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Extreme weather events

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Nature is really starting to speak to mankind!

I started writing this post back on the 25th September.  Why so far back?  Because that day something came into my in-box that deserved the widest circulation.  It’s an event being held just under a month from today, November 14th.  But it seemed worthwhile to give this amount of notice.  However, the reason why I wanted to start it back in September was because in the last 24 hours of that day, the 25th, the UK offered very good evidence of the significant increase in severe weather.

From the UK’s Met Office blog on the 25th September, 2012, (I have included the inches equivalent of the mm figures)

Rainfall figures: over a month’s worth of rain in two days

Rainfall totals for the past few days – from 1:00 am Sunday morning to 8:00 am this morning [Tuesday] – show some areas have already had more than twice their usual September rainfall. Ravensworth, in North Yorkshire, has seen the highest total, with 107.8 mm [4.24 in] falling, over 200 % of its average September rainfall.

The rainfall has been widespread, with many areas across the United Kingdom receiving large totals. Killylane, in Antrim Northern Ireland saw 98.2 mm [3.87 in], and high totals were also recorded in the south-west, with 72.4 mm [2.85 in] in Filton and 65.2 mm [2.57 in] at Dunkeswell Aerodrome.

Dunkeswell Aerodrome in Devon was where I used to fly our group-owned Piper Super Cub, still in military markings.

Piper Super Cub at Dunkeswell Aerodrome

A carriage made for two!

Anyway, back to the plot!

Also on that day (September 25th) the website Think Progress released this item,

Markey/Waxman Report: Carbon Pollution Creating A ‘Cocktail Of Heat And Extreme Weather’

By Climate Guest Blogger and Stephen Lacey on Sep 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

by Katie Valentine and Stephen Lacey

Two House Democrats have released a report that aims to connect the dots on climate change and extreme weather events.

The staff report, issued by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), outlines the past year’s record-setting temperatures, storms, droughts, water levels and wildfires, and is being circulated in an attempt to rebuild congressional momentum to address climate change.

“The evidence is overwhelming — climate change is occurring and it is occurring now,” said Rep. Waxman, a Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement.

The report outlines the stunning array of record-breaking extreme weather events throughout 2012 within five categories:

Extreme temperatures

  • July was the hottest month ever recorded in the continental U.S.  Some areas were 8 degrees warmer than average, with the average temperature in the lower 48 states at 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average.
  • Spring 2012 saw the warmest March, third-warmest April and second-warmest May in history, and was approximately 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average overall.
  • Through late June 2011, daily record highs were outnumbering daily record lows by 9-to-1.

Drought

  • As of September, 64 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing drought, with August and September 2012 comparable to the worst months of the 1930s Dust Bowl.
  • By the beginning of August, more than half the counties in the U.S. had been designated disaster zones because of drought.
  • As of August, 51 percent of corn and 38 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. were rated as poor or very poor by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some states’ corn fared worse – Indiana had 70 percent of its corn rated as poor or very poor, and Missouri had 84 percent.

Wildfires

  • This fire season 8.6 million acres – roughly the size of Connecticut and New Jersey combined – have burned in the U.S., with fires still burning in parts of the West.
  • Wildfires in Colorado have killed six people, destroyed 600 homes and caused about $500 million in property damage.
  • There has been nearly a four-fold increase in large wildfires in the West in recent decades, with fires burning longer and more intensely and wildfire seasons lasting longer.

Storms

  • Tropical Storm Debby caused Florida to have its wettest June on record. The storm killed at least seven people and also damaged more than 7,500 homes and businesses.
  • In July, the “derecho” storm system killed at least 23 people and left more than 3.7 million people without power.
  • In August, Hurricane Isaac caused storm surges of up to 15 feet in some places and contributed to Louisiana and Mississippi experiencing their second-wettest August on record and to Florida experiencing its wettest summer on record.

Extreme water levels and water temperatures

  • In July, water in the Great Lakes reached temperatures of 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit – more than 10 degrees warmer than the same time last year.
  • In August, water temperatures of up to 97 degrees and low water levels caused tens of thousands of fish to die in Midwestern lakes and rivers.
  • Low water levels in the Mississippi watershed have caused some barge companies to reduce their loads by 25 percent and have caused harbor closures in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi.

According to the report, 2012 natural disasters (not including wildfires or drought) have caused $22 billion in insured losses and more than 220 deaths as of August. The full cost of 2012’s extreme weather events isn’t yet known, but it’s expected to rival 2011’s record-breaking $55 billion.

The document outlines what scientists following the link between extreme weather and climate change have been saying for years: more carbon pollution adds extra energy in the atmosphere, thus warming the planet and making extreme weather events more likely.

Read the full report here.

So what came into my in-box?  An announcement from The Climate Reality Project: 24 HOURS OF REALITY: The Dirty Weather Report.

NOVEMBER 14-15, 2012

A lot can change in a day. This November 14, we hope you can help us make big change happen.

Join The Climate Reality Project for 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report. This will be our second annual, online event showing how global climate change is connected to the extreme weather we experience in our daily lives. The entire 24-hour event will be broadcast live over the Internet.

We’ll move between our home studio in New York City and into each region of the world, bringing voices, news and multimedia content across all 24 time zones. We’ll feature videos from around the globe, man-on-the-street reports, music, and most importantly, stories from communities moving forward with solutions.

Most of all, we’ll generate new energy and urgency around the fact that we must — and we can — work together to address the climate crisis.

GET INVOLVED

Sign up today to be a part of the global community taking part in 24 Hours of RealityRSVP on Facebook. Share this event with your friends. Submit your own video about the impacts of climate change where you live. And keep checking this page: We’ll post further details as the event draws closer.

Millions of people around the world know that the weather, their climate is changing.  But if you can take some more powerful evidence of just how it’s all changing then go and read a recent report on the Grist website, entitled ‘Deadly connection: New report on extreme weather and climate change’

So one more video to close.

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Hear no evil; or is that hear no climate change?

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A new angle on the famous ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ saying!

What climate change??

That new angle being ‘hear no climate change, see no climate change, speak no climate change!

So what has prompted this outburst from me?  It started with me seeing a truly scary graph that was on Peter Sinclair’s Climate Crock blogsite on the 20th September.  That was the graph that was published yesterday on Learning from Dogs under the post title of It’s not rocket science!  If you didn’t see that graph yesterday, don’t read further on until you have looked at it.

Thus while today’s post could easily be interpreted as yet another blogpost from yet another writer about climate change, that is not the case.  What I am doing is taking a quick trip across a few recently published items that really do make it utterly clear what is happening to the Earth’s biosphere, all in support of a very simple question to two gentlemen who are currently in the news; stay with me for all to become clear!

First, back to the blogsite Climate Crocks.  Under the title of Climate Denial Crock of the Week was a recent post by Peter Sinclair about a video from Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutger’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences.  (Go to that link to watch the video.)

However, this is what caught my eye, (an interview between Dr. Francis and Peter Sinclair).

What she told me in a recent interview was that the sea ice record is not something that we just pay attention to in September – there will, in fact, be reverberations that will make fall and winter “very interesting” around the globe.

Then it was easy to come across this piece on The Weather Channel website,

An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. The center of the storm was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

On Wednesday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center concluded Arctic sea ice is at its lowest late-August level since records began, and the area covered by ice has continued to shrink in September. Since 1979, the 1.54 million square miles of ice is the smallest coverage on record at the North Pole, the report states.

With so many questions surrounding these latest findings, perhaps one of the most immediate is whether this melting of sea ice will affect the upcoming winter across the United States and Northern Hemisphere. Is it possible that a lack of Arctic sea ice could change weather patterns across the globe?

Four meteorologists spoke about these possibilities, and while they didn’t say dramatic weather shifts are imminent in the short-term, they did give some thoughts on what could happen.

One of the meteorologists was Dr. Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground. He wrote,

In my December 2011 blog post, I discuss research by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, who found that Arctic sea ice loss may significantly affect the upper-level atmospheric circulation, slowing its winds and increasing its tendency to make contorted high-amplitude loops. High-amplitude loops in the upper level wind pattern (and associated jet stream) increases the probability of persistent weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, potentially leading to extreme weather due to longer-duration cold spells, snow events, heat waves, flooding events, and drought conditions.

Several studies published in 2012 have linked Arctic sea ice loss to an increase in probability of severe winter weather in Western Europe, Eastern North America and Eastern Asia.

Then if one goes to that December 2011 blog post, one reads this,

“The question is not whether sea ice loss is affecting the large-scale atmospheric circulation…it’s how can it not?” That was the take-home message from Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, in her talk “Does Arctic Amplification Fuel Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes?“, presented at last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Dr. Francis presented new research in review for publication, which shows that Arctic sea ice loss may significantly affect the upper-level atmospheric circulation, slowing its winds and increasing its tendency to make contorted high-amplitude loops. High-amplitude loops in the upper level wind pattern (and associated jet stream) increases the probability of persistent weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, potentially leading to extreme weather due to longer-duration cold spells, snow events, heat waves, flooding events, and drought conditions.

Further on in that blog post, one reads,

Arctic sea ice loss can slow down jet stream winds

Dr. Francis looked at surface and upper level data from 1948 – 2010, and discovered that the extra heat in the Arctic in fall and winter over the past decade had caused the Arctic atmosphere between the surface and 500 mb (about 18,000 feet or 5,600 meters) to expand. As a result, the difference in temperature between the Arctic (60 – 80°N) and the mid-latitudes (30 – 50°N) fell significantly. It is this difference in temperature that drives the powerful jet stream winds that control much of our weather. The speed of fall and winter west-to-east upper-level winds at 500 mb circling the North Pole decreased by 20% over the past decade, compared to the period 1948 – 2000, in response to the extra warmth in the Arctic. This slow-down of the upper-level winds circling the pole has been linked to a Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern that brought cold, snowy winters to the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe during 2009 – 2010 and 2010 – 2011.

OK, nearly finished!  Stay with me for one last item.  Did you note in that blog post (the first section quoted) this, “Dr. Francis presented new research in review for publication …“?  Here’s the Abstract from that publication, from which one reads,

Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes

Key Points

  • Enhanced Arctic warming reduces poleward temperature gradient
  • Weaker gradient affects waves in upper-level flow in two observable ways
  • Both effects slow weather patterns, favoring extreme weather

Jennifer A. Francis, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

Stephen J. Vavrus, Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

So to the point of both yesterday’s Post and the information above.

Will someone tell me why Messrs Barack Obama and Willard Mitt Romney so fervently adopt the stance of ‘hear no climate change, see no climate change, speak no climate change!

It’s not as though it’s unimportant!!

The coming new year!

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Be warned, one of my more reflective muses!

Tomorrow is the last day of the year 2011.

For reasons that I am not clear about, there is a mood of pessimism about my person.  Whether it is the scale of global issues that I see ahead that drags me down, whether the year of an American Presidential election will remind me of the loss of reason that afflicts so many modern democracies, whether the messages in Kunstler’s book The Long Emergency still resonate in my mind well, who knows?

But when one does look at the broader picture of modern society, there is much that troubles.

So forgive me if I provide a couple of examples of these troubles.  I do so on the grounds of communication – the more that understand the risks ahead of us, the more likely we, as in the peoples of this planet, will say to our leaders, “Enough of this!  For the sake of my children, my grandchildren and all of humanity we have to change our priorities, and soon!”

Here’s my first example.

The US National Resources Defense Council recently published an item about severe weather including an interactive Extreme Weather Map, introduced thus,

Climate change increases the risk of record-breaking extreme weather events that threaten communities across the country. In 2011, there were at least 2,941 monthly weather records broken by extreme events that struck communities in the US.

That was backed up by an article on the Onearth website that opened,

By many measures, 2011 was the most extreme weather year for the United States since reliable record-keeping began in the 19th century — and the costs have been enormous. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2011 set a record for the most billion-dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.

And that just for the USA.  But will climate change be the Number One political issue in 2012?  And if not in 2012, when will it be?

Let me move on to my second example, very different from the one above but, in a sense, just as scary.  This is an interview that was in a recent article on the Food Freedom website ( brilliant website, by the way).  Dr. Joseph Mercola, the leading natural health practitioner, interviews Dr. Don M. Huber, one of the senior scientists in the U.S about the area of science that relates to genetically modified organisms (GMO). Here’s an extract from the article on Food Freedom,

Toxic botulism in animals linked to RoundUp

Dr Mercola recently interviewed Dr Don Huber, whose letter to the USDA warning that Monsanto’s RoundUp, a broad-spectrum “herbicide” that has been linked with spontaneous abortion in animals, continues to be ignored by food and environmental safety authorities. In this important hour-long discussion, Huber, a plant pathologist for over 50 years, explains how RoundUp is destroying our healthy soils by killing needed microorganisms.

Not only did his team discover a new soil pathogen, but he reports that animals are coming down with over 40 new diseases, like toxic botulism. Huber explains that before the widespread use of herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified food and feed, natural probiota would have kept Clostridium botulinum in check

The video, below, of the interview is included in the article.  Please don’t be put off by the length, the material covered is riveting and critical to our general knowledge about the threats to our society.

So that’s enough from me for one day!  On Monday, I shall include another video relating to the RoundUp issue that reveals, both directly and metaphorically, how the only solution to pessimism is to embrace the need to make change happen.  Be inspired by this poem by Sam Keen, included in the latest Sabbath Moment from Terry Hershey,

I Want to Surrender

God, I want to surrender
to the rhythm of music and sea,
to the seasons of ebb and flow,
to the tidal surge of love.

I am tired of being hard,
tight, controlled,
tensed against tenderness,
afraid of softness.
I am tired of directing my world,
making, doing, shaping.

Tension is ecstasy in chains.
The muscles are tightened to prevent trembling.
Nerves strain to prevent trust,
hope, relaxation….

Surrender is a risk no sane man may take.
Sanity never surrendered
is a burden no man may carry.

God give me madness
that does not destroy
wisdom,
responsibility,
love.

Sam Keen

What’s the weather like, honey?

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A couple of articles about our weather prospects.

Let me start with a recent report from Environmental Research Web, part of IOP Publishing.

Nov 24, 2011

Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold, IPCC warns

From the Guardian

Heavier rainfall, fiercer storms and intensifying droughts are likely to strike the world in the coming decades as climate change takes effect, the world’s leading climate scientists said on Friday.

Rising sea levels will increase the vulnerability of coastal areas, and the increase in “extreme weather events” will wipe billions off national economies and destroy lives, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of the world’s leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations.

Later on the article includes this,

Simon Brown, climate extremes research manager at theHadley Centre, the climate research unit of the UK’s Met Office, said: “This focus of the IPCC on extremes is very welcome as less emphasis has traditionally been given to these phenomena which are very likely to be the means by which ordinary people first experience climate change. Human susceptibility to weather mainly arises through extreme weather events so it is appropriate that we focus on these which, should they change for the worse, would have wide-ranging and significant consequences. This review will be very helpful in progressing the science by bringing together a wide range of studies – not just on the physical weather aspects of climate extremes but also on how we might adapt and respond to their changes in the future.”

Now I turn to last week’s Economist newspaper.

Climate change

The sad road from Kyoto to Durban

The latest UN climate summit says much about why the world is failing to tackle global warming

Dec 3rd 2011 | from the print edition

IN HARD times governments are consumed by short-term problems. But this does not mean the archetypal long-term problem, climate change, has gone away. Science continues to support the case for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions so as to minimise the risks of catastrophe. Meanwhile it is clear how wretchedly the world is failing to do so. Even if countries honour their promises, the UN reckons that by 2020 emissions will exceed the trajectory for keeping warming under 2°C by up to 11 gigatonnes. That is equivalent to more than double the emissions of every car, bus and truck in 2005.

The concluding paragraph reads,

No one should imagine such a deal would turn the tide on climate change. That tide will rise, and countries will need to adapt to a lot of warming. But by acknowledging that everybody has a responsibility to act, it would represent progress.

‘Countries will need to adapt to a lot of warming.’  Tomorrow, I will publish a recent essay on TomDispatch.  As a taster the opening paragraph is,

The good news? While 2010 tied for the warmest year on record, 2011 – according to the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) — is likely to come in 10th once November and December temperatures are tallied. In part, this is evidently due to an especially strong La Niña cooling event in the Pacific.  On the other hand, with 2011 in the top ten despite La Niña, 13 of the warmest years since such record-keeping began have occurred in the last 15 years.  Think of that as an uncomfortably hot cluster.

We live in interesting times.

The full moon – very full!

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Brought forward as a result of the Japanese earthquake.

I had this item scheduled for publication on Friday 18th March, the day before this month’s full moon.  But recent events in Japan made me decide to bring it forward to today for reasons that will be clear when this Post is read further.

The world is set to experience the biggest full moon for almost two decades when the satellite reaches its closest point to Earth next weekend.

On 19 March, the full moon will appear unusually large in the night sky as it reaches a point in its cycle known as ‘lunar perigee’.

Stargazers will be treated to a spectacular view when the moon approaches Earth at a distance of 221,567 miles (356,577 km) in its elliptical orbit – the closest it will have passed to our planet since 1992.

The full moon could appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter in the sky, especially when it rises on the eastern horizon at sunset or is provided with the right atmospheric conditions.

Moon apogee and perigee

This phenomenon has reportedly heightened concerns about ‘supermoons’ being linked to extreme weather events – such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. The last time the moon passed close to the Earth was on 10 January 2005, around the time of the Indonesian earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was also associated with an unusually large full moon.

Previous supermoons occurred in 1955, 1974 and 1992 – each of these years experienced extreme weather events, killing thousands of people.

However, an expert speaking to Yahoo! News today believes that a larger moon causing weather chaos is a popular misconception.

Dr Tim O’Brien, a researcher at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, said: “The dangers are really overplayed. You do get a bit higher than average tides than usual along coastlines as a result of the moon’s gravitational pull, but nothing so significant that will cause a serious climatic disaster or anything for people to worry about.”

But according to Dr Victor Gostin, a Planetary and Environmental Geoscientist at Adelaide University, there may be a link between large-scale earthquakes in places around the equator and new and full moon situations.

He said: “This is because the Earth-tides (analogous to ocean tides) may be the final trigger that sets off the earthquake.”

UPDATE: This was noted in Naked Capitalism on Saturday.

Volcanoes have reportedly erupted in JapanIndonesia, and Kamchatka Russia today, presumably due to the massive Japanese earthquake. There have been no reports of damage from the eruptions.

Written by Paul Handover

March 14, 2011 at 00:00

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