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NASA: May Was 4th Hottest on Record

According to reports from NASA GISS, May of 2018 was the 4th hottest in the 138 year global temperature record. This new warmth came as the Equatorial Pacific began to retreat from a cooling La Nina state — which, all things being equal, would have resulted in somewhat cooler than average global temperatures.

(Analysis of global temperature trends based on recent NASA and NOAA reports.)

But all things are not equal. Greenhouse gasses in the range of 410 ppm CO2 and 493 ppm CO2e have created a historically unprecedented heat forcing within the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, recent global temperatures have consistently exceeded 1 C above 1880s levels and have hit as high as 1.5 C above 1880s levels on a monthly basis and 1.2 C above those levels on an annual basis.

For this May, temperatures were about 0.82 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline or about 1.04 C above 1880s levels. This was the fourth hottest May in the global climate record despite La Nina influences continuing to maintain hold over the global climate system.

(NASA global anomalies map shows distribution of warmer than normal [yellow to red] and cooler than normal [blue to purple] temperatures across the globe. Note that warmer than normal conditions dominated.)

Overall, the greatest above average temperatures were experienced in the regions of Scandinavia and Antarctica — from an anomaly perspective. Meanwhile, significant trough zones generated counter-trend cool temperatures near Eastern Canada, over the North Atlantic south of Greenland, and across Central Siberia. As we moved into June, some of these zones have shifted or moderated, with cooler air tending to shift closer to eastern Europe in Asia and toward the North Atlantic cool water zone (due to melting Greenland ice) from Eastern Canada.

Looking ahead, NOAA is forecasting a 65 percent chance for a return to El Nino conditions in the Equatorial Pacific by winter of 2018-2019. With atmospheric CO2 hitting near 410 ppm and overall greenhouse gas levels hitting near 493 ppm CO2e, this switch to the warm side of natural variability will again bring with it the risk of record hot global temperatures, should the NOAA forecast bear out. Though we should be clear that El Nino is merely a short term aspect of natural variability that is riding over the long term warming trend generated by human produced greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning.

 

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When Fear of Migrants Translates to Putting Children in Cages

The United States has long provided a haven for those seeking safety and asylum. The Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”

(Why opening our hearts to migrants is so crucial for our future. If YouTube is showing a server error, you can follow the link here.)

We have, for two centuries, served as a much-needed charitable example to other nations. Through great famines and wars we have kept our doors and borders open. But ever since Trump’s election, he has done everything in his power to stomp out our nation’s beacon of liberty, to wall America off from those seeking aid in a troubled world.

In the present day, the hopeful light of liberty is needed far more than ever. Across our globe, the storms and droughts of climate change are worsening. Such natural disasters now result in more people losing access to shelter and livelihoods than conflict and war. With glaciers melting as temperatures increase, an additional 140 million to 2 billion people could be displaced by rising seas through 2100.

2 billion people is fully one in every five human beings expected to be living by 2100. What this means is that the threat of displacement from climate change related factors is not at all remote. It is not something down the road, or across the street, or even sitting on our porch. It is in our house. It is very likely to affect both you and me.

(Climate change worsened storms, droughts and other disasters now result in more people being displaced each year than conflict and violence. However, rising ocean levels are now also likely to displace hundreds of millions of people through the 21st Century. Image source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.)

In facing this problem we can react in a number of ways running the gamut from harmful to helpful. Some, like those republicans supporting a Trump Administration now holding children in cages at the border, will try to exploit growing fears of poverty or deeper-seated racism by scape-goating immigrants in an effort to enforce harmful political agendas (border wall, travel ban etc). Others will react with denial, turning their faces from a difficult reality and hiding behind an illusion of safety. But the benevolent will seek to respond with charity, to stand by our values, to provide aid and safe passage for migrants.

It is this final choice that will be essential if global civilization is to maintain a peaceful, benevolent stability through the climate-spurred difficulties of the coming decades. For we will all have to face them. Doing it with compassion is a far better, just, and far more resilient way.

Arctic Sea Ice at 4th Lowest Extent on Record

Warmer than normal conditions, abnormal wide areas of open water, large wildfires burning near Arctic Ocean shores, and Arctic sea ice extents at 4th lowest on record. That’s the present reality of a human-warmed Arctic environment.

(An assessment of present Arctic conditions)

With Arctic temperatures hovering around 1.6 degrees Celsius above average and focusing on a rather hot zone near Central Siberia, Arctic sea ice on the Siberian side is experiencing widespread melt ponding. In addition, a large area of open water is expanding through the Laptev Sea due to warm southerly winds and much warmer than normal temperatures.

Overall, temperatures in this Central Siberian zone will range as high as 25 degrees Celsius (45 F) above average today. With some areas hitting has high as 85-90 (F). Near these much warmer than normal temperatures, a series of large wildfires are burning. Fires so far north are historically rare. But they have become more common as the Earth has warmed due to fossil fuel burning.

(Arctic temperatures are well above average for this time of year. These much warmer than normal temperatures are contributing to a number of impacts, including lower than normal sea ice extent.)

Present sea ice decline rates now put Arctic Ocean ice extent at 4th lowest on record. And the present trajectory for Arctic sea ice appears to be aiming toward approximately 4 million square kilometers come melt season end. However, with human-forced warming now resulting in ever-increasing global temperatures, downside risks remain. Particularly with so much heat moving about in the Arctic.

Accelerating Sea Level Rise is Being Driven by Rapidly Increasing Melt From Greenland and Antarctica

From 1993 to the present day, global sea level rise has accelerated by 50 percent. And the primary cause, according to recent research, is that land glaciers such as the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting far faster than they have in the past.

(Assessment of factors involved in the presently increasing rate of global sea level rise.)

Antarctica, in particular, is melting much more rapidly — with melt rates tripling in just the last ten years.

The primary factors contributing to global sea level rise include thermally expanding oceans and the melting of ice on land. During the decade of 1993 to 2004, the World Meteorological Organization notes that oceans rose by 2.7 mm per year. During this time, land ice sheets amounted to 47 percent of that rise — or about 1.35 mm. The same report found that from 2004 to 2015, oceans rose by around 3.5 mm per year and that land ice contribution had risen to 55 percent (1.93 mm per year). Looking at sea level measurements from AVISO, we find that from March of 2008 to March of 2018, the average rate of sea level rise accelerated further to 4.3 mm per year.

The net takeaway is that the rate of global ocean rise has increased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s and that this acceleration has been driven by increasing melt from large land glaciers like those in Greenland and Antarctica.

(Sea level rise contributors as reported by the World Meteorological Organization in its 2017 report on the state of the global climate.)

Over the coming years and decades, this rate of rise is likely to continue to accelerate — surpassing 5 mm per year sometime rather soon, and likely exceeding the 1 cm per year mark by the 2040s through the 2060s. Melt rates will likely increase substantially as we approach the 1.5 C and 2.0 C warming marks. However, the net heat pressure from fossil fuel emitted greenhouse gasses will also drive sea level rise rates. As a result, it is imperative that we work to cut fossil fuel emissions more rapidly and that we pursue a swift as possible transition to clean energy.

Will Tesla Shorts Be Milked For Billions in Clean Energy Investment Money?

Tesla short sellers have been on a rampage ever since the start of Model 3 production back in July. And to support their position, they’ve penned thousands of Tesla attack articles on blog sites like Seeking Alpha. As a result of this negative media campaign, short interest in Tesla has risen to 12 billion during recent months.

(Tesla shorts are starting to feel the squeeze. But it could get a lot worse real fast if Tesla keeps achieving goals.)

But if shorts get hit with a margin call when Tesla stocks are rising, they’ll end up losing money to the all-clean-energy automaker. If Tesla succeeds, it could ultimately mean that shorts are milked for billions of dollars that will in turn go to building more gigafactories, more electrical vehicles, more solar panels, more batteries.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Back in 2012 when Tesla was ramping up production of the Model S, shorts had a field day. They said that Tesla should have never left behind the Roadster, that Telsa would never produce more than 20,000 Model S’s, that EVs were unprofitable and a failed business model. But as Tesla achieved profitability during 2013, it was the shorts that met with failure. And so as Tesla stock rapidly climbed, short positions were called and Tesla got a big infusion of investment capital.

Short interest remained strong for Tesla during 2013 through 2016. Though it took a bit of a back seat for the Model X ramp. But by 2017 the shorts were back in force. They claimed that the Model 3 ramp would fail, that Tesla would go bankrupt by May, that Tesla’s cash burn was insurmountable, that the Model 3 was unprofitable. Tall anti-clean-energy tales that we’ve all heard versions of before.

(Tesla shorts feeling the squeeze. Image source: Tesla Market Summary.)

And recently as Tesla Model 3 production has raged forward — and is likely to hit near 30,000 during Q2 — the shorts have begun to show a bit of strain. During the past few weeks, Tesla stock has risen from around 280 to around 340. And shorts have lost more than 2 billion dollars in value during the same period. Though just 3 percent of short shares have returned during that time, shorts are starting to feel a bit of a squeeze.

But this small squeeze is likely just a prelude to what will happen when Tesla Model 3 production ramps above 5,000 per week and if Tesla manages to achieve profitability in Q3 and Q4. If Tesla meets those two goals then it will end up milking shorts for billions of clean energy investment dollars. And if/when that happens we can thank the shorts for their unwitting clean energy investment dollars and for helping to fight human-caused climate change.

Stronger, Slower Hurricanes Spell Big Trouble in a Warming World

Recent research by Stephan Rahmstorf and others shows that hurricanes are growing stronger due to human-caused climate change. Unfortunately, this is not the only destruction-enhancing impact. Due to changes in atmospheric circulation, the forward speed of hurricanes is also slowing down. Which makes their destructive effects last longer over a given region.

(Stronger, slower hurricanes means longer-lasting destructive impacts.)

According to new research published by Nature and written by James Kossin, the forward speed of hurricanes in the tropics is slowing down. This slow-down is driven by a weakening of tropical atmospheric circulation. Such weakening has been identified by climate studies for decades and is associated with a warming climate.

As the Earth warms, the Hadley Cell expands and slows, the poles warm faster than the lower latitudes generating more blocking patterns in the middle latitudes, and the Walker Cell also slows down. The net effect is that steering currents for hurricanes are weaker, which reduces their forward speed.

(Observed reduction in hurricane forward motion since 1950. Image source: A global slow-down in tropical cyclone translation speed.)

Reduced forward speed means that hurricane impacts such as strong winds and heavy rain persist for longer periods over a given area. Such longer persistence produces more damage and higher rainfall totals.

Since storms are already increasing in intensity due to warming ocean surfaces, rainfall rates and wind speeds are on the rise. However, these much more powerful storms are becoming brutally slow. The net effect is a pretty terrible combination for cities and regions facing the climate change enhanced storms of today and tomorrow.

(Not a fluke event. The catastrophic flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey is much more likely to occur in a warming world as storms intensify and persist for longer periods over a given region. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

With the world having already warmed by about 1.1 C above 1880s averages, and with the oceans continuing to gain a tremendous amount of heat, we have already seen substantial changes to hurricane severity. However, if fossil fuel burning continues, that severity — both in terms of storm strength and persistence, is likely to continue to increase along with their related catastrophic effects.

Mapping Climate Change Impacts to the World Ocean

The world ocean supports 2.5 trillion dollars in economic activity annually and generates food for more than 1 billion people. Stable coastlines provide homes and livelihoods to hundreds of millions even as coastal ecosystems are among the most vibrant and productive on Planet Earth. But ocean health and all that relies on it is under serious threat from human-caused climate change.

(Resource Watch provides a graphical survey of various climate-ocean indicators)

A new series of maps produced by Resource Watch gives an analysis of present and future ocean health. And if fossil fuel burning continues, the prognosis isn’t good (follow this link and/or watch the above video to see more).

Present impacts to ocean ecology are already measurable in key regions such as the North Atlantic. There, ocean health is in decline from climate-change-related algae blooms, fishery losses, and expanding oxygen-deprived regions. Near the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea hosts a large oxygen-poor dead zone and its deeper waters seep with hydrogen sulfide gas. Ocean life in the region has taken a serious blow with diverse species from puffins to lobsters to fish all feeling the heat.

(Coral bleaching predicted for the Pacific and Indian Oceans by 2050. Regions in bright yellow are expected to experience bleaching once every year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. Image source: Resource Watch.)

With warming just at about 1 C above 1880s values, climate change related impacts to oceans are mild compared to what they will be if human civilization keeps burning fossil fuels. More severe impacts come with rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels creating a grim future for corals in rather short order.

By 2030, according to WRI data, equatorial corals are expected to face bleaching every other year under present fossil fuel burning scenarios. By 2050, many equatorial and near equatorial regions will see bleaching every year. At that time, it is possible that 80-90 percent or more of present corals will have been lost.

(Hampton Roads faces large-scale inundation with 2 meters of sea level rise. Image source: Resource Watch.)

A third major impact to the global ocean system comes from melting glaciers and thermal expansion in the form of sea level rise. With both Greenland and Antarctica experiencing increasing melt rates, it’s possible that oceans could rise by 2 meters or more by mid-to-late Century. And higher levels of fossil fuel burning lead to faster rates of ocean rise.

The above map is an example of which areas are likely to face inundation across the Hampton Roads region (take a look at this link to view the interactive map) under 2 meters of sea level rise.

In total, human caused climate change impacts the oceans through four major mechanims: warming temperature, loss of ocean oxygen, acidification, and sea level rise. The maps by Resource Watch provide a broad summary of such key impacts. However, there are still quite a few avenues by which climate monitoring for the world ocean can be improved and expanded.

Climate Change Indicated in Forced Migration of 1.7 Million from Mekong Delta

Global sea level rise caused by fossil fuel burning is an issue that is creating worsening impacts to cities, nations, and civilization itself. And according to recent reports out of Vietnam, 1.7 million people have migrated from the low-lying Mekong Delta region over the past decade. Primary causes included climate change and poverty.

(Sea level rise now threatens all low-lying regions with increased flooding, loss of crops, and, in some cases, forced migration. Recent reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have already left the Mekong delta as a result.)

Rising oceans have forced Vietnam to erect a system of dykes of up to 4 meters in height in an increasingly complex system of coastal defense barriers. These barriers have saved lands from inundation as the ocean off the low-lying Mekong Delta continues to rise year-after-year. However, the dykes have not prevented salt water from moving further and further up the Mekong River. And during recent years, this salt water has inundated soils used for rice production.

Such salt water inundation has wiped out crops for many farmers. For example, in the Soc Trang region, the farmers of Thang Dong saw their crops completely wiped out during 2013 as salt water seeped into the soil and killed off food-producing plants. In low-lying near coastal regions, the story has been much the same for Mekong farmers. And with less reliable crops come increasing poverty.

(Salt water increases in soils as seas rise. The Mekong Delta is just one of many low-lying regions under threat by human caused climate change and its related sea level rise. Image source: Vietnam Times.)

When crop production is no longer tenable due to climate change impacts, many farming families have been forced to move on. A majority cite poverty as the root cause. But 14.5 percent are more aware — noting that climate change was what ultimately forced them to leave.

The Delta regions of the world are among the most agriculturally productive on Earth. But, as with Mekong, all such regions face ocean flooding and salt water invasion. As a result, a key aspect of global food production is under threat. A factor that has recently weighed in high average global food prices and an increase in the number of under-nourished people by 38 million last year.

 

Crony Central Planning Posing as National Security — Trump Tries to Foist Rising Coal Costs on the American People

Ever since Trump came to office he’s been doing his best to save a polluting, harmful, and increasingly expensive energy source — coal. Why he would do this is rather nonsensical. Coal employs less and less people each year. It pumps toxins into the air and water. And it is a primary enabler of human-caused climate change — which among other things is putting the nation’s cities under threat from rising seas, worsening storms, and more severe wildfires.

Trump and Perry’s various campaigns to save coal bear a similar connotative ring as such moral winners as ‘help Sauron,’ benefits to ‘promote asthma in kids,’ and ‘save smog.’

(The failing coal industry is trying to use its influence over the Trump Administration to force you to prop it up. This stinks of crony capitalism turned Soviet-style central planning.)

But despite the nonsense, harm and immorality, the Trump Administration has actively courted bankrupt coal executives like Bob Murray to write policy that would throw a number of lifelines to an economically failing and pysically dangerous energy source. The most recent related attempt being the claim that coal is necessary for U.S. national security and that economically failing coal plants represent a ‘grid emergency in the making.’ A claim that was just this week decried by Exelon CEO Chris Cane.

In truth what’s really happening is coal can’t compete economically with wind and solar. And that the Trump Administration, through Perry, is asking you and me to pay an extra 12 billion dollars a year in utility bills to support failing, polluting coal plants. In truth, they’re doing this for no reason whatsoever other than to promote the interests of their political backers — in the form of a direct hand-out. And they are doing it in a way that will harm both U.S. competitiveness, hurt the present rate of renewable energy adoption, raise your utility bills all in one.

(Due to higher costs, coal and even gas are being utilized less and less in favor of lower priced and less polluting renewables. Image source: Think Progress and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Such Soviet-style central planning and forced dirty energy use has generated cries of outrage from a broad coalition of energy industry leaders, environmentalists, and, ironically, conservatives groups that promote free market systems. So the Trump Administration is likely to find itself in court — defending spurious claims of ‘national security,’ increased costs to rate payers, and nonsensical government handouts to failing coal.

Worrisome U.S. Wildfire Risks Leading into Summer of 2018

The trend of increasing large wildfires for the U.S. West due to climate change is clear as clear can be. And as we enter 2018, fire officials are concerned that we might experience another damaging summer and fall similar to 2017.

(Analysis of the present state of U.S. fire season.)

According to forecasters from the National Interagency Fire Center:

…warmer and drier-than-normal conditions have put large portions of the Western United States at above-average risk for significant wildfires between now and September.

This year’s wildfire season could rival last year’s, which was one of the most devastating on record, said Vicki Christiansen, interim chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

With drought conditions and warmer than normal temperatures prevailing across the U.S. West at present, a number of large wildfires are breaking out. The most significant now run through Colorado, New Mexico and California. In addition, four large fires are burning over Alaska where much warmer than normal temperatures have also settled in.

Last year was one of the most destructive fire seasons on record. 53 lives were lost, 12,300 homes were destroyed, and more than ten million acres burned. The situation this year, though not quite as intense as early 2017, has sparked concern. Presently 1.75 million acres have already burned from more than 24,000 fires — which makes the start of 2018 fire season the third worst of the past ten years.

(Severe western drought and above average temperatures are contributing to increased fire potential during June of 2018. Warmer temperatures and worsening droughts are also related to human-caused climate change. As a result, unless human caused warming is abated, fires will continue to grow larger and more intense. Image source: The National Weather Service.)

Climate change is identified as the primary factor increasing wildfire risk across the United States by the Union of Concerned Scientists. According to that scientific body, the incidence of large fires covering more than 1,000 acres has increased from 140 over the U.S. West during the 1980s to more than 250 after 2000. The same study found that fire season for the West had increased from five months to seven months, that temperatures were rising, and that mountain snows were melting earlier.

In the future, unless fossil fuel burning is rapidly reduced, the area of land burned in the U.S. West could increase by up to 650 percent. So wildfires are a substantial hazard related to climate change. And the present more severe season cannot be excluded from a trend that has been amplified by that change.

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Hit 24,560 in May as Tesla Dominates

The rampant rate at which fossil fuel based industry is pumping heat trapping gasses into the atmosphere is a serious and growing problem. A problem that is best answered by a transition to clean energy. Anyone telling you something different is lying or selling the energy equivalent of snake oil.

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With atmospheric CO2 equivalents hitting 493 parts per million during 2017 (and likely ramping to 496 ppm this year), the call for a clean energy transition couldn’t be louder. 550 parts per million is enough to warm the Earth by 3 C over one Century time scales. And, over the longer term such high levels of heat trapping gasses would melt most of the land ice on Earth, raise seas by 200 feet, and cause additional warming in the range of up to 6 C.

(Tesla’s record EV production rate for the Model 3 is enabling the all-clean-energy company to dominate U.S. sales.)

With most of the world’s carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel burning in transportation, electricity generation, and industry, transitioning to non-carbon emitting energy sources in these segments is crucial to addressing ramping climate harms. And, thankfully, clean transportation in the U.S. in the form of electrical vehicles is presently making rapid gains.

During May of 2018, according to reports from Inside EVs, 24,560 electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. representing about a 50 percent growth year-on-year over 2017 and setting a new May record for EV sales. This surge in EV sales was led by the Tesla Model 3 which hit 6,250 sold during May. Adding in Model S and Model X, Tesla moved more than 9,200 electrical cars — representing nearly 40 percent of the May market.

Chevy Bolt, on the other hand, eeked out just 1,125 sales even as Chevy Volt sold 1,675. Both behind second place Toyota Prius Prime at 2,924. Chevy has talked a good game RE electrical vehicles — recently marketing the Bolt as a so-called ‘Tesla killer.’ However, Chevy’s sales force has consistently failed to deliver in volumes that are high enough to match the talk. Chevy’s Volt, a plug in electric hybrid with 52 miles of all-electric range, is likely a superior value and overall more attractive vehicle than the Prius Prime (with just 25 miles of electric range). But the new energy Prius frequently outsells the Volt by a large margin.

Other major EVs of note during May include Nissan’s Leaf — which sold 1,576 in the U.S., but is a major seller on the international market. Earlier this year, we thought the Leaf might present the Model 3 with a bit of a challenge in the U.S. But that competition did not emerge as the Model 3 rapidly hit higher and higher sales volumes.

(According to Inside EVs, U.S. plug in sales hit 24,560 during. This is nearly 50 percent growth year on year.)

Another PHEV to watch is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Pacifica recently secured a 62,000 vehicle order from Waymo. At 620 U.S. sales during May, the Pacifica also had a rather decent showing for a new PHEV. Although we’re pretty confident that it could sell well north of 2,000 if Chrysler decided to get serious.

Overall, the story is presently one of Tesla dominance. And over the coming months Tesla’s lead is likely to only lengthen as it reaches and exceeds 5,000 per month production capability.

Stronger Storms in a Record Warm World — Looking Ahead to the Atlantic Hurricane Season, 2018

No holds barred, 2017 featured the most devastating hurricane season on record for the North Atlantic basin. More than 282 billion dollars in damages were inflicted. The season produced the strongest storm ever to form in the Atlantic — Irma. And another very strong storm — Maria — resulted in the loss of an estimated 5,000 lives in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

With human-caused climate change making the strongest storms more and more powerful, we ask the pertinent question — how bad will the 2018 hurricane season be?

(Analysis of climatological factors leading up to the 2018 hurricane season.)

Already, we have seen sub-tropical storm Alberto form in the Caribbean and track northward into the U.S. Gulf Coast prior to official hurricane season start. This storm brought with it heavy rains to the Eastern U.S. A region already reeling from historic flooding. One locked beneath a seemingly never-ending Matrix-esque pall of dark clouds. Alberto is one of many recent early season storms. And it may be a harbinger of more intense storms to follow.

Much warmer than normal sea surfaces are quite pervasive across the Gulf of Mexico and off the U.S. East Coast. In these regions temperatures range between 1 C and up to 7 C above average in the most extreme instances. These near-shore much warmer than normal waters will tend to fuel any storm that does approach the U.S. In addition, a fading La Nina could enable storm formation by reducing wind shear over the Atlantic. Lastly, combined high atmospheric water vapor levels and instability over the Eastern U.S. and parts of the North Atlantic may aid in storm formation and help to fuel the storms that do gather.

(Odd Alberto tracking toward Lake Michigan yesterday. Alberto, as with many recent storms, maintained strength over land while dumping heavy rainfall. While not comparable to Harvey’s all-time record inundation, Alberto is contributing to very severe rainfall over the Eastern U.S. during late spring of 2018. Image source: University of Miami and Brian McNoldy.)

NOAA, however, is presently predicting a storm season that is about average when compared to past years. And sea surface temperatures presently over the key storm formation zones running from the Cape Verde Islands through the Caribbean are cooler than normal. These cooler waters could persist into August and September, which would help to take the edge off of any storms that do form.

Though climate change is producing a very clear trend of increasing peak storm intensity, it is less likely that extreme seasons like 2017 will occur back-to-back. However, human-caused climate change does have a tendency to produce unpleasant surprises. And the early formation of Alberto is no reassurance for even a temporary return to normalcy.

May Arctic Warming Event Follow-up — Not So Bad as Predicted, But Worries Remain for Early June

There are many reasons why we monitor Arctic sea ice melt during summer. First, sea ice is a key climate indicator. Second, we are in a period of time where ice-free Arctic conditions are becoming more possible as global temperatures keep rising. And third, falling levels of Arctic sea ice have knock-on effects for a number of climate systems that we all rely on.

(Will we see a warmer than normal early June for the Arctic Ocean? If we do, it could seriously impact the Arctic Ocean’s remaining and thinning sea ice.)

Last week, we pointed out that GFS models were predicting a very warm spike to around 3.5 C above average temperatures for the Arctic come late May. Thankfully, due to the model running a bit hot, such extreme readings did not emerge. However, temperatures over the Arctic Ocean remained about 0.85 C above average overall for the past 7 day period.

Consistent, though somewhat mild, warmer than normal temperatures for this time of year over the Arctic during 2018 are still somewhat worrisome. Recent very warm winter years have experienced ‘saving grace periods’ during May and June in which temperatures near the pole returned to near average or slightly below average.

(Above freezing or near freezing temperatures predicted for most of the Arctic Ocean on June 4, 2018 in the GFS model. Sea ice tends to start melting at around -2 C due to the salt content in surrounding ocean waters. During recent years, the Arctic sea ice has been far weaker and thinner than historic norms. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This is not the case for 2018 so far. Temperatures have tended to remain warmer than average for the Arctic Ocean and near the pole throughout May. Moreover, short range forecasts indicate that the critical time period of early June could see continued above average temperatures — providing a potential kick for sea ice losses come late season.

Overall, GFS model runs indicate that temperatures will remain in a range between 0.5 and 1.3 degrees Celsius above average for the Arctic over the next five days. These above normal temperatures pose increased risk for sea ice losses during the crucial June window. June weather tends to greatly influence late season sea ice totals. A warmer than normal June will produce higher numbers of melt ponds and greater impetus for melt to continue with force through July, August, and September. Cooler and often cloudier Junes have tended to protect late season sea ice from hitting new all time record lows.

(Weekly averages for the Arctic Ocean during early June are expected to range near 1 C warmer than normal — extending what has already been a warmer than normal May. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

2018, so far, has seen a warmer than normal May for the Arctic Ocean. And so we see ice getting swept back behind traditional lines in the Chukchi Sea, in the Beaufort Sea, and in the region north of Svalbard. Peripheral areas like Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, and the south Kara Sea have seen slower ice melt due to their co-location with trough zones. But it is Central Arctic melt that we should be more concerned about. So we’ll be closely monitoring this region as May runs into early June.

 

How Climate Change Contributed to Ellicott City’s Back-to-Back Historic Flood Events

Back when climates were more stable during the 20th Century, we would have expected Ellicott City to see the type of severe rainfall that occurred during 2016 to happen once every thousand years or so. But with the present global climate amped up by human forced warming, just two years elapsed before another such ‘1 in 1,000’ year event hammered the region yet again.

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(Climate change related factors that contributed to the second 1 in 1,000 year flood event to strike Ellicott City within two years.)

Back in 2016, a massive thunderstorm complex dumped 6 inches of rain over the Ellicott City region within just two hours. The storm crippled the downtown of this historic city, severely damaging more than 25 buildings, resulting in the loss of two lives, and spurring calls for a moratorium on development in such low-lying areas. This was the heaviest rainfall ever to hit Ellicott City on record. And though the city had experienced floods before, it had never seen so much heavy, short-duration, local precipitation.

Typically, Maryland does not see such severe rainfall amounts. In a normal climate, Ellicott City would expect to see such high rainfall totals once every 1,000 years. However, the climate is no longer normal. Atmospheric greenhouse gasses are now at higher levels than at any time in at least 15 million years. The Earth is warming up. Atmospheric moisture levels are rising. Severe rainfall events are proliferating across the world. And off the U.S. east coast, the Gulf Stream is slowing down as Greenland disgorges more of its ice.

(The second recent Ellicott City Flood dumped an amazing 9.6 inches of rain within just three hours. Climate change increases the ability of the strongest storms to generate more intense downpours by loading up the atmosphere with moisture and by increasing instability in certain regions. The Eastern U.S. is particularly prone to increasing rainfall intensity due to a warming Gulf of Mexico, a warming North Atlantic off the U.S. East Coast and due to an instability-generating cool pool off Greenland fed by glacial melt water. Image source: Radar Scope and The Washington Post.)

The Eastern U.S., in particular, is seeing increased potentials for heavy precipitation as a climate change related cool pool off Greenland is causing polar air masses to come into conflict with rising heat and increasing levels of atmospheric moisture streaming up from both the Gulf of Mexico and the middle Latitudes of the North Atlantic.

As a result, the chances that Ellicott City would see another historic severe storm of this kind were greatly increased. So much so that the region was hit again on May 27 of 2018. This time by a storm that was more severe than the one that occurred during July 30 of 2016.

 

(Due to human-forced climate change, the intensity of rainfall events, particularly in the strongest storms, is increasing across the U.S. with the greatest increase over the eastern half of the country. This record of increasingly severe rainstorms due to human-forced climate change isn’t just limited to the U.S. It is a global phenomenon. Image source: The National Climate Assessment and Katherine Hayhoe.)

This larger flood dumped 9.6 inches of rain just east of Ellicott City within only three hours. Hourly rainfall amounts during this event likely exceeded 4 inches at the storm’s peak intensity. And a new wave of massive flooding ripped through the historic district — re-damaging buildings that were on the verge of recovering and again resulting in loss of life.

Unfortunately, the climate dice are now loaded for more such ‘1 in 1,000 year events.’ So what happened in Ellicott City this weekend should not be attributed to some ‘fluke local weather event.’ Climate change increases the potential for these kinds of storms. So we’ll see more and worse such instances as we keep warming up our atmosphere, heating the oceans, and melting glaciers.

Odd and Dangerous Mekunu Bears Down on Oman

This year, two tropical cyclones have sprung up in the Western Arabian Sea. A region where, according to our understanding of climate, “storms do not form.” Well, the climate has clearly changed. Because a storm is raging there now. And for Oman today, these changes bring with them serious threats to life and property.

(Discussion of how climate change has altered tropical cyclone formation and intensity dynamics in the Western Arabian Sea during 2018.)

About five days ago, tropical storm Sagar formed east of Somalia in the Western Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Yemen. The storm was notable due to the fact that it was the furthest west a storm had ever formed in this region, according to records. The storm then dumped copious amounts of rainfall over Somalia — resulting in the loss of 34 lives.

Just a few days later, a second storm, Mekunu formed in about the same region. Tracking north, it is now threatening Oman with the potential to hit category 2 intensity. Unlike Sagar, Mekunu poses a triple threat due to expected very heavy rainfall, large waves, and storm surge.

(Mekunu rages south of Oman and Yemen after forming in the Western Arabian Sea. Image source: NASA.)

The region near Salalah Oman that the storm is barreling toward — typically receives just five inches of rainfall per year. But Mekunu could deliver two to five times that amount (or more) in just a few days. Moreover, the flat coastal plain is backed by mountainous terrain to the north. The higher land produces lift that will intensify expected rainfall. And current models predict that more than two feet of water (24 inches) could fall on up-sloping regions facing Mekunu’s advance. What’s notable is that these totals keep rising and that peak local totals for the storm in the NOAA NCEP model show some ridiculous amounts — up to 74 inches (see below).

Why are peaks in this model so high? First, sea surface temperatures are very extreme throughout the region. In the immediate vicinity of Mekunu, ocean surfaces range from 30 to 32 degrees Celsius. The waters are about 1 to 2 C above normal and are thus providing Mekunu with a lot more moisture than is typical. However, the larger environment that Mekunu is feeding off of also has much higher than typical moisture loads. For one, sea surfaces east of Somalia have spiked to as much as 5 C above average recently — pumping out great loads of evaporation. Further, moisture levels over the Arabian Peninsula are high due to moisture streaming in along a rather intense subtropical Jet Stream moving over the also much warmer than normal sea surfaces in the Med. The result is a much higher than normal rainfall potential.

(Mekunu presents a very severe rainfall risk for Oman in addition to a predicted strong storm surge and very high waves. Image source: NOAA NCEP.)

Such heavy rains would flush floods of water into lowlands already confronted with high waves and rising seas. According to a recent report by Bob Henson at Weather Underground, wave heights could reach 24 feet along the coast. The same report cites storm surge expert Dr Hal Needham who states:

The significant wave height leads me to think coastal flood potential is a real threat. At some point the water from waves crashing onshore does not have time to drain before the next wave hits. My gut feeling is that we could see a noticeable storm surge that is quite dynamic, with a lot of wave action and rapidly moving water. Expect wave heights to be tremendous.

(Much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas are helping cyclones to form in atypical regions even as they are lending fuel to their intensification. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Mekunu’s intensity is certainly quite high. And it is one of a recent spate of storms to impact the region. With research showing that the intensity of storms in the Arabian Sea has increased during the past 20 year period. However, the far western formation of Mekunu and Sagar add a new twist to the story. For it appears that the zone of storm formation is also shifting westward as sea surface temperatures rise and, apparently, Jet Stream changes have the potential to deliver higher levels of atmospheric moisture to the Arabian Peninsula. All of these factors feed both storm formation and intensity potentials.

North Atlantic Warm Pool as a Signal of Gulf Stream Slowdown

Over the past few years we’ve seen very warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf Stream off the U.S. East Coast. This heat traffic jam is an indicator of reduced energy transfer into the North Atlantic. In other words, there’s a strong observational signal that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.

(A much warmer than normal pool of water off the U.S. East Coast juxtaposed to an intense cool pool south of Greenland is a climate indicator of Gulf Stream slowdown.)

The development of a cool pool near Greenland, and associated with Greenland melt, is a further indicator of this trend. Recently, the near East Coast warm pool has enlarged and intensified. Meanwhile, the strength of the Greenland cool pool has also increased even as cold water currents issuing from Greenland appear to have sped up.

As noted above, Greenland melt is a major apparent driver. As glaciers speed up and calve more and more ice bergs, more fresh water enters the region around Greenland. This fresh water acts as a lens which cools off the ocean surface. It also serves as a cap, pushing down-welling water further south.

(Floods of ice bergs from melting Greenland glaciers like Jacobshavn have the potential to produce a climate and ocean circulation train wreck in the North Atlantic. Some indicators show that we are in the early stages of this disruptive process. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

The net effect is that the North Atlantic Ocean Conveyor acts as if a great wrench has been thrown into the works. The region around Greenland cools as areas further south heat up. A scenario that is also likely to generate more intense storms across the North Atlantic and over adjacent lands in Europe, North America and Greenland.

Recent scientific studies indicate that the North Atlantic circulation has slowed down by about 15 percent on decadal time scales. And it appears that this slow-down is showing up clearly in the North Atlantic sea surface temperature profile.

(A severe dipole anomaly for sea surface temperatures has developed in the North Atlantic. This is an observational indicator that Greenland melt is impacting North Atlantic Ocean circulation. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The combined indicators point toward serious systemic changes taking place in the region of the North Atlantic. Changes that are having knock-on effects to local climates — like enhancing the deepness of troughs over Eastern North America and lending higher atmospheric potentials that spike storm intensity. Meanwhile, considerable ocean conveyor slow-down risks a serious degradation of global ocean health.

Potential Historic Arctic Warming Scenario in the GFS Model Forecast for Late May

For years, Arctic watchers have been concerned that if May and June ran much warmer than average following an equally severe winter, we could see substantial sea ice losses, severe Arctic fires, and related knock-on global weather effects. This May, temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have run much warmer than average. And in the GFS model forecast, we see a prediction for a historic Arctic temperature spike during late May.

(Discussion of a potentially historic Arctic warming event for late May of 2018. Information for this analysis provided by Climate Reanalyzer, Global and Regional Climate Anomalies, and DMI.)

According to GFS model analysis, temperatures for the entire Arctic region could spike to as high as 3.5 degrees Celsius above average from Saturday, May 26 through Tuesday, May 29th. So much warming, if it does occur, would shatter temperature records around the Arctic and accelerate the summer melt season by 2-4 weeks. It would also elevate Arctic fire potentials while likely increasing upstream severe weather risks to include higher potentials for droughts, heatwaves and severe rainfall events (as we have seen recently across the Eastern U.S.).

The model run indicates three ridge zones feeding much warmer than normal air into the Arctic. The zones hover over Eastern Siberia, Western North America, and Central Europe through the North Atlantic and Barents Sea — pushing wave after wave of warmth into the Arctic Ocean region.

(Three ridges transferring heat into the Arctic are feeding the potential for a major polar temperature spike over the next ten days. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Over the coming days, this three-pronged flood of warm air could push temperatures over the Arctic Ocean to 2-10 C above average temperatures while Western North America, Eastern Siberia, and the Scandinavian countries could see the mercury climb to 5 to 20 degrees Celsius above average. This translates to 70 to 80 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures for Eastern Siberia above the Arctic Circle, mid 70s to mid 80s for near Arctic Circle Alaska, and temperatures in the 70s to 80s for Scandinavia. For the Arctic Ocean, it means above freezing temperatures for most zones. Zones that are likely to see more rapid sea ice melt as a result.

Upstream effects include the potential continuation and emergence of fixed severe weather patterns. Extreme heat will tend to intensify for Western North America, while a pattern that favors severe rainfall is likely to remain in place for the Eastern U.S. Meanwhile, South-Central Asia through the Middle East are likely to see very extreme daytime high temperatures. Fire risks will tend to rise from Alberta to the Northwest Territory into Alaska and on through Central and Western Siberia as much warmer than normal temperatures take hold and Arctic lightning storms proliferate.

(Forecast Northern Hemisphere temperature anomaly patterns hint at a hot or unstable late spring pattern for many regions as the pole inters record warm territory. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It’s worth noting that should such an event occur during late May, it would represent yet another major and historic temperature departure for an Arctic zone that has thus far seen severe winter warming and related loss of sea ice. The concern is that eventually such heating would result in ice free conditions during summer — although when is a subject of some debate.

To this point, it is also worth noting that we should take the present GFS forecast with a bit of a grain of salt. Such amazingly warm temperatures are still 6-10 days away. Forecasts beyond the 3 day are notably fickle. And this particular model has run a bit hot of late. However, it is worth noting that the model has been correct in predicting a much warmer than normal May. And that we have already experienced one historic temperature spike during early May. So a pattern that demonstrates the potential for such extreme warming has clearly taken hold.

 

Globe Just Experienced its Third Hottest April on Record

According to reports from NASA GISS, the world just experienced its third hottest April on record. Topping out at 0.86 degrees Celsius above NASA’s 20th Century baseline, April of 2018 edged out 2010 as third in the record books despite the ongoing natural variability based cooling influence of La Nina.

(Analysis of present global temperature anomalies with information provided by NASA, NOAA and Earth Nullschool.)

The warmest regions of the world included large sections of the lower Arctic — encompassing Eastern Siberia, the East Siberian Sea, and the Chukchi Sea. In addition, Central Europe experienced much warmer than normal conditions. Notable cool pools included North-Central North America, the High Arctic, and the Weddell Sea region of Antarctica.

A seasonal reinforcement of the Jet Stream helped to keep cold air sequestered in the High Arctic during April. However, this sequestration appears to be weaker compared to recent April-through-June periods as record warm spikes returned to the High Arctic during early May. The result of strong south-to-north heat transfer through various ridge zones in the Jet Stream.

(Third warmest April on record despite La Nina. Image source: NASA.)

La Nina remained the prominent natural variability related feature during April. And the cooling influence of La Nina has tamped global temperatures down a bit following the recent record hot year of 2016. Overall, it appears that global temperatures are on track to average between 1.04 C and 1.08 C above 1880s averages during 2018. These rather high excessions are, of course, caused by atmospheric greenhouse gasses peaking in the range of 410 ppm CO2 (around 491 ppm CO2e) during April, May and June. Representing the greatest concentration of heat trapping gasses on Earth in about 15 million years.

With La Nina fading, its cooling influence is likely to become less acute and global temperatures may again begin to ramp higher by mid to late 2018. NOAA has indicated a 50 percent chance for El Nino formation during late 2018. If 2018-2019 does see an El Nino emerge, global temperatures will likely again exceed the 1.15 C threshold and potentially challenge 1.2 C.

(A warm Kelvin Wave crossing beneath the Equatorial Pacific brings with it the potential for El Nino formation during 2018-2019. If El Nino does form, and with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations so high, it is likely that we would see temperatures comparable to the record global warmth of 2016 re-emerge. Image source: NOAA.)

However, it is unlikely that the weaker predicted El Nino, if it does emerge, will force temperatures considerably higher than levels achieved during the strong El Nino of 2016. For that, we will likely have to wait until the early 2020s. But with carbon emissions continuing near record high ranges, temperatures are bound to rise — with the 1.5 C threshold likely to be breached by the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Tips for Responding to Climate Change Denial and Anti-Clean Energy Attacks in the Media

It is becoming more and more obvious that powerful economic interests associated with the harmful fossil fuel industry often spread anti-scientific, anti-factual misinformation relating to climate change and clean energy in the mainstream media. This post will explore some recent examples while providing you with a few simple methods for countering what is essentially a PR industry of lies for profit.

(Day after day we can see The Madhouse Effect in action in the form of major media sources providing a platform for the agents of the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt and aspersions on both science and clean energy.)

Typically, it would fall to a responsible government to reign in bad media actors that spread such fraudulent reports in the press. Reports by paid industry agents that masquerade as news and fact, but are just the opposite. Daily we are inundated with false and misleading attacks on clean energy leaders like Tesla even as major sources baldly spread the anti-factual claims of climate change denialists.

But despite a broad assault against basic reason enabled by some of the most powerful media outlets in the land, the tools are there for us regular folks to counter such attempts to spread doubt, uncertainty, and fear (FUD). We just require the will and the wherewithal to use them. Today, I’m going to pull two blatantly false reports — one from the Wall Street Journal, and one from Politico — to provide examples of the variety of crud we are subjected to every single day.

But before I do, I’m going to share with you my simple little method for dealing with the nonsense. In short — QUADS is a good basic rule of thumb:

  1. Question strange claims.
  2. Ask a scientist who works in the field.
  3. Do the research.
  4. Speak out.

The Wall Street Journal Makes the Ridiculous Statement that Sea Level Rise isn’t Caused by Global Warming

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published this ludicrous article written by known climate change denier S. Fred Singer. The article, entitled ‘The Sea Level is Rising, But Not Because of Climate Change’ is quite frankly not worth the paper or the electrons used to bring it to our eyes. Simply put, Singer baselessly casts doubt on long established scientific facts related to sea level rise caused by climate change. Then he makes the equally baseless claim that we can’t do anything about it but build dikes (Fred has long attacked policies promoting carbon emissions reductions — like those that advance the needed transition to renewable energy).

These are indeed strange claims worthy of questioning. And if we were to ask an actual climate scientist, we would find this to be the response:

Doing a little research we find that NASA states:

Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

A statement of fact that is validated again and again and again across the field of climate science by such luminaries as the World Meteorological Organization, the Met Office, the IPCC, NOAA, JAXA and ever other major climate science body known to man.

Facts that put Mann’s rebuke to Singer in the context of yes, this guy just basically said the climate science equivalent of ‘objects are falling, but not because of gravity.’ Making Singer here more than just a bit of a voice in the wilderness. Which begs the question — why would the Wall Street Journal give him such a large platform from which to project his nonsense statements?

Turning our ‘do the research’ focus back to Singer we find that he’s a big name among the usual suspects of climate change denial nonsense. According to Desmogblog:

Singer founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) in 1990, a 501(c)(3) “educational group” focusing on global warming denial….Leaked documents obtained by DeSmog revealed that Fred Singer has also been receiving $5,000 a month from the Heartland Institute(emphasis added).”

For those who don’t follow climate deniers, the Heartland Institute is an organization that feeds off the money of fossil fuel donors (like Exxon) and then turns around to publish numerous anti-scientific and anti-factual reports that attempt to fog the issue of climate change. This serves the simple polluting industry purpose of delaying or denying helpful government policy, business and social action meant to address climate change. Which is the main reason for the existence of Fred Singer as a media figure and for the endless repetition of his quack-quackish statements.

Politico Says Electrical Vehicles Increase Air Pollution — Which is a Complete and Utter Bullshit Claim

In a similar vein, but along a different tac, on the same day the major media source — Politico — published an equally ridiculous report by the appropriately named Jonathan Lesser falsely stating that electrical vehicles increase air pollution. Our response to Lesser and Politico calls them out for what amounts to publishing a gigantic stinking heap of nonsense:

Digging into actual research and looking at what actual scientists at The Union of Concerned Scientists have to say we find that:

Electric cars and trucks are powered by electricity, which as an energy source is cleaner and cheaper than oil. Even when the electricity comes from the dirtiest coal-dominated grid, electric vehicles (EVs) still produce less global warming pollution than their conventional counterparts, and with fewer tailpipe emissions (or none at all).

Such widely varied and notable institutions like the Department of Energy  and NRDC agree.

So how did Jonathan Lesser produce his claim? In short he double counted the impact of electricity based emissions, assumed all electricity comes from coal (just 30 percent and falling comes from coal in the U.S.), ignored the fact that EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, overlooked the massive efficiency gains that come from EVs, and ignored the fact that EVs mated with wind and solar produced zero emissions in use. Further, Lesser seems to have fiddled with material lifetime emissions results to generate the most pessimistic view imaginable. One that has no basis in actual fact or reality.

(According to this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, EVs keep getting cleaner and cleaner at a pace that is impossible to match by their fossil fuel based counter parts. See comparison tool here.)

To be clear, if EVs were only plugged in to coal power plants on net, then it is likely that we would see some specific instances of particulate pollution rise (which Lesser appears to be cherry picking). And when more EVs are used, electrical power demand increases. But not all power generation comes from coal. In fact, coal plants are being shut down all over the world due to an inability to compete with renewables and natural gas. And as cleaner sources of energy keep getting added at higher rates, total life cycle emissions from EVs, which are already lower than ICEs keep falling.

On a net basis, the Union of Concerned Scientists is correct. Due to the simple fact that an electrical motor is x2 to x3 more efficient than an ICE, simply switching the motor results in considerable emissions reductions. However, add in the battery and you have a vehicle that is capable of zero emissions in use when mated to wind and solar.

Moving on, we find that Johnathan Lesser happens to be a rather biased source of information. According to both Politico and Desmogblog, Lesser is a writer for the Manhattan Institute. According to Desmogblog:

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, originally known as the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, was founded in 1978 by Anthony Fisher and William Casey and in recent years has promoted climate science contrarianism while defending policies supporting the development of fossil fuels (emphasis added).

The Institute notably receives most of its funding from fossil fuel related interests. Including 1.7 million from the Mercer Foundation, 1 million from Exxon Mobile, and 2.7 million from the Koch Brothers. So reading Lesser’s article is like getting a direct shot of fossil fuel industry PR messaging. In other words — not an honest report devoid of serious conflict of interest related issues.

Speaking Out is Necessary to Expose Bad Actors

It’s understandable that individuals may feel powerless in the face of vast media empires like Politico and the Wall Street Journal who brazenly publish the slanted and unscientific views of fossil fuel industry shills without even providing responsible warning or qualification. However, each of us has a voice with its own degree of power as well. A power that is lost if we stand silent. But one that is enabled if we lift our voices and speak out. The truth itself is a powerful tool. And if we first learn what is true and then communicate that truth, we can have a shot at overcoming the harmful interests who’ve generated such a vastly damaging, short-sighted, and self-serving fire-hose spume of misinformation.

 

Warm Oceans, Displaced Polar Air: Why the Eastern U.S. is Likely to See Very Severe Rainfall During May

During recent years, warm ocean surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with increasing levels of moisture. This moisture, in turn, has fueled more powerful rain storm events across the globe. Meanwhile, climate change is generating regions of increased instability by placing much warmer than normal air masses in confrontation with cold air displaced from a warming Arctic Ocean region.

(How climate change is impacting severe weather potentials across the U.S. East Coast during May. Data provided by Earth Nullschool, Climate Reanalyzer, and the National Weather Service.)

During the coming days, this kind of pattern will generate the potential for severe rainfall events across the U.S. East Coast. NOAA is predicting that between 3-7 inches of rain is likely to fall over the next 5-7 days. But due to the unusual situation, locally extreme and unexpected events may occur.

This severe weather potential has been fed by a combination of factors. A warmer than normal Arctic Ocean has shoved cold polar air south over the Hudson Bay region. The resulting trough is generating stormy conditions and atmospheric instability over much of Eastern North America. To the south and east, much warmer than normal sea surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with extremely high moisture levels.

(NOAA shows that heavy rainfall is likely to dominate large portions of the Eastern U.S. over the coming weeks. With a number of climate change related influences at play, the potential for outsized severe weather events exists. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s the kind of pattern — within a highly charged atmosphere — that is capable of producing serious instances of severe weather. Heavy rainfall, hail, lightning and tornadoes are all more likely. Factors associated with climate change contributing to the situation include — much warmer than normal ocean surfaces off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, a much warmer than normal Arctic Ocean region for this time of year, displaced polar air near Hudson Bay, and warmer than normal temperatures over much of the U.S.

As Greenland melt comes more into play, and as temperatures continue to spike higher over the Arctic Ocean in coming years, we can expect to see similar patterns producing greater instability and more intense storms. Particularly for the land zones near the North Atlantic. And so what we are seeing now is a likely prelude of events to come as the Earth continues to warm coordinate with continued fossil fuel burning — with mitigating factors primarily involving reduced carbon emissions.

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