The Increasingly Dangerous Hothouse — Local Reports Show It Felt Like 160 F (71 C) in India on June 13th, 2016

The climate change induced delay of India’s monsoon is a pretty big deal. Not only does it reduce the amount of moisture — necessary for the provision of life-giving crops for this country of 1.2 billion — provided by the annual rains, it also increases the potential for life threatening heatwave conditions. And according to local reports, some of the highest heat index values ever recorded on the face of the Earth were seen in Bhubaneswar, India during a period of record heat and high humidity as the Asian Monsoon struggled to advance.

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The Indian province of Odisha sweltered under high heat and humidity that may well have represented the most miserable conditions ever recorded on Earth at any time or place on June 12th and 13th of 2016. Cooling monsoonal rains should have arrived over this eastern section along the Bay of Bengal by that time. But this year, the rains were delayed by about a week and were still about 5 days away. The heat was firmly entrenched. A great wall that seemed to fend the monsoon off.

India Monsoon 2016

(The India Monsoon is finally starting to catch up. After being delayed by 1-2 weeks during early June, the monsoon is now on time for some locations even as it still delayed by 5-7 days for parts of western India. The early June delay, however, has probably lowered overall moisture content of the monsoon even as it contributed to record heat index and wet bulb readings for sections of Odisha on June 12 to 13. Image source: India Meteorological Department.)

As the frontal edge of the monsoonal flow began to run into a region of high temperatures over Odisha, humidity levels spiked even as temperatures remained high. On the 12th and 13th of June, 2016, thermometers topped out at between 101 F (38 C) and 109 F (43 C) even as humidity levels rose. This combination generated a spike in what is called the Misery Index (or an indicator of how hot if felt to be outside). And it also, apparently, pushed wet bulb temperatures in some areas to record levels for any place on Earth.

Wet Bulb at 38 C?

For an unconfirmed report out of Bhubaneswar indicates that temperatures on June 13th hit 103.5 F (39.7 C) even as relative humidity readings were at 87 percent. That’s a wet bulb reading of 37.6 C. And if this report is true, that means it felt like 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius for a brief period in Bhubaneswar that day. If so, this would be near the highest Misery Index value ever recorded on the planet — just a hair below last year’s peak measure in Iraq of a 163 F or 73 C heat index (38.4 C wet bulb) reading. And outright crushing periods during 2015 when India’s wet bulb measures in Andhra Pradesh hit 30 C.

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(According to Earth Nullschool, it felt like 41 to 54 C [104 to 127 F] outside over Eastern India on June 12th and 13th of 2016 due to combined high levels of heat and humidity. Local reports from Bhubaneswar indicate that this Misery Index hit a stunning 71 C [160 F] on June 13th. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

A wet bulb measure is a kind of thermometer for latent heat in the atmosphere. It uses a wet bladder to measure the temperature of a membrane at the point at which water evaporates. It’s meant to simulate the lowest temperature the human skin can reach through evaporative cooling as the body sweats. The higher the combined heat and humidity, the higher the wet bulb temperature and the hotter it feels. We’ve all experienced this when stepping outside on a day during which both the temperature and humidity are high. And we intuitively know that it’s the combination of heat and atmospheric moisture that makes hot days feel even more oppressive.

It’s a combo that’s also dangerous to human health. At a certain point, the human body becomes unable to cool itself by sweating. And this level of latent heat at which the human body becomes incapable of transporting heat away from the skin is a wet bulb reading of 35 degrees Celsius.

Wet bulb readings do not need to hit 35 C to risk loss of life and heat injury. Wet bulbs above 25 C are considered dangerous and readings for extended periods near 30 C have resulted in mass injury and loss of life in places like Europe during the early 2000s, in Chicago during 1995 and in India during 2015 and 2016. However, exceeding wet bulb readings of 35 C over extended periods of time is an extraordinarily dangerous event. It’s also a new hazard related to human caused climate change. For last year was the first time a wet bulb reading above 35 C was ever recorded on the face of the Earth. And the 2016 37.6 C wet bulb reading for Bhubaneswar, if it bears out, is an extraordinary measure.

Readings this high over large regions over any extended period would make staying outdoors without access to cool water or climate controlled environments unlivable for human beings. And a human forced warming of the world by fossil fuel burning appears to now be in the process of bringing those conditions about. A condition of dangerous added latent heat to the atmosphere that has caused some scientists to sound the alarm that a global hothouse emergency is already upon us. And that unless a massive curtailment of fossil fuel burning takes place soon — large sections of the Earth’s surface will be rendered uninhabitable to human beings due to atmospheric latent heat content alone.

For as ocean surface temperatures rise, more moisture is pumped into the atmosphere in the form of humidity. This extra humidity hits regions of airs that have already been warmed to much higher readings by the over-burden of heat trapping gasses, like CO2, in the atmosphere. The result is a higher latent heat content of the airs of the Earth, and the breaching of wet bulb readings that are deadly to human beings who lack access to climate controlled environments.

UPDATED 11:00 PM EST, June 21

Links:

India Meteorological Department

Odisha Sizzles Under High Heat and Humidity

Odisha Continues to Sizzle Under Heat Wave

Earth Nullschool

Understanding Wet Bulb Temperatures

Dr. James Hansen: We Have a Global Emergency

Hat tip to Wili

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Scott

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India’s Monsoon is Delayed For Third Year in a Row — Climate Change is Likely Cause

“It has been observed that since 2001, places in northern India, especially in Rajasthan, are witnessing a rising temperature trend every year. The main reason is the excessive … emission of carbon dioxide.” — Laxman Singh Rathore, the director general of the India Meteorological Department.

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The reduction in India’s monsoon rains is a big deal. It generates systemic drought, creates a prevalence for heatwaves, and locally amplifies the impacts of human-caused climate change. For three years now, the Indian monsoon has been delayed. India is experiencing its worst heatwaves ever recorded and water shortages across the country are growing dire. The monsoonal rains are coming, again late. And people across India — residents as well as weather and climate experts — are beginning to wonder if the endemic drought and heat stress will ever end.

Historically, there was only one climate condition known to bring about a delay in India’s Monsoon — El Nino. And last year, a strong El Nino is thought to have contributed both to the Monsoon’s late arrival and to a very severe drought that is now gripping the state. What the 2015 El Nino cannot also account for is the 2014 delay and weakening of monsoonal rains. And during 2016, as India’s monsoon has again been held back by 1-2 weeks, and El Nino is now but a memory, it’s beginning to become quite clear that there’s something else involved in the weakening of India’s annual rains.

Indian Monsoon Delayed Third Year in a Row

India's Monsoon is Delayed Yet Again

(Onset of the Indian Monsoon has been delayed for three years in a row now. A condition likely caused by a human-forced warming of the world and one that is worsening an extreme drought and heatwave situation across the country. Image source: The India Meteorological Department.)

As of today, the eastern edge of the Southeast Asian monsoon had only advanced to the middle of Myanmar. This late progress is two weeks behind the typical advance of the monsoon in this part of the world at this time of year. Further west, the monsoon has extended somewhat futher — only trailing the typical monsoon’s advance by 5 days along the western coast of India.

With La Nina blooming in the Eastern Pacific, there’s no other climatological excuse for this delay. The El Nino influence is mostly gone. And all that’s left is a global climate context in which temperatures have now risen to around 1.3 C hotter than 1880s averages.

Climate Change is Likely Cause

Scientific studies modeling the impacts of human-forced warming have long found that heating the Earth atmosphere resulted in an eventual delay and weakening of the Indian monsoon. A study published last year in Geoscience Frontiers continued this line of study. Global Circulation Model (GCM) runs found that the Indian monsoon was expected to be delayed by 15 days on average during the 21st Century due to human caused climate change. That the amount of precipitation provided by the monsoon would be reduced by about 70 percent. And that the eastern section of the monsoon would tend to be subject to greater delays than the west.

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(Extreme heat in the range of 45 to 51 degrees Celsius [113 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit] is expected to continue to impact a broad region of Northern India and Eastern Pakistan tomorrow. These temperatures are in record ranges and threaten to again break the all-time hottest temperatures ever recorded in India this week. By now, the onset of monsoonal rains should be taking the edge off a good portion of this heat. But a monsoon apparently delayed by a human forced warming of the world still holds back its cooling loads of moisture. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Delays in the Indian Monsoon result in a loss of precipitation due to the fact that the duration of the event is greatly reduced. Rainfall has to therefore be more intense over a shorter period of time in order to make up for losses. Increasing drought prevalence results in further moisture losses due to a kind of atmospheric heat and dryness barrier that tends to sap storms of precipitation even as they start to form. The net result for India is a prediction of severe moisture loss due to human-caused climate change.

This year’s India monsoonal delay — as with the delay during 2014 — falls into that pattern. And the massive drought that India is now experiencing as a result appears to be emerging from a set of atmospheric conditions that are consistent with human-caused climate change. India’s risk for continued drought and increasingly extreme heatwaves over the coming years is therefore on the rise. And it is yet to be seen if this year’s monsoon will deliver the hoped-for and desperately-needed relief. Already, the rain-bearing storm system is lagging. And that’s not a good sign.

Links:

The Effects of Climate Change on the Seasonal Monsoon in Asia

Earth Nullschool

The India Meteorological Department

India’s Heatwave Breaks Records

May Likely to Break Global High Temperature Record as El Nino Conditions Strengthen in Pacific

The human warming-riled monster weather event that is El Nino continued to advance over the Equatorial Pacific this week. Ocean surface temperatures throughout the basin from north and east of New Guinea and along a broad stretch of thousands of miles of ocean climbed. Sporadic west winds and an overall weakness in the trades extended the expansion of warm surface waters along the serpentine back of the El Nino pattern from west-to-east even as a high heat content Kelvin Wave kept conditions below surface much warmer than normal.

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(Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature anomalies from 2 April to 28 May. Animation source: NOAA)

Large and growing regions of 1 to 2 C warmer than normal surface temperatures expanded in broad, 1,000 + mile stretches near the date line and ranged out from the west coast of South America. An impressive region of, very hot, 2-3 C positive anomalies grew through an ever-larger span from Santa Cruz Island to coastal Ecuador and Peru. Though the above graphic is not granular enough to catch it, daily anomalies in this hot pool exceeded extremely intense +3.5 to +4 C readings.

Readings in the range of +0.5 to +1 C invaded regions north to south, east to west, joining in an extraordinary zone stretching from the Philippines to South America, and from Baja to Hawaii to the Solomon Islands. A separate pool of very hot water north of New Guinea and near the Philippines is likely to play a further role in El Nino development throughout this year should weak trades and anomalous west winds persist. Then, a second and reinforcing pulse of warm water is predicted to push the entire Equatorial Pacific Basin well above a +1 C positive anomaly by late Summer through Fall.

Weekly Anomalies

(Sea surface temperature anomalies in the four key Nino regions all show continued warming through the end of May. Image source: NOAA.)

The tightening grip of El Nino is plainly visible with each of the four key Nino zones showing ongoing temperature increases in what is now a 3-4 month long event. Meanwhile, the key Nino 3.4 zone closed its 4th straight period above the +0.5 C Nino threshold even as it jumped to +0.6 C above average this week. Notably, the Nino 1+2 zone off South America hit a very warm +1.6 C average positive anomaly this week, showing additional warming from strong late April values.

Together, these values all show very solid continued progress toward El Nino.

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(Map of geographical Niño zones provided by NOAA.)

Conditions in Context: May 2014 Likely Hottest on Record Amidst Ongoing Extreme Weather

Overall, Equatorial Pacific ocean surface temperatures continued their advancement from May 27 to June 2, rising from +0.59 to +0.68 C above the 1979 to 2000 average throughout the week. Global sea surface temperatures have remained in an exceptionally hot and likely global record range between +1 and +1.25 C above 1979 to 2000 averages throughout the month of May and into early June. These extraordinary readings likely combined with very high atmospheric values to put May of 2014 in the range of hottest on record. It is worth noting that, according to NOAA, April of 2014 was also the hottest in the 134 years since global temperature measurements began.

El Nino tends to spike atmospheric heat and, when combined with a brutal human greenhouse gas forcing, greatly increases the likelihood that a given year will reach new global heat extremes.

For 2014, El Nino and global warming related weather disruptions already appear to be taking hold with the Indian Monsoon appearing weak and delayed, a summer heat dome building over Europe and Western Russia, with Southeast China experiencing record floods even as northern and western China and Japan experience record heat. Ongoing droughts and crop disruptions in Brazil, building heat and drought in Indonesia, and Australia experiencing two back to back hottest years on record is also indicative of the screaming global heating that typically comes when El Nino gives human-caused warming an explosive boost.

Links:

NOAA

Indian Monsoon Disrupted

Monsoon Misses Date With India, Onset Delayed

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

 

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