Climate Change Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Positive Trends for 2014

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

10 Hopeful Things That Happened in 2013 to Get You Inspired for What’s to Come

Beyond the headlines of conflict and catastrophe, this year’s top stories offered us some powerful proof that the world can still change—for the better.
by Sarah van Gelder
posted Dec 27, 2013
2014 photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

There was something almost apocalyptic about 2013. Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, the strongest storm ever recorded on land. It killed more than 6,000 people and affected millions. But it was just one of the 39 weather-related disasters costing $1 billion or more in 2013.

In Australia, record high temperatures forced mapmakers to create a new color on the weather map. Massive wildfires swept through California, historic flooding took out bridges and roadways in Colorado, and tornadoes swept through the Midwest, destroying towns like Moore, Okla. Millions of people are on the move, seeking to escape the effects of climate-related disasters.

CO2 concentrations passed 400 parts per million for the first time this year, and yet governments have done little to curb emissions. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars—much of it from secret sources—flow to climate-denier think tanks and advocacy groups.

Pop culture often explores a change before politicians do, and 2013 saw a rash of post-apocalyptic movies—from World War Z to Oblivion—and zombie apocalypse role-playing games.

Much happened that was hopeful this year—a new pope focused on inequality, successful minimum wage campaigns spread across the country, and the number of states allowing gay marriage doubled.

But responses to the threat of the climate crisis lead off this year’s top stories as we look at seeds sown this year that could make 2014 transformational.

1. We saw surprising new leadership on the climate issue

In northeast Nebraska, Native Americans and local ranchers formed a new alliance to resist the Keystone XL pipeline. Seven thousand activists gathered in Pittsburgh to press for action on a wide range of environmental justice issues. Students across North America persuaded nine colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. Hundreds of climate activists walked out of the COP19 climate talks in Poland to hold their own climate talks.

The governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia have committed to taking action on the climate crisis. But Congress remains deadlocked and in denial, and climate scientists—when they let down their careful professional demeanor—express astonishment that world governments have failed to act on what is fast becoming a global emergency.

A new potential ally is coming from an unexpected source. Some investors are beginning to worry that fossil fuel companies may not be a good bet. Investors worry about a “carbon bubble.”

The reserves of oil, gas, and coal counted as assets by the big energy corporations would be enormously destructive to life on Earth if they were allowed to burn. Many believe that new regulation or pricing will keep a large portion of those reserves safely in the ground.

If that happens, the companies’ reserves, and thus their stock, may be worth far less than believed. Savvy investors are placing their bets elsewhere: Warren Buffett, for example, is investing $1 billion in wind energy, which, along with solar energy, is looking better all the time.

2. Native peoples took the lead in the fossil fuel fight

In response to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to ramp up fossil fuel extraction on Native lands, Idle No More blossomed across Canada this year. First Nations people held flash mob round dances, blockaded roads, and appealed to government at all levels to protect land and water.

And it’s not just Canada. In Washington state, the Lummi Tribe is among those resisting massive new coal transport infrastructure, which would make exported coal cheap to burn in Asia.

In Nebraska, the Ponca Tribe is teaming up with local ranchers to resist construction of the Keystone tar sands pipeline. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the Andes, Malaysia, the Niger Delta, and elsewhere are also at the front lines of resistance to yet more dangerous fossil fuel extraction. Many are turning to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples and the new Rights of Nature movement for support.

Indigenous peoples developed ways of life that could sustain human life and the natural environment over thousands of years. The rest of the world is starting to recognize the critical importance of these perspectives, and there is growing willingness to listen to the perspectives of indigenous peoples.

3. The middle and lower classes fought for economic justice

Income inequality is reaching levels not seen since the Roaring Twenties. People stuck in long-term unemployment are running out of options, and those who do find work often can’t cover basic living expenses. The issue is now getting attention from mainstream media, becoming one of the defining issues of our time, as President Obama said.

Now a movement is building to create a new economy that can work for all. Voters this year passed minimum wage laws in SeaTac, Wash., ($15 an hour) and the state of New Jersey. An overwhelming majority favors raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Domestic workers won the right to a minimum wage after years of organizing.

The message was also clear in the election of Bill de Blasio, a founder of the Working Families Party, as mayor of New York City. Inequality is a top plank of his platform and his public record. At the national level, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s defense of the rights of student borrowers and her proposal to strengthen Social Security (instead of weaken it, as leaders in both party are discussing) is winning widespread support. There is even talk of drafting Warren to run for president.

4. A new economy is in the making

At the grassroots, National People’s Action and the New Economy Institute are leading new conversations about what it takes to build an economy that works for all and can function in harmony with the environment. Thousands of people are taking part.

And a growing cooperatives movement is linking up with unions and social movements. Some are working with large “anchor” institutions, like hospitals and universities, that can provide a steady market for their products and services. Credit unions, too, are proving their value as they keep lending to local businesses and homeowners as Wall Street-owned banks pulled back.

And a new DIY sharing economy is taking off, as people do peer-to-peer car-sharing, fundraising, and skill-sharing, and bring open-source technology to new levels.

5. U.S. military strikes didn’t happen

The big news of the year may be the two wars the United States refused to instigate.

The United States did continue its drone strikes, and the civilian casualties are causing an international uproar, with some calling for an outright ban on drones. And military spending continues to devastate the country’s budget. (The United States spent more on the military in 2013 than China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil combined.) Few dared to call for the same fiscal discipline from the military and its many contractors as they expect from schools and services for the poor.

On the other hand, the United States stepped back from the brink of military strikes against Syria and Iran—a step in the right direction.

6. Pope Francis called for care and justice for the poor …

…and for an end to the idolatry of money and consumerism. He also criticized “ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

In his “Evangelii Gaudium” he says: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

This call is provoking outrage from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News commentators, but elsewhere, it’s leading to a new questioning of the moral foundation for a system that concentrates wealth and power while causing widespread poverty.

7. Gays and lesbians got some respect

On June 26, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Today, married gay couples are entitled to federal benefits once reserved for straight couples. The year saw a doubling of the number of states allowing gay marriages, and a third of all Americans now live in such states.

Support for gay marriage has flipped from a slight majority opposing it to a majority now supporting the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry. As a wider range of gender identities has become acceptable, men and women, gay and straight, are freer to shed gender stereotypes without fear of bullying and humiliation.

8. There were new openings for a third party

Just 26 percent of Americans believe the Democratic and Republican parties are doing “an adequate job,” according to an October Gallup poll; 60 percent say a third party is needed. Eighty-five percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Even cockroaches (along with zombies, hemorrhoids, and Wall Street) have a higher approval rating according to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling.

But it’s not the Tea Party that Americans are looking to as the alternative. Support for the Tea Party has fallen: In an October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, only 21 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the party.

New space has opened for independent political work. The Working Family Party (see #3 above) is an especially interesting model.

9. Alternatives to Obamacare are in the works

Democratic leadership believed that the big profits the Affordable Care Act guaranteed to private insurance companies would make the act popular with conservatives.

But the resulting system, with all its complications and expenses—and requirements—is frustrating millions. There are features that benefit ordinary people, but it compares poorly to the simpler and more cost-effective systems that exists in most of the developed world. Canadian-style single-payer health care, for example, had the support of a majority of Americans. Some jurisdictions are still looking for alternatives. Cooperative health insurance is available in some states and others are working to establish statewide single-payer healthcare.

10. An education uprising began

The momentum behind the education reform agendas of Presidents Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Obama (Race to the Top) is stalling. The combination of austerity budgets, an ethic of blame directed at teachers, high-stakes testing, and private charter schools has stressed teachers and students—but it has not resulted in improved performance.

Seattle’s Garfield High School teachers, students, and parents launched an open rebellion last spring, joining a handful of others in refusing to administer required standardized tests. The movement is spreading around the country, with more rebellions expected in the spring of 2014 (stay tuned for an in-depth report in the Spring issue of YES!)

We live in interesting times, indeed. The growing climate emergency could eclipse all the other issues, and the sooner we get on it, the more we can use the transition for innovations that have other positive spin-offs.

There’s not a moment to lose.


Sarah van Gelder newSarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Sarah is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of YES!

from:    http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/10-things-that-happened-in-2013

Huge Jump in Amazon Deforestation

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Amazon deforestation jumps 28% in a year

Deforestation has risen exponentially after years of decline, with environmentalists attributing this change to the easing of laws in Brazil.
By Ananth Baliga   |   Nov. 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Deforestation in the Amazon has reached a new high after years of declining numbers, owing to the easing of environmental laws in Brazil.(CC/Alex Rio Brazil)
Nov. 15 (UPI) — Brazil has acknowledged a 28 percent rise in deforestation of the ecologically sensitive Amazon forest, between August 2012 and July 2013.The rise has been blamed on changes made to Brazil’s forest protection law. The country uses to sattelite imagery to track the decline of the country’s forest cover and is particularly shocking considering it recorded its lowest deforestation levels last year.

Initial statistics point to 2,255 sq miles of forest lost as compared to 1,765 sq miles lost in the previous 12 months. This rise ends a streak of declining deforestation which began in 2009 but does not come close to the loss in 2004 — nearly 10,500 sq. miles of forest were lost.

Environmentalists say the controversial reform of the forest protection law in 2012 is to blame for the trend in Brazil. The changes reduced protected areas in farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeir called the destruction of the Amazon “unacceptable” and a “crime,” but denied allegations that President Dilma Rousseff‘s administration was to blame.

“This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement,” she said.

A majority of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions has been linked to the rapid deforestation of the Amazon. These figures undermine the pledge made by Brazil in 2009 to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% by the year 2020.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Blog/2013/11/15/Amazon-deforestation-jumps-28-in-a-year/9911384535388/#ixzz2kx1HIZBk

Ice Cap Melt Can Lead to Tsunamis

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Underwater Avalanche! Melting Ice Caps Could Trigger Tsunamis

Charles Q. Choi, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor   |   August 16, 2013
Our-amazing-planet
Example of a submarine landslide complex along the southern New England continental margin
 Example of a submarine landslide complex along the southern New England continental margin, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) south of Cape Cod, Mass. The 3D perspective includes the seafloor seismic imaging. The image highlights the relationships between the seafloor structure along the continental slope, such as shallow faults (black lines), and underwater landslides. Data used to construct this image were collected by the USGS and NOAA.
Credit: Daniel Brothers

If melting ice caps trigger rapid sea level rise, the strain that the edges of continents could experience might set off underwater landslides, new research suggests.

Submarine landslides happen on every continental margin, the underwater parts of continental plates bordering oceanic plates. These underwater avalanches, which can happen when underwater slopes get hit by earthquakes or otherwise have too much weight loaded onto them, can generate dangerous tsunamis.

A staggering half of all the Earth moved by submarine landslides over the past 125,000 years apparently happened between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago. “This time period coincides with the period of most rapid sea level rise following the end of the last ice age,” said study co-author Daniel Brothers, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.

Since these prehistoric disasters coincided with changes in climate, previous research suggested natural global warming might have been their cause, but what exactly the link might be was unclear. To learn more, Brothers and his colleagues generated 3D computer models of the effects of 395 feet (120 meters) of sea level rise on the continental margins off North Carolina and Brazil’s Amazon coast

The rapid sea level rise that happened between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago was due to melting ice caps, which were originally hundreds to thousands of feet high. These glaciers placed weight on the planet’s rocky surface, building stress on faults in the Earth for millennia. The later thinning and retreat of these glaciers raised sea levels by about 395 feet, increasing the amount of pressure these critically stressed faults experienced across their entire length by an amount similar to that of the average human bite. This would be enough pressure to set off the faults, triggering underwater landslides, the models showed.

The scientists added that such underwater landslides could have helped release vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas, from the seabed. This could have, in turn, driven profound changes in the oceans and the atmosphere, such as the warming of the climate.

Brothers and his colleagues Karen Luttrell and Jason Chaytor detailed their findings online July 22 in the journal Geology.

from:    http://www.livescience.com/38886-melting-icecaps-trigger-submarine-landslides.html

Greece & Chemtrail Action

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Greeks reject US doublespeak on chemtrails and climate change

by  • 

Wayne Hall, a Greece chemtrail activist, takes a look at how the US steers the discussion of climate change and geoengineering in this 15-minute video:

The surest way not to understand what is happening with geoengineering is to become involved in the contrails versus chemtrails debate. Rather than debate whether chemtrails are contrails, one should point out the parallel with what happened with genetically modified food production: the corporations and their laboratories and their lobbyists decide to introduce a change, so at the same time they start a public relations campaign to deny that any change has occurred.

In the case of genetic modification the key word was “substantial equivalence”. Genetically modified foods are not the same as non-genetically modified foods, chemically, nutritionally or in any other way. Sometimes they look the same. “Substantial equivalence” means that they have to be treated as if they are the same. Soon laws are introduced to make it illegal to make any distinction between them or to say that they are not the same.

Something similar has happened with geoengineering: a decision was taken to change aircraft emissions and turn them from being an unwanted side-effect of flying jet aircraft into being a deliberate means for changing the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere. So naturally it was denied that any change had occurred.

Almost fifteen years after the implementation of a massive increase in the use of climate modification on a planetary scale, people are still conducting the chemtrails versus contrails debate. This is NOT what is happening with genetic modification. Ecologists are mostly not wasting their time arguing with corporation spokespersons over whether there is substantial equivalence between genetically modified and non-genetically modified food. The same should have happened with geoengineering, and if it hasn’t happened it should happen now.

Chemtrails do not serve a single purpose, of increasing albedo, cooling the planet, or whatever. They also serve the purpose of increasing the conductivity of the atmosphere to facilitate the operations of Alaskan ionospheric heater HAARP, and the similar smaller installations that exist in other countries.

HAARP was the subject of a report in the European Parliament in 1998, the work of the Swedish anti-nuclear campaigner Maj Britt Theorin. Mrs Theorin’s report is entitled “On the Environment, Security and Foreign Policy”. It describes HAARP as “weapons system which disrupts the climate” and concludes that “by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment it is a global concern. Its legal, ecological and ethical implications must be examined by an international independent body before any further research and testing.”

The European Commission said that it could not act on the report or try to implement it, because the European Commission does not have authority over defence questions, which are the responsibility of NATO.

There are two things to say about this: firstly this contradicts the United States’ representation of what HAARP is, because US government says that HAARP is an ionospheric research programme, not a weapons system. Secondly the European Commission’s acceptance of the status of not having responsibility for the defence of European citizens, and accepting that this should be entrusted to NATO, is intolerable.

A new organization called Skyguards includes Green activists from Sweden, Spain and Cyprus, among others, is continuing the work started by Mrs. Maj-Britt Theorin in 1998. Americans, as much as Europeans and the people of the rest of the planet, need this work to be continued, because they are not being defended by their own government. They are being attacked by their own government.

Wayne Hall is a Greek citizen, born in Australia, graduate of the University of Sydney, teacher and freelance translator. In the nineteen eighties he was a member of European Nuclear Disarmament, the non-aligned British-based anti-nuclear-weapons movement. His website in Greece is http://www.enouranois.gr

from:        http://foodfreedomgroup.com/2013/06/23/greeks-reject-us-doublespeak-on-chemtrails-and-climate-change/

Benefits of Range Grazing Cattle

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Grazing Livestock May Hold the Secret to Reversing Climate Change

Farm_Cattle14th June 2013

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

Allan Savory is a controversial figure with a shocking message: Global warming and desertification can be radically reversed by grazing large herds of animals.

The antithesis of accepted thought on climate change, Savory’s solution has rubbed many in the scientific community the wrong way. But the question remains — can his method save us from imminent environmental doom?

Standing ovation for a radical message

After Allan Savory’s presentation “How to Green the Desert and Reverse Climate Change” at the 2013 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) global conference, “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.“, he received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience.

This was not the typical parched scientific lecture on global warming. The TED talk explored the disturbing trend of desertification, described by Savory as “a fancy word for land that is turning into desert,” and the implications this holds.

The devastation of habitat, usable land and waterways are the stark realities of spreading deserts. Climate change is also accelerated.

Due in part to the widespread practice of burning dry grasslands in an attempt to revitalize the soil, global warming is also aggravated by the carbon and moisture loss from exposed soil. Considering the burning of a single hectare of land “gives off more and more damaging pollutants than 6,000 cars,” said Savory, better solutions are urgently needed.

Keep in mind that Africa alone burns over one billion hectares a year.

According to Savory, if carbon remains in the ground instead of rising into the air, the soil is healthy and can sustain plant life. Waterways are preserved as well. The ramifications are enormous. Not only is the land fertile for agriculture and livestock but entire communities also have access to water, curbing disease along with starvation. And global warming is rapidly reversed too.

Holistic land management 101

Developed over 40 years ago, Holistic Management is a system that “results in ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially sound management of the world’s grasslands … [It] teaches people about the relationship between large herds of wild herbivores and the grasslands,” as stated by the Savory Institute.

Allan Savory discovered through years of observation, study and failure that when herd animals are removed from the land, the soil dies. Yet, when domesticated animals are properly managed to mimic natural herd migrations and grazing, the soil and surrounding ecosystem spring back to life.

He realized herd animals play a crucial role in easing desertification by providing dung and trampled plant matter. A protective layer is formed through this process, trapping moisture and carbon in the soil. The results are truly staggering — lush and healthy grasslands, waterways and communities replace barren desert.

Too good to be true?

Critics of Savory’s method are quick to point out thorough scientific research is lacking. They also maintain that livestock grazing, regardless of management, remains destructive to the environment and atmosphere. Savory counters that his proof is in the outcome. One of the many stunning success stories is found with the rangelands in Dimbangombe, Zimbabwe.

When all is said and done, the end result is what counts. Environmentalist Bill McKibben observes, “Done right, some studies suggest, this method of raising cattle could put much of the atmosphere’s oversupply of greenhouse gases back in the soil inside half a century. That means shifting from feedlot farming to rotational grazing is one of the few changes we could make that’s on the same scale as the problem of global warming.”

from:    http://wakeup-world.com/2013/06/14/grazing-livestock-may-hold-the-secret-to-reversing-climate-change/

Dr. Jeff Masters on Climate Extremes

Friday, May 24th, 2013

In 2011, a series of violent severe storms swept across the Plains and Southeast U.S., bringing an astonishing six billion-dollar disasters in a three-month period. The epic tornado onslaught killed 552 people, caused $25 billion in damage, and brought three of the five largest tornado outbreaks since record keeping began in 1950. In May 2011, the Joplin, Missouri tornado did $3 billion in damage–the most expensive tornado in world history–and killed 158 people, the largest death toll from a U.S. tornado since 1947. An astounding 1050 EF-1 and stronger tornadoes ripped though the U.S. for the one-year period ending that month. This was the greatest 12-month total for these stronger tornadoes in the historical record, and an event so rare that we might expect it to occur only once every 62,500 years. Fast forward now to May 2012 – April 2013. Top-ten coldest temperatures on record across the Midwest during March and April of 2013, coming after a summer of near-record heat and drought in 2012, brought about a remarkable reversal in our tornado tally–the lowest 12-month total of EF-1 and stronger tornadoes on record–just 197. This was an event so rare we might expect it to occur only once every 3,000 – 4,000 years. And now, in May 2013, after another shattering EF-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, residents of the Midwest must be wondering, are we back to the 2011 pattern? Which of these extremes is climate change most likely to bring about? Is climate change already affecting these storms? These are hugely important questions, but ones we don’t have good answers for. Climate change is significantly impacting the environment that storms form in, giving them more moisture and energy to draw upon, and altering large-scale jet stream patterns. We should expect that this will potentially cause major changes in tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Unfortunately, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are the extreme weather phenomena we have the least understanding on with respect to climate change. We don’t have a good enough database to determine how tornadoes may have changed in recent decades, and our computer models are currently not able to tell us if tornadoes are more likely to increase or decrease in a future warmer climate.

Video 1. Remarkable video of the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2011, part of the largest and most expensive tornado outbreak in U.S. history–the $10.2 billion dollar Southeast U.S. Super Outbreak of April 25 – 28, 2011. With damage estimated at $2.2 billion, the Tuscaloosa tornado was the 2nd most expensive tornado in world history, behind the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado. Fast forward to minute four to see the worst of the storm.


Figure 1. Will climate change increase the incidence of these sorts of frightening radar images? Multiple hook echoes from at least ten supercell thunderstorms cover Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee in this radar image taken during the height of the April 27, 2011 Super Outbreak, the largest and most expensive tornado outbreak in U.S. history. A multi-hour animation is available here.

Changes in past tornado activity difficult to assess due to a poor database
It’s tough to tell if tornadoes may have changed due to a changing climate, since the tornado database is of poor quality for climate research. We cannot measure the wind speeds of a tornado directly, except in very rare cases when researchers happen to be present with sophisticated research equipment. A tornado has to run over a building and cause damage before an intensity rating can be assigned. The National Weather Service did not begin doing systematic tornado damage surveys until 1976, so all tornadoes from 1950 – 1975 were assigned a rating on the Fujita Scale (F-scale) based on old newspaper accounts and photos. An improved Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale to rate tornadoes was adopted in 2007. The transition to the new EF scale still allows valid comparisons of tornadoes rated, for example, EF-5 on the new scale and F5 on the old scale, but does create some problems for tornado researchers studying long-term changes in tornado activity. More problematic is the major changes in the Fujita-scale rating process that occurred in the mid-1970s (when damage surveys began), and again in 2001, when scientists began rating tornadoes lower because of engineering concerns and unintended consequences of National Weather Service policy changes. According to Brooks (2013), “Tornadoes in the early part of the official National Weather Service record (1950 – approximately 1975) are rated with higher ratings than the 1975 – 2000 period, which, in turn, had higher ratings than 2001 – 2007.” All of these factors cause considerable uncertainty when attempting to assess if tornadoes are changing over time. At a first glance, it appears that tornado frequency has increased in recent decades (Figure 2). However, this increase may be entirely caused by factors unrelated to climate change:

1) Population growth has resulted in more tornadoes being reported. Heightened awareness of tornadoes has also helped; the 1996 Hollywood blockbuster movie Twister “played no small part” in a boom in reported tornadoes, according to tornado scientist Dr. Nikolai Dotzek.

2) Advances in weather radar, particularly the deployment of about 100 Doppler radars across the U.S. in the mid-1990s, has resulted in a much higher tornado detection rate.

3) Tornado damage surveys have grown more sophisticated over the years. For example, we now commonly classify multiple tornadoes along a damage path that might have been attributed to just one twister in the past.


Figure 2. The total number of U.S. tornadoes since 1950 has shown a substantial increase. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.


Figure 3. The number of EF-0 (blue line) and EF-1 and stronger tornadoes (maroon squares) reported in the U.S. since 1950. The rise in number of tornadoes in recent decades is seen to be primarily in the weakest EF-0 twisters. As far as we can tell (which isn’t very well, since the historical database of tornadoes is of poor quality), there is not a decades-long increasing trend in the numbers of tornadoes stronger than EF-0. Since these stronger tornadoes are the ones most likely to be detected, this implies that climate change, as yet, is not having a noticeable impact on U.S. tornadoes. Image credit: Kunkel, Kenneth E., et al., 2013, “Monitoring and Understanding Trends in Extreme Storms: State of Knowledge,” Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 94, 499–514, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00262.1


Figure 4. Insured damage losses in the U.S. due to thunderstorms and tornadoes, as compiled by Munich Re. Damages have increased sharply in the past decade, but not enough to say that an increase in tornadoes and severe thunderstorms may be to blame.

Stronger tornadoes do not appear to be increasing
Tornadoes stronger than EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (or F0 on the pre-2007 Fujita Scale) are more likely to get counted, since they tend to cause significant damage along a long track. Thus, the climatology of these tornadoes may offer a clue as to how climate change may be affecting severe weather. If the number of strong tornadoes has actually remained constant over the years, we should expect to see some increase in these twisters over the decades, since more buildings have been erected in the paths of tornadoes. However, if we look at the statistics of U.S. tornadoes stronger than EF-0 or F-0 since 1950, there does not appear to be any increase in their number (Figure 3.) Damages from thunderstorms and tornadoes have shown a significant increase in recent decades (Figure 4), but looking at damages is a poor way to determine if climate change is affecting severe weather, since there are so many human factors involved. A study in Environmental Hazards (Simmons et al., 2012) found no increase in tornado damages from 1950 – 2011, after normalizing the data for increases in wealth and property. Also, Bouwer (BAMS, 2010) reviewed 22 disaster loss studies world-wide, published 2001 – 2010; in all 22 studies, increases in wealth and population were the “most important drivers for growing disaster losses.” His conclusion: human-caused climate change “so far has not had a significant impact on losses from natural disasters.” Studies that normalize disaster data are prone to error, as revealed by a 2012 study looking at storm surge heights and damages. Given the high amount of uncertainty in the tornado and tornado damage databases, the conclusion of the “official word” on climate science, the 2007 United Nations IPCC report, pretty much sums things up: “There is insufficient evidence to determine whether trends exist in small scale phenomena such as tornadoes, hail, lighting, and dust storms.” Until a technology is developed that can reliably detect all tornadoes, there is no hope of determining how tornadoes might be changing in response to a changing climate. According to Doswell (2007): “I see no near-term solution to the problem of detecting detailed spatial and temporal trends in the occurrence of tornadoes by using the observed data in its current form or in any form likely to evolve in the near future.”


Figure 5. Wind shear from the surface to 6 km altitude in May on days with days with higher risk conditions for severe weather (upper-10% instability and wind shear) over the South Central U.S. has shown no significant change between 1950 – 2010. Image credit: Brooks, 2013, “The spatial distribution of severe thunderstorm and tornado environments from global reanalysis data”, Atmospheric Research Volumes 67-68, July-September 2003, Pages 73-94.


Figure 6. Six-hourly periods per year with environments supportive of significant severe thunderstorms in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. The line is a local least-squares regression fit to the series, and shows no significant change in environments supportive of significant severe thunderstorms in recent decades. Image credit: Brooks, H.E., and N. Dotek, 2008, “The spatial distribution of severe convective storms and an analysis of their secular changes”, Climate Extremes and Society

How are the background conditions that spawn tornadoes changing?
An alternate technique to study how climate change may be affecting tornadoes is look at how the large-scale environmental conditions favorable for tornado formation have changed through time. Moisture, instability, lift, and wind shear are needed for tornadic thunderstorms to form. The exact mix required varies considerably depending upon the situation, and is not well understood. However, Brooks (2003) attempted to develop a climatology of weather conditions conducive for tornado formation by looking at atmospheric instability (as measured by the Convective Available Potential Energy, or CAPE), and the amount of wind shear between the surface and 6 km altitude. High values of CAPE and surface to 6 km wind shear are conducive to formation of tornadic thunderstorms. The regions they analyzed with high CAPE and high shear for the period 1997-1999 did correspond pretty well with regions where significant (F2 and stronger) tornadoes occurred. Riemann-Campe et al. (2009) found that globally, CAPE increased significantly between 1958 – 2001. However, little change in CAPE was found over the Central and Eastern U.S. during spring and summer during the most recent period they studied, 1979 – 2001. Brooks (2013) found no significant trends in wind shear over the U.S. from 1950 – 2010 (Figure 5.) A preliminary report issued by NOAA’s Climate Attribution Rapid Response Team in July 2011 found no trends in CAPE or wind shear over the lower Mississippi Valley over the past 30 years.


Figure 7. Change in the number of days per year with a high severe thunderstorm potential as predicted by the climate model (A2 scenario) of Trapp et al. 2007, due to predicted changes in wind shear and Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE). Most of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains is expected to see 1 – 2 additional days per year with the potential for severe thunderstorms. The greatest increase in potential severe thunderstorm days (three) is expected along the North and South Carolina coast. Image credit: NASA.

How will tornadoes and severe thunderstorms change in the future?
Using a high-resolution regional climate model (25 km grid size) zoomed in on the U.S., Trapp et al. (2007) and Trapp et al. (2009) found that the decrease in 0-6 km wind shear in the late 21st century would more than be made up for by an increase in instability (CAPE). Their model predicted an increase in the number of days with high severe storm potential for most of the U.S. by the end of the 21st century, particularly for locations east of the Rocky Mountains (Figure 7.) Brooks (2013) also found that severe thunderstorms would likely increase over the U.S. by the end of the century, but theorized that the severe thunderstorms of the future might have a higher proportion causing straight-line wind damage, and slightly lower proportion spawning tornadoes and large hail. For example, a plausible typical future severe thunderstorm day many decades from now might have wind shear lower by 1 m/s, but a 2 m/s increase in maximum thunderstorm updraft speed. This might cause a 5% reduction in the fraction of severe thunderstorms spawning tornadoes, but a 5% increase in the fraction of severe thunderstorms with damaging straight-line winds. He comments: “However, if the number of overall favorable environments increases, there may be little change, if any, in the number of tornadoes or hailstorms in the US, even if the relative fraction decreases. The signals in the climate models and our physical understanding of the details of storm-scale processes are sufficiently limited to make it extremely hazardous to make predictions of large changes or to focus on small regions. Projected changes would be well within error estimates.”


Figure 8. From 1995 (the first year we have wind death data) through 2012, deaths from high winds associated with severe thunderstorms accounted for 8% of all U.S. weather fatalities, while tornadoes accounted for 13%. Data from NOAA.

Severe thunderstorms are capable of killing more people than tornadoes
If the future climate does cause fewer tornadoes but more severe thunderstorms, this may not end up reducing the overall deaths and damages from these dangerous weather phenomena. In 2012, the warmest year in U.S. history, the death toll from severe thunderstorms hit 104–higher than the 70 people killed by tornadoes that year. Severe thunderstorms occur preferentially during the hottest months of the year, June July and August, and are energized by record heat. For example, wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt called the number of all-time heat records set on June 29, 2012 “especially extraordinary,” and on that day, an organized thunderstorm complex called a derecho swept across a 700-mile swath of the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic, killing thirteen people and causing more than $1 billion in damage. The amount of energy available to the derecho was extreme, due to the record heat. The derecho knocked out power to 4 million people for up to a week, in areas where the record heat wave was causing high heat stress. Heat claimed 34 lives in areas without power in the week following the derecho. Excessive heat has been the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S since 1995, killing more than twice as many people as tornadoes have. Climate models are not detailed enough to predict how organized severe thunderstorm events such as derechos might change in a future warmer climate. But a warmer atmosphere certainly contributed to the intensity of the 2012 derecho, and we will be seeing a lot more summers like 2012 in coming decades. A future with sharply increased damages and deaths due to more intense severe thunderstorms and derechos is one nasty climate change surprise that may lurk ahead.


Figure 9. Lightning over Tucson, Arizona on August 14, 2012. A modeling study by Del Genio et al.(2007) predicts that lighting will increase by 6% by the end of the century, potentially leading to an increase in lightning-triggered wildfires. Image credit: wunderphotographer ChandlerMike.

Lightning may increase in a warmer climate
Del Genio et al.(2007) used a climate model with doubled CO2 to show that a warming climate would make the atmosphere more unstable (higher CAPE) and thus prone to more severe weather. However, decreases in wind shear offset this effect, resulting in little change in the amount of severe weather in the Central and Eastern U.S. late this century. However, they found that there would likely be an increase in the very strongest thunderstorms. The speed of updrafts in thunderstorms over land increased by about 1 m/s in their simulation, since upward moving air needed to travel 50 – 70 mb higher to reach the freezing level, resulting in stronger thunderstorms. In the Western U.S., the simulation showed that drying led lead to fewer thunderstorms overall, but the strongest thunderstorms increased in number by 26%, leading to a 6% increase in the total amount of lighting hitting the ground each year. If these results are correct, we might expect more lightning-caused fires in the Western U.S. late this century, due to increased drying and more lightning. Only 12% of U.S. wildfires are ignited by natural causes, but these account for 52% of the acres burned (U.S. Fire Administration, 2000). So, even a small change in lightning flash rate has important consequences. Lightning is also a major killer, as an average of 52 people per year were killed by lightning strikes over the 30-year period ending in 2012, accounting for 6% of all U.S. weather-related fatalities.

Summary
We currently do not know how tornadoes and severe thunderstorms may be changing due to climate change, nor is there hope that we will be able to do so in the foreseeable future. It does not appear that there has been an increase in U.S. tornadoes stronger than EF-0 in recent decades, but climate change appears to be causing more extreme years–both high and low–of late. Tornado researcher Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma said in a 2013 interview on Andrew Revkin’s New York Times dotearth blog: “there’s evidence to suggest that we have seen an increase in the variability of tornado occurrence in the U.S.” Preliminary research using climate models suggests that we may see an increase in the number of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes over the U.S. late this century, but these thunderstorms will be more likely to produce damaging straight-line winds, and less likely to produce tornadoes and large hail. This will not necessarily result in a reduction in deaths and damages, though, since severe thunderstorms can be just as dangerous and deadly as tornadoes–especially when they knock out power to areas suffering high-stress heat waves. Research into climate change impacts on severe weather is just beginning, and much more study is needed.

from:    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html

Climate Change & the Oklahoma Tornado

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Is Climate Change to Blame for the Oklahoma Tornado?

The six least active and four most active tornado seasons have been felt over the past decade–which could show the influence of climate change.

—By

Tue May. 21, 2013

tornado damage moore oklahomaDestroyed buildings and overturned cars left in the wake of the huge tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City, on May 20, 2013. Gene Blevins/LADailyNewsZuma

The story first appeared on the Guardian website and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Global climate change and politics are linked to each other—for better or worse. No clearer was that the case than when Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island gave an impassioned speech on global warming in the aftermath of Monday’s deadly Oklahoma tornado, and the conservative media ripped him. Whitehouse implied that at least part of the blame for the deadly tornado should be laid at the feet of climate change.

Is Whitehouse correct? It’s difficult to assign any one storm’s outcome to the possible effects of global climate change, and the science of tornadoes in particular makes it pretty much impossible to know whether Whitehouse is right.

Let’s start with the basics of what causes a tornado. A piece from my friend (and sometimes co-chatter) Andrew Freedman two years ago sets out the basics well.

First, you need warm, humid air for moisture. The past few days in Moore have featured temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s, with relative humidity levels regularly hitting between 90 percent and 100 percent and rarely dropping below 70 percent.

Second, you need strong jet stream winds to provide lift. As this map from Weather Underground indicates, there were definitely some very strong jet stream winds on Monday in the Oklahoma region.

jet stream

Image: Weather Underground

Third, you need strong wind shear (changing wind directions and/or speeds at different heights) to allow for full instability and lift. This mid-level wind shear map from the University of Wisconsin shows that there were 45 to 50 knot winds, right at the top of the scale, over Oklahoma on Monday.

wind shear

Image: University of Wisconsin

Fourth, you need something to ignite the storm. In this case, a frontal boundary, as seen in this Weather Channel map, draped across central Oklahoma, did the trick.

front boundary

Image: Weather Channel

The point is that all the normal ingredients were there that allowed an EF-4 tornado to spawn and strike. (Examination of the storm site may cause an upgrading to EF-5.) It happened in tornado alley, where warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico often meets dry air from the north and Rocky Mountains for maximum instability. There wasn’t anything shocking about this from a meteorological perspective. It was, as a well-informed friend said, a “classic” look.

The long-term weather question is whether or not we’ll see more or less of these “classic” looks in our changing meteorological environment. It turns out that of all the weather phenomena, from droughts to hurricanes, tornadoes are the most complex to answer from a broader atmospheric trends point of view. The reason is that a warming world affects the factors that lead to tornadoes in different ways.

Climate change is supposed, among other things, to bring warmer and moister air to Earth. That, of course, would lead to more severe thunderstorms and probably more tornadoes. The issue is that global warming is also forecast to bring about less wind shear. This would allow hurricanes to form more easily, but it also would make it much harder for tornadoes to get the full about lift and instability that allow for your usual thunderstorm to grow in height and become a fully fledged tornado. Statistics over the past 50 years bear this out, as we’ve seen warmer and more moist air as well as less wind shear.

Meteorological studies differ on whether or not the warmer and moister air can overcome a lack of wind shear in creating more tornadoes in the far future. In the immediate past, the jet stream, possibly because of climate change, has been quite volatile. Some years it has dug south to allow maximum tornado activity in the middle of the country, while other years it has stayed to the north.

Although tornado reporting has in prior decades been not as reliable as today because of a lack of equipment and manpower, it’s still not by accident that the six least active and four most active tornado seasons have been felt over the past decade. Another statistic that points to the irregular patterns is that the three earliest and four latest starts to the tornado season have all occurred in the past 15 years.

Basically, we’ve had this push and pull in recent history. Some years the number of tornadoes is quite high, and some years it is quite low. We’re not seeing “average” seasons as much any more, though the average of the extremes has led to no meaningful change to the average number of tornadoes per year. Expect this variation to continue into the future as less wind shear and warmer moister air fight it out.

The overall result could very well be fewer days of tornadoes per Harold Brooks of the National Storm Center, but more and stronger tornadoes when they do occur. Nothing about the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, or tornadoes over the past few decades break with this theory.

None of it proves or disproves Whitehouse’s beliefs, either. Indeed, we’ll never know whether larger global warming factors were at play in Monday’s storms. All we can do at this moment is react to them and give the people of Oklahoma all the help they need.

from:     http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/05/climate-change-oklahoma-tornado

Here’s Some Real Stuff to Worry About

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

5 Things Really Worth Worrying About

—By

| Sun Dec. 9, 2012

From a million-foot level, what are the biggest problems we have to worry about over the next four or five decades? For no real reason, I thought I’d toss out my short list. Here it is:

  1. Climate change. Needs no explanation, I assume.
  2. Robots. Explanation here. Even Paul Krugman is tentatively on board now.
  3. Immortality. Laugh if you want, but it’s hardly impossible that sometime in the medium-term future we’ll see biomedical breakthroughs that make humans extremely long-lived. What happens then? Who gets the magic treatments? How do we support a population that grows forever? How does an economy of immortals work, anyway?
  4. Bioweapons. We don’t talk about this a whole lot these days, but it’s still possible—maybe even likely—that extraordinarily lethal viruses will be fairly easily manufacturable within a couple of decades. If this happens before we figure out how to make extraordinarily effective vaccines and antidotes, this could spell trouble in ways obvious enough to need no explanation.
  5. Energy. All the robots in the world won’t do any good if we don’t have enough energy to keep them running. And fossil fuels will run out eventually, fracking or not. However, I put this one fifth out of five because we already have pretty good technology for renewable energy, and it’s mainly an engineering problem to build it out on a mass scale. Plus you never know. Fusion might become a reality someday.

These are the kinds of things that make the solvency of the Social Security trust fund look pretty puny. They also make it clear why it’s not worth worrying too much about whether it’s solvent 75 years from now. We might all be rich beyond our most fervid imaginations; we might be in the middle of massive die-offs thanks to spiraling global temperatures; or we might all be dead. Kinda hard to say.

Image: April Cat/Shutterstock; Arcady/Shutterstock; Neyro/Shutterstock; Vladislav Gurfinkel/Shutterstock

from:    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/12/five-big-things-look-forward-or-worry-excessively-about

Dr. Jeff Masters Compares 2012 Drought to Dust Bowl Days

Thursday, August 16th, 2012
Comparing the 2012 drought to the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s
Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:52 PM GMT on August 16, 2012 +12

The great U.S. drought of 2012 remained about the same size and intensity over the past week, said NOAA in their weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Thursday, August 16. The area of the contiguous U.S. covered by drought remained constant at 62%, and the area covered by severe or greater drought also remained constant at 46%. However, the area covered by the highest level of drought–exceptional–increased by 50%, from 4% to 6%. Large expansions of exceptional drought occurred over the heart of America’s grain producing areas, in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The new NOAA State of the Climate Drought report for July 2012 shows that the 2012 drought is 5th greatest in U.S. history, and the worst in 56 years. The top five years for area of the contiguous U.S. covered by moderate or greater drought:

1) Jul 1934, 80%
2) Dec 1939, 60%
3) Jul 1954, 60%
4) Dec 1956, 58%
5) Jul 2012, 57%

The top five years for the area of the contiguous U.S. covered by severe or greater drought:

1) Jul 1934, 63%
2) Sep 1954, 50%
3) Dec 1956, 46%
4) Aug 1936, 43%
5) Jul 2012, 38%


Figure 1. August 14, 2012 drought conditions showed historic levels of drought across the U.S., with 62% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing moderate or greater drought, and 46% of the county experiencing severe or greater drought. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Comparison with the great Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s
An important fact to remember is that the 2012 drought is–so far–only a one-year drought. Recall that 2011 saw record rains that led to unprecedented flooding on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. In contrast, the great droughts of the 1950s and 1930s were multi-year droughts. The Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s lasted up to eight years in some places, with the peak years being 1934, 1936, and 1939 – 1940. Once the deep soil dries out, it maintains a memory of past drought years. This makes is easier to have a string of severe drought years. Since the deep soil this summer still maintains the memory of the very wet year of 2011, the 2012 drought will be easier to break than the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s were.

In addition, a repeat of the dust storms of the 1930s Dust Bowl is much less likely now, due to improved farming practices. In a 2009 paper titled, Amplification of the North American “Dust Bowl” drought through human-induced land degradation, a team of scientists led by Benjamin Cook of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory explained the situation:

During the 1920s, agriculture in the United States expanded into the central Great Plains. Much of the original, drought-resistant prairie grass was replaced with drought-sensitive wheat. With no drought plan and few erosion-control measures in place, this led to large-scale crop failures at the initiation of the drought, leaving fields devegetated and barren, exposing easily eroded soil to the winds. This was the source of the major dust storms and atmospheric dust loading of the period on a level unprecedented in the historical record.


Figure 2. Black Sunday: On April 14, 1935 a “Black Blizzard” hit Oklahoma and Texas with 60 mph winds, sweeping up topsoil loosened by the great Dust Bowl drought that began in 1934.

The Dust Bowl drought and heat of the 1930s: partially human-caused
Using computer models of the climate, the scientists found that the Dust Bowl drought was primarily caused by below-average ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific and warmer than average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, which acted together to alter the path of the jet stream and bring fewer precipitation-bearing storms to the Central U.S. However, the full intensity of the drought and its spatial extent could not be explained by ocean temperature patterns alone. Only when their model included the impact of losing huge amounts of vegetation in the Plains due to poor farming practices could the full warmth of the 1930s be simulated. In addition, only by including the impact of the dust kicked up by the great dust storms of the Dust Bowl, which blocked sunlight and created high pressure zones of sinking air that discouraged precipitation, could the very low levels of precipitation be explained. The Dust Bowl drought had natural roots, but human-caused effects made the drought worse and longer-lasting. The fact that we are experiencing a drought in 2012 comparable to the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s–without poor farming practices being partially to blame–bodes ill for the future of drought in the U.S. With human-caused global warming expected to greatly increase the intensity and frequency of great droughts like the 2012 drought in coming decades, we can expect drought to cause an increasing amount of damage and economic hardship for the U.S. Since the U.S. is the world’s largest food exporter, this will also create an increasing amount of hardship and unrest in developing countries that rely on food imports.

from:    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2188

Did You Find May Hot? Well, It Was!!!

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Planet Sees Second Warmest May on Record

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 14 June 2012
Global weather events for May 2012.
Global weather events for May 2012.
CREDIT: NOAA

Last month, the global average temperature climbed to the second highest for May on record since 1880, according to U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records.

Much of the world, including nearly all of Europe, Asia, northern Africa, most of North America and southern Greenland experienced above average May temperatures. In fact, last month wrapped up the warmest spring on record for the continental U.S., NOAA records show.

The global May record included the combined global land and ocean average surface temperatures for the month, which 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit (0.66 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average of 58.5 F (14.8 C). This record was beat only in 2010, when the global average was 1.24 F (0.69 C) above the 20th-century average.

The Northern Hemisphere saw its warmest May on record — 1.53 F, or 0.85 C above average — while the Southern Hemisphere’s May ranked ninth warmest among all Mays on record, at 0.85 F (0.47 C) above average.

Of course, it wasn’t unusually warm everywhere. Australia, Alaska and parts of the western U.S.-Canadian border were notably cooler than average.

Snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere was significantly below average in May, according to NOAA records.

Globally, this spring ranked as the fourth warmest. Meanwhile, May brought a slew of temperature records to the continental U.S. after an unusually warm spring and mild winter.

Because of natural fluctuations in weather, climate scientists are loath to connect events that occur over a short-time frame, from a strong storm to an unusual warm spring, to climate change. However, the warming effect of humans’ greenhouse gas emissions forms a backdrop for the weather the world is experiencing and shows up as a longer-term trend. It is not a coincidence that the first decade of this century was the warmest on record, according to NOAA’s State of Climate in 2010 report.

from:    http://www.livescience.com/20963-planet-sees-warmest-record.html