage of false statements in an attempt to score points? To this point, Joe Romm notes:

…persuasive liars have an inherent advantage in any debate that is effectively unmoderated and unrefereed. This is true not merely in political debates but also in most other kinds of public debates.

Unfortunately, on the issue of fair Presidential debate representation for climate change, the record isn’t too great in 2016 so far. According to Media Matters, only 22 out of nearly 1,500 debate questions have covered climate change. As a result, a critical issue of public safety, national security, and, ultimately, survival, is not being presented to the American people. It’s a failure that generates a false impression that climate change isn’t a real problem — a lack of representation that, in the end, is both irresponsible and dangerous.


Yes, Donald Trump Did Call Climate Change a Hoax

Trump’s Plan to Drill, Baby, Drill

How Donald Trump Lost his Fight to Kill Wind Farms in Scotland

Hillary’s Plan for Half a Billion Solar Panels

COP 21

Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Hillary for America

Hermione vs Voldemort

‘Climate People’ to Debate Moderators: Survival Matters

Hat tip to Ailsa

Hat tip to DT Lange

La Nina Fizzles, Pacific Hot Blob Returns, Record Global Heat Likely to Remain

A change of three degrees [Celsius] is an “extraordinary deviation — something you would expect to happen once in a millennium.” — Richard Dewey,, on ocean warming in the northeastern Pacific


Four degrees Celsius. That’s the current deviation from the 1981 to 2010 average for sea-surface temperatures over a broad region of the northeastern Pacific, a deviation you typically wouldn’t see once in a thousand years.

During 2013 to 2015 a similar warm-up over this same region of water occurred. Such extreme heat at the ocean surface generated mass loss of sea life. Numerous species from plankton to krill to copepods to starfish and many more on up the food chain were impacted. This great ocean warming also sparked losses of ocean oxygen off Oregon and Washington, pushing waters there into low-oxygen and anoxic states. These states, though they do not support advanced ocean life, tend to support anaerobic microbes that produce various toxins (including hydrogen sulfide gas). At the same time, atmospheric circulation was also impacted, resulting in unprecedented drought conditions for California as a ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure settled in.


(Region of the northeastern Pacific about the size of the state of Washington shows ridiculously hot sea-surface temperatures in the range of 4 C above average. Such once-in-a-thousand-years ocean-surface heat has now occurred for three out of the past five years. As end 2016 nears, this unprecedented blob of hot ocean-surface waters appears to be returning. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Such a terrible blow to ocean health combined with ever-more-extreme atmospheric conditions are the very hallmarks of a heating climate. As a result, the events associated with the 2013-2015 hot blob will likely, in future years, be seen as one of the warning shots across North America’s bow — an indication that climate change-related impacts were about to seriously worsen.

Hot Blob Re-Forms as La Nina Splutters

Now, after a one-year hiatus, the hot blob is back and northeastern Pacific sea-surface temperatures are again on the rise. A previously-predicted La Nina is abruptly spluttering out, apparently crushed by a periodic warming of the northeastern Pacific called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). This natural variability-related feature is combining with climate change-induced ocean warming to again push ocean surface temperatures into unprecedented ranges.


(The northeastern Pacific hot blob is a climate change-related feature that contributes to record heat, drought and wildfire risk for California. Over the coming week, the re-formed hot blob appears ready to plunge the state into 90 to 1oo degree (F) conditions — which will intensify wildfire risk for the state. Image source: Pivotal Weather.)

With the PDO again firing up, the hot blob re-forming, and La Nina starting to splutter, we can expect global temperatures to remain closer to the record-hot levels achieved during 2015 and 2016. This is bad news in that 2017 through 2022 might see another record-hot year coordinate with El Nino, which would push even closer to 1.5 C and 2 C climate thresholds — a clear sign that the age of fossil fuel exploration and burning needs to end as swiftly as possible if livable climate conditions are to be maintained.

Nearer-term, if this heat in the northeastern Pacific remains in place, we can expect worsening hot and dry conditions for the U.S. west coast even as sea life in the affected region again falls under threat. With global temperatures now hitting a range of 1.2 C or more above 1880s averages, there is risk that this event could match or even exceed the related harmful impacts seen during the 2013 to 2015 timeframe.


(Unusual high-amplitude Jet Stream ridging over the U.S. west coast like that predicted for Sunday in the GFS model run is associated with both extreme sea-surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific [the hot blob] and sea-ice loss in the Arctic, both caused by global warming due to fossil-fuel burning. Note the numerous additional powerful ridge and trough formations running downstream of this unusual Jet Stream feature. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Climate Change Links Again Non-reported by Media

Despite an obvious relationship between global warming and extreme regional heating events like the hot blob, some prominent media sources continue to link the formation of the hot blob to natural variability without mention of climate change. To do so fails to tell the whole story. Without that 1.2 C warming of the Earth since the 1880s due to our rampant burning of fossil fuels, we would not be seeing so much heat piling up in the northeastern Pacific. As such, the PDO has been put into a kind of climate change hyperdrive. And that’s what’s creating conditions under which these big, dangerous ocean hot blobs continue to grow.


Skeptical Science

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge



Pivotal Weather

Earth Nullschool

The Weather Channel

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Giant Gravity Waves Smashed Key Atmospheric Clock During Winter of 2016 — Possible Climate Change Link

Two [climate change] effects [of Arctic warming] are identified … : 1) weakened zonal winds, and 2) increased [Rossby] wave amplitude. These effects are particularly evident in autumn and winter consistent with sea-ice loss… Slower progression of upper-level waves would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events — Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Dr. Jennifer Francis and Dr. Stephen Vavrus, Geophysical Research Letters (emphasis added)

The recent disruption in the quasi-biennial oscillation was not predicted, not even one month ahead. — Dr. Scott Osprey

This unexpected disruption to the climate system switches the cycling of the quasi-biennial oscillation forever. — Professor Adam Scaife

scientists believe that the quasi-biennial oscillation could become more susceptible to similar disruptions as the climate warms. — (emphasis added)


(During February of 2016, high-amplitude Jet Stream waves or gravity waves interfered with the upper-level Equatorial Winds. This disruption was so significant that it caused a seasonal upper-level wind pattern near the Equator to change direction, a shift that was unprecedented in modern observation. Note how the upper-level wind flow frequently intersects with and even appears to cross the Equator at some points. Image source: Earth Nullschool global 250 hPa capture for February 18, 2016.)


I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again — loss of predictable seasons, or seasonality, due to human-forced climate change is very big deal. And regardless of how all the scientific details specifically pan out, there are now observed changes to Northern Hemisphere winter, possibly due to human-forced warming, that are apparently starting to undermine its traditional seasonal climate behaviors. As a result, weather patterns appear to be shifting toward greater extremes and lower levels of predictability.

QBO — One of Our Most Predictable Atmospheric Clocks…

For decades now, scientists have been observing a kind of atmospheric clock tick-tocking high above the Equator. Up in the stratosphere, 10 to 13 kilometers above the Earth, winds tend to flow either east to west or west to east. These air flows change direction about every 28 to 29 months. This feature, called the quasi-biennial oscillation or QBO, has never significantly varied. It has always flowed in one direction for a predictable period of time and then switched to flow in the other direction.

Winds flowing at this level of the atmosphere over the Equator have a far-reaching effect, particularly on the winter climate of northern Europe. There, westerly high-level Equatorial winds are known to bring warmer, wetter winters. Easterlies in the stratosphere over the Equator are known to bring cooler, drier winters. The key to remember is that the QBO has always been both amazingly predictable itself, and had equally predictable climate effects. As a result, meteorological observation of the QBO natural-variability pattern enabled forecasters to get an idea of what weather trend to expect for winter — not just during a single year, but also over a longer time horizon.

…and Climate Change May Now Be in the Process of Breaking It

What happens if the QBO becomes less predictable due to influences such as human-forced polar warming? What happens if the big meanders in the Jet Stream produced by this warming dig down all the way to the Equator during Northern Hemisphere winters and start to shove at the upper-level Equatorial wind field, causing the QBO to switch? If that happens, then a major aspect of Northern Hemisphere winter seasonal variability will have been fundamentally altered by climate change. Winter would become less like it is now and more like some strange, difficult-to-predict, climate-change-morphed hybrid of a thing.

Over the past decade, scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis have observed strange changes to the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream. In winter, the North Pole has tended to exhibit extreme relative warming versus the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. This warming has created less difference in temperature from north to south during this season. As a result, it appears that the Jet Stream has slowed and is generating very large atmospheric waves, known as gravity waves or Rossby waves. At times, these waves have linked upper-level air flows between the Tropics and the North Pole.

(For years now, Dr. Jennifer Francis has warned that polar amplification could lead to some weird and extreme weather, especially during winter. However, no one initially predicted that the large Jet Stream waves apparently resulting from polar warming would completely disrupt the upper-level Equatorial winds as appears to have happened last February.)

Such strong polar warming during winter is called polar amplification, an effect produced by climate change. Polar amplification happens because greenhouse gasses resulting from fossil-fuel burning (like carbon dioxide and methane) preferentially trap heat during times of darkness. During December through March, large sections of the North Pole are blanketed in the dim of Polar Night. During this time the heat-trapping effects of these gasses really go to work. Additionally, heat from the ocean is transferred through the thinning veil of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean even as local carbon stores add to the overburden of the heat-trapping gasses already in place. The net effect is a much warmer-than-normal Arctic during winter. This warming appears to be doing a serious number on the Jet Stream and, apparently, even Equatorial atmospheric circulation.

Unprecedented QBO Switch in February 2016

During the most recent winter, scientists observed these high-amplitude Jet Stream waves reaching all the way into the Equatorial upper-level wind field with enough oomph to switch an east-west wind pattern to west-east. This switch was entirely unpredicted and unprecedented. No one expected it and it has never before been observed.

The weather pattern for a big swath of Europe was, as a result, flipped from the expected cool and dry to warm and wet. If you had told any atmospheric scientist that such a set of changes would happen, they might have categorically dismissed these claims. But now, some scientists are starting to look at the possibility that the recent QBO flip was due to a climate warming-related influence.


(Geographic pattern of surface warming as provided by the IPCC. Uneven relative warming of the surface of the Earth may result in some unexpected changes to larger atmospheric circulation patterns. Scientists now indicate that future flips in Equatorial wind patterns, like the big switch that occurred this past winter, may be driven by such atmospheric warming. Image source: IPCC.)

There is a possibility that the recent flip was related to large atmospheric waves which are potentially a result of polar amplification. These waves appear to have impacted the upper-level Equatorial winds, and so are not necessarily related to natural climate variability.

To initiate such a big atmospheric change requires a great deal of force. The equatorial wind field and atmospheric mass is generally the heaviest, is typically the region with the greatest atmospheric inertia. Having an outside influence, like polar warming and associated gravity waves, generating a flip in its flow is about the meteorological equivalent to rivers running up hill. Apparently, due to climate change, atmospheric ‘rivers’ in the Jet Stream may now be capable of doing just that, and that’s pretty disturbing.

Links/Statements/Hat tips:

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Scott Osprey

Scientific hat tip to Professor Adam Scaife

Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes

Unprecedented atmospheric behavior disrupts one of Earth’s most regular climate cycles

An unexpected disruption of the atmospheric quasi-biennial oscillation

Earth Nullschool

Note: Paul Beckwith again appears to be using this issue as a means self-promotion — bragging about ‘vindication’ and his video ‘that went viral.’ First, this issue is a matter of concern (not petty personal score-keeping). And it is probably one that remains uncertain given that the MET study is the first to touch on it in the peer reviewed science. So any definite claims at this point are both unwarranted and premature. Caution and humility should be the watch-words here. Not active grasping for credit or media attention. Further, I did not work with Paul Beckwith on his first ‘viral’ video — which was an independent response to my initial gravity waves article here. So responsible sources will not conflate my work with that of Paul’s even though he appears to agree with my (admittedly evolving) analysis in some (but not all) instances. For my part, this work is an attempt to open the issue. Not to close it or to support someone attempting to claim credit of first discovery.

Finally, I absolutely respect and admire the work and opinions of scientists like Gavin Schmidt, Stefan Rahmstorf, Jennifer Francis, the IPCC, the MET Office and others who have helped to build a powerful and compelling consensus on climate change as a critical issue for the 21st Century. Sometimes the process of threat identification will highlight instances that are outside of that consensus currently. And such identifications will, at times, result in strong reactions. I understand that this is part of the process and even if views differ, I will endeavor to read, and where I am able, incorporate them into my ongoing study here.

Approaching the First Climate Tipping Point — On Track to Hit 1.5 C Before 2035

July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded. That record lasted for all of one month as global temperatures remained at record-high levels through August, resulting in a tie with July during a period when the Earth typically cools.

Given natural variability, we might expect August to remain hot if an El Nino were forming in the Pacific, but at that time, with a weak La Nina struggling to fire off, the exact opposite was the case. In other words, the El Nino/La Nina cycle, which typically helps to drive global warm and cool periods, was pointed in the direction of ‘cool’, but the world remained near record-hot levels.


(2016 Climate Year continues to redefine global temperature boundaries as August ties July for hottest month ever recorded. Image source: NASA GISS.)

So what the heck was going on?

Rising Greenhouse Gasses are Steadily Rearranging How the Earth Balances Heat

We can’t answer this question without looking at the amazing overburden of greenhouse gasses that are trapping an enormous amount of heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean. Due to decades of rampant fossil-fuel burning, 2016 will likely average around 404 parts per million CO2, which is the Earth’s primary heat-trapping gas that drives global climate. The last time levels of this gas were so high, more than 3 million years ago, the Earth was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius hotter than 1880s averages, seas were 25 to 75 feet higher, and the Earth was a remarkably different place.

CO2 isn’t the only gas adding heat-forcing to the Earth’s atmosphere. Human-emitted methane and other chemical compounds now add together with CO2 to produce a total CO2-equivalent forcing near 490 ppm. If this measure in any way remotely correlates to past climate forcings, then the Earth could well be on a path toward Middle Miocene climates that were around 4 C hotter than 1880s values.

Greenhouse Gas Accumulation Causes the Poles to Warm Faster than the Rest of the World

The way this extra heat — due to greenhouse gas forcing — emerges in the atmosphere is not even. In fact, science has long indicated that the poles warm faster than the rest of the world as the greenhouse gas overburden increases due to global burning of fossil fuels. Ever since the 1990s (and probably before), global climate models have shown that adding CO2 and other greenhouse gasses to the Earth’s climate system preferentially warms the far north and the far south.

This effect is due to the fact that greenhouse gasses more effectively trap and re-radiate the sun’s heat during periods of darkness. The long dark of polar night, lasting for the many months of polar winter, presents a period in which greenhouse gas warming has the opportunity to go into overdrive. In addition, oceans preferentially transfer heat toward the poles. Meanwhile, the melting of heat-reflecting ice coverage traps more heat in the local polar oceans (primarily in the Arctic) even as local carbon stores are increasingly vulnerable to release due to thaw. The result is that the polar regions of the world generate various amplifying feedbacks to the preferential heat forcing already in play. This can drive some big changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, which pull heat up from tropical regions and dump it over the frozen parts of our world.

Ridiculous Antarctic Warmth during Southern Hemisphere Winter

Coming back to El Nino and La Nina, it goes to reason that if the poles warm enough relative to the rest of the climate system, then such a global warming-related polar warm-up might eventually start to warp natural variability to the point that peak warming periods push a bit beyond the typical cycling.


(Polar amplification hit high gear during August as Southern Hemisphere winter saw extreme Antarctic warming. Image source: NASA GISS.)

This appears to have been the case during August 2016. As the Equator cooled, Antarctica warmed to a rather extreme degree. Though most of the globe saw above-average temperatures, the highest extreme anomalies were centered over Antarctica. There, the entire region above 75° South Latitude experienced temperatures greater than 3 C above average and a large region saw temperatures striking between 4 to 5.9 C above average for the entire month.

This heat came on the back of numerous high amplitude Jet Stream waves that delivered heat to the polar region during the Southern Hemisphere winter month of August. These waves, which have become a signature feature of Northern Hemisphere winter during recent years, bear with them the trappings of equator-to-pole energy transfer, a new climate effect playing havoc with traditional seasonal variability and possibly messing with some of the most well-established seasonal climate markers (such as the equatorially emerging quasi-biennial oscillation).


(No latitudinal zones saw below-average temperatures in August of 2016, another rather disturbing feature of this record-hot month. Image source: NASA GISS.)

As the South Pole saw repeated warm-air deliveries from the tropics, the Equatorial Pacific experienced only moderate negative departures below normal, a sign that the emerging La Nina was starting to splutter.

Overall, no latitudinal zone experienced below-average temperatures — another odd marker as the Southern Ocean (which pulls in an enormous amount of the Earth’s rising heat) tends to show below-normal departures in the region of 50° to 60° South Latitude.

We Appear to be on Track to Hit Above 1.5 C Within 15-25 Years

In total, global temperatures, according to NASA, hit 1.2 C above 1880s averages in the NASA measure (or about 0.98 C above NASA’s 20th-century baseline average). As a result, the first nine months of the December-to-November climate year are now averaging around 1.28 C above 1880s levels. And since the last three months of the year are unlikely to average below 1.05 C above 1880s, it appears that a 1.2 C departure or higher is now a lock for 2016.

With so much polar heat in place (this time shifting to the Arctic during September), it appears at least somewhat likely that the final three months for this climate year will tend to average closer to 1.05 to 1.20 C above 1880s averages. Consecutive months in this range or higher would push end-2016 values closer to 1.21 to 1.24 C above 1880s values. Notably, this is a range about 0.4 C higher than 1998 average temperatures. A similar period of warming occurring over the next 18 years would result in a year in which global temperatures exceeded 1.6 C above 1880s levels before 2035.

With global civilization continuing to burn massive volumes of fossil fuels and spewing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at a record rate, and with global temperatures so high, we are nearing a time when the first major climate threshold of 1.5 C (dangerous warming) is likely to be breached. Under current rates of fossil-fuel burning, this crossing will likely occur within the next 15 to 25 years. We know this because the Earth is now experiencing a rapid warming (0.15 to 0.2 C per decade), the likes of which has never been seen in human reckoning, and may have never been seen at all during any time of its deep past. It really all is, quite frankly, terrifying.



NOAA El Nino

August Ties With July as Hottest Month on Record

An Unexpected Disruption of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation

Pliocene Climate

Miocene Climate

Gigantic Gravity Waves to Mix Summer With Winter?

Scientific hat tip to Gavin Schmidt

Coming Big Arctic Ocean Warm-Up May Extend Sea Ice Melt Season

It’s September in the Arctic, a time of year when temperatures should be cooling off. But with sea ice at second-lowest levels on record in most monitors and the globe experiencing an unprecedented hot year, it appears that the next week may see the Arctic Ocean reverse its typical seasonal cooling trend and significantly warm up over the coming five to six days.


(GFS model runs show a significant warming is in store for the Arctic Ocean over the coming week — and that’s bad news for sea ice running at second-lowest levels on record in the current daily measures and lowest levels on record for the first eight months of the year so far. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

GFS model runs show a strong pulse of warm air will rise up over the Atlantic Ocean and Barents Sea in the next 72 hours. This warm air then will ride in over the Greenland Sea and invade the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard. Local temperatures over water are expected to be between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius above average over a broad region of the Arctic. Meanwhile, general departures for the entire region above 66° North Latitude are expected to hit around 2 to 2.5 C above average.

Temperatures for most of the Arctic basin in ice-covered areas are expected to again push to -2 C to +2 C. Generally, air temperatures below -2 C are needed to prevent melt, but in warm water and rough ocean conditions, which have tended to dominate the Arctic recently, air temperatures probably need to average around -4 to -6 C over most of the Arctic to fully halt melt.

Threats to Ice Coming From All Directions

During summer and early fall, the Arctic Ocean tends to help to moderate temperatures over the region, so these are very high predicted temperature departures for this time of year. Such high temperatures are likely due to the effect of added heat bleeding off recently ice-free waters. While sea-ice area and extent measures are in the range of second-lowest on record, there is some indication that sea-ice concentration in the Arctic may be at or near record-low levels.


(AMSR2 animation constructed by Neven shows vigorous ice export and melt through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. This is a heavy blow to the thin veil of multi-year sea ice remaining in the Arctic. Animation by Neven at the Arctic Sea Ice Forum. Images by Universität Bremen.)

The ice, generally, is extraordinarily weak, thin and dispersed. Large gaps run across an arc covering the Atlantic and Siberian side of the polar zone. In addition, large cracks are appearing in the very thin and unstable multi-year ice north of Greenland (below) as sea-ice export now threatens melt in the Beaufort Sea, Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Nares Strait, the Fram Strait, and on into the northern edge of the Barents Sea.

Risks Rise for a Long Melt Season

Recent animations by Neven over at the Arctic Sea Ice Forum (above) show particularly strong export and melt in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago — which is a pretty unprecedented melt feature. What this means is that the ice is basically being hit from all sides and that the factors necessary to melt ice are compounding.


(Large section of multi-year ice breaking up north of Greenland on September 9, 2016. In recent years, less and less ice has survived summer melt to make it to the following winter. Ice with an age of more than five years has grown quite scant in the Arctic. The ice shown breaking up in the above image is part of the last bastion of old, thick ice in the Arctic. When that’s gone, the Arctic Ocean will only be a seasonally frozen sea, a possibility that may occur as soon as 2017 to 2025 and will probably occur before 2035. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

If the big warm-up does occur as predicted this week, there is risk that ice losses will extend through to September 15 and possibly beyond. These melt rates should not be particularly severe, given the time of year, but it is possible that 50,000 to 300,000 square kilometers or more will go. This would be enough to solidify 2016 as the second-lowest year on record for extent and area at the end of melt season. It would also help to fill the big gap between 2007 and 2012 — solidifying already significant decadal melt trends.

Overall, this is a pretty weird forecast, but set in the backdrop of a year that’s on track to be about 1.2 C above 1880s averages — the hottest year on record by far — the possibility of a late-season Arctic warm-up and a late end to a near record melt season is an entirely valid one.


Climate Reanalyzer

Universität Bremen

Arctic Sea Ice Forum


Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

New Report: ‘Blowtorch’-Like Ocean Warming Advances Killer Seas, Shifts El Nino, Heats Hydrates

Tampering can be dangerous. Nature can be vengeful. We should have a great deal of respect for the planet on which we live. — Carl-Gustaf Rossby

But as the [IUCN] study points out, 90% of the extra heat that our greenhouse gases trap is actually absorbed by the oceans. That means that the upper few meters of the sea have been steadily warming more than a tenth of a degree celsius per decade, a figure that’s accelerating. When you think of the volume of water that represents, and then try to imagine the energy necessary to raise its temperature, you get an idea of the blowtorch that our civilization has become. — Bill McKibben

The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with the numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend. — from the IUCN report Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences


If there’s one simple fact about past Earth climates that should keep you awake at night, it’s this — warming the world ocean eventually produces a killing mechanism that is unrivaled by any other in Earth’s deep past. Great asteroids, gamma-ray bursters, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanism — none of these can rival the vast damage to life on planet Earth that is resulting from ocean warming.

As a study of the sciences, this assertion would be merely an academic one if the human race weren’t now involved in a great injection of an unprecedented volume of greenhouse gasses into the Earth’s airs. As a critical new ocean report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) points out, these gasses are trapping an extraordinary amount of heat at the top of the world’s atmosphere. In turn, the atmosphere is transferring the lion’s share of this heat — more than 90 percent — into the waters of our world.

The Extreme Amount of Heat Energy Piling up in Our Warming Ocean

As a result, the surface of the world ocean is warming by 0.1 degree Celsius per decade. That may not sound like much, but it takes about four times the amount of energy to warm one gram of water by 0.1 C as it does one gram of air. This property, called specific heat, is a defining aspect of water. Water has the highest specific heat of any common substance.


(Since the 1970s, about 300 zettajoules’ (ZJ) worth of heat energy has accumulated in the Earth System due to fossil-fuel burning and related greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about 5 Hiroshima bombs worth of heat accumulating every second. Most of that energy has gone into the world’s oceans. So much heat is bound to have consequences, and these impacts are starting to show up in the form of declining ocean health, melting sea ice and glaciers, shifting climate zones and weather patterns, worsening droughts and storms, and threats of Earth System carbon feedbacks. Image source: Explaining Ocean Warming.)

Liquid water is also far denser than air. And this density generates an even higher impact heat energy transfer multiplier. So not only does it take four times more energy to warm a similar weight of water vs air, once warmed, that water contains that higher level of specific heat energy in a much more tightly concentrated package. And when that high heat concentration liquid water comes into contact with other substances — like ice in the form of ocean contact, or air in the form of evaporation, or frozen hydrates on the sea bed — it can pack a serious heat punch.

The vast volume of water in our oceans, therefore, serves as a kind of heat and energy regulator. It takes a lot of energy to warm it up, but once it does, serious environmental changes start to happen as a result. In other words, the temperature of the global ocean could be viewed as the point on which the whole of the Earth climate system pivots. Once the oceans are set in thermal motion, serious changes to the rest of the world are going to take place. To get an idea how much energy the oceans now contain, of how much potential they now have to dramatically alter our world, consider that if these vast waters were not present, the atmosphere now would have already warmed by 36 degrees C due to the heat-trapping effect of greenhouse gasses already in our atmosphere.

Fossil-fuel blowtorch indeed.

Heating Seas Ultimately Become Killer Seas

There’s a starker message to convey here, one that focuses on this simple yet dire question — how do warming oceans kill? In basic terms, they become toxic and anoxic. Warming oceans melt ocean-contacting glaciers. The glacial melt forces seas to rise and forms a freshwater lid on the global ocean, breaking down ocean conveyor belts and preventing mixing. This freshwater lid also deflects heat toward the ocean bottom. This process in turn helps to thaw methane hydrates. Warm waters that don’t mix and that are filled with bubbling hydrates become very oxygen-poor.


(Massive algae bloom covers tens of thousands of square miles of open water in the Barents Sea during August of 2016. As glaciers melt, oceans stratify and warm; as water oxygen levels drop, and as hydrates vent due to warming, such blooms result in significant reductions to ocean health and a related global mass-extinction threat. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

As the land glaciers bleed out into the oceans, the stratified, oxygen-deprived waters become less and less able to support advanced life. The kinds of life warm, oxygen-deprived waters do support are poison-producing microbes. These microbes thrive in the warm, oxygen-poor waters. If ocean heating continues to progress, the warming seas will eventually fill up with their deadly byproducts. Among the most nasty of these is hydrogen sulfide. If enough of it is produced, it will spill out from the ocean into the nearby air, resulting in land animal mortality as well.

In microcosm, we saw a mild taste of some of these effects this past year in Florida as toxic algae blooms filled the warming state’s waterways and coastlines, even forcing some riverside marinas to close due to toxic gasses wafting up from the purple-green, oxygen-starved waters. These effects are a snapshot of a possible future for Earth’s oceans if we don’t get our act together yesterday.

El Niño Shifted, Ocean Hydrates Threatened

As alluded to earlier in this post, a new report, Explaining Ocean Warming, provides some pretty hard evidence that the oceans are on the move toward a much more harmful global climate state. The study, which has rightly received a great deal of media attention, issues a ‘shot across the bow’ warning to pretty much everyone living today. And it finds serious impacts to the ocean and linked climate systems due to a very rapid human-forced global warming.

These hard findings are worth reading directly:

  1. Sea-surface temperature, ocean heat content, sea-level rise, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations are increasing at an accelerating rate with significant consequences for humanity and the marine species and ecosystems of the ocean.
  2. There is likely to be an increase in mean global ocean temperature of 1-4 degrees C by 2100. The greatest ocean warming overall is occurring in the Southern Hemisphere and is contributing to the subsurface melting of Antarctic ice shelves. Since the 1990s the atmosphere in the polar regions has been warming at about twice the average rate of global warming.
  3. There is likely to be Arctic warming and ice loss, and possibly the essential removal, in some years, of the summer Arctic sea ice within the next few decades.
  4. Over the last 20 years there has been an intensification and distinct change in the El Niño events, with a shift of the mean location of sea-surface temperature anomalies towards the central Pacific.
  5. Currently 2.5 Gt of frozen methane hydrate are stored in the sea floor at water depths of 200 to 2000 m. Increasing water temperature could release this source of carbon into the ocean and ultimately into the atmosphere.

These are all Earth-shattering scientific statements. For those who frequent this blog, points 1 through 3 are probably pretty familiar. The last two, however, require more in-depth explanation.


(Some scientific studies have pointed out that warming the world ocean will result in a shift of El Niño toward the central Pacific. A new ocean report finds that it’s already happening. Image source: Global Warming May Dent El Niño’s Protective Hurricane Shield, Increase Droughts.)

For a long time now, scientists have believed that El Niño wouldn’t be affected by climate change until the end of this century. But as with sea ice, it appears that such impacts may well be advancing faster than expected. As we’ve alluded to here, there’s been an apparent shift in El Niño toward the central Pacific over recent decades. This may well be a climate change-related shift. The fact that the IUCN report highlights this change is a sign that the broader sciences are starting to tackle the notion of early alterations to El Niño due to climate change as well.

However, the most ominous language here centers around methane hydrate. For years, there’s been adamant push-back against potential risks to hydrates coming from well-respected sections of the climate sciences. Nonetheless, those downplaying the threat of warming to hydrates have yet to produce any conclusive proof as to why warming the ocean bottom and applying heat to hydrates won’t result in at least some feedback from these carbon stores (especially under the higher-range warming scenarios). The IUCN report reiterates this risk by identifying 2.5 billion tons of frozen seabed methane at shallow and mid-ocean depths that will ultimately be exposed to warming — risking both an ocean and an atmospheric release.

These last points serve to underline some pretty basic facts, the chief of which is that pushing Nature, and heating up her life-blood world ocean waters, is a very, very dangerous game. And if this poignant new report sends any message at all it could simply boil down to this — turn back before it’s too late.


IUCN Report: Explaining Ocean Warming

Specific Heat

Ocean Warming

Awakening the Horrors of the Ancient Hothouse


Slimy Green Algae Invades Florida

The oceans are heating up. That’s a big problem on a blue planet.

Global Warming May Dent El Niño’s Protective Hurricane Shield, Increase Droughts

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to George Hayduke

It’s Looking Like We’ll Never See Another Month Below 400 ppm CO2 Again

The truth is, when I was born, atmospheric CO2 levels were around 300 ppm. Today — maybe even this week — will be the last time anyone alive experiences a level below 400 ppm, and no one born in the coming century or even longer will ever see less than 400 ppm again. That is a deep, deep observation, with ramifications for our children and for every future generation. — Peter Gleick during November of 2015



(NASA model visualization of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Image source: NASA.)

I just want to take a moment to tell you something that’s pretty important. You are now an alien. You’ve been made an alien by fossil fuel burning. And you’re now living in, breathing, a heat-trapping atmosphere that’s entirely alien to your species. Sometimes races of creatures suffering such habitat changes are capable of surviving the environmental shifts that inevitably occur as a result. Sometimes they are not. But you’ve been placed in this situation now and it’s getting steadily worse.

Big August CO2 Jump Locking 400 ppm In

The August preliminary data are in. And it’s pretty grim. For with a big year-on-year CO2 jump in August, it looks like September of 2016 will be unable to achieve monthly CO2 averages below 400 parts per million. What that means is that the last month below the 400 level was probably October of 2015. So, for almost a year now, we’ve been living in the climate age of 400+, likely never to return to monthly atmospheric CO2 levels in the 300s again during the lifetimes of any of us humans now inhabiting this Earth.

According to NOAA, August CO2 measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory averaged 402.25 parts per million, which is a big 3.32 parts per million jump over 2015 August readings. Adding this number to previous months, we find that 2016, so far, has seen an average rate of rise of 3.495 parts per million during its first 8 months — significantly ahead of previous annual record rates of rise during 2015 and 1998 (3.05 and 2.93 ppm respectively).


(Two year Keeling Curve trend seems to indicate that it’s unlikely monthly values will fall below 400 parts per million during 2016 and, for all practical purposes, ever again unless some kind of unprecedented change is made to global carbon emissions policies. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Such a big August jump makes it highly unlikely that September will average below 400 parts per million due to the fact that monthly drops leading into September typically average around 1.8 ppm CO2. If this trend holds true for 2016, then September will average around 400.5 ppm CO2. And since September typically sees the lowest atmospheric CO2 levels during any given year, the current month is basically the world’s last chance to see a 30 day period that averages below 400 ppm.

Conditions Not Seen in Millions of Years

Atmospheric CO2 levels are now so high that you have to go back about 3 million years into the Pliocene to find similar ranges. During that time, the world was between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than 1880s temperatures. Oceans were 25 to 75 feet higher and the world was a dramatically different place.


(The age of 400 parts per million CO2 is here. It’s something not seen in about 3 million years. In other words, you’re breathing air right now composed of properties that no homo sapiens sapiens has ever breathed before. Image source: Climate Central.)

But adding in all greenhouse gasses like Nitrogen compounds and Methane resulting from fossil fuel burning (and other human activities) and you end up with a CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere close to 490 parts per million. Such a level of forcing correlates more closely to an even more ancient climate period called the Middle Miocene of about 15 million years ago when global temperatures were between 3 and 4 C warmer than they are today.

As such, crossing the 400 ppm CO2 threshold is not merely symbolic. It is a sign of the increasing likelihood of climate harms to come. And it appears now that we crossed that pass back during October of 2015 — unaware that we’d already entered a tough new climate age.


NOAA CO2 Trends

The Keeling Curve

Pliocene Climate

Miocene Climate

What Passing Key CO2 Mark Means to Climate Scientists

A Year in the Life of CO2

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