Two Days After Climate March 80 Million U.S. Residents are Under Threat of Severe Weather

This weekend, tens of thousands across the U.S. and around the world took part in a people’s march for climate action.

In the Nation’s Capital alone, it’s estimated that more than 200,000 took to the streets — doubling a projected attendance of 100,000. In a bit of dark irony, DC marchers faced scorching record heat in the low 90s. A late April day that felt more like a hotter than usual mid-July as the streets thundered with loud concern over a warming climate.

In storm-tossed Chicago, thousands braved wind and rain to make their own concerns heard. And in Oklahoma, the Capital of Tulsa echoed with the shouts of a doggedly determined group of climate marchers as the governor declared a state of emergency due to flooding.

Fully 370 sister marches in places as far-flung as West Palm Beach near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago and Dutch Harbor in Alaska occurred across a country wracked by extreme weather all-too-likely related to climate change.

Massive Jet Stream Wave Produces Severe Heat, Storms

Still vastly under-reported in mainstream broadcast weather media is the fact that polar warming in the Northern Hemisphere appears to be having a harmful influence on middle latitude atmospheric circulation. The south-to-north energy transfers contributing to a more rapid warming of the northern polar region as the world heats up overall is combining with larger warming producing more powerful heatwaves and droughts over highly populated areas.

In contrast, as more warm air centers at the poles, more cold air tends to spill southward into large troughs as the Jet Stream slows down. These troughs encounter an atmosphere that is generally more heavily loaded with moisture and charged with convective lift that tends to produce higher cloud tops. An atmosphere that is therefore predisposed to generating far more intense precipitation episodes in these regions.

(A massive jet stream trough in the western and central U.S. produced cooler conditions, blizzards, severe rains and storms during this weekend’s climate march. A facing ridge in the east produced record-shattering heatwaves in DC. North and west, into Alaska, temperatures were 5-10 F above normal. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The result is an overall increasing prevalence of extreme weather events. Scientific model studies indicate a heightened tendency for extreme middle latitude storms and heatwaves as the Earth warms and the pole heats up. And this weekend, a persistent trough and storm track that, this year, has consistently produced extreme weather and heavy rainfall across the U.S. in 2017 (large sections of the U.S. experienced far wetter than normal conditions this winter with a substantial number of locations experiencing their wettest January through March on record) again deepened — with significant results.

80 Million Under Severe Weather Threat

Saturday and Sunday, this storm system generated record river crests and related extreme flooding as 5-10 inches of rainfall inundated a region including Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Vicious tornado strikes ripped through East Texas. A late-season blizzard dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on the high plains. And, as mentioned above, record heat stifled the Eastern U.S. ahead of the storm.

(80 million people under threat from severe weather today as a spring storm heads eastward. From the satellite, it looks like a classic spring weather pattern. But record heat in the east, blizzards in the high plains, and record floods in the Central U.S. tell a tale of continued abnormal conditions. Image source: NOAA.)

Unfortunately, though the climate march has ended, the severe weather threat has remained. According to CNN, the same storms that resulted in the tragic loss of 15 souls as floods, savage winds, snow, and tornadoes raged over the Central U.S. this weekend are moving east. Today, reports now indicate that 80 million people from Georgia through New England are again under the threat of severe weather as a result.

Links:

Sprawling U.S. Storm Takes at Least 15 Lives

People’s Climate March

Floods Inundate Plains

Weekend Storms that Ravaged Central U.S. Move East

NOAA

National Center for Environmental Information

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to Jean

Hothouse Rains for Florida — 40 Year Old Record Smashed by 8 Inch Downpour in Daytona Beach

Increasingly, due to global atmospheric heating, this is the kind of event we’ve seen —

An atmosphere hotter than at any time in at least the past 120,000 years develops a powerful thermal lift. The dense clouds build higher and higher, drawing in moisture from a hydrological cycle that has been intensified by at least 6 percent due to a 0.8 C global heating since the 1880s. Eventually, the heavy moisture loading within the cloud comes crashing downward in a collapsing inundation, resulting in record rainfall.

Almost daily, now, we see new record rainfall events due to this set of hothouse warming heightened atmospheric dynamics. Just one of the increasingly severe weather impacts predicted by climate scientists. And for a broad region of Eastern and Central Florida sitting under a pattern of rainfall that has now persisted for 8 days, yesterday witnessed just such a major inundation.

Heavy Storms Close in On Central Florida

(Powerful storms close in on Central and Eastern Florida yesterday afternoon just prior to another record rainfall event. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Towering storms swept in, puffed up by the hotter than normal waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico spreading dense, white cloud tops up toward the stratosphere. By late evening, Central and Eastern Florida were hemmed in by the towering cloud deck.

The heavy rains began last night around midnight and continued on until around 7 AM this morning. Dousing sheets of rain swept through Volusia County cities focusing in on Orlando, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach and Daytona. For Daytona, the previous rainfall record for the day, set in the 1970s at 4.22 inches was shattered as 7.98 inches of rain fell over a seven hour period.

The massive downpour left ten homes flooded and entire neighborhoods shut down as city residents pushed water-logged vehicles to higher ground or gingerly waded through knee to waist deep waters. Nearby Port Orange found itself in a similar situation after a 7 inch deluge flooded numerous roads and neighborhoods even as it completely buried a section of railroad track in flood waters. The flooding storms also uprooted trees and knocked down power lines in the affected region.

As of about 1 PM this afternoon more storms were riding in off the Atlantic Ocean heightening the risk of continued flooding for the already storm-plagued region. River levels were rapidly rising and a flood warning was issued for the larger St. John’s River.

Water vapor florida

(Southeast Water Vapor Imagery. Image source: NOAA.)

As of 4 PM Eastern Time, water vapor imagery and radar showed strong thunderstorm cells just to the southeast of Volusia county and traveling toward the northwest — threatening a second inundation for an already flooded region.

Links:

Heavy Rains Flood Parts of Central Florida

LANCE MODIS

NOAA

Top Climate Scientists Explain How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Amps Up the Hydrological Cycle to Spur Dangerous Weather

Global Warming to Drive Increase in Severe Thunderstorm Risk

(Hat Tip to Colorado Bob)

Jet Stream Tattered By Climate Change Brings New Bout of Worst Storms On Record For North-Central US

image

(Mangled Jet Stream on June 20th, 2014 together with cut-off upper air low threatens record-shattering storms and flood events across a multi-state region from the Dakotas to Minnesota to Iowa and Nebraska over the coming days. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: NOAA.)

If you wanted an example of a Jet Stream mangled by human-caused climate change, you couldn’t find a better one than today’s tangle of upper level winds swirling over North America.

It’s a chaotic maelstrom of split flows, colliding storm tracks, blocking highs, and cut-off upper air lows. A barrel of snakes pattern that’s become ever-more-common since Arctic sea ice plummeted to staggering volume lows of nearly 80 percent less than 1979 levels at end summer of 2012. A loss that opened wide the gates for warm air to flood northward and confuse the hot-cold dividing line that drives this key weather governor.

Over the past week, we’ve seen what amounts to a mess of storms mostly locked in place. A Pacific Ocean flow squeezed between a blocking high off California and an upper level low south of Alaska drew a train of moisture trailing all the way across the Pacific into a hungry cut-off low that had stalled along the border between Canada and the US. Drifting slowly east to west, west to east, the low gorged on the synoptic moisture feed, dumping record rainfall after record rainfall over the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

100 Year Records Shattered

By the 16th of June, with just slightly more than half the month passed, Sioux Falls South Dakota had crushed its all-time record rainfall for any month by more than 2.5 inches. The previous record of 9.42 inches set in 1898 catapulting to a staggering 13.04 inches by early this week. And with the storm track writhing overhead the rains for the region just kept coming. By yesterday, the twin cities region in Minnesota had rocketed to its second wettest June on record amidst massive rainfall-driven landslides and region-wide preparations for Mississippi River flooding. At 10.33 inches measured rainfall so far, with storms still popping overhead, and with 11 days still remaining in the month, it appears the area may well be set to shatter the previous rainfall record of 11.67 inches set back in 1874.

(Record flooding along the Big Sioux River in Iowa and South Dakota as witnessed yesterday by Storm Chasers.)

All the massive rainfall has built up quite a pulse of flood water that is now moving down major river systems and threatens record flooding events throughout a multi-state region from the Dakotas to Minnesota to Iowa to Nebraska. Residents are being called to aid in sand bagging and other flood mitigation operations as rivers keep rising through numerous regions. According to a report today in the Christian Science Monitor:

“In Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska, officials are asking volunteers to build sandbag barriers and other fortifications in advance of the brunt of the storm – but politicians and emergency workers are conceding that their efforts, in some areas, may not be enough.

In South Dakota, workers have begun turning a major Interstate exchange bridge into a temporary levee. While officials there say that will mitigate the flood in many locales, Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) said he expects parts of North Sioux City, S.D., to be underwater by the end of the week.”

Storms Expected to Continue

Today a frontal boundary sweeping out from our upper air low is bringing rains to the Great Lakes and Central Plains region. Meanwhile, behind the front, instability and moisture flow beneath the low continue to result is a high risk for severe thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds, torrential downpours, hail and frequent lightning. Severe storm risks are most extreme for areas of southeastern Nebraska, western Iowa, northern and western Minnesota, and eastern North Dakota.

Already, satellite imagery shows strong storms and accompanying high cloud tops popping up over Nebraska with more likely to follow as afternoon and evening progresses.

Conditions in Context: How Climate Change Intensifies Droughts/Storms

Multiple news agencies are now gathering reports of record storm events throughout the affected multi-state region. Recording agencies and residents alike note a dramatic increase in both the frequency of record events and in their intensity.

Storm precipitation intensity is a measure of how much rain, snow, sleet or hail falls from a given storm over a given period. And what we have seen is an increasing number of record hourly rainfall events in which precipitation totals measure 1 to 2 inches or more within a 60 minute span. Such intense events rapidly overwhelm infrastructure, flood roads, and burst river banks, creating a dangerous situation that often results in numerous water rescues. And both local and national climate reports have marked a major increase in both precipitation and precipitation intensity over the past two decades for regions such as Iowa.

In the context of human-caused climate change, frequency of intense storm events is increased due to rising atmospheric moisture loading. Overall, for each 1 degree C increase in temperature, the hydrological cycle increases by about 7% in intensity. The current .8 C rise since 1880 has resulted in about a 6% increase in the rate of evaporation and of rainfall. So in regions where heat and dryness tend to take hold, the soils tend to dry out faster, tipping into drought conditions far more rapidly and seeing an overall intensification and lengthening of droughts. And in regions where storms do form, they tend to dump far more rainfall than they used to.

Thunderstorm

(Global warming intensifies thunderstorms by adding convective energy, increasing atmospheric moisture, and expanding the troposphere. As a result, thunderstorm cloud heights increase resulting in more intense rain and hail events. Image source: National Weather Service.)

Changes in the Jet Stream due to loss of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere also tends to result in more persistent weather patterns. The Jet Stream tends to meander more, spinning off more cut off lows that linger over regions creating instability and rough weather for longer periods. High amplitude waves tend to also form as more warm air invades the higher Latitudes. In the ridges, powerful high pressures tend to dominate. And once these highs establish, they can be very difficult to move. Beneath these blocking highs, droughts proliferate due to the extreme length of dry periods and due to the intensified rate of evaporation. We see such an event now in the 15+ month long blocking high that has so greatly impacted California and the ongoing drought there.

Lastly, increasing convection and a thickening, hotter atmosphere tend to spike storm intensity. In areas where moisture and heat are both high, the explosive rate of evaporation tends to rapidly form storms with very high cloud tops. These cloud tops, now sometimes pushing 50,000 or 60,000 feet pack in more moisture and can generate very intense rainfall events over shorter periods than we are used to.

In these ways, climate change forms an ideal brew for perfect thunderstorms and perfect droughts. With temperatures expected to spike to +2 C or great anomalies over the coming century, we can look forward to extreme weather continuing to intensify with both record rainfalls and record droughts dominating with ever-increasing frequency.

 

 

Links:

Weather Underground: Record Rainfall in Sioux Falls South Dakota

Twin Cities: Flood Preparation Begins as Record Rainfall Sends Mississippi Rising

Global Warming to Spawn More Severe Thunderstorms

Warming Planet Could Spawn Bigger, Badder Thunderstorms

How Climate Change Wrecks the Jet Stream, Amps up the Hydrological Cycle and Spawns Severe Weather

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to TodaysGuestis

 

Massive, Two Week Long China Flood Sends Half a Million Fleeing, Destroys More Than 25,000 Homes

Black, ominous clouds have been dumping heavy rainfall over southeast China ever since May 12.

Warm winds, laden with the moisture spilling off a super-heated Pacific Ocean, collided with an intense storm track that often combined upper level moisture flows spilling off the heat dome near the Caspian, a high intensity heat and evaporation event now ongoing over India, and cold, unstable air streaming down from the Kara Sea in the Arctic. Since mid-May this relentlessly persistent pattern has been in effect. And the inundation has been ongoing and extraordinarily intense with day-after-day deluges pounding a sprawling region from south-central China and on to the coast.

(Chinese news report from yesterday showing widespread flooding.)

Each new dawn brings with it fresh losses with numerous major roads closed, bridges washed out, and adding to what is now an almost endless tally of evacuation orders. Daily rainfall totals in the range of 2-6 inches or more have saturated grounds, burst riverbanks, and turned streets into torrents. By today, more than 1 million people had been impacted with nearly a half million evacuated or rescued from flooded buildings. Since the, still ongoing, floods began in mid-May, more than 25,000 homes and 40 souls have been lost to the epic storms.

southeast china May 12, 2014southeast china May 18southeast China May 23Southeast China May 27

(Relentless heavy rainfall over Southeast China visible in the above four satellite images on [left to right, top to bottom] May 12, May 18, May 23rd and May 27th. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

The Chinese have invested heavily in flood defenses since the 1998 deluge that resulted in 4,000 dead, over 15 million homeless, and 26 billion dollars in damages. During that year, a strong El Nino set off severe storms that turned large Chinese rivers into raging inland seas. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze was built, in part, to prevent this kind of terrible flooding.

But fears of a possible repeat of the 1998 event are on the rise despite heightened Chinese defenses. A strong El Nino may again be gathering in the Pacific and with global temperatures now warmer than even those seen during the late 1990s, atmospheric moisture loading is probably at its highest in at least the last 10,000 years.

Extreme Floods Linked to El Nino and Climate Change

This extreme atmospheric heating and global trend toward El Nino could well result in continuing and possibly worsening local impacts for Southeast China. It is the second region this spring to suffer epic flooding after the worst flood event in 1,000 years resulted in the destruction of over 100,000 homes in the Balkans.

High atmospheric heat content increases both the frequency of severe rain and drought events due to an amplification of the hydrological cycle through evaporation. Overall, it is estimated that the current .8 C of warming over 1880s temperature averages has caused a 6% amplification of the hydrological cycle worldwide. That’s 6% heavier rainfall and 6% more intense droughts when averaged over the entire globe. But as we well know, weather isn’t an evenly distributed phenomena. Some regions are more likely to receive a bulk of that increased rainfall even as others are more prone to see a majority of the increased drying. Add to this consequence a meandering Jet Stream (set off by loss of Northern Hemisphere sea ice) with the tendency to lock in very persistent weather patterns and you end up with a greatly enhanced likelihood for extreme weather due to the wide-ranging effects of atmospheric warming.

Weather Forecast Calls for More Severe Storms

For southeast China, weather patterns will remain locked in for a continuation of potential extreme rainfall over the next week. The large heat domes over the Caspian and India will continue to spill out moisture over Southeast China even as the extraordinarily warm Pacific provides its own moisture flow. Notably, the weather forecast for this Wednesday calls for another large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to drop 2-4+ inches of rainfall over already saturated and inundated grounds. Thursday through Sunday is expected to bring yet more waves of severe thunderstorms to the region.

Given this combined extreme weather and climate state it is certainly possible that the current flood tally will continue to lengthen for Southeast China.

Links:

LANCE-MODIS

Half a Million Evacuated as China Braces for More Flooding

Dozens Die in China Floods

More Rain for Flood Ravaged South China

Recovering From Balkan Flood Disaster Will Cost Billions

Top Climate Scientists Explain How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Cause Dangerous Weather

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

Summer 2014 Melt Season to Ramp up in Early May Heat Wave: Fixed Jet Stream, Dual Ridges Form Sea Ice Achilles Heel

For many months the weather pattern has been essentially fixed. A ridge over China and Eastern Russia combined with warm air flows over Central Asia to amplify heat from Siberia and on into the Arctic Ocean. On the other side of the Pacific, a harmonic pattern involving warm southerly air flows over Alaska and Western Canada has also transported an inordinate amount of highly anomalous heat into the Arctic.

These warm ridges have been consistently reinforced by high amplitude Jet Stream waves. During the Winter of 2013-2014, these same atmospheric heat transport engines collapsed the polar vortex, causing melt, avalanches, and 60 degree F temperatures for Alaska in January all while pulling Arctic air down over the Eastern United States throughout the winter months.

For Alaska, Western Canada and the Eastern US, it is a general pattern that has now lasted nearly 14 months. A blocking pattern that weather historians everywhere should take note of as a general evidence of atmospheric changes resulting from human-caused warming and a validation in observation to the findings of Dr. Jennifer Francis.

Early Season Melt in the Bering Sea

This warm air flow also severely retarded sea ice formation in the Bering Sea between Alaska and far Eastern Russia throughout winter. Now, this poorly formed ice is rapidly melting out as a barrage of storms and continued warm, southerly air flows result in ongoing degradation. Recent observations show a rather extreme loss of sea ice in this region over the past 18 days:

Bering and Chukchi Seas April 10Bering and Chukchi Seas April 27

(LANCE-MODIS comparison of Bering and Chukchi Sea Ice on April 10 [left image] and April 27 [right image]. Image source: LANCE MODIS. Hat Tip to Arctic Sea Ice Forums Poster Frivolousz21.)

As we can clearly see in the two images above, both snow cover and sea ice have experienced severe losses in this region from April 10 to April 27. Warm southerly winds have continued to push ice northward enhancing melt as temperatures typically remained near or above -2 C (the temperature at which sea ice begins to melt) in most regions. Snow losses amplified warmer than freezing water flows into adjacent ocean basins, also enhancing sea ice losses as land masses continued to warm.

Heat Pulse for Bering, Chukchi, East Siberian and Beaufort Seas

Over the next six days, this general warming trend is expected to spike, bringing with it a front of much hotter than usual temperatures extending along a broad zone of the Arctic Ocean north of Canada, Alaska and East Siberia and nearly reaching the North Pole at maximum extent.

The pulse is expected to bring 18-32 F above average temperatures for this region, pushing daily highs into the mid 30s to mid 40s over the Arctic Ocean and to nearly 50 F over waters directly adjacent to the Alaskan coast. GFS model runs for May 2, 2014 show this powerful warm air invasion, indicated by the wave of green on the map below, extending well into the Arctic Ocean with extraordinarily warm temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s over a broad swath of Central Alaska:

Arctic Heatwave Friday May 2

(GFS temperature model for May 2, 2014. Image source: University of Maine.)

Such an intense warm pulse will greatly involve the Bering, the Chukchi, the East Siberian and Beaufort Seas. It will likely most significantly impact sea ice in regions of the Bering Sea and near-shore zones of the Chukchi and Beaufort. The early season heat wave may also enhance the ice weakening process throughout the affected zone by softening the sea ice and by creating the potential for melt pond formation.

The Major Impact of Early Season Melt Pond Formation

During May and June, early melt pond formation can have a dramatic impact on sea ice melt much later in the season as the darker pools reduce ice sheet albedo serving as a kind of heat lens that bores down through the ice surface. Eventually, the melt ponds connect, forming larger and larger volumes over the ice face until the sea ice is almost completely overwhelmed. In the last phase, melt breaks down through the ice surface to contact the ocean. At this point, the sea ice is typically splintered into much smaller and disassociated fragments.

A recent paper in the journal Nature has found that a multiplication of such early season melt ponds may well be a predictive indicator of end season sea ice extent, area and volume values come September.

The paper notes:

Our simulations show that melt ponds start to form in May, a maximum extent of 18% is reached in the climatological mean at mid-July, and there are hardly any exposed ponds left by mid-August. The strong interannual variability and the positive trend are striking. Whereas in 1996, the year with the highest September ice extent since 1979, the maximum pond fraction reaches only 11%, in 2012, the year with the lowest September ice extent, up to 34% of the sea ice is covered by ponds.

Neven over at the Arctic Ice Blog recently provided an excellent assessment of the impact of melt ponds which is available here.

Massive interconnection of sea ice melt ponds

(Major expanse of dark sea ice melt ponds in the Chukchi Sea during June of 2010. Image source: The Polaris Project.)

Achilles Heel For the Arctic During the Summer of 2014

The most recent hot pulse for this region may just be the first of many as the spring and summer melt season progresses. Jet Stream patterns continue to remain fixed, delivering much hotter than normal temperatures throughout the Western Canadian, Alaskan, and East Siberian regions. Furthermore, snow cover losses for these regions are particularly well advanced further enhancing the likelihood of warm air invasions from these rapidly heating continental zones. Anomalously large and extreme early season fires may also result in a degree of albedo loss as smoke and soot is drawn northward to darken both remaining snow cover and sea ice.

As such, this zone represents a kind of sea ice Achilles heel as the 2014 melt season progresses. If we do see major losses and a progression toward record melt, it will likely come as a result of extreme weather patterns emerging from the continental zones spanning East Siberia, Alaska and Western Canada.

Links:

LANCE MODIS

Arctic Sea Ice Forums

University of Maine

Global Forecast System Model

More on Melt Ponds

September Sea Ice Minimum Predicted By Sea Ice Melt Pond Fraction

 

 

NOAA: El Nino is Coming. Extreme Weather, New Global High Temperature Records to Likely Follow.

In the masterfully constructed fantasy world of Westeros, George R.R. Martin’s characters have a saying — Winter is Coming.

The words are spoken with an air of dread as winters in this realm can extend for years, starve entire cities, and push civilizations to the brink. In a world impacted by human climate change, the words El Nino might be uttered with a similar dread, as it foreshadows a dumping of Pacific Ocean heat back into an already warming atmosphere.

The result is that most moderate to strong El Nino years are record hot years, pushing the global temperature average ever higher through a cycle of natural variability warped toward hot by human greenhouse gas forcing. And, in fact, even two of the recent weak El Nina years, 2005 and 2010, were both hottest years on record:

gistemp_nino_s

(NASA GISS temperature graph showing global increases since 1950 reflecting El Nino, La Nina, and ENSO neutral years. Image source: NASA GISS.)

These new record high temperatures occurred during a period when cold water upwelling in the Pacific was particularly strong. Driven by the most powerful trade winds on record, this ocean surface and atmosphere mixing dumped an unprecedented amount of heat into Pacific waters. It is a period known as negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation and it usually reflects a time of cooling for the atmosphere. But, despite this rather intense period of heat transfer from atmosphere to ocean, the atmosphere remained at or near record hot levels, only slightly slowing in its rate of upward rise.

El Nino is Coming

Now, according to reports from NOAA, the waters just below the surface of the Eastern Pacific are starting to warm and rise. This warm water pulse, known as a Kelvin Wave, is proceeding from west to east even as it is rising from the depths. The source of these warm waters is a deep, hot pool in the Central and Western Pacific. A pool of warmth that has been intensified over the last 14 years by a near constant bombardment of above normal ocean surface temperatures. The hot ocean waters evaporated, becoming more heavily burdened with saline and eventually sank far into the depths.

Now, as the trade winds have weakened and westerlies sporadically began to emerge, this pool of hot water was drawn eastward by upwelling currents near the South American Continent. Should these hotter waters break the surface, the world will experience a moderate to strong El Nino along with global atmospheric temperatures that are likely to be the hottest on record.

From the NOAA ENSO forecast:

While all models predict warming in the tropical Pacific, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether El Niño will develop during the summer or fall. If westerly winds continue to emerge in the western equatorial Pacific, the development of El Niño would become more likely. However, the lower forecast skill during the spring and overall propensity for cooler conditions over the last decade still justify significant probabilities for ENSO-neutral. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall.

Meanwhile, the latest Climate Prediction Center forecast now shows a 52% chance that El Nino will form by the months of October, November and December:

CPC ENSO forecast

(CPC ENSO forecast through December of 2014. Image source: IRI CPC)

This is slight increase of about 2% from even the late February analysis.

It’s worth noting that though continued forecast agreement across agencies through early March provides increased likelihood of El Nino’s emergence later this year, spring forecasts are typically somewhat unreliable due to atmospheric instability. In addition, the Pacific Ocean remaining in a negative PDO state over the last 14 years also produces some uncertainty in the forecast.

“Impressive” Subsurface Warming

In addition to models showing an increased chance of El Nino starting in April and rising through November, projections imply that this El Nino, should it emerge, may be the strongest in over a decade. As noted above, a very large pool of warm water is rising up from the depths. Meanwhile, model runs show sea surface temperatures warming to an average deviation above 1.25 degrees Celsius with some showing values above 2.5 C. Such moderate to strong values, should they emerge, could produce the warmest conditions for the Eastern Pacific since 1998, a powerful event that spiked surface water temperatures for that region up to 2.9 C above normal.

Kelvin Wave Subsurface Temperatures

(Strong Kelvin Wave spreads eastward and features subsurface temperature anomalies in the range of 4-6 C above average in a wide zone at 150 depth. Note the wave beginning to push above 60 meters in a region near the Eastern Pacific during late February. Image source: NOAA.)

Mark Halpert, acting director at the Climate Prediction Center, noted that subsurface warming was “impressive” and seemed quite confident for early spring that this region of the world was developing toward a substantial El Nino event later this year.

Globe to Warm. Amped Hydrological Cycle, Sea Ice Loss to Play a Role in El Nino Induced Weather Swings?

Should the predicted El Nino emerge and be as strong as average model values indicate, global surface temperatures could rise by between .05 and .15 degrees Celsius, pushing climatology into a range of .85 to .95 degrees Celsius above 1880s values. This would be a substantial jump for a single year, resulting in yet one more large shift toward an ever more extreme climate.

Perhaps also as concerning is the fact that El Nino often results in severe weather shifts around the globe. With drought and flood events already being amplified by a 6% increase in the hydrological cycle since 1880 and with a massive reduction in Arctic sea ice coverage playing havoc with the Jet Stream, adding an excess of heat over hundreds of thousands of square miles of Eastern Pacific waters is likely to further increase instability.

As examples, the last, rather mild, El Nino of 2010 coincided with one of the worst heatwaves and wildfire outbreaks ever experienced in Russia, while the powerful 1998 El Nino battered California with a winter-long series of extraordinarily intense storms.

Flattened Jet Stream Aims Storm Track at West Coast

(El Nino flattens and amplifies storm track while aiming it at the US West Coast. In combination with already excessive atmospheric moisture levels driven by human-caused warming, such a situation can result in an extraordinarily extreme progression of storms for California in the event that a strong El Nino combines with human-warming driven weather alterations. Image source: ZoomRadar.)

For the potentially arising El Nino, farmers in California may experience a switch from extreme drought conditions to extreme deluge. The result of a flattening pattern in the Pacific Jet Stream that tends to coincide with El Nino to funnel a river of Pacific moisture directly over the US West Coast. With the hydrological cycle already amped up by human-caused warming, such a large moisture dump could be even worse than those previously experienced.

As observed in 2010, high temperature anomalies over Central Asia that typically coincide with El Nino can, in the current climate state, result in severe droughts and wildfire outbreaks. This could result in an expanding zone of drought and fire as well as produce a troubling hot air pool that could occasionally spill into the Arctic. If the pattern emerges during summer or early fall, the result could be both record sea ice melt and severe heatwaves, wildfires and droughts from the center of the Eurasian Continent all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

It’s worth noting that both increased rates of evaporation and very low levels of Arctic sea ice could amplify some aspects of El Nino induced weather extremes. So the combination of spiking global temperatures and adding yet more weather instability to an already amped up system could make a moderate to strong 2014 El Nino a severe event indeed.

Links:

IRI CPC

NOAA

Dr. Jeff Masters: El Nino Coming in 2014?

El Nino Watch Alert

NASA GISS

British Isles Endure Endless Barrage of Storms: North Atlantic Riled By Human Warming Forecast to Assault UK With At Least Three More Powerful Cyclones Over Next 7 Days

British Isles Beset By Tempests on February 5, 2014

(The British Isles, upper right, beset by tempests on February 5, 2014. One storm is located over the western coasts of the UK as two convergent storms lurk to the northwest and southwest respectively. Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

Never-ending storms.

It’s been the litany for the United Kingdom ever since December unleashed her fury on the island nation’s rocky coasts. Then, the isles witnessed their windiest month ever in a series of storm events that threw about 100 ton boulders and reshaped coastal cliffs as if they were child’s toys. A month later, the wettest January on record cut off entire towns from road transport while flooding thousands of hectares of low-lying farmland. Now, with 23 straight days of rain occurring in January and with February hot on its heels, it appears that the UK may see its wettest winter in at least 100 years. 

The severe weather tally listed by the UK Met Office just goes on and on. Some highlights:

  • December was the 5th wettest month on record. January was the wettest. Combined, the January-December period was the wettest such period for at least 100 years.
  • There were more days of rain for January than for any month dating back 100 years.
  • For Southern England the period since December 12th was likely the wettest in 258 years.
  • Five months (153 days) worth of typical rainfall occurred in the 50 day period from December 12 to January 31.

This week, according to reports from BBC News, the most recent major storm of February 4-6 had cut off rail transport to a section of southwestern England even as coastal towns were besieged by mountainous surf and tens of thousands again lost power. The endless assault of wind, waves and rain also left buildings damaged, destroyed or undercut even as numerous coastal towns were left awash in the rising surf. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Dawlish bore the heaviest blows as a massive sea wall protecting these coastal towns suffered severe damage. The rail line, riding along the back of the sea wall, was severed on Wednesday when a section of the wall was ripped out by battering waves and the overlaying rail buckled due to loss of support. A train, stranded on the tracks due to this damage, was battered by waves for nearly an hour before the passengers could be evacuated.

UK Coast Storm

(Massive waves over-top the sea wall to inundate Chesil Beach in Dorset, England. Image source: Paul McEvily.)

The ongoing assault of extreme weather has finally spurred an anemic UK government into action — calling up the military and releasing 230 million pounds in emergency funds. The aim is to provide effective response to the current disaster in a long string that has now extended to nearly two months and continues to serve up powerful storms delivering heavy rains and hurricane-force winds with almost bi-weekly frequency.

Conservatives, who had been ideologically opposed to responses to human-caused climate change (which they seem to believe they can wish away), appear to have been caught flat-fooded by the recent string of disasters as the government had cut funding to flood prevention efforts by more than 10% over 2013. These cuts took place at the same time that some of the wettest spring-time weather on record abruptly switched to extreme summer drought and wildfires and as climatologists were increasingly warning of severe weather risks for both the UK and Europe as the globe continued to warm. Climate change, on the other hand, suffered from no such lack of clarity — battering England with a two month period of record shattering weather that is likely to extend at least through February.

Three more strong storms on the way

After so long an intense period of storminess, one would expect a bit of respite. For what the UK has suffered amounts to the fury of a nearly two month long hurricane. But there is yet no rest for storm-ravaged England. NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center, the Euro, and the GFS models all predict a powerful 950 mb storm to rush into England on the 8th. This storm is expected to be at least as potent as the most recent disaster with a wide field of hurricane force winds and heavy rains:

A_48hrbw

(The 48 hour forecast from NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center hows a 950 mb low centered directly over the UK on February 8th. This storm is predicted to bring hurricane force winds and heavy rains to the already battered British Isles. Image source: Ocean Prediction Center/NOAA.)

Just 3 days later, on the 11th, the Euro model shows another 950 mb or stronger storm ravaging the English coast. And that storm has barely time to leave before a 958 mb tempest arrives hot on its heels by February 14th. So as far as the 10 day model runs extend, we are still in a situation of wall-to-wall storminess of hurricane intensity for England.

Greenland melt, warming tropics, a slowing Gulf Stream and a Mangled Jet

So what brought us to this pass? And what can we expect for the future?

For almost two decades, climate scientists have warned that a combination of Greenland melt, a relative cooling and freshening of the North Atlantic near Greenland and a slowing of the Gulf Stream would likely result in a number of increasingly severe storms. In the long-term model runs, these storms became even more intense as the tropics warmed and the ice-berg effect caused the area near Greenland to cool. The ever-increasing temperature differentials were predicted to cause major instability. It was the likelihood that massive storms would result from this interplay of increasing heat and increasing melt that, in part, spurred James Hansen to write his seminal work The Storms of My Grandchildren.

More recently, scientists such as Dr. Jennifer Francis have warned that polar sea ice retreat was causing in a weakening of the Jet Stream, creating the potential for very severe weather situations during the Fall, Winter, and Spring months as well as heightening the number of more persistent weather patterns called blocking patterns. In addition, since 2004, we have observed a slowing of the Gulf Stream by 10-15% even as Greenland melt rapidly intensified.

These changes, by 2012-2013 appeared to be, with increasing frequency, delivering severe weather to Europe. During this time, the region suffered one of its most severe Winter-Spring periods on record. And with the English storms, the Italian floods and the Balkan snows, 2013-2014 looks like a disastrous repeat.

Unfortunately, we are likely just at the start of a period of increasingly severe weather. Greenland melt will continue to ramp up, the Gulf Stream will continue to weaken, the Jet Stream will undergo radical change as the center of cold weakens and bounces around the Northern Hemisphere, trying to find a home. And human caused global warming will continue to add heat energy, increased rates of evaporation, and instability to the equation. So we are in the period where the storms grow worse and worse over time. And this is a fact we had better get used to. Something we had better prepare for and do our best to mitigate. For it is not something a comfortable denial can simply wish away.

Links:

NASA/Lance-Modis

The UK Witnesses its Stormiest Months on Record

UK Met Office Shows Record-Shattering Winter Weather

UK Storms Destroy Rail Line and Leave Thousands Without Power

Paul McEvily

Ocean Prediction Center/NOAA

How Global Warming Weakens the Jet Stream and Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Cause Extreme Weather

Weakening Gulf Stream Causing East Coast Sea Level Rise

Greenland’s Record of Increasing Melt

Thousands Driven From Homes by European Floods

Mangled Jet Stream Brings Worst Storms in Five Decades to Sichuan China; Approach of Super Typhoon Soulik to Result in Hybrid Rain Superstorm?

A persistent south-north flow of the Jet Stream has dredged moisture up from the Indian Ocean, India and Bangladesh and deposited it in a deluge that has persisted over Sichuan, China for at least the past five days. Rainfall in many areas were the worst seen since weather records began in 1954. In one example, the city of Dujiangyan experienced 37 inches of rainfall over the course of 40 hours.

The floods forced nearly 100,000 people to evacuate and have impacted at least 2 million people across the region. Over 200 people are feared dead or missing. With some towns buried under as much as 20 feet of water, thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed or damaged with transportation brought to a stand-still in many of the effected regions. In hard-hit Dujiangyan, a local resort was buried when a hillside collapsed, burying the area to tree-top level in mud and debris and spurring the evacuation of 352 tourists. Raging floodwaters also caused a nearby bridge collapse that sent at least six vehicles into raging flood waters.

In the video below, provided by KIDgrownup, we can see the raging floodwaters washing away buildings and heavy equipment as people flee the disaster site:

Changed Jet Stream Causes Dangerous, Persistent Weather Pattern as Super Typhoon Approaches

A dwindling, but still significant, number of media sources continue to claim that we cannot attribute single events such as the most recent Sichuan Floods to climate change. Unfortunately, this claim is simply untrue. Climate is a measure of weather over a given area during a long period of time. As climate changes so does the weather. In Europe, for example, major flood events are now twice as likely as they were forty years ago. This 100% increase in floods can be directly attributed to changes in Europe’s climate and, as such, fully 50% of each new major flood is, therefore attributable to climate change. And the fact that the most extreme floods are getting more extreme can also be attributed to climate change. In this case, saying a single record flood event, like the current Sichuan flood, cannot be attributed to climate change is at least 50% untrue. Would a flood like this have occurred, eventually, if climate hadn’t changed? Probably. But it likely would have happened 50, 100, 200 years or more later. Would it have happened this year, the way it did, without climate change? Absolutely not.

At the micro level, we can also look at weather patterns and clearly point out how they are not normal and how they’ve changed as a result of human-caused climate impacts. In the example of this week’s Sichuan Floods, the Jet Stream created conditions where heavy rains, so far, have stalled over Sichuan to inundate the region.

Sichuan Floods July 8

(Sichuan Floods, July 8. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In the above image we can see a thick blot of clouds hovering over Sichuan in Central China. This dense band of clouds is the result of a cut off upper air flow of the Jet Stream forming a strong, persistent upper level disturbance. To the south, we can see a broad band of clouds and moisture being drawn into the system from the Indian ocean and over India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam. To the east, a tropical system in the Korean Sea also contributes moisture to feed this large storm.

What is most unusual about this particular weather pattern is that it doesn’t move. And we can see this when we switch to today’s Lance-Modis shot. The below image is 4 days later than the July 8 shot. But the storm over Central China has hardly budged.

Sichuan Floods July 11

(Sichuan Floods July 11. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In this shot, the cut off upper level flow in the Jet Stream remains, the dense cloud pack over Central China remains, the strong upper level low remains, and the moisture flow from the Indian Ocean and related regions remain. Ominously, the only marked difference in this shot is the looming approach of super typhoon Soulik from the China Sea. This major typhoon packs winds in excess of 140 miles per hour and could cause severe damage to Taiwan. However, it’s the ability of this system to deliver moisture into an already moisture rich upper level air flow that may result in even worse conditions for Eastern and Central China over the next few days as the storm is projected to make landfall in Eastern China, then track as far as 200 miles west of Shanghai. At this point, some weather models, including the ECMWF ensemble, show Soulik getting absorbed by the cut-off upper level low now parked over China. Were this to happen, the resulting rain event could be far more substantial than even the record floods seen over the past few days.

The Climate Change Link To Extreme Weather

So how did climate change create the conditions in which this dangerous situation emerged?

  1. The upper level Jet Stream was caused to meander due to a climate change induced loss of sea ice and summer snow cover.
  2. These changes resulted in a slower progression of weather patterns and more cut-off upper level disturbances.
  3. The added atmospheric heat content added both moisture and instability, adding fuel for storms like this one.
  4. Increased ocean temperatures made moisture and heat delivery from ocean systems and tropical cyclones more likely.

Without these conditions, the Sichuan floods were unlikely to have happened with such force, violence and to have been so persistent and long-lasting. And now, a bad situation is made worse via the ocean delivery of a super typhoon, just one of many more frequent storms to plague this region over the last 40 years. An increased frequency a recent scientific study also attributes to climate change.

Hybrid rain superstorm to form over China? Hopefully, not. But, at this point, things aren’t looking too good.

Links:

Lance-Modis

Rainstorms Flood Sichuan China

China Floods Death Toll Rises

Taiwan Evacuates 2,000 Tourists as Super Typhoon Soulik Looms

ECMWF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Season 2013: More Powerful Storms Expected

Sandy_Oct28_2012_GOES13_Image_300

(Hybrid Monster Sandy Bears Down on US East Coast)

According to reports from NOAA, an ‘extremely active’ hurricane season lies on the horizon just one year after an unprecedented and freakish hybrid hurricane Sandy devastated the US East Coast.

Overall, forecasters expect between 13 and 20 named storms with 3-6 major hurricanes potentially in the offing. The average season hosts 12 named storms. So these numbers may well be harbingers for a dangerous year.

“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time.” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”

This is a dire forecast, especially coming one year after Sandy. Usually, natural variation will bring a pause in activity after years involving powerful storms. However, the Northeast US has suffered two major storms in two years. Now, forecasters are calling for yet another year where powerful storms threaten US shores.

Conditions for powerful storms come from a number of factors. The first is that Atlantic Ocean water temperatures remain well above average in most regions. African dust, which tends to suppress storm development, is less and less prevalent. ENSO conditions in the Pacific remain neutral — La Nina tends to enhance Atlantic storm development while El Nino tends to suppress it. All these conditions point toward a more active year.

One factor not taken into account for current official forecasts is the present state of the polar jet stream. That said, meteorologists and climatologists have been presented with quite a lot to chew on as a new hurricane season emerges under a regime of rapid Arctic changes. Erosion of sea ice has resulted in greater dips in the jet. The result is that polar frontal systems are more likely to encounter tropical systems steaming northward. As such, the formation of storms similar to Sandy becomes more likely. With sea ice values low and going lower, it appears that the next few years will serve as a test to determine if this entirely new atmospheric state will result in a greater number of these powerful hybrid storms.

The atmospheric basis for the formation of such storms, however, is already in evidence with powerful alterations to the polar jet resulting in a severe winter in Europe and abnormal warmth for the US west coast and western Canada. Let’s hope these dips don’t line up in such a way as to make polar and tropical storms meet again as they did last fall.

Links:

NOAA

Very Bad or Terrible? What a Reality-Based Climate Change Debate Would Look Like

We are already experiencing bad climate change impacts: sea ice melt, blocking patterns that bring one hundred year storms once or twice a year, expanding drought zones, acidifying oceans, tightening world food production, and devastating heat waves and fire seasons. Four hundred thousand people are dying each year as a result of climate change. More than 1.2 trillion dollars are lost.

That’s what’s happening now. Bad.

And things are bound to get worse. But if you were listening to climate change deniers, you’d still hear them whistling merrily past the graveyard. To them, climate change still isn’t real and certainly doesn’t require a response.

But if you take these people, who clearly are living in a world of someone else’s invention and not the real one, out of the equation, then what do you have?

Two sets of scientists. One set who’re saying things will likely continue to grow slowly worse until they become very bad or those pointing toward growing evidence that what human greenhouse gas emissions are causing is bound to be downright terrible. And both appear to be saying that carbon emissions should be reduced as rapidly and as soon as is reasonably possible.

These are the two rational sides of the climate debate. And, therefore, these are the definitions we should be arguing over:

1. Will climate change impacts be very bad or terrible?

2. How fast can we reduce worldwide carbon emissions?

3. How soon can we impose a carbon tax?

4. What actions should we take to begin adapting to the very bad or terrible changes in store?

That’s what a rational climate debate would look like. Not this, as weird as our carbon emissions make the weather, debate between rational scientists and quacks who can’t even stick their finger in the air to tell which way the wind is blowing. Between Congressmen like Inholfe, who’s turning oil company campaign contributions into a political war waged against the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon, and NASA Scientist James Hansen who, daily, works to create policies that will prevent a terrible global condition called “Venus Syndrome.”

Take a recent article in the New Scientist as an example. In the article, entitled Climate Change: It’s Even Worse Than We Thought New Scientist states:

Five years ago, the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change painted a gloomy picture of our planet’s future. As climate scientists gather evidence for the next report, due in 2014, Michael Le Page gives seven reasons why things are looking even grimmer.

These seven reasons include:

1. The Arctic is warming far faster than expected. Sea ice could be gone within the next decade, seventy years faster than IPCC 2007 predicted. Even worse, the Arctic is setting off a series of amplifying feedbacks that are bound to make the world hotter faster.

2. Scientists knew climate change would make the weather worse. But the weather is even worse than expected.

3. Some scientists had predicted that global warming would increase food production. Extreme droughts and severe weather are instead causing massive crop damages and an increasingly severe food crisis.

4. Greenland’s rapid loss of ice means we’re in for at least 1 meter of sea level rise by end of century. (For my part, I think this number is also still too conservative. I would put the number, more likely, at more than 3 meters by century’s end without rapid reductions in carbon emissions.)

5. Half of human CO2 emissions are absorbed by Earth’s carbon sinks. But this absorption is ending as the sinks are beginning to become sources. Most notably, the 2007 IPCC report did not include carbon contributions now emerging in larger and larger volumes from the Arctic permafrost and methane hydrates on sea beds throughout the world.

6. We could avoid climate disaster by very rapidly reducing carbon emissions to zero. Instead, we are increasing carbon emissions.

7. If the worst climate predictions are realized, vast sections of the globe will become too hot for human life.

(Hat tip to Joe Romm for his own excellent analysis of this article.)

These assertions come alongside a former UN climate chief’s statement that the most recent IPCC report (due by 2014) will scare the wits out of everyone and on the heels of a New York Times piece entitled “Is This The End?” which, in its first paragraph, quoted T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Wasteland” saying “Fear death by water.”

It seems there’s a growing awareness emerging among mainstream media sources that climate change is, indeed, a dire emergency we need to deal with now. Let’s hope the policy makers, who still have the ship pointed headlong toward disaster, are listening. Let’s hope the debate shifts to ‘how bad is the problem?’ ‘how swiftly can we respond?’ and away from this silly counterpoint between highly rational scientists and the professional deniers and opportunistic politicians puffed up on donations and funds proffered by fossil fuel special interests.

We really, really don’t have much time. And it will be absolutely necessary to make changes with all due urgency.

Links:

http://www.newscientist.com/special/worse-climate

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/opinion/sunday/is-this-the-end.html?hp

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/27/1241161/senator-inhofe-and-the-heartland-institute-roll-out-underwhelming-campaign-to-slash-the-epa/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/26/1219981/new-scientist-7-reasons-climate-change-is-even-worse-than-we-thought/

Arctic Refreeze Still Slow; Ice Area, Extent, At Record Lows For the Date; Storms Pulling Warm Air Up From South

Today, Arctic sea ice is currently at its record low for the date in all measures for extent and area. Cyrosphere Today is showing sea ice area at 3.57 million square kilometers. This is 270,000 square kilometers below the record low set for this date back in 2007. Sea ice extent, according to JAXA, is also about 350,000 square kilometers below the record low for today set in 2007 as well.

Refreeze has been at the pace of about 75,000 square kilometers per day. If this pace continues, the Arctic will experience record low or near record low sea ice coverage through much of the fall.

We have seen strong heat transport into the Arctic this year with temperatures above average over most of the Arctic. The below graph shows temperatures as high as 15-17 degrees Celsius above average covering broad swaths of the Arctic Ocean. These large areas are, likely, remaining warm due to heat transfer through the, mostly unfrozen, ocean surface and via heat transport of warmer air from the south by an ongoing change in the polar wind pattern.

One of the primary vehicles of heat transport this year has been storms. Currently, a moderate Arctic cyclone is circulating in an area just north of the Canadian Archipelago. Its convective swirl is drawing moisture and warmer air up from the south and depositing it over open water and over regions currently attempting re-freeze. You can see the convective swirl of heat energy associated with this storm in the temperature graph below.

Notice the curlicue pattern of green and blue as warmer air invades from the south, displacing colder air to the north. Another interesting and concerning feature on this map is the fact that cold temperatures have displaced toward the south, near Greenland. Meanwhile, the northern geographic pole has become prone to warmer temperature fluxes and incursions from the south.

These observations appear to be a validation of the new trend of heat transport into the Arctic, increasing rate of Arctic temperature rise, more rapid melt, and a rising risk of extreme weather due to a change in circumpolar wind patterns identified in a recent report from NOAA.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/cgi-bin/seaice-monitor.cgi

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20121010_arcticwinds.html

Persistent Global Warming Induced Drought Threatens Winter Crops

 

A persistent drought, that scientists are saying has been made worse by global warming, is now threatening the nation’s winter crops.

According to the US Drought Monitor, 64% of the US is now suffering from some level of drought. Though the overall area of drought fell slightly last week, regions of the US West and heartland experienced intensifying drought. This persistence of broad areas and intensification in critical regions is contributing to anxiety over US winter crops. And many key states, including Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa are already experiencing impacts.

According to CBS’s Money Watch:

Dry conditions continue to intensify in Kansas, where extreme drought now covers the entire south-central portion of the state, according to Thursday’s update released by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Those parched environs are stalling growth of winter wheat. The 65 percent of that crop planted in Kansas as of last Sunday was slightly above the average pace, though a below-average 25 percent of that emerged. Less than one-third of Nebraska’s winter wheat fields have germinated, 12 days behind the norm.

The new threat to US crops comes on the back of severe summer losses to the nation’s corn crop. These losses have caused yields to drop to 122 bushels per ache, the lowest average per acre since 1995. Overall, industry use of corn will need to be negotiated due to tightening supplies — a form of industry rationing that takes place during times of constraint. Total US corn production is expected to be 10.71 billion bushels, down from last month’s estimate and the lowest since 2006. Current US corn supply is the lowest in 17 years — three weeks of forward supply. Drought persisting through winter will hit wheat crops as well, resulting in even more tightness in the grain markets.

Unfortunately, the long-term forecast is for global warming to result in worsening overall drought conditions for the US. Serious efforts are needed to prevent further damage to US farmers and US agriculture. This year’s drought, the worst in 55 years, comes on the back of the fifth driest period for the US west in 500 years. Climate experts only show worsening conditions if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20121011/us-drought-harvest-estimate/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57530523/drought-holds-steady-clouding-winter-crop-outlook/

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1633.html

 

Arctic Sea Ice Still Below 2007 Record Low Extent in Many Measures

And so the Arctic refreeze that began on September 19th, after a summer of devastating melt, continues apace. Temperatures are falling throughout the Arctic as the sun dips lower and lower on the horizon, beginning a phase that will eventually result in the total darkness of winter. As you can see on the map above, snowfall is starting to blanket land masses in the region. But an ominously large and dark open expanse of water remains.

Extent, Area Still Close to or Below Previous Records For End of Summer

It is October 5th, 16 days after refreeze began and 20 days after a typical melt season’s end. Yet some measures are still showing Arctic sea ice below past record lows set in 2007. NSIDC and IMS are still showing ice extent values just below the 2007 level. With that record breached on August 25th of this year, we have experienced 41 days, or 11% of the entire year, with sea ice extent values below the previous record low set in 2007.

What this means is that large, dark areas of ocean are having a longer time to absorb heat from sunlight and remain warm for longer periods. What it also means is that a greater degree of endothermic cooling is needed to freeze a much larger expanse of ocean. The result is that much of this cooling work goes to refreeze and less and less goes to thickening the ice. This combination of getting ever further behind the refreeze curve and having to refreeze in a warming ocean sets up the Arctic for even deeper melt in the years following.

All measures show today is a record low for this date in history. Sea ice area is 3.1 million square kilometers below the 1980 value and sea ice extent is currently 3.5 million square kilometers below the 1980 value for today (NSIDC). Sea ice extent is also about 800,000 square kilometers below the record low set in 2007 for today’s date. Sea ice area is about 480,000 square kilometers below the 2007 value for today’s date. These values are roughly equal to the minimum departure seen at melt season’s end. So, though refreeze has begun, the gap, for the moment, remains. However, as the refreeze season progresses, all measures except volume should appear to show some recovery as the ice spreads out with seasonal cooling. We will have to see how much the severe blow that occurred this summer affects overall winter sea ice area, extent, and volume.

New Volume Measure Shows 700 Cubic Kilometers Lost This Year

In my summary post for the epic melt that occurred in 2012 and its implications for melt in the years to follow, I included the final volume measurements for the melt season’s end in September. But it is also worth providing a summary for you here.

Overall, volume fell to 3,300 cubic kilometers, 700 cubic kilometers lower than the record low of 4,000 cubic kilometers set last year. Average yearly volume losses since 2007 are such that, should they continue at the current rate, the Arctic experiences an ice-free state at the end of summer by 2018. Exponential volume loss trends still point toward a potential ice-free state as early as 2015.
These two dates are critical in determining the Arctic’s response both to current melt rates and feedbacks. Should they materialize, we will know that all ice in the Arctic is headed for a rapid melt far sooner than predicted by the major science bodies. And this particular case has very severe implications for Greenland and for world sea level rise.

And a Few Words on Arctic Methane

Arctic methane concentrations will continue to climb through the fall and into early winter. We shall keep an eye on these readings since, as satellite data shows, their concentrations have been growing over the years and because they are one of the number of amplifying feedbacks occurring in the Arctic environment. The size of past pulses and their relative rate of growth is some cause for watchfulness, so we will do our best to track this year’s methane emission peak given the limited tools available.

The most recent methane data for Barrow Alaska is posted below (updated on September 29th, 2012). Note the three outliers at the upper right corner of the graph that caused some concern earlier in September but were confirmed to be from a likely human source. We will also be posting satellite images and comparisons from the University of Maryland as they become available.

Links:

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

http://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/iadv/graph.php?code=BRW&program=ccgg&type=ts

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

As of Tuesday, 65% Of US Still Suffering From Historic Drought, Grass Thefts Reported in New Mexico

 

According to the most recent report by NOAA’s Drought Monitor, about 65% of the US is still suffering from drought conditions. Though a storm system bringing tropical rains to the east and parts of Texas helped alleviate conditions in those areas, dryness worsened for much of the west and central US this week.

Most of the US also suffered from hotter than normal temperatures, with the northeast being the only region to gain a respite from the ongoing heat.

Impacts included continued instances of wildfires throughout the west as hot and dry conditions amplified. In the north, strange swarms of pine bore beetles were seen leaving the US  in vast clouds only to settle on the forests of Canada. These clouds darkened skies and fooled many into thinking rain had come. Many experts speculated that US pine trees had been so decimated over past years by a combination of beetles, dry weather, and fires that the beetles had massed to move on to the greener north.

In an even more bizarre circumstance, reports are coming in of very high rates of grass theft occurring in New Mexico. Framers, having lost grazing land due to drought, have been cutting their neighbor’s fences and letting cattle graze illegally on nearby lands. This is a phenomena not seen before in the southwest and is just one more indication of stress due to the continued drought.

Finally, research is continuing to determine how bad the current drought and related droughts of the 2000s have become. In Temperature as a Potent Driver of Regional Forest Drought Stress and Tree Mortality (by A. Park Williams et al., Nature Climate Change, 30 September 2012), the authors note that current severe drought conditions in the Southwest — extending from 2000 to the present – are the fifth most severe since 1000 AD. The report brings to light the importance of not viewing the 2012 drought as an isolated event, but as part of a much larger drought that began during the 21rst century’s first decade and has continued and intensified as time moved forward and human caused global warming deepened.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1693.html#/supplementary-information

http://bottomline.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/03/14204843-drought-has-ranchers-reporting-rise-in-grass-yes-actual-grass-thefts?lite

Pace of Refreeze Keeps Arctic Sea Ice 55-60 Percent Below 1980s Values For This Time of Year

Today, sea ice area continued a moderate rate of advance for this time of year. Overall, values increased by about 60,000 square kilometers to reach 2.82 million square kilometers, which is still below the record low set just last year. JAXA and NSIDC are also showing moderate rates of refreeze, with extent values still below records set in 2007 before they were shattered this year.

Overall, JAXA and most monitors are showing sea ice area and extent at record lows for this date and at 55-60 percent below seasonal values for this day during the 1980s.

Yesterday’s report from NSIDC had numerous interesting highlights. One included an analysis of sea ice age showing that young ice is becoming dominant as Arctic sea ice continues to decline. You can see the difference between 2007 and 2012 sea ice age in the following graph, provided by NSIDC below:

Most telling in these graphs and images is a massive loss of five year or older ice from 2007 to 2012. The result is that Arctic sea ice is even more vulnerable to melt than it was post 2007.

The Arctic has a long way to go to have any reasonable resemblance of recovery for this time of year through winter. And with temperatures beginning to fall throughout the region it does seem likely that rates of freeze will pick up a bit. However, a lot of heat energy remains locked in the water and the Arctic has a severe ice deficit to recover from. So it remains doubtful whether winter refreeze will better the Arctic’s position to endure the summer melt coming in 2013.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

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