Blog Archive

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Asian temperatures could rise disastrously

Profligate fossil fuel use could cause Asian temperatures to rise by 6 °C, bringing floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions.
by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, July 21, 2017

– Unrestrained climate change could have serious consequences by forcing Asian temperatures drastically upwards; it could limit economic growth and reverse recent human advances for hundreds of millions, according to a new study.
The Asian Development Bank and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research say in a new report that if humans continue to burn fossil fuels under the “business as usual” scenario, then global average temperatures could rise by 4 °C.
But over the landmass of Asia, summer temperatures could rise by 6 °C and high mountain nations such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and northwest China could register summer rises of 8 °C above historic levels. Heat-related deaths among the elderly are predicted to rise by 52,000 cases by 2050.
These devastating temperatures would be accompanied by more rain – although Pakistan and Afghanistan could become much drier – and greater vulnerability to flooding as typhoons and tropical cyclones increase in intensity.

Child hunger

Global flood losses, set at $6bn a year in 2005, could rise to $52bn by 2050, and 13 Asian cities are among the 20 worldwide that can expect the greatest flood losses in the next 30 years.
Food production could be hit and rice yields in south-east Asia, for example, could drop by 50%. Food shortages could increase the count of malnourished children in south Asia by 7m.
Coral reefs in the region could be devastated by mass bleaching. Sea levels could rise by 1.4 metres by 2100 and go on rising over the centuries by more than five metres.
“The global climate crisis is arguably the biggest challenge human civilisation faces in the 21st century, with the Asia and Pacific region at the heart of it all," said Bambang Susantono, of the Asian Development Bank.

“The Asian countries hold Earth's future in their hands. If they choose to protect themselves against dangerous climate change, they will help to save the entire planet”

“Home to two-thirds of the world's poor, and regarded as one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, countries in Asia and the Pacific are at the highest risk of plummeting into deeper poverty – and disaster – if mitigation and adaptation efforts are not quickly and strongly implemented.”
Over the last 25 years, per capita income in Asia and the Pacific has grown tenfold: so too have the cities. The world has 71 cities with more than 5m inhabitants, and 33 of these are in Asia. These 33 are now home to 348m people. By 2030, they could be sheltering 483bn, a 40% growth in 15 years. By 2030, there could be another eight megacities, four in India.
But as wealth has increased, so has inequality. The poorest are most likely to be the greatest victims of unrestrained climate change.
“The Asian countries hold Earth's future in their hands. If they choose to protect themselves against dangerous climate change, they will help to save the entire planet,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute.

Crucial actor

“The challenge is twofold. On the one hand, Asian greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced in a way that the global community can limit planetary warming to well below 2 °C, as agreed in Paris 2015.  
“Yet even adapting to 1.5 °C temperature rise is a major task. So, on the other hand, Asian countries have to find strategies for ensuring prosperity and security under unavoidable climate change within a healthy global development,” Professor Schellnhuber said.
“But note that leading the clean industrial revolution will provide Asia with unprecedented economic opportunities. And exploring the best strategies to absorb the shocks of environmental change will make Asia a crucial actor in 21st Century multilateralism.”

'Seemingly unbelievable' temperatures becoming more common in Arctic winters

Warm periods are bringing the temperature up by as much as 30 C in the middle of winter

The research vessel Lance sits in the Arctic sea ice on 17 February 2015.
The research vessel Lance sits in the Arctic sea ice on 17 February 2015. (Courtesy Paul Dodd/Norwegian Polar Institute)

by Jimmy Thomson, CBC News, July 12, 2017

Extreme warming events are blowing into the Arctic more frequently during the winter, and lasting longer, according to a new study from the American Geophysical Union. The storms have an effect on sea ice formation, and could even be linked to extreme weather in the south.
"The big takeaway for us was that these seemingly unbelievable winter temperatures close to the North Pole, close to 0 C, is not completely new — but in recent years, these patterns are increasing, and we're getting more of these storms," says lead author Dr. Robert Graham, of the Norwegian Polar Institute.
Normally, during the winter, temperatures in the High Arctic stay below –30 C. But, occasionally, a storm blows in from the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, bringing warm air with it. The resulting extreme weather contributes to melting sea ice through high temperatures and accompanying high winds.
But the effects also last beyond the event itself. By adding snow that insulates the ice from the returning cold temperatures, the storms also prevent the ice from refreezing.
"In 2017, we had the record minimum sea ice extent in March. So these two things, we believe, are going hand in hand," says Graham.

Sea ice disappearing

A lack of sea ice can cause its own problems. Open water absorbs more heat than ice, so the ocean warms even faster. That, in turn, makes it more difficult for the ice to form the following year, causing a cascade of ecological effects throughout food webs.
Warming events have been recorded as far back as 1893, when explorer Fridtjof Nansen's Fram expedition spent four years drifting in the Arctic Ocean. During that trip, the crew recorded temperatures as high as –3.7 C in March, at 84 degrees north.
For this study, the authors also drew on half a century worth of data from drifting Soviet research stations on the polar ice, which, in 1956, recorded the first winter temperatures above –1 C at 85 degrees north.
Sea ice buoy
A 'snow buoy' embedded in the sea ice takes temperature readings.
More recent data came from modern sea ice buoys. 
Over the last century of data, the researchers found high temperatures were increasingly common, and increasingly long. The average length of a warm period around the North Pole has increased by 4.25 days each decade since 1980, and Graham expects the trend to continue to intensify in the future.
Some scientists have argued that the lack of sea ice has destabilized the jet stream, leading to cold weather sweeping south while warm southern weather pushes further north, meaning that strange winter events in the south, like ice storms in Texas and a persistent "blob" of warm water in the Pacific, may be related to the conditions in the Arctic.
"I think that this is kind of what we expect," says Graham, but cautions that that is not within the scope of the current study.
"It's something we want to look into in the future."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Larsen C breaks away

People can watch further developments here:,MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor,VIIRS_SNPP_DayNightBand_ENCC,Coastlines&t=2017-07-12&z=3&v=-2570154.5783290304,937557.1566580613,-1783722.5783290304,1313877.1566580613

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ben Santer, WaPo: I’m a climate scientist. And I’m not letting trickle-down ignorance win.

How to fight the Trump administration's darkness

Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump's claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday. (Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

by Ben Santer, The Washington Post, July 5, 2017

I’ve been a mountaineer for most of my life. Mountains are in my blood. In my early 20s, while climbing in France, I fell into a crevasse on the Milieu Glacier, at the start of the normal route on the Aiguille d’Argentiere. Remarkably, I was unhurt. From the grip of the banded ice, I saw a thin slit of blue sky 120 feet above me. The math was simple: Climb 120 feet. If I reached that slit of blue sky, I would live. If I didn’t, I’d freeze to death in the cold and dark.
Now, more than 40 years later, it feels like I’m in a different kind of darkness — the darkness of the Trump administration’s scientific ignorance. This is just as real as the darkness of the Milieu Glacier’s interior and just as life-threatening. This time, I’m not alone. The consequences of this ignorance affect every person on the planet.
Imagine, if you will, that you spend your entire professional life trying to do one thing to the best of your ability. In my case, that one thing is to study the nature and causes of climate change. You put in a long apprenticeship. You spend years learning about the climate system, computer models of climate and climate observations. You start filling a tool kit with the statistical and mathematical methods you’ll need for analyzing complex data sets. You are taught how electrical engineers detect signals embedded in noisy data. You apply those engineering insights to the detection of a human-caused warming signal buried in the natural “noise” of Earth’s climate. Eventually, you learn that human activities are warming Earth’s surface, and you publish this finding in peer-reviewed literature.
You participate in rigorous national and international assessments of climate science. You try to put aside all personal filters, to be objective, to accommodate a diversity of scientific opinions held by your peers, by industry stakeholders, and by governments. These assessments are like nothing you’ve ever done before: They are peer review on steroids, eating up years of your life.
The bottom-line finding of the assessments is cautious at first. In 1995, the conclusion is this: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” These 12 words are part of a chapter on which you are first author. The 12 words change your life. You spend years defending the “discernible human influence” conclusion. You encounter valid scientific criticism. You also encounter nonscientific criticism from powerful forces of unreason, who harbor no personal animus toward you but don’t like what you’ve learned and published — it’s bad for their business.
Your peers are your fiercest critics. They are constantly kicking the tires. Show us that your “discernible human influence” results aren’t due to changes in the sun, or volcanic activity, or internal cycles in the climate system. Show us that your results aren’t due to some combination of these natural factors. Convince us that detection of a human fingerprint isn’t sensitive to uncertainties in models, data, or the statistical methods in your tool kit. Explain the causes of each and every wiggle in temperature records. Respond to every claim contradicting your findings.
So you jump through hoops. You do due diligence. You go down every blind alley, every rabbit hole. Over time, the evidence for a discernible human influence on global climate becomes overwhelming. The evidence is internally and physically consistent. It’s in climate measurements made from the ground, from weather balloons, and from space — measurements of dozens of different climate variables made by hundreds of different research groups around the world. You write more papers, examine more uncertainties, and participate in more scientific assessments. You tell others what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, and what the climatic “shape of things to come” might look like if we do nothing to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. You speak not only to your scientific peers but also to a wide variety of audiences, some of which are skeptical about you and everything you do. You enter the public arena and make yourself accountable.
After decades of seeking to advance scientific understanding, reality suddenly shifts, and you are back in the cold darkness of ignorance. The ignorance starts at the top, with President Trump. It starts with untruths and alternative facts. The untruth that climate change is a “hoax” engineered by the Chinese. The alternative fact that “nobody really knows” whether climate change is real. These untruths and alternative facts are repeated again and again. They serve as talking points for other members of the administration. From the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who has spent his career fighting climate change science, we learn the alternative fact that satellite data shows “a leveling off of warming ” over the past two decades. The energy secretary tells us the fairy tale that climate change is primarily due to “ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” Ignorance trickles down from the president to members of his administration, eventually filtering into the public’s consciousness.
Getting out of this metaphorical darkness is going to be tough. The administration is powerful. It has access to media megaphones and bully pulpits. It can abrogate international climate agreements. It can weaken national legislation designed to protect our air and water. It can challenge climate science and tell us that more than three decades of scientific understanding and rigorous assessments are all worthless. It can question the integrity and motives of climate scientists. It can halt satellite missions and impair our ability to monitor Earth’s climate from space. It can shut down websites hosting real facts on the science of climate change. It can deny, delay, defund, distort, dismantle. It can fiddle while the planet burns.
I have to believe that even in this darkness, though, there is still a thin slit of blue sky. My optimism comes from a gut-level belief in the decency and intelligence of the people of this country. Most Americans have an investment in the future — in our children and grandchildren, and in the planet that is our only home. Most Americans care about these investments in the future; we want to protect them from harm. That is our prime directive. Most of us understand that to fulfill this directive, we can’t ignore the reality of a warming planet, rising seas, retreating snow and ice, and changes in the severity and frequency of droughts and floods. We can’t ignore the reality that human actions are part of the climate change problem and that human actions must be part of the solution. Ignoring reality is not a viable survival strategy.
Trump has referred to a cloud hanging over his administration. The primary cloud I see is the self-created cloud of willful ignorance on the science of climate change. That cloud is a clear and present threat to the lives, livelihoods, and health of every person on the planet, now and in the future. This cloud could be easily lifted by the president himself.
For my own part, I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life in darkness or silently accepting trickle-down ignorance. I didn’t climb out of a crevasse on the Milieu Glacier for that.

Posts in June 2017