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Connecting the Science Dots: Extreme Weather & Climate Change (Infographic)
Details here. 
Related:
'Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation' (IPCC, 2011)
(Infographic source: UCS)

Connecting the Science Dots: Extreme Weather & Climate Change (Infographic)

Details here

Related:

(Infographic source: UCS)

It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here: ‘State of the Climate: 2011 Global Surface Temperature’
From ClimateWatch Magazine:

Earth’s average annual surface temperature is higher today than it was when record-keeping began in the late 1800s, an indicator of long-term, global-scale climate warming. The red line shows how far above or below the 1981-2010 average (dashed line at zero) the combined land and ocean temperature has been each year since 1880. The data shown are one of several temperature analyses included in the State of the Climate in 2011, all of which show a warming trend.
The 2011 average global surface temperature was between 0.07 and 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer (0.13 and 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit), than the 1981–2010 average, based on a range of analyses. Including the 2011 temperature, the rate of warming since 1971 is now between 0.14° and 0.17° Celsius per decade (0.25°-0.31° Fahrenheit), and 0.71-0.77° Celsius per century (1.28°-1.39° F) since 1901.

Check out the rest of the article here.
Related:
Presentation Slides: ‘State of the Climate 2011’ (NOAA)
‘Cool Pacific Pattern Shaped 2011 Weather Extremes; Heat Dominates U.S. in 2012’ (New York Times)

(Graphic sources: NOAA) 

It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here: ‘State of the Climate: 2011 Global Surface Temperature’

From ClimateWatch Magazine:

Earth’s average annual surface temperature is higher today than it was when record-keeping began in the late 1800s, an indicator of long-term, global-scale climate warming. The red line shows how far above or below the 1981-2010 average (dashed line at zero) the combined land and ocean temperature has been each year since 1880. The data shown are one of several temperature analyses included in the State of the Climate in 2011, all of which show a warming trend.

The 2011 average global surface temperature was between 0.07 and 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer (0.13 and 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit), than the 1981–2010 average, based on a range of analyses. Including the 2011 temperature, the rate of warming since 1971 is now between 0.14° and 0.17° Celsius per decade (0.25°-0.31° Fahrenheit), and 0.71-0.77° Celsius per century (1.28°-1.39° F) since 1901.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Related:

(Graphic sources: NOAA

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Tom Toles highlights the increasing futility of denying the reality of human driven climate change. In this case, the "extremely early blooming of cherry trees" in Washington, D.C. is an example. More here, here, here,here, and here.  
(Cartoon source: Washington Post via Go Comics)

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Tom Toles highlights the increasing futility of denying the reality of human driven climate change. In this case, the "extremely early blooming of cherry trees" in Washington, D.C. is an example. More hereherehere,here, and here.  

(Cartoon source: Washington Post via Go Comics)

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. ~ Author Upton Sinclair in his book, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked  (1935)

Climate Change in Action: Greenland’s Petermann Glacier Before & After the 2010 Ice Break
In addition to the photos, an article in the Huffington Post explains that:

When a 100 square mile chunk — an area four times the size of Manhattan — broke off Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in the summer of 2010, scientists knew that it was a historic event. After all, it was the largest known calving in Greenland’s history, and the largest to occur in the Arctic in nearly 50 years.
…
Jason Box, a scientist with the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University and photographer of the 2009 image, told HuffPost that the summer of 2010 was Greenland’s warmest on record, and records have been kept since 1873.
"We’re bearing witness to abrupt climate change,” Box told HuffPost. "This isn’t in the future. It’s very much now."
To see more before and after images and to learn about the Petermann Glacier, visit the Byrd Polar Research Center. For more images of Greenland’s glaciers, click here.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Climate Change in Action: Greenland’s Petermann Glacier Before & After the 2010 Ice Break

In addition to the photos, an article in the Huffington Post explains that:

When a 100 square mile chunk — an area four times the size of Manhattan — broke off Greenland’s Petermann Glacier in the summer of 2010, scientists knew that it was a historic event. After all, it was the largest known calving in Greenland’s history, and the largest to occur in the Arctic in nearly 50 years.

Jason Box, a scientist with the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University and photographer of the 2009 image, told HuffPost that the summer of 2010 was Greenland’s warmest on record, and records have been kept since 1873.

"We’re bearing witness to abrupt climate change,” Box told HuffPost. "This isn’t in the future. It’s very much now."

To see more before and after images and to learn about the Petermann Glacier, visit the Byrd Polar Research Center. For more images of Greenland’s glaciers, click here.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Infographic: Countries that set extreme heat records in 2010 
(Sources: Weather Underground and Climate Central)

Infographic: Countries that set extreme heat records in 2010 

(Sources: Weather Underground and Climate Central)

Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles points to the ultimate ‘inconvenient truth’ for climate change deniers. They can’t hold back the flood anymore. Their arguments have too many holes. They are being overcome. By reality.

Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles points to the ultimate ‘inconvenient truth’ for climate change deniers. They can’t hold back the flood anymore. Their arguments have too many holes. They are being overcome. By reality.

CLIMATE CHANGE: FEELING THE HEAT IN 2011
It’s been a fast and furious start to the year on the climate front. Here’s a quick round up of news and links that have caught my eye so far.
.
Hot, hot heat
Last week both NASA and NOAA confirmed in independent studies that 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year on record globally. This builds on news that:

Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.

.
Silent momentum and/ or a new path(s)?
Despite clear evidence of a warming planet and soaring costs associated with more frequent natural disasters the world has yet to sign a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions (GHGs) to a level necessary for a safe operating space for humanity. December’s COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico achieved what the United Nations (UN) termed silent momentum on a number of issues including deforestation and the creation of a global fund to assist developing nations adapt to our changing climate. However, the UN and the world’s governments have little to show in terms of what ultimately matters:

A significant emissions gap exists between what is being promised by countries and what is needed to keep the rise in global temperature below two degrees Celsius, let alone move towards the 1.5-degree threshold needed to protect low-lying island states.

For those wondering, the remaining gap in the optimistic scenario is about the equivalent to the emissions of all of the world’s car, trucks and buses combined. And that’s despite the developed world likely having reached peak travel in recent years. 
It is also worth noting that the lack of meaningful progress is raising questions about the effectiveness of the 20-year-long UN COP process and carbon pricing as a vehicle to reduce GHGs. Some are advocating instead for aggressive investments in research and development to drive down the price of clean energy and make it cost competitive with dirty fossil fuels. Others are pointing to getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies as a key step in accelerating the transition to a clean energy and climate resilient future. While others, including prominent NASA climate scientist James Hansen, think a combination of a revenue neutral carbon tax, citizen activism and legal action are what is required. From what I’ve read these are issues that will not be resolved quickly.  
.
Global Weirding?
Of course, all of this is occurring at a time when weird and wild weather around the world is spurring more debate about what is and isn’t caused by climate change. Much of the US and Europe have had massive winter storms; flooding in Brisbane and much of Queensland has been called the costliest disaster in Australian history; Brazil is currently experiencing its own worst natural disaster in history with deadly flooding and mudslides; Pakistan is still reeling from last summer’s flooding that put one-fifth of the country under water and cost $9.5 billion; and Russia’s record heat, drought and fires are playing a role in spiking global food prices and resulted in an estimated 56,000 premature deaths. 
Is all of this evidence of climate change? According to climate scientists it’s impossible to say that any one particular event is definitively caused by our warming climate. However, they explain it is also likely having an influence. For example, Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics at at Potsdam University and Department Head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, explains that:

While it cannot be scientifically proven (or disproven, for that matter)  that global warming caused any particular extreme event, we can say  that global warming very likely makes many kinds of extreme weather both  more frequent and more severe.

He also points out:

The fact that heat waves like the one in Russia become more frequent and  extreme in a warmer world is easy to understand. Extreme rainfall  events will also become more frequent and intense in a warmer climate,  owing to another simple fact of physics: warm air can hold more  moisture. For each degree Celsius of warming, 7% more water is available  to rain down from saturated air masses. Drought risk al0so increases  with warming: even where rainfall does not decline, increased  evaporation dries out the soils.

In terms of warming to date Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that:

There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.

.
Clean Energy Progress
Of course, all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg on the climate front. I have not written about recent developments in climate science (e.g. climate change unstoppable for 1,000 years; current CO2 emissions on path to warming last seen 30 to 100 million years ago by 2100) or local and national mitigation or adaptation achievements. Those will be addressed in a later post. Instead, I want to close by highlighting some notable developments related to clean energy. 
The big news is that clean energy received a record $243 billion in investment in 2010, which is certainly encouraging and could have huge climate implications if the trend continues over the coming years. In an interview with Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich explains the significance of the funding:

We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500 billion per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020. What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are halfway there. 

Leaders in this area include Scotland, Brazil and Portugal, which have all taken big steps forward in the last year. But, there are none bigger or more important than China, which reduced its energy intensity per unit of GDP by an impressive 20% and set out a new 5-Year Plan, which has an explicit sustainability agenda. How this figures with their huge energy demand and efforts to build a consumption based economy remains to be seen though. Perhaps this will be explored in another post…
 
(Photo: Jalopnik)

CLIMATE CHANGE: FEELING THE HEAT IN 2011

It’s been a fast and furious start to the year on the climate front. Here’s a quick round up of news and links that have caught my eye so far.

.

Hot, hot heat

Last week both NASA and NOAA confirmed in independent studies that 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year on record globally. This builds on news that:

Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.

.

Silent momentum and/ or a new path(s)?

Despite clear evidence of a warming planet and soaring costs associated with more frequent natural disasters the world has yet to sign a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions (GHGs) to a level necessary for a safe operating space for humanity. December’s COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico achieved what the United Nations (UN) termed silent momentum on a number of issues including deforestation and the creation of a global fund to assist developing nations adapt to our changing climate. However, the UN and the world’s governments have little to show in terms of what ultimately matters:

A significant emissions gap exists between what is being promised by countries and what is needed to keep the rise in global temperature below two degrees Celsius, let alone move towards the 1.5-degree threshold needed to protect low-lying island states.

For those wondering, the remaining gap in the optimistic scenario is about the equivalent to the emissions of all of the world’s car, trucks and buses combined. And that’s despite the developed world likely having reached peak travel in recent years.

It is also worth noting that the lack of meaningful progress is raising questions about the effectiveness of the 20-year-long UN COP process and carbon pricing as a vehicle to reduce GHGs. Some are advocating instead for aggressive investments in research and development to drive down the price of clean energy and make it cost competitive with dirty fossil fuels. Others are pointing to getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies as a key step in accelerating the transition to a clean energy and climate resilient future. While others, including prominent NASA climate scientist James Hansen, think a combination of a revenue neutral carbon tax, citizen activism and legal action are what is required. From what I’ve read these are issues that will not be resolved quickly.  

.

Global Weirding?

Of course, all of this is occurring at a time when weird and wild weather around the world is spurring more debate about what is and isn’t caused by climate change. Much of the US and Europe have had massive winter storms; flooding in Brisbane and much of Queensland has been called the costliest disaster in Australian history; Brazil is currently experiencing its own worst natural disaster in history with deadly flooding and mudslides; Pakistan is still reeling from last summer’s flooding that put one-fifth of the country under water and cost $9.5 billion; and Russia’s record heat, drought and fires are playing a role in spiking global food prices and resulted in an estimated 56,000 premature deaths.

Is all of this evidence of climate change? According to climate scientists it’s impossible to say that any one particular event is definitively caused by our warming climate. However, they explain it is also likely having an influence. For example, Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics at at Potsdam University and Department Head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, explains that:

While it cannot be scientifically proven (or disproven, for that matter) that global warming caused any particular extreme event, we can say that global warming very likely makes many kinds of extreme weather both more frequent and more severe.

He also points out:

The fact that heat waves like the one in Russia become more frequent and extreme in a warmer world is easy to understand. Extreme rainfall events will also become more frequent and intense in a warmer climate, owing to another simple fact of physics: warm air can hold more moisture. For each degree Celsius of warming, 7% more water is available to rain down from saturated air masses. Drought risk al0so increases with warming: even where rainfall does not decline, increased evaporation dries out the soils.

In terms of warming to date Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that:

There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.

.

Clean Energy Progress

Of course, all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg on the climate front. I have not written about recent developments in climate science (e.g. climate change unstoppable for 1,000 years; current CO2 emissions on path to warming last seen 30 to 100 million years ago by 2100) or local and national mitigation or adaptation achievements. Those will be addressed in a later post. Instead, I want to close by highlighting some notable developments related to clean energy.

The big news is that clean energy received a record $243 billion in investment in 2010, which is certainly encouraging and could have huge climate implications if the trend continues over the coming years. In an interview with Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich explains the significance of the funding:

We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500 billion per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020. What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are halfway there. 

Leaders in this area include Scotland, Brazil and Portugal, which have all taken big steps forward in the last year. But, there are none bigger or more important than China, which reduced its energy intensity per unit of GDP by an impressive 20% and set out a new 5-Year Plan, which has an explicit sustainability agenda. How this figures with their huge energy demand and efforts to build a consumption based economy remains to be seen though. Perhaps this will be explored in another post…

 

(Photo: Jalopnik)

Climate Change Now and in the Future: Fast and Furious
The past week has seen a number of studies released looking at the current and future stability of global climate system. I sincerely hope they spur negotiators heading to COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico in December to put past differences behind them so we can get on with confronting with this massive challenge.
1) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s released its Arctic Report Card: Update for 2010 (video) examining the impacts of Arctic warming on the atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, land, Greenland and ecosystems. The study’s key findings include that:


The Arctic climate is impacting mid-latitude weather, as seen in Winter 2009-2010
Summer sea ice conditions for the previous four years are well below levels in the 1980s and 1990s
Upper ocean temperatures are showing year-to-year variability without significant trends
Low winter snow accumulation + warm spring temperatures are leading to record low snow cover duration 
Record setting high temperatures, ice melt, and glacier area loss 
Rapid environmental change threatens to disrupt current                natural cycles

Writing about the report card on the New York Times’ excellent Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin explains that:

… the frigid, untouchable Arctic etched in human history and lore is truly history,   replaced by a region that is seeing long-term warming, reductions in   sea ice and glaciers and shifts in ecosystems (not to mention   intensifying economic activity).

And points to our role in the changes:

Researchers actively studying the trends almost uniformly conclude   that, amid lots of year-to-year and decade-to-decade variability, the   human-amplified greenhouse effect is playing a growing role.

.
2) A National Center for Atmospheric Research study examining the impact of climate change on global water supplies concluded that:

… warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create  increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30  years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the  century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.


However, the study shows that the drought effects will be uneven:

… most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be  significantly drier by the 2030s. Large parts of the nation may face an  increasing risk of extreme drought during the century.
Other countries and continents that could face significant drying include:
Much of Latin America, including large sections of Mexico and Brazil
Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which could become especially dry
Large parts of Southwest Asia
Most of Africa and Australia, with particularly dry conditions in regions of Africa
Southeast Asia, including parts of China and neighboring countries
The study also finds that drought risk can be expected to decrease this  century across much of Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska, as  well as some areas in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the globe’s land  areas should be drier overall.

3) An analysis by insurer Swiss Re of the economic implications of climate change on the US Gulf Coast concluded that:

The Gulf Coast is vulnerable to growing environmental risks today with >$350 billion of cumulative expected losses by 2030
Economic losses will increase by 50-65 percent in the 2030 timeframe driven by
• economic growth and subsidence, as well as the impacts of climate change: Wind and storm surge damage from hurricanes drives significant losses in the Gulf Coast today. While the actual losses from extreme storms are uncertain in any given year, on average, the Gulf Coast faces annual losses of ~$14 billion today.
• Over the next 20 years, the Gulf Coast could face cumulative economic damages of  some $350 billion: 7 percent of total capital investment for the Gulf Coast area and 3 percent of annual GDP will go towards reconstruction activities. In the 2030 timeframe, hurricane Katrina/Rita-type years of economic impact may become a once in every generation event as opposed to once every ~100 years today. The impact of severe hurricane in the near-term could also have a significant impact on any growth and reinvestment trajectory in the region.

4) Maplecroft, a global risk firm, has released its 2011 Climate Change Vulnerability Map ranking the “vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate  change over the next 30 years”. A New Scientist article looking at the analysis identifies that:

… some of the world’s largest  and fastest-growing economies, including India, as facing the greatest  risks to their populations, ecosystems and business environments. 

A New Scientist article looking at the analysis reports that:

… although Africa is often regarded as the most vulnerable continent… the teeming plains of Asia are at greater risk in the next 30  years. Ten of the 16 most vulnerable countries are in Asia.


In the words of the great Bob Dylan the times they are a-changin’…

Climate Change Now and in the Future: Fast and Furious

The past week has seen a number of studies released looking at the current and future stability of global climate system. I sincerely hope they spur negotiators heading to COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico in December to put past differences behind them so we can get on with confronting with this massive challenge.

1) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s released its Arctic Report Card: Update for 2010 (video) examining the impacts of Arctic warming on the atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, land, Greenland and ecosystems. The study’s key findings include that:

The Arctic climate is impacting mid-latitude weather, as seen in Winter 2009-2010

Summer sea ice conditions for the previous four years are well below levels in the 1980s and 1990s

Upper ocean temperatures are showing year-to-year variability without significant trends

Low winter snow accumulation + warm spring temperatures are leading to record low snow cover duration

Record setting high temperatures, ice melt, and glacier area loss

Rapid environmental change threatens to disrupt current natural cycles

Writing about the report card on the New York Times’ excellent Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin explains that:

… the frigid, untouchable Arctic etched in human history and lore is truly history, replaced by a region that is seeing long-term warming, reductions in sea ice and glaciers and shifts in ecosystems (not to mention intensifying economic activity).

And points to our role in the changes:

Researchers actively studying the trends almost uniformly conclude that, amid lots of year-to-year and decade-to-decade variability, the human-amplified greenhouse effect is playing a growing role.

.

2) A National Center for Atmospheric Research study examining the impact of climate change on global water supplies concluded that:

… warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

However, the study shows that the drought effects will be uneven:

… most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be significantly drier by the 2030s. Large parts of the nation may face an increasing risk of extreme drought during the century.

Other countries and continents that could face significant drying include:

  • Much of Latin America, including large sections of Mexico and Brazil
  • Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which could become especially dry
  • Large parts of Southwest Asia
  • Most of Africa and Australia, with particularly dry conditions in regions of Africa
  • Southeast Asia, including parts of China and neighboring countries

The study also finds that drought risk can be expected to decrease this century across much of Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska, as well as some areas in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the globe’s land areas should be drier overall.

3) An analysis by insurer Swiss Re of the economic implications of climate change on the US Gulf Coast concluded that:

The Gulf Coast is vulnerable to growing environmental risks today with >$350 billion of cumulative expected losses by 2030

Economic losses will increase by 50-65 percent in the 2030 timeframe driven by

• economic growth and subsidence, as well as the impacts of climate change: Wind and storm surge damage from hurricanes drives significant losses in the Gulf Coast today. While the actual losses from extreme storms are uncertain in any given year, on average, the Gulf Coast faces annual losses of ~$14 billion today.

• Over the next 20 years, the Gulf Coast could face cumulative economic damages of  some $350 billion: 7 percent of total capital investment for the Gulf Coast area and 3 percent of annual GDP will go towards reconstruction activities. In the 2030 timeframe, hurricane Katrina/Rita-type years of economic impact may become a once in every generation event as opposed to once every ~100 years today. The impact of severe hurricane in the near-term could also have a significant impact on any growth and reinvestment trajectory in the region.

4) Maplecroft, a global risk firm, has released its 2011 Climate Change Vulnerability Map ranking the “vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years”. A New Scientist article looking at the analysis identifies that:

… some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, including India, as facing the greatest risks to their populations, ecosystems and business environments. 

A New Scientist article looking at the analysis reports that:

… although Africa is often regarded as the most vulnerable continent… the teeming plains of Asia are at greater risk in the next 30 years. Ten of the 16 most vulnerable countries are in Asia.

In the words of the great Bob Dylan the times they are a-changin’