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After a Brief Respite, Climate Change Enhanced Drought is Returning to the U.S.

Unseasonable warmth across the American West and overall dry conditions across the South is causing drought to expand throughout many parts of the United States.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the southern half of the United States is presently experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions. Meanwhile, an intense drought that has remained in place over the Dakotas and Montana for multiple months continues to persist.

Severe drought conditions are now present in the south-central U.S. with exceptional and extreme drought expanding through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri. Deepening drought in California and Texas are notable due to the fact that Southeast Texas recently experienced record rainfall due to Hurricane Harvey and California experienced a very wet winter and spring period from 2016 to 2017. Somewhat milder drought is also spreading through the Southeast.

Re-expanding Southern California drought is also enhancing record wildfire activity in that state.

Much Warmer than Normal Temperatures

A strengthening La Nina in the Equatorial Pacific is helping to generate a drought tendency for the Southern U.S. However, various climate change related features including above normal temperatures and a persistent high pressure ridge in the West are lending intensity to the rising drought regime.

(U.S. 30 day average shows much warmer than normal conditions for the lower 48 with extreme warmth prevalent over the American West. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Over the past 30 days, temperatures for the U.S. as a whole have been 1.52 C above average (see image above). Much of this excess heat has been concentrated over the West, with mountain and Pacific regions seeing between 4 and 5 C above average temperatures.

Excess heat of this kind helps to speed the drying of soils and vegetation by increasing the rate of evaporation. A condition that can lead to flash drought — whose incidence has been expanding in lock-step with the human-forced warming of the globe.

A Ridiculous Ridge

Linked to the western heat and drought is a strong and persistent high pressure ridge. One that has hit a very intense 1041 hPa pressure as of Monday afternoon over the U.S. Mountain West.

(Very intense high pressure ridge over the U.S. west is presently locking in both warmer than normal and drier than normal conditions. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Persistent ridging of this kind was a key feature of the recent 2012 through 2017 California drought. Some climate studies have identified a tendency of these kinds of strong western ridges to form as Arctic sea ice recedes. And during the past decade, strong high pressure ridges have been a rather consistent and significant climate feature for the U.S. West. It is also notable that formation of more powerful ridging features during the fall and winter help to strengthen the Santa Ana winds — which fan California wildfires.

Present drought is nowhere near as intense as it has been during recent years. Especially in California which during 2017 has experienced a bit of a respite. However, with La Nina gaining traction in the Pacific, with global temperatures now in a range between 1.1 and 1.2 C above 1880s averages, and with persistent ridging again taking hold over the U.S. West, the risk of a return to intense drought — especially for the Southwest — is increasing.

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As Climate Emergencies Rise — A Call For Action

With climate change enhanced wildfires raging across California during December, now is exactly the time to redouble our resolve to fight against the causes of such widespread destruction. To enact policies aimed at reducing the force of a rising crisis that continues to impact so many of our people with increasing intensity.

In California today, there is a move afoot to set a deadline for banning the very fossil fuel based vehicles that have fanned the fires of climate change across the state. To resolve, by 2040, to take gas powered cars off the road.

Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat and sponsor of this legislative drive, notes that for the State to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, it’s going to have to transition away from fossil fuel based vehicles. Such vehicles represent more than 1/3 of all state carbon emissions. And the state can’t effectively address the carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change disasters without also directly targeting the number of fossil fuel based vehicles in operation.

(According to California’s Air Resources Board, nearly 38 percent of the state’s carbon emissions are due to transportation.)

New electrical vehicle (EV) technology is enabling just such a move. According to Ting:

“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way. At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.”

If California sets a policy to ban fossil fuel based vehicles by 2040, it will join a growing number of cities and states that have already set similar goals. These include France, the United Kingdom, India, Germany, and Norway. Meanwhile, China is pursuing very aggressive incentives to increase the number of EVs as a means of combating terrible local air pollution and climate change.

Movement by cities and states to ban fossil fuel vehicles and incentivize EVs has an out-sized impact. It signals automakers that EV preference by government is becoming widespread. And because manufacturers have limited capital to spend on new vehicles, this drives a manufacturing preference as well.

(In this National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, the most rapid carbon emissions reductions were achieved in scenarios where large-scale EV deployment was combined with wholesale replacement of coal, oil, and gas fired electricity generation with renewable sources like wind and solar.)

Since EVs are more efficient that internal combustion engine based vehicles, they greatly reduce carbon emissions when tied to even traditional grids. But when linked to renewable power sources like wind and solar, EVs produce zero emissions in operation. This combination enables a far more rapid rate of carbon emission reduction.

In addition, the manufacturing base for EV batteries can also be used to build storage systems for intermittent wind and solar energy. This enables the removal of fossil fuel emitting coal and gas fired generators held in reserve for times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine even as the EVs themselves remove the need for oil based transporation. Such a manufacturing chain also opens up a new market for auto manufacturers — a fact that both Tesla and Hyundai have learned to their benefit.

Because EVs are based on electronic technology that is closely tied to the information age, they can benefit both from synergistic related economies of scale and from various innovations and breakthroughs. This means that EVs already outperform fossil fuel based vehicles in a number of areas. A performance advantage that is increasing and will likely overcome most traditional vehicles by the early 2020s. Because of this advantage, EVs would probably ultimately win out over time. However, the present climate crisis lends urgency to speeding their rate of adoption and in accelerating the rate of harmful fossil fuel based vehicle replacement.

Rise of the Fimbul Fires: Climate Change Enhanced Jets of Flame Rage Across Southern California

Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire. I hold with those who favor fire… — Robert Frost

I am Lorn Sparkfell, guardian of First Frost, without which the world will burn. — Luthiel’s Song, The Death of Winter

*****

Fimbul is an old icelandic word for mighty, giant, great. It is an archaic word that has fallen out of modern use. But considering the fact that the fires now ripping through Southern California are both out of the context of recent milder climates and have explosively expanded to gigantic proportion, it is perhaps time that we should re-introduce the term.

(Photograph of Southern California Fires taken from the International Space Station on December 7 of 2017.)

Sections of Southern California are now experiencing never-before-seen levels of fire hazard as winds gusting to near 80 mph across the region are fanning five out of control blazes. The fires are burning during what should be the cooler month of December. But cool conditions have eluded that part of the state. And the blow-torch like Santa Ana winds that are fanning the flames are being enhanced by conditions consistent with human-caused climate change.

Today, the fire index for Southern California is 296. The threshold for an extreme fire index is 165. And 296 is the highest fire index So Cal has ever experienced according to local firefighters. Fire index is a measure of fire risk. So, if these reports are correct, this region has never seen fire danger hit such an extreme intensity.

(Hurricane Force Winds Fuel Massive Wildfires in Southern California from ClimateState.)

Five fires now burning across Southern California have consumed upwards of 120,000 acres — or a region larger than Atlanta. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County is the largest at approximately 96,000 acres. The Rye Fire, Creek Fire, and Skirball fire all continue to burn. And a new fire — the Horizon Fire in Malibu — has recently ignited. None of these fires are more than 15 percent contained. So all are effectively still out of control.

In total, approximately 20,000 buildings are threatened by fire with more than 300 homes and businesses burned already. 200,000 people are under evacuation orders — enough to fill a relatively large city. Thankfully, there have been no reports of loss of human life so far. But animals, including these horses, haven’t been so lucky.

(Average temperatures across the U.S. West were around 4 C above normal for the entire past 30 day period. This is not at all typical. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Climate change skeptics and deniers will try to say that such events are normal for California. That fires always happen. That weather is variable. And tell you five or six or seven other kinds of hogwash.

But the fact is that these conditions are not normal. That California has just experienced its worst fire year on record. That the incidence of large fires in the West has risen fourfold since the mid 1980s. And that report after report after report are linking presently worsening fire conditions in the region to climate change.

Other politically motivated individuals will tell you that now is not the time to discuss climate change — by stating that responding to the disaster itself is more important that examining causes. This is also a red herring — as any effective disaster response will include a responsible review of causes.

To this point, if we are to be effective in both responding to this disaster and in reducing future harm, we should look seriously at the underlying causes that are making fires in places like California worse. And if we are exploring why these Fimbul Fires are happening now, then the big issue is climate change — writ large.

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

Hat tip to ClimateState

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rose by 30 Percent in November, Likely to Hit Near 200,000 by Year End

Good news continues in the U.S. on the renewable energy front where electrical vehicle sales increased by about 30 percent in November of 2017 vs November of 2016.

In all, 17,178 electrical vehicles sold on the U.S. market in November. This number compares to 13,327 sold during November of 2016. Top selling brands for the month were the Chevy Bolt EV, The Tesla Model X, the Chevy Volt, the Toyota Prius Prime, and the Tesla Model S. The Chevy Bolt topped the list of monthly best sellers with nearly 3,000 vehicles going to owners during the month. The top annual seller remains the Model S (at 22,085 estimated sales so far) — which the lower-priced Bolt is unlikely to surpass this year.

(Over the past few years, the performance of electrical vehicles has been steadily catching up to or outpacing that of conventional fossil fuel vehicles. The Tesla Roadster by 2019-2020 will have a 620 mile range, hyperfast charging, a top speed of 250 mph, and be able to go from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. A combined set of specs that no gas guzzler could hope to match. By 2022, most EVs will cost less and perform better than their comparable fossil fuel counterparts. Image source: Tesla.)

Total electrical vehicle sales for the year so far has hit nearly 174,000 through November. This compares to 158,614 for all of 2016. Given that December is often a top sales month and that Model 3 production is continuing to ramp, it’s likely that final sales for 2017 will hit close to or exceed the 200,000 mark for the year in the U.S.

Model 3 Production Ramp Rate Still a Mystery

Model 3 sales will likely continue to ramp through December as Tesla works through scaling production. Considering the fact that there are more than 500,000 Model 3s on order, the big question is — how fast? For even if Tesla were able to produce 10,000 Model 3s per week, it would take more than a year to fill all the orders.

Production is presently considerably lower. But it more than doubled in November to an estimated 345. A similar rate of increase would result in 800 of the vehicles being sold in December. Meanwhile, the company plans to be making 5,000 Model 3s per week by Q1 of 2018.

There are some indications that Tesla is preparing for a start of mass market releases. It is filling an LA Model 3 distribution site even as it has opened up ordering to customers outside of employees. Meanwhile, Panasonic recently announced that battery production issues will soon clear. Which raises the possibility of a faster ramp going forward.

Updated Nissan Leaf Begins Mass Production

New developments also include the start to mass production of the 2018 Nissan Leaf in the U.S during December. The 2018 Leaf features longer range (150 miles), lower cost (700 dollars less) and higher performance (more horsepower) than the previous Leaf. And it will be followed on by a (higher-priced) 225 mile range version in 2019 which will put it in a distance capability class similar to that of the Bolt and the base line Model 3.

Electrical Vehicles — Key Aspect of the Renewable Energy Transition

In context, solar energy, wind, and battery storage are the triad of new renewable energy systems that have the serious potential to really start cutting down global carbon emissions as they replace fossil fuels.

All these energy systems are getting less expensive. All have what they call a positive learning curve. And all can work together in a synergistic fashion while leveraging technological advances. Economic advantages that fossil fuel based systems lack.

In addition, renewable energy sources help to drive efficiency, even as they clean up transportation, power generation, and manufacturing chains they are linked to by producing zero carbon emissions in use.

(By transitioning to renewable energy as the basis for economic systems, we can dramatically reduce global carbon emissions. In order to stave off very harmful impacts from climate change, this transition will have to be very rapid. In the best case, more rapid than the scenario depicted above. Video source: IRENA.)

On the battery storage side, electrical vehicles are a crucial link in the battery development chain. As electrical vehicles are mass produced, this process drives down the cost of batteries which can then be used to store electricity and to replace base-load fossil fuel power generators like coal and gas plants. Meanwhile, battery electrical vehicles are considerably more efficient than gas or diesel powered vehicles and those linked to wind and solar or other renewable energy sources emit zero carbon in use.

Both electrical vehicles and other renewable energy systems have a long way to grow before they provide the same level of energy produced by dirty fossil fuels today. This large gap represents a great opportunity to cut back on the volume of harmful gasses hitting our atmosphere in the near future.

Gigantic Iceberg Disintegrates as Concern Grows Over Glacier Stability, Sea Level Rise

The stability of a key Antarctic glacier appears to have taken a turn for the worse as a large iceberg that broke off during September has swiftly shattered. Meanwhile, scientists are concerned that the rate of sea level rise could further accelerate in a world forced to rapidly warm by human fossil fuel burning.

(Iceberg drifting away from the Pine Island Glacier rapidly shatters. Image source: European Space Agency.)

This week, a large iceberg that recently calved from West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier rapidly and unexpectedly disintegrated as it drifted away from the frozen continent. The iceberg, which covers 103 square miles, was predicted to drift out into the Southern Ocean before breaking up. But just a little more than two months after calving in September, the massive chunk of ice is already falling apart.

The break-off and disintegration of this large berg has caused Pine Island Glacier’s ice front to significantly retreat. From 1947 up until about 2015, the glacier’s leading edge had remained relatively stable despite significant thinning as warmer water began to cut beneath it. But since 2015, this key West Antarctic glacier has begun to rapidly withdraw. And it now dumps 45 billion tons of ice into the world ocean each year.

(Glaciers like Pine Island balance on a geological razor’s edge. Because they sit on a reverse slope, it only takes a relatively moderate amount of ocean warming to precipitate a rapid collapse. These collapses have happened numerous times in the past when the Earth warmed. Now, human-forced climate change is driving a similar process that is threatening the world’s coastal cities. Image source: Antarctic Glaciers.)

The present rate of melt is enough to raise sea levels by around 1 millimeter per year. That’s not too alarming. But there’s concern that Pine Island Glacier will speed up, dump more ice into the ocean and lift seas by a faster and faster rate.

Pine Island Glacier and its sister glacier Thwaites together contain enough water to raise seas by around 3-7 feet. The glacier sits on a reverse slope that allows more water to flood inland, exposing higher and less stable ice cliffs as the glacier melts inland. If the glacier melts too far back and the ice cliffs grow too high, they could rapidly collapse — spilling a very large volume of ice into the ocean over a rather brief period of time. As a result, scientists are very concerned that Pine Island could swiftly destabilize and push the world’s oceans significantly higher during the coming years and decades.

No one is presently predicting an immediate catastrophe coming from the melt of glaciers like Pine Island. However, though seemingly stable and slow moving, glacial stability can change quite rapidly. Already, sea level rise due to melt from places like Greenland and Antarctica is threatening many low-lying communities and nations around the world. So the issue is one of present and growing crisis. And there is very real risk that the next few decades could see considerable further acceleration of Antarctica’s glaciers as a result of human-forced warming due to fossil fuel burning.

Dr Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist at British Antarctic Survey, who has researched Pine Island Glacier in his work with the Alfred Wegener Institute, recently noted to Phys.org:

“If the ice shelf continues to thin and the ice front continues to retreat, its buttressing effect on PIG will diminish, which is likely to lead to further dynamic thinning and retreat of the glacier. PIG already makes the largest contribution to  of any single Antarctic glacier and the fact that its bed increases in depth upstream for more than 200 km means there is the possibility of runway retreat that would result in an even bigger contribution to sea level.”

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Erik Friedrickson

Hot Blob off Southeast Australia Fuels Life-Threatening Rain Bomb Event

Hot Blobs. These pools of severe warmth at the ocean surface have, during recent years, fueled all kinds of climate change related extreme weather ranging from droughts to floods to record hurricanes.

(Hot blob southeast of Australia features ocean temperatures as high as 8 F [4.5 C] above average. This is an extreme climate and severe weather-triggering feature related to climate change. One that has also been associated with strong, persistent atmospheric ridges and related high pressure systems. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The blobs themselves often form under persistent and strong high pressure systems which lock-in both heat and high rates of evaporation. These highs, sometimes called resilient ridges, are thought by a number of experts to be an upshot of changes to both atmospheric circulation and energy balance as a result of the Earth warming. They are an example of the kinds of extreme climate and related severe weather triggering outliers you would tend to expect in a warming world. A new kind of weather phenomena producing new effects.

Today, sea surface temperatures between Australia and New Zealand are ranging as high as 8 F (4.5 C) above average. A very significant warm temperature departure for this area of ocean. One that well meets the qualification for the term ‘hot blob.’ The large blocking high associated with the blob has, for some time now, been circulating very high volumes of moisture evaporating off these much warmer than normal waters over Eastern Australia. This moisture loading provides fuel for powerful storms in the form of both more explosive atmospheric lift and higher rainfall potential.

(Ridge-tough dipole triggers extreme weather in region prepped by moisture venting off an ocean hot blob. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

All that heat and moisture bleeding off the hot blob just needed a catalyst to produce the kind of climate change related event I’ve been calling a ‘rain bomb.’ And, unfortunately for Southeast Australia, just this kind of catalyst in the form of a sharp facing trough in the Jet Stream and related upper level low forming over South Australia is on the way.

From today through late Friday, this low will generate added atmospheric energy that will produce very severe thunderstorms over Southeast Australia. Ones capable of generating extreme rainfall amounts in excess of 2 inches per hour over certain locations. With total rainfall amounts hitting between 4 inches (100 mm) and 12 inches (300 mm) between now and late Friday.

(Predicted extreme rainfall event is being fueled by very warm sea surface temperatures to the east.)

The storm system will also generate strong winds, lightning, and tidal flooding for some locales.

This is a dangerous event risking loss of property and life with a number of climate change related factors involved. Those in the areas affected should stay tuned to local weather (BOM) and government emergency management for storm and response information.

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Vic

From Ice Apocalypse to Mega-Thunderstorms, Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels Makes the World Scary as all Hell

So I’ve got to say I feel for Eric Holthaus.

Here’s a smart guy. Probably a few years younger than me. A meteorologist by degree and a climate journalist by trade. A guy with two kids that, as is clear from his twitter comments, mean all the world to him. And he’s finally gotten to that point in his study of climate change where he’s thrown his hands up and said — this stuff scares the crap out of me, can we please all just do something about it?

(The calving front of the Pine Island Glacier as seen by a NASA DC-8 aircraft. Image source: Commons.)

For him, as with any of us, the point of existential realization can come through overexposure to a wide range of worsening climate problems. Declining ocean health, rising extreme weather, how much faster we are warming the world up than during the worst hothouse extinction, can all weigh heavily on the heart and mind of any compassionate, feeling person who takes these subjects seriously enough to actually read the science. For Eric, the big deal, and it is a very, very big deal, was sea level rise.

Ice Apocalypse

Yesterday, Eric penned this seminal article on the issue of ice cliff stability as explored by glacier scientist Robert DeConto entitled Ice Apocalypse.

Ice cliff stability is a pretty technical term. One that may make the eyes of your typical reader gloss over. But when we consider that the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica can be upwards of two miles high, then the question of whether or not the cliffs of those great ice mountains are stable may start to generate a flicker of warning. May conjure up a phantom of the titanic roar set off when such ice giants tumble away into the sea as has happened throughout the deep history of Earth whenever the world warmed up by a certain amount.

When I think of the words ice cliff stability, my mind’s eye pictures a vast wall of numbing white-blue stretching hundreds of feet high. It expands both left and right as far as I can see. And it looms over an endless warming ocean. Waiting for a colossal fall if just that right amount of extra heat is applied.

Ice is fragile. It’s not like stone. It doesn’t flex much. It doesn’t give much. And even minor stresses are enough to make it shatter. We see this with ice cubes in a cup of water at home. Put an ice cube into relatively warmer water, and that little 1×2 inch block will snap and crack. Now just compound that fragility. Set it on the massive scale of a mile-high glacier. Not too hard to image what can happen.

(2012 filming of massive calving event at Jakobshavn Glacier.)

It’s happened already at Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland. The ocean warmed. The ice shelf protecting the glacier dissolved. And the front of the gigantic glacier fell like great, enormous, white dominoes. We’ve seen it happening in films like Chasing Ice. And we’ve struggled to grasp the enormous scale of it.

Our burning of fossil fuels did this.

Jakobshavn is, even now, contributing to a more rapid rate of global sea level rise. But the amount of ice held back by Jakobshavn is small when compared to the vast volumes kept in check by the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers of West Antarctica. What Robert DeConto did, and what has apparently scared Eric Holthaus so much, was apply a computer model based on observations of Jakobshavn ice sheet collapse to these larger Antarctic ice masses.

The DeConto study unearthed results that, indeed, looked apocalyptic. From Grist:

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years — much too quickly for humanity to adapt…

Instead of a three-foot increase in ocean levels by the end of the century, six feet was more likely, according to DeConto and Pollard’s findings. But if carbon emissions continue to track on something resembling a worst-case scenario, the full 11 feet of ice locked in West Antarctica might be freed up, their study showed.

The DeConto study is just one scientific exploration of what could happen in West Antarctica this Century. And, already, reassurances to a worried Eric Holthaus are forthcoming.

But the problem with the DeConto study, as with any other form of serious climate risk, is that there are plausible scenarios in which terrible catastrophic events are possible even if their degree of likelihood is still somewhat debatable. And reasonable precaution would dictate that even if there were just a 10-20 percent chance of DeConto like events coming to pass, we would do everything we could to avoid them. The risk of this scenario emerging, however, is probably a bit higher. As numerous studies have identified the potential for 6, 8, or even 12 feet of sea level rise by as early as 2100.

The Future of Mega-Thunderstorms Looks Grim if We Continue to Burn Fossil Fuels

Eric’s appeals to his Twitter friends related to his article were touching to me in that I feel like I go through similar shocks with each passing week. And what should be a time of national thanksgiving even as more than half of Puerto Rico’s population is still in the dark 63 days after the climate change amplified blow of Hurricane Maria is no exception.

For a model study recently produced by Nature Climate Change and explored by Bob Henson at Weather Underground has found that the rate of rainfall in large thunderstorm clusters could increase by 80 percent this Century if fossil fuel burning proceeds along a business as usual pathway.

To put this in context, an 80 percent increase in the amount of rain that fell in the Ellicott City Flood in Maryland last year would have produced nearly ten inches of rain in an hour and a half.

(The rainfall intensity in large thunderstorm clusters was found to be greatly enhanced under worst case fossil fuel burning scenarios [RCP 8.5] according to a recent Nature Study. Image source: NCAR, Nature, and Weather Underground.)

As with ice cliff instability, we find ourselves faced with another scientific term in the new study — mesoscale convective systems (MCS). And to translate this term we can simply say that MCSs are gigantic clusters of thunderstorms. The study found that rainfall amounts in the largest of thunderstorm complexes were greatly enhanced as warming proceeded along a business as usual track.

From the Study author’s statement to Weather Underground:

“These new simulations of future MCS rainfall are concerning, because they show very large increases in the amount of rain that a given MCS is likely to produce. The MCSs that we would today consider to be ‘extreme’ in terms of precipitation would become more commonplace in the future. There are also some regions that currently don’t see a lot of MCS activity that might start seeing some of these heavily raining MCSs in the future.”

These increases are on top of already elevated rates of rainfall intensity we presently see today in destructive events that our infrastructure and disaster planning is clearly not prepared for (as seen during Harvey). So as we take the time to give thanks for the great bounty that many of us still have, perhaps we should also take the time to think of the things we can do to keep safe what we have worked so hard for and care so much about and to do our best to help those who are less fortunate. Who have already fallen casualty to a time of troubles.

The Equatorial Pacific is Going Through its Variable Cool Phase, But 2017 is 94 Percent Likely to be the Second Hottest Year Ever Recorded

During late 2016, the Pacific Ocean started to cool off along its Equatorial region after experiencing one of the strongest warming events for that zone ever recorded. But despite this late cooling phase, the year ended up being the hottest ever recorded in the 137 year climate record — topping out at around 1.22 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. A longer term warming trend that has been directly driven by human burning of fossil fuels and related greenhouse gas emissions.

This year, the periodic Equatorial cooling known as La Nina is again taking place in the Pacific during fall following a very mild warming during winter and spring. But despite the appearance of a second such periodic cooling event, according to NASA 2017 is 94 percent likely to be the second warmest year ever recorded (see above).

October readings have come in and at 0.9 C above NASA  baseline (1.12 C above 1880s averages), temperatures are disturbingly high. The month is now the second hottest ever seen by modern humans. With only October of 2015 coming in warmer at 1.08 C above the 20th Century baseline (1.3 above 1880s).

(Heat transfer into the polar zones is increased during La Nina periods. This effect is enhanced by polar amplification related to human caused climate change. This week, very high relative temperature departures are expected for the Arctic. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Over the past two years, La Ninas (cooling Pacific) appear to have been at least partly off-set by very strong warming in the Arctic and Antarctic. Atmospheric circulation tends to transport more heat into the polar zones as the Pacific cools. This is due to the fact that temperature differential between Equator and poles during La Nina is less and the lower temperature differential causes the upper level winds to slow and meander. Coupled with polar amplification due to human-caused climate change, the result can be some pretty extreme temperature departures. This week is no exception as Arctic temperatures by Thursday through Saturday are expected to be between 4 and 5 degrees Celsius above average for the entire region above the 66 North parallel.

Such record warm temperatures do not occur in isolation. They help to drive extreme weather events such as severe droughts, rainfall, and powerful hurricanes. They are also accelerating sea level rise by melting glaciers even as both warming temperatures and related increasing ocean acidification contribute to dead zones, coral reef deaths and declining ocean health. Global temperature rise coupled with rising CO2 is therefore producing a major systemic crisis the world over.

RESOURCES:

Record Emissions: 41 Billion Tons of Heat-Trapping Carbon Dioxide Were Added to the Atmosphere This Year 

Over the past few years, something pretty amazing and hopeful happened. Global carbon emissions began to stabilize. This was caused, primarily, by stronger emissions reduction policies in China even as the rest of the world moved steadily away from coal burning and more and more toward adopting clean energy systems provided by the likes of wind, solar and electrical vehicles.

But during 2017, there appears to have been a return to rising emissions rates from both China and the rest of the world. As a result, a rather bad global climate situation is continuing to worsen.

China’s Swing Back to Coal and More Rapid Growth Result in Rising Emissions

As the major present emitter of carbon dioxide and a host to hundreds of hothouse gas spewing coal plants, any big move by China can also really move the global carbon emission total. We saw this in practice from 2013 to 2016 as China began to reign in rampant coal consumption and as global emissions levels subsequently responded.

(During recent years, global carbon emissions have plateaued. But during 2017, a new record high was reached on the back of a return to increased rates of coal burning in places like China. The peak year of fossil fuel burning and the year at which net negative carbon emissions occur are very important factors in determining future warming. And even the best case emissions scenarios will likely lead to 2 C or greater warming this Century. Impacts from 2 C warming will be very difficult to manage with a high likelihood that at least some widespread catastrophic impacts would occur. 3 C warming would be terrible — with very widespread harm and disruption. And it is unlikely that most nations would survive the impacts related to 4 to 6 C warming. Image source: University of East Anglia.)

This year, we see a bit of backsliding by this key energy and climate player due to a combined reduction in hydro based power supply and strong annual rates of economic growth.

Drought afflicting China has hit hydro-electrical power generation pretty hard. China presently possesses about 320 gigawatts of hydro power generation capacity. This is about 1/3 of its total coal generating capacity and compares to a relatively smaller wind and solar capacity of around 150 gigawatts. So any disruption to water flowing into hydro generators can have a big effect on coal use and related downstream carbon emissions.

China also rapidly added solar this year. But it was apparently not enough to offset the impact to hydro resources which increased demand for coal. In addition, China’s rapid projected growth rate of 6.8 percent in GDP also resulted in higher overall power demand — leading to more coal burning. Overall, China’s carbon emissions grew by 3.5 percent or around 350 million tons per year. This increase is well ahead of overall global carbon emissions growth in the range of 2 percent for 2017.

U.S. and E.U. Emissions Drop; India and Rest of World Sees Rise

Other factors included a slowing of U.S. carbon emissions reduction due to a degradation of helpful climate policies by the Trump Administration. Despite this deterioration, U.S. emissions fell by 0.4 percent or around 21 million tons per year. The European Union also saw continued if slow emissions reductions of around 7 million tons per year. Environmentalists have criticized mixed policies in places like Germany that continue to protect high-carbon coal burning. But the picture for the EU has, overall, been one of slow if steady progress. India-based emissions increased by a slower than expected rate of 50 million tons per year. Another somewhat disturbing feature in the new data shows that the rest of the world saw carbon emissions grow by 2.3 percent or about 305 million tons per year.

(Most energy and climate experts did not expect to see a potential peak in global carbon emissions until at least the early 2020s. However, 2013 to 2016’s plateau did provide a hopeful look at what was possible. In order to see an actual peak, the countries of the world will have to be far more aggressive about shutting down fossil fuel based energy sources and rapidly deploying renewables. Image source: The University of East Anglia.)

So even without the big bump in China’s emissions, the world, as a whole would have experienced some CO2 emissions growth. But this single country accounted for almost half of all carbon emissions growth around the world during 2017. And it is worth noting that even a relatively minor reduction in carbon emissions by China this year would have resulted in an extension of the global carbon emission plateau.

A Problem Caused by Fossil Fuel Burning

Where the problem of increasing carbon emissions is coming from is pretty obvious. According to reports, 41 billion tons of CO2 were emitted to the atmosphere during 2017 due to human activities. Of this amount, almost 90 percent came from fossil fuel burning — accounting for 36.8 billion tons of CO2 each year. This overall rate of emission is more than ten times faster than during the last hothouse extinction event to occur on Earth.

(Annual rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation are now higher than 2 parts per million per year. The last time atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as they are now — around 407 parts per million — the oceans were between 25 and 75 feet higher than they are today. Image source: The University of East Anglia.)

The present increase is problematic in that it also makes it less likely that warming this Century will be limited to 1.5 or 2 C. The scientific community has often identified these as safer limits for warming. But we should be clear that no level of warming is entirely safe. That present warming in the range of 1.1 to 1.2 C above preindustrial levels is already causing harmful impacts like shifting climate zones, more instances of damaging, extreme weather, worsening wildfires, and ramping rates of sea level rise that are threatening islands and coastal cities. We should also be clear that present atmospheric greenhouse gas levels in the range of 407 ppm CO2 and 491 ppm CO2e imply a warming close to or above the 1.5 to 2 C threshold range by the end of this Century even if these levels were to merely remain stable.

An Increasingly Urgent Situation — But the Means of Lessening the Damage is at our Disposal

The urgency of the situation, therefore, cannot be understated. We are presently living in a time during which the safety of global civilization requires that we rapidly reduce to zero presently unprecedented annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions. And the first step to doing this is a swift as possible cessation of fossil fuel burning enabled by a transition to renewable energy.

It is worth noting that 2017’s rate of carbon emissions growth was less than the 3 percent annual rates experienced during the decade of the 2000s. Back then, less well developed renewable energy technology and very rapid economic growth in places like China resulted in far higher annual emissions gains than we see at present. So 2017’s gain may be a blip due to circumstances as combined wind, solar, and electrical vehicle advances begin to take hold of the larger energy and emissions trend. That said, challenges to rates of renewable energy adoption and related rates of carbon emissions reduction coming from right-wing governments like the Trump Administration should not be discounted. Failure to act by leaders in the U.S. and around the world or attempts to return to increasing rates of coal, oil, and gas burning are measures that will result in serious harm going forward.

We are thus at a moment of crisis when it comes to global emissions. We can continue to move forward on replacing fossil fuels with zero emitting energy sources. Or we can return to the very harmful increases in global carbon emissions of the past — at which point the damages we see from climate change will be rapidly enhanced.

RESOURCES:

World’s Carbon Emissions Spike by 2 Percent in 2017

The Global Carbon Budget

Warning Signs For Stabilizing CO2 Emissions

Denial’s Grim Fruits — Actual Puerto Rico Death Toll Probably Near 500; May Climb to Over a Thousand

Massive disruption which results in cascading failure of basic services such as food, water transport and power. That’s the primary catastrophic risk coming from human forced climate change. And we are now in the process of multiplying the potential for such extreme events by continuing to burn fossil fuels and to dump carbon into the atmosphere.

Maria’s recent landfall in Puerto Rico and resulting unprecedented disruption can be seen as a microcosm of the kind of damage that might ultimately be inflicted upon a whole region or nation. And the various failed responses by the Trump Administration and related denial-based attitudes within the Republican Party do little to inspire confidence in the ability of at least one major party to effectively respond to a rising danger it pretends does not exist at all.

Excess Death Toll

Weather forecasters are often quick to point out that the most dangerous direct impact from a major hurricane comes from either storm surge or flooding rains. However, for days, weeks, and, in the case of Puerto Rico, months following a disaster, the major cause of loss of life is disruption of food, water, power supplies and a related increased risk of exposure to infectious diseases.

Due to a sluggish and lackadaisical response to the worst storm to strike Puerto Rico in 85 years by the Trump Administration, it appears now that hundreds of lives have been lost. According to reports from the New York Times, 472 more people died during September of 2017 following Maria’s strike than during September of 2016. Such an abnormally high monthly death rate is an outlier in statistics that epidemiologists call an excess death toll. And the primary likely cause was damage to infrastructure, power, food and water by Maria followed by an inadequate emergency response effort.

Many of the 3.4 million people still living in Puerto Rico have been forced to go without reliable access to water, food, and power for 54 days now. Trump Administration failure to mobilize a major effort to respond to the largest power outage and infrastructure disruption in U.S. history has been coupled with the allowance of vulture capitalist firms like Whitefish to prey on Puerto Rico by charging excess fees for power restoration.

Digging into these glaring failures a bit more, it took more than two weeks for Trump to mobilize 5,000 troops to send to Puerto Rico to assist in aid efforts. And Maria was a disaster that required a force ten times this large to be pre-positioned and then sent in immediately following the disaster, according to emergency planners. Vulture firm Whitefish has been reportedly charging 4 to five times what it is paying power installers on an hourly basis. An obvious level of price gouging that has caused the firm’s contract to be canceled. But not before this company of two permanent employees bungled a power line repair that again resulted in much of Puerto Rico falling into darkness.

Incompetent Governance

Whitefish’s most recent failure resulted in total power availability for Puerto Rico again dropping below 20 percent last week. With PREPA stepping in after Whitefish dropped the ball, the line has been repaired. Yet 52 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power.

(Climate Change amplifies hurricane impacts. What this means is that as the world warms, hurricanes produce more damage. If this is the case, then governments are going to have to step up and act responsibly to prevent loss of life. Republicans and the Trump Administration have done exactly the opposite in Puerto Rico. Images source: Climate Signals.)

Lack of power itself can be deadly. Such a loss results in a critical shortage for medical equipment necessary to save people’s lives even as it removes key infrastructures like street lights and communications. Incubators, defibrillators, respirators, pulse monitors and a hundred other life saving devices all go dark when the lights go out. Furthermore, lack of clean water and ready access to food increases instances of infection. And damage to roads prevents access by emergency personnel to people falling into harm’s way.

Vulture Capitalism + Climate Change Denial = Failed Responses and Profiteering in the Face of Rising Disasters

This is why Maria’s blow has now become so hurtful. Why the Trump Administration’s neglect is so glaring. And a thousand or more people may have perished as a result. The role of the U.S. Government as the first responder to major disasters was sidelined. The sacred trust to Citizens of the United States violated. But, outrageously, such a lackadaisical, laissez faire attitude is not simply limited to Trump. It is an unfortunately endemic feature of today’s republican party. A party that is now doing its best to cut taxes for the rich while cutting medical coverage for 13 million Americans.

A party that has also done far, far more than its fair share to deny and prevent responses to the human caused climate change from fossil fuel emissions that made Maria far, far worse. For the storm emerged from warmer than normal oceans that helped to pump up its peak intensity. It was one of many storms made worse by climate change — for studies now indicate that at least 63 percent of all extreme weather events have now been pumped up in a warming atmosphere or over a warming ocean. And with just 1.2 C worth of warming achieved, the worse is still to come.

With the republican party both causing these disasters to worsen and ensuring that their damaging impacts are amplified by delayed responses, irresponsible choices for firms contracted to bring infrastructure back up and running, and overall malfeasance, it’s pretty clear that only a numb-skull would vote for such mouth-breathers. But here we are.

Fossil Fuel Based Auto Industry Faces Alien Invasion; 440 Starship Model 3s Have Been Manufactured So Far, But that’s Just the First Wave

Some have conjectured that the only way to make sense of present politician resistance to climate change responses is that alien body snatchers determined to inject toxic climate warming gasses into Earth’s atmosphere have taken control of key world leaders. Given the nonsensical behavior and strange skin color changes seen in some of the world’s most powerful people, this supposition, though fanciful, has broad appeal.

But if the ‘bad aliens’ have taken the side of the fossil fuel industry, we should not also ignore the angelic race hailing from the Blue Star who have decided to come to the aid of humankind and life on Earth. For a secret weapon in the fight to save the world from climate disaster is now steadily being deployed. And the global fossil fuel based auto industry doesn’t even begin to have a clue as to what’s about to hit them.

(Blue Star alien spaceship? Smart, living renewable energy technology, wrapped in a car’s body? Warrior fighting global climate disasters? Or all of the above? Tesla’s Model 3 poses an out-of-context threat to the world’s fossil fuel based automakers. Image source: Clean Technica.)

Like the body snatchers, this weapon has also taken the form of something we humans see as normal and innocuous. It has come to inhabit mere automobiles. For beneath the metal hoods, glass windows and roofs, and sustainably designed interiors of seemingly familiar Tesla road vehicles resides the electrical beating heart of alien technology. A living, almost biological, smart-tech that is pulsing within the fixed metal, plastic, and glass forms we see across the world and on its streets and byways.

The tech possesses living characteristics in that it can change and grow. For after each Tesla is produced, the starship inside awakens, empowering these vehicles to transform in a very autobot-like fashion. Possessed of the much the same hardware as many ‘normal’ electrical vehicles, the smart, alien tech that runs the battery in the breast of each machine is capable of learning and improving. Vehicles coming off the lines with a mere 200 mile range may see improvements that jump it to 230 miles (see Your Tesla May Have Secret Powers). Starship Model 3s with stated 310 mile ranges may suddenly and unexpectedly stretch their legs to 334 miles. The cars may learn to accelerate better using the physical materials that they already possess. They may learn to charge faster. And sitting in their driveways at night, after drinking deep of afternoon solar panel trapped energy, they may dream strange dreams of a vital new world that beats back the oppression of global hothouse extinction even as they learn to cut off the choking fumes of coal-fired powerplants.

(Are we really living in a space opera? No. But the stakes are just as epic. Video source: Iscandar.)

But this starship — posing as automobile — counter-force faces a serious challenge. Earthling means of mass producing the new alien technology that will give each person the opportunity to possess a world-saving starship is presently struggling to ramp up to face down the dark forces of hothouse extinction. Tesla is, after all, just a flawed human-run company. And so only 440 of the cutting-edge Model 3 craft had been produced by the end of October.

Yet Tesla is moving forward despite all opposition. Though suppliers capable of producing alien level tech have sometimes proven unreliable, the company is determined to build the needed components for Blue Star spaceships in-house. And it aims to have this counter-force of Model 3s marching off assembly lines en-masse at the pace of 5,000 per week by early 2018. Though earlier ambitions of a large first wave of Model 3s were disappointed, the second wave is forming with greater mass than before.

The orange skinned, one eyed, fossil fueled political people eaters have, thus far, been unsuspecting of the Blue Star forces in their midst. Perhaps Tesla’s mighty struggle to produce these new craft will provide for them some foreshadowing of the death blow to their nefarious designs that is to follow.

Climate Change Related Drought Bakes the Iberian Peninsula

“Suddenly what was once thought to be a problem confined to the third world has arrived in southern Europe.”Euronews.

*****

We’ve been taught that human-caused climate change through fossil fuel burning only affects poor people. That it only affects the third world. That if you’re rich, or if you live in places like the U.S. and Europe, you’re safe — or at least safer.

We’ve been misinformed.

Climate Change in Our Front Yard

Here, on this blog, again and again, we’ve been warning that climate change impacts EVERYONE. That no-one is really safe from either its direct or systemic impacts. From the subsistence farmer in Africa to the Wall Street hedge fund manager, the damage is ultimately equally bad.

The reason is that the worsening climate change related impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather, acidifying and anoxic oceans are ultimately so far reaching that you can’t call any place on Earth realistically safe from harm. And even if you do avoid the barrage of these varied impacts personally, the damage from rising levels of warming is eventually so deep and widespread that there is serious risk of collapse to the various systems civilization relies on to function — like water, power, transportation, and food supply.

(Despite popular misconception, the wealthier countries of the world are not immune to or even really very resilient to the impacts of climate change. We are seeing this start to bear out now in numerous places to include Southeastern Europe. Namely, the Iberian Peninsula where drought is severely impacting Portugal and Spain. Image source: Global Drought Monitor.)

Though the effects may well be milder at the present 1.2 C warming than they would be at 2 C, 3 C, 5 C or more, they are starting to hit now. And they are hitting indiscriminately across broad regions from Canada, to California, to New York City, to New Orleans, to Brazil, to Bangladesh, to Russia, to Puerto Rico, to India and China, and to more far-flung and wildly varied locations than we can list here. The systemic collapse of Puerto Rico due to a global warming amplified hurricane, can be seen as a relative microcosm to what’s in store for broader global civilization if we don’t get our act together in reducing carbon emissions zero and then net-negative , limiting future warming to more manageable levels, and hardening societies to warming related impacts as rapidly as possible.

Severe Drought in Spain and Portugal

This week, just one more story of catastrophic climate change related impacts focuses on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. 2017 is presently Spain’s third driest year on record. Following an abnormally dry 4-year period, the situation is starting to get critical. The Douru River, which is basically the Spanish wine-growing region’s Mississippi, is 60 percent dry. Massive reservoirs like the Cuerda del pozo are empty. Hydroelectrical supplies have been cut by 58 percent. And wildfires and crop failures have run rampant with the worst grape harvest in decades leading to a global shortage of wine.

In Portugal, the driest October in 20 years has spurred a government campaign to conserve water — asking people to turn off the taps immediately rather than leave them running. In some places of the country, water is having to be shipped in by truck as local sources fail. The Prime Minister of the country is stating that a water miracle is needed to relieve drought conditions.

These impacts follow a deadly wildfire outbreak in October that killed 44 people and injured 71. One of the region’s worst on record that adds to the context of fires like the Fort McMurray Fire in Alberta and the recent Northern California wildfires that destroyed more than 10,000 buildings.

Rain in the Forecast, But Global Warming Will Bring Worsening Droughts to the Region

Human-caused global warming increases the likelihood of extreme drought by increasing the rate of both precipitation and evaporation. Because this effect is uneven, as the world warms, the prevalence tips toward the extremes. In other words, more of the rain we receive falls less frequently but in heavier events. In addition, rising temperatures enhance the onset and intensity of drought.

For Spain and Portugal, climate zones are moving north. This means that desert-like temperatures and conditions from across the Med in the Sahara are more frequently invading. A reality that most of Southern Europe will eventually face if the Earth continues to warm. That said, forecasts for this winter call for some relief in the form of increased precipitation. For Spain and Portugal, it couldn’t come too soon. But with conditions having been consistently drier than normal over recent years, it will take a very significant pattern change to alleviate presently severe conditions.

Hat tip to BobinSpain

Sleeping Ice Giants Stir — East Antarctica’s Totten Glacier Accelerates Toward Southern Ocean

“Up till now, we basically had a stationary [East Antarctic] ice sheet, and now it’s started to move,” — Catherine Walker, NASA post-doctoral fellow.

*****

East Antarctica. Home to most of the world’s remaining land ice. Scientists previously thought that this last bastion of somewhat stable ice in the world would only slowly succumb to the slings and arrows of human-caused climate change. That its ice giants would still sleep for some time — giving the world more time to stave off or avoid worsening rates of sea level rise. Unfortunately, new evidence reveals that this is not the case. That the best time to act on sea level rise was 20+ years ago, and that the second best time to act, in cutting fossil fuel based CO2 emissions, is now.

(Warm water upwelling near East Antarctica’s Totten Glacier threatens to accelerate global sea level rise. Image source: Texas Institute for Geophysics.)

Extreme warming now periodically besets this frozen land. Massive ice bergs are breaking off from West Antarctica, rainfall is now observed, at times, all around the frozen continent’s perimeter from west to east, and the vast Pine Island glacier is being undermined by warm water currents — causing it to crack up from the inside out.

Now, according to new research, one of East Antarctica’s largest glaciers — the Totten — is accelerating toward the Southern Ocean. It’s a situation that we warned about in an earlier post as an indicator of worsening risks of speeding sea level rise due to human caused climate change. Unfortunately, new studies by scientists have now confirmed that warm waters encroaching on Totten have already had an impact.

Researchers found that combined warm winds and encroaching warmer ocean currents had caused the glacier to speed up by 5 percent during the period of 2000 to 2006. This acceleration means that the vast glacier — home to enough ice to raise seas by 11-13 feet — is melting faster. It also means that the glacier is starting to succumb to the tremendous global heat forcing provided by human fossil fuel burning around the world. We should caution that this report covers a period from more than a decade ago. And since that time, human-forced global warming has considerably advanced.

(The Totten Glacier itself contains enough ice to raise seas by 11-13 feet, which is comparable to all of West Antarctica. Its glacial catchment, however, is larger. Image source:  Australian Antarctic Division.)

The primary cause of Totten’s melt acceleration is wind-diven warm ocean currents starting to encroach upon the glacier. These warm currents dive deep and then upwell near the glacier faces and along their weak underbellies. What the new research shows is that CO2-based warming from fossil fuel emissions is increasing the heat content of the waters even as it drives the strengthening of winds that bring these waters into more frequent direct contact with glaciers like Totten.

Chad Greene, one of the study’s lead authors recently noted to Scientific American:

“Upwelling is driven not purely by the broad-scale magnitude of wind, but by the gradient in wind—how strong the wind is at one latitude versus how strong it is at a different latitude. And CO2 in the atmosphere is modeled to increase the wind gradient around Antarctica, and then therefore increase upwelling around Antarctica.”

Glaciers are very difficult to move when sitting still. But once they get moving, it’s very difficult to stop what amounts to a moving mountain of ice. Forces now encroaching upon Antarctica are now conspiring to trigger the seaward movement of various gigantic glaciers. Once that happens, a certain amount of sea level rise gets locked in. This new research indicates that Greenland and West Antarctica aren’t the only systems that are capable of seeing glaciers released in this fashion. With the new research from Totten, East Antarctica is starting to come into play as well. And that means that multi-meter sea level rise this Century is not out of the question.

Links:

Wind Causes Totten Melt Acceleration

A Flood of Warm Waters the Size of 30 Amazon Rivers is Melting One of East Antarctica’s Largest Glaciers

East Antarctica’s Biggest Glacier Lost Ice

How Wind Might Nudge a Sleeping Giant in Antarctica

Hidden Channels Beneath Antarctica Could Cause Massive Melt

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

Predicted Record 94 Degree (F) November Temperatures for Dallas as Globe Warms Despite Trend Toward La Nina

The globe should be cooling relative to recent and near record warm summer temperatures. But it isn’t. La Nina like conditions, the Pacific Ocean pattern that generally precipitates globally cooler weather, is again spreading across the Equatorial Pacific. Yet if you’re living in Dallas, Texas, or many other places across the globe, you wouldn’t know it.

For this week, temperatures in Dallas are expected to exceed all previous records since monitoring began back in 1898.

(Record warm temperatures predicted for Dallas later this week. Image source: Euro Model.)

According to meteorologist Ryan Maue, and to reanalysis of Euro weather model data, Dallas is expected to see temperatures between 90 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit by Friday of this week. Readings that would be considered pretty hot for a normal summer day occurring on November 3rd. That’s really odd. Especially when you consider the fact that Dallas has never experienced a 90+ degree high temperature from October 31 through December 29 in all of the past 119 years.

If Dallas does hit 94 on Friday, that will be 21 degrees (F) above typical high temperatures there for this time of year.

(According to GFS Model Reanalysis, the globe has warmed through Northern Hemisphere Fall despite a trend toward La Nina. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Drawing back from focus on the Dallas region, we find that the world overall is also warming relative to June through September temperature departures. A climate change associated warming that appears to have been kicked off, primarily, by warmer than normal temperatures at the poles (see previous article). This despite cooling Equatorial Pacific Ocean surface waters associated with a 55 to 65 percent of La Nina formation by winter.

In a normal climate system, we would expect a trend toward La Nina to produce relative cooling. But this does not appear to be happening as June warm temperature departures were lower than those during August through October. Preliminary GFS reanalysis indicates that October warm temperature departures were higher than those occurring in September — likely hitting around 1.1 C above 1880s averages (see image above).

So despite a weak La Nina forming, it again appears that polar warming is a major driver for global temperatures as fall moves into winter. Climatologists take note.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Euro Model

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

Ryan Maue

NOAA

Extreme Warming at the Poles this Week — Arctic and Antarctic Temperatures to Rise to 20-30 C Above Average in Some Locations

Human-caused climate change via fossil fuel burning produces a number of stranger things. And some of the weirdest happen to occur in the polar regions of our world.

One of the foremost of these odd impacts is called polar amplification. Under polar amplification, the warming effects of elevated greenhouse gasses are concentrated at the poles. This is due to reduced reflectivity (albedo) from smaller snow and sea ice concentrations, due to the increased intensity of the greenhouse effect in colder and darker regions, and due to increased energy transfer from lower latitudes into upper latitudes due to weakening of the polar Jet Stream.

Over the next week, this kind of polar amplification is predicted to generate very extreme warm temperatures for both poles of our world.

(Warm winds blowing into the Arctic will produce far above average temperatures this week. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

In the Arctic, temperatures in both Northern Greenland and on the Siberian side of the Arctic Ocean are predicted to hit ranges higher than 20 degrees Celsius above average (36 degrees Fahrenheit) with some readings over Northeastern Siberia striking near the 30 C above average mark by early next week (54 degrees F). This will produce near or above freezing temperatures over both Siberia and sections of the Arctic Ocean near or north of the 80 degree North Latitude line. Overall, temperatures are predicted to average as high as 4.4 C above average for the entire Arctic. A very considerable warm temperature departure consistent with the heightened levels of global warming the world has been experiencing during recent years.

In the Antarctic, where temperature variance should be moderating as austral spring shifts toward summer, the exact opposite is occurring. Very warm temperatures hitting more than 20 C above average are expected to sweep across East Antarctica this week and ultimately cross over to West Antarctica. Above freezing or near freezing temperatures in some coastal regions including coastal West Antarctica and over the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica will accompany far warmer than normal, but still below freezing, temperatures inland.

(Even as the Arctic is predicted to heat up, the Antarctic is also expected to experience much warmer than normal conditions. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Overall temperatures for East Antarctic land masses will hit an amazing 7 C above average even as temperatures for West Antarctic land masses rise to 5.1 C above average for later this week.

Primary atmospheric drivers for these warming events are large synoptic warm wind patterns drawing above average temperatures into both the Arctic and Antarctic. In the Arctic, winds crossing hundreds of miles of warm Pacific Ocean in association with the back side of a high pressure system moving over the Bering Sea will draw these very warm temperatures northward. In the Antarctic, warm winds funneling southward from Australia will reinforce the influence of a strong high pressure dome over East Antarctica even as another strong synoptic warm wind pattern feeds into West Antarctica off the Pacific and Southern Oceans later in the week.

It’s very early for temperatures over parts of Antarctica to be pushing above freezing. And it’s rather late for such similar temperatures to be continuing to invade so far north into the Arctic. So much warmth will have an ongoing deleterious impact to both sea and land ice as well as snow cover. Contributing to the overall pattern of warming and melt we’ve seen for both Antarctica and the Arctic during recent years as global temperatures have risen into a range from 1 C to 1.2 C above 1880s averages.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

Polar Amplification

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

A Bit More Like a Perfect Storm — Hurricane Force Wind Gusts, Record Low Pressure, Potential Record Rainfall on Tap for Northern New England

An area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean has now organized into tropical storm Philippe and is likely to continue to intensify as it moves north and east over Cuba to skirt Southern Florida this afternoon. The storm is then expected to race northward off the Eastern Seaboard — rapidly intensifying as it transitions to extra-tropical by Monday.

This rapid intensification will be fueled by a combination of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures off the U.S. East Coast and by the tropical system’s collision with a colder and very deep trough sweeping down from the north. The interaction of trough, storm, and warmer than normal surface water is predicted to generate some record-breaking extreme weather for the U.S. Northeast by Sunday through Monday.

Record-Breaking Nor’Easter on Tap

Present weather model forecasts now call for a stronger storm than was predicted yesterday. The primary low pressure cell associated with the storm is now expected to hit pressures in the range of 975 to 965 mb as it cartwheels off New Jersey and New York and makes landfall somewhere between Rhode Island and Coastal Maine. Such pressures would substantially break past records for lowest pressure in a Northern New England storm during late October. Sandy featured lower pressures as it roared into New York. But the present storm track brings a record intensity storm further north than Sandy.

(A 968 mb storm making landfall in Northern New England on Monday would be a record event for October. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

As this hybrid storm rockets in from the much warmer than normal ocean, it is expected to bring with it hurricane force wind gusts and extreme one day rainfall amounts for the region. Weather models now show that sustained winds may exceed 60 mph for the New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coasts. Meanwhile some models are indicating hurricane force gusts of up to 92 mph or higher for the region. Rainfall totals over a rather short time period are also expected to exceed 4 inches over a broad area stretching deep into New York state. It’s worth noting that the system will inject unseasonably warm air into Northern New England. So most of the precipitation associated with the storm is presently expected to fall as rain.

The storm’s associated powerful winds will likely drive a stronger than usual storm surge for a Nor’Easter into coastal areas — with flooding more reminiscent of that of a moderate hurricane. We could also see electricity knocked out for more than a million residents as this potentially record-breaking system moves in.

(Model predictions show the possiblity for wind gusts of up to 92 mph in extreme developing Nor’Easter expected to impact New England on Sunday and Monday. Winds more typical of a hurricane than your usual coastal storm. It’s worth noting that the Euro Model has come up with some quite extraordinary wind gust conditions ranging from 111 mph to 129 mph in the highest range models. Consensus models appear to be indicating a somewhat milder, but still very strong, storm.)

Climate Change Related Influences Results in Unusual Storm

We should also note that the moisture feed bleeding into this particular storm is quite intense. And as with other recent events we could see projected rainfall totals exceeded. This due to a heavier atmospheric moisture load and related intense convection associated with atmospheric temperatures that are now, on average, 1 to 1.2 C warmer than late 19th Century temperatures. And such warmer temperatures, set off primarily by human fossil fuel burning, are now increasing the peak intensity of extreme rainfall events.

As noted in yesterday’s post, the factors involved in the present Nor’Easter are rather odd when considering past contexts. For one, winds will tend to blow from the south. This is indicative of a somewhat off-kilter track when compared to a typical Nor’Easter. In addition, various climate change associated elements like the high amplitude trough related to polar warming, the joining of tropical weather with Arctic-originating weather to generate an overall more intense storm, an enhanced overall convection and related increased winds and rainfall rates, and the fuel provided by warmer than normal sea surface temperatures are all factors related to human-caused climate change.

(UPDATED)

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

Tropical Tidbits

NOAA

Weather Underground

Model Data

Sandy-Like Situation Developing? Tropical System to Merge With Potential Record-Breaking Nor’Easter by Sunday.

It’s not yet predicted to be a so-called perfect storm. But a Sandy-like situation appears to be on tap for the U.S. Northeast this weekend. For the forecast weather coming down the pipe bears a distinctly odd combination of features similar to the climate change related hybrid hyperstorms we’ve seen during recent years. To be clear, the presently predicted hybrid storm is not expected to be as intensely ‘perfect’ as Sandy. But it could still be a record-breaker for parts of the Northeast with regards to October rainfall and minimum central pressure come Sunday.

Tropical System Predicted to Combine with a Nor’Easter

93 L isn’t even a tropical depression yet. But this stormy collection of clouds southeast of the Yucatan continues to gather and organize over warmer than normal waters. At this time, development into a tropical system appears more likely — with the National Hurricane Center predicting a 60 percent chance of storm development over the next 24 hours.

(93 L becomes more organized Southeast of the Yucatan on Friday. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

To the north, a very deep trough is poised to plunge down over the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Another one of those high amplitude Jet Stream waves born of conditions related to a warming Arctic. And all across the storm’s projected path sea surface temperatures range between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius above the climatological average.

By Sunday, 93 L is predicted to be funneling into the southern section of this trough just east of Florida. Present model runs show the tropical storm transferring its warm energy northward into a low along the Arctic-originating frontal system over these warmer than normal waters — with potentially extreme results.

(Northern New England doesn’t have a record of a storm with pressures lower than 980 mb during late October. The present storm could intensify to pressures lower than 980 mb as it crosses over this region late Sunday — setting a new record. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

Forecasts are presently calling for one day rainfall amounts that could break records for New England. A swath from New Jersey through Eastern New York and western Maine could see between 2 and 8 inches of rainfall in a very short period. Meanwhile, atmospheric pressures could drop to near or below 980 mb as the storm moves north — a measure below 980 would be a new record for Southern New England in October (Sandy hit lower pressures during its Oct 29 New York landfall in 2012).

This is a climate change related movie that we’ve seen before. One that is, thankfully, predicted to be a bit less intense than Sandy this time. That said, those along the U.S. East Coast should keep a keen weather eye out as Arctic air moves over these warmer than normal waters and wraps in an energetic tropical system when the trough plunges south. Moist tropical air colliding with this Arctic mass over these warm, wet waters will create the potential to generate a powerful temperature and moisture dipole in a lifting atmosphere that could well cause this predicted storm to swiftly explode to record-shattering intensity.

RELATED STATEMENTS, UPDATES, AND INFORMATION:

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

New England May Get Record-Setting October Storm

Tropical Tidbits

Earth Nullschool

Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in Damages, ‘Toasted, Roasted, and Grilled’ — That’s What Trump’s Refusal to Support the Paris Climate Agreement Gets Us

So far, in the past three months, we’ve had four major U.S. disasters whose impacts we can certainly say were made worse by human caused climate change.

The costs from these disasters to U.S. society and, in the end, to citizens and taxpayers is tremendous. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Irreplaceable lives were forever stripped from us. Many have lost access to work and livelihoods. And in the case of Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people have been thrust back into what amounts to a modern rendition of the dark ages.

(A satellite image of the burn scar left following the North Bay fires. Human-caused climate change is a primary enabler for these kinds of disasters. Image source: NASA.)

As a measure of money alone and leaving aside the untold human misery, hurricane Harvey may ultimately cost the U.S. $180 billion, Irma may cost the U.S. $65 billion, and Maria may ultimately cost the U.S. as much as $100 billion. Adding in the $85 billion dollar damage estimate for the devastating California wildfires which were also made worse by climate change, and the total cost to U.S. society from these four disasters alone may top $430 billion.

Sitting at 1 to 1.2 C warming and staring down the barrel of 2-4 C or greater warming this Century, we can definitely say that these kinds of disasters are going to get worse. That we need to be both aware and prepared. And that we need to do our best to limit future damages to more manageable levels by working as hard as we can to reduce the climate disaster enabling greenhouse gas emissions. The world agreed to such limits at Paris. And yet it is a mark of consequential irrationality amounting to massive and indiscriminate inflicted harm that the Trump Administration has forced us to withdraw from this noble and moral compact.

A basic fact that hasn’t been lost on Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, who wrote today in The Guardian that if the world fails to take steps to reduce climate change, we will be ‘toasted, roasted, and grilled.’ Lagarde warned of a dark, dystopian future if major nations fail in their moral responsibility to address climate change — citing the fact that the Trump Administration in the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Summit. A global commitment to more rapidly reduce greenhouse gasses that Nicaragua recently joined leaving the U.S. only accompanied by Syria as inauspicious non-signatories.

A federal U.S. policy blind to the impacts of climate change under Trump is far from immune to its slings and arrows, as we’ve found so tragically this summer and fall. And underlying this fact is that an unaffiliated Government Accounting Office (GAO) report from Trump’s own government recently found that climate change related extreme weather and other related damages have topped $350 billion over the past decade. A number likely to significantly increase once recent events are also tallied. A number that will be dwarfed by future events if fossil fuel burning related carbon emissions continue to hit the atmosphere at their geologically unprecedented rate of more than ten billion tons each year.

The report took two years to compile at the bipartisan requests of Susan Collins of Maine (R) and Maria Cantwell of Washington (D). Ms Cantwell noted to the New York Times that the report is:

“basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money...We need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with.”

The report identified wide-ranging climate change related impacts coming from hurricanes, wildfires, sea level rise and damages to crops. Impacts that do not discriminate between political affiliation or level of income. However, it is notable that the U.S. Southeast, a traditional republican stronghold, is one of the regions the report identifies as likely to experience the some of the most severe and damaging impacts related to climate change.

Failure to provide significant national and international policy to address climate change, in Trump, is not only a failure to recognize basic scientific fact. It is not only putting the U.S. in a less competitive position economically with regards to renewables. And it is not only making the U.S. more vulnerable to the powerful storms and severe weather events such failures contribute to. It is also a dramatic failure of basic fiscal responsibility that will have an equally dramatic and long-last impact on deficits, budgets, taxes and ultimately incomes for years and decades to come.

Links:

New York Times — Climate Change Costs

Climate Change is Already Costing the U.S. Taxpayer Billions of Dollars

We Will Be Toasted and Roasted and Grilled

NASA

Hat tip to Abel

Hat tip to Suzanne

Fire Danger Again Rises Across California; Number of Structures Lost in Northern Blazes Increases to 8,400

A California still reeling from the devastating impact of wildfires worsened by human-caused climate change just can’t get a break.

An army of 5,000 firefighters presently remain engaged in attempting to contain the large wildfires that are now unarguably the most destructive in California history. As with the recently very extreme hurricanes, we are still tallying the damage estimates.  And the results are pretty stark. 100,000 of our fellow Americans have been displaced. The loss of souls has risen to 42. In total, 8,400 structures including thousands of homes, have been burned to the ground.

Already, this disaster is yet another in the billion-dollar-class of climate incidents. Now numbering 4 in just the past three months with total estimated losses from the fires ranging from 1 to 3 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this devastating toll is likely to climb as further tallies come in.

(Hottest World Series on record amid severe fire risk.)

Presently, the remaining fires still burning are between 79 and 97 percent contained — according to the most recent report from the National Interagency Fire Center. However, temperatures rising into the upper 90s and lower to middle 100s across the state coupled with strong Santa Ana winds are again increasing fire risk. An elevated fire hazard that expected to persist through Wednesday.

In Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions have been put in place to enable emergency vehicles to rapidly navigate narrow streets in the event of a new fire start requiring rapid attention. And in the south, numerous small brush fires have already been reported. Thankfully, these have not risen to the rapidly expanding extent or intensity of the northern fires over the past couple of weeks. But concerns, given recent events, remain very high.

(Very hot fall temperatures, Santa Ana winds are again predicted across southern and western sections of California today. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Warming global temperatures in the range of 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s averages are now starting to have a profound impact on the hydrological cycle, storms, and related rates of precipitation and evaporation. In California, increasingly extreme weather in the form of more intense and rapidly forming heatwaves and droughts, and precipitation coming more as heavy rainfall events increases fire risk. This, together with the general impact of warming which moves climate zones faster than trees can follow or adapt and that increases the prevalence of invasive species harmful to trees, has increased the incidence of large fires throughout the U.S. West.

We are now in a situation where fires can threaten entire cities (the devastating fire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray in Canada was finally declared extinguished during September of 2017 after burning for a year and three months) and where the total number of structures lost can rival the size of a town. This is a terrible impact and hazard for those living in the western and northwestern region. One that did not exist at the level or frequency we see today. And though other factors also contribute — such as increasing encroachment of settlements on wooded areas — the primary factor increasing fire intensity, size, and expanding the length of fire season is human-caused climate change.

The only way we can get a handle on this rising risk is to mitigate and remove the causes of climate change. And that involves working together as a nation to switch the kinds of energy we use to non carbon emitting sources like solar and wind and reducing other harmful practices that emit carbon into our atmosphere.

Links:

Red Flag Parking Restrictions in Effect in LA

Fire Loss Surges to 8,400 Structures in Northern California

California Wildfire Damage Estimates Top $3 Billion

National Interagency Fire Center

Red Flag Warning: Southland Brush Fires

GISS Temperature Data

Devastating Fort McMurray Wildfire Declared out 15 Months Later

Earth Nullschool

Another Historic Storm: Surreal Ophelia Strikes Ireland with Hurricane Force

“Ophelia is breaking new ground for a major hurricane. Typically those waters [are] much too cool for anything this strong. I really can’t believe I’m seeing a major just south of the Azores.” — National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake on Twitter.

*****

Warmer than normal ocean temperatures due to human-forced climate change are now enabling major hurricanes to threaten Northern Europe. A region that was traditionally considered primarily out of the range of past powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes under 20th Century climatology. One that, in a warmer world, is increasingly under the gun.

(Ophelia roars over Ireland. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

On October 14, Ophelia hit major hurricane status as it moved swiftly toward Europe. Packing 115 mph maximum sustained winds over a region of ocean where we’ve never recorded this kind of powerful storm before, Ophelia set its sights on Ireland. Crossing over warmer than normal North Atlantic Ocean waters, the storm maintained hurricane status up to 12 hours before barreling into Ireland. At that time, cooler waters caused the storm to transition to extra-tropical. But this transition was not enough to prevent Ireland from being struck by hurricane-force gusts up to 119 mph, storm surge flooding, and seeing structural damage reminiscent to a category one storm.

360,000 power outages and two deaths were attributed to a storm that should have not maintained such high intensity so far north and east. Yet another historic storm that forced the National Hurricane Center to shift its tracking map east of the 0 degree longitude line (Greenwich) since they had not planned for a hurricane or its tropical remnants to move so far out of the typical zone for North Atlantic hurricanes (see image at bottom of page).

(Human-caused climate change produces angrier seas off Ireland as amped-up Ophelia rages.)

As with many of the recently powerful storms, 1 to 2 degree Celsius above average sea surface temperatures were a prime enabler allowing Ophelia to maintain such high intensity so far north. And under the present trend, it appears that the Atlantic coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and England are now all more likely to see tropical storm and hurricane impacts in the future as sea surface temperatures continue to rise. In the past, strikes by tropical cyclones to places like Ireland were considered to be rare — with the last Hurricane to impact Ireland being Debbie in 1961. But recent climate science studies indicate that global warming is likely to increase the frequency of hurricane and tropical storm impacts to Northern Europe:

In a paper published in April 2013, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute predicted that by the year 2100, global warming would greatly increase the threat of hurricane-force winds to western Europe from former tropical cyclones and hybrid storms, the latter similar to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. One model predicted an increase from 2 to 13 in the number of cyclones with hurricane-force winds in the waters offshore western Europe. The study suggested that conditions favorable for tropical cyclones would expand 1,100 km (700 mi) to the east. A separate study based out of University of Castile-La Mancha predicted that hurricanes would develop in the Mediterranean Sea in Septembers by the year 2100, which would threaten countries in southern Europe.

The present Atlantic hurricane season can now only be described as a surreal caricature of what we feared climate change could produce. Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and a dozen or more Caribbean islands are now devastated disaster areas. Some locations may feel the effects of the off-the-charts powerful storms enabled by a warmer than normal ocean for decades to come. Puerto Rico, unless it receives far more significant aid from the mainland than the Trump Administration appears to be willing to provide, may never fully recover.  And now Ophelia has maintained hurricane status until just twelve hours before striking Europe’s Ireland as a powerful extra-tropical storm.

2017 has also been an extraordinary year basin-wide by measure of storm energy. Total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) for the North Atlantic as of October 15 was 222.5. So far, according to this measure, 2017 is the 7th strongest hurricane season ever recorded since records began in 1851. The most intense season, 1933, may see its own record of 259 ACE exceeded over the coming days and weeks. For storms still appear to be forming over record warm waters. According to the National Hurricane Center, a disturbance off the East Coast of the United States now has a 40 percent chance of developing into the season’s 16th named storm over the next 48 hours. Meanwhile, during recent years, powerful late October storms like Matthew and Sandy have tended to crop up over warmer than normal ocean waters even as late season storms ranging into November and December appear to be more common. In other words, we’re not out of the woods yet and 2017 may be a year to exceed all other years for total measured storm intensity as well as overall damage.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

The National Hurricane Center

Colorado State: Accumulated Cyclone Energy

NASA Worldview

Tropical Cyclone Effects in Europe

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Jeremy in Wales

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