Tag archive for global warming

In Ojai, global warming + summer = heat. But how much?

A week ago New York magazine published a blockbuster climate change story. Here’s the annotated/footnoted version. Highly recommended, because the writer — David Wallace-Wells — finds a way to bring home the urgency, using current science. It’s very simple, really. Instead of focusing on what will happen next year, or next decade, or by 2040, he looks at what will happen over the course of this century.

Here’s the cover, to bring the message home:

TheDoomedEarthcatalogue2

To put it simply, even if we as a species succeed in holding warming to 2 degrees Celsius this century, that still means a 4C warming by 2100, which means substantial portions of the planet will become uninhabitable.

From the story:

Since 1980, the planet has experienced a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat. The original paper is by James Hansen, though for this and much of my account of extreme heat events I relied on Joseph Romm’s Climate Change.; a bigger increase is to come. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have all occurred since 2002, This is from the World Bank’s very helpful 2012 report Turn Down the Heat, on life in a world four degrees warmer. and soon, the IPCC warns, simply being outdoors that time of year will be unhealthy for much of the globe.The warning appears on page 15 of the Fifth Assessment’s Synthesis Report. As some readers have pointed out, these effects will come about gradually, beginning with the rare unusually hot day; those unusually hot days will gradually become more frequent in number. As with all of the climate effects in this article, it’s important to remember that heat stress is not a binary matter: It’s not that there are two options, lethal heat waves and normal, comfortable temperatures, but that global warming will gradually bring about more and more heat stress. The same is true, of course, for effects on agriculture, economics, conflict, and other areas. As Richard Alley told me, “We’ve warmed the world one degree. The general impression is that each degree is more costly, more damaging, than the previous one. The first degree — most estimates are that the first degree was almost free. But we can see a dotted line into Syria. The second degree will cost more than the first degree. You might say it costs the square of the warming.” Even if we meet the Paris goals of two degrees warming, cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015.“Even if such aspirations are realized, large increases in the frequency of deadly heat should be expected, with more than 350 million more megacity inhabitants afflicted by midcentury,” this paper warns. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer.Also from Turn Down the Heat. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today.The report can be found here. As Joseph Romm has put it in his authoritative primer Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know,heat stress in New York City would exceed that of present-day Bahrain, one of the planet’s hottest spots, and the temperature in Bahrain “would induce hyperthermia in even sleeping humans.”This is from page 138, though it refers to the same NOAA study mentioned above. The high-end IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] estimate, remember, is two degrees warmer still.

Several scientists pushed back against the article’s conclusions (and, I suspect, against the graphics and headline, which transmitted a message of doom and extinction). I’ll mention a couple of worthy voices in this debate, but move on to the local issue, which is of greater importance to residents to Ojai.

Ojai is already a warm place in our long Mediterranean summers: what if it gets hotter? Could Ojai be one of those places that will within our children’s become inhabitable?

This graph from NOAA shows that June temps have been soaring as of late. Probably this is due to the drought: without the evaporation and transpiration of water from the ground, temperatures warm more quickly than would otherwise be the case. But still…

CAdivisionsixmaxtempsinJune

 

The question of how much Ojai could warm this century has not really been asked, to my knowedge. Can we stand to consider this possibility? Anyone interested in the answer to that question? What if it’s knowable?

This week NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) held its monthly climate call for media. Climatologist Jake Crouch mentioned in his presentation that “typically when we have really warm years in the lower 48 we see a drought pattern.”

So I (Kit Stolz) asked the natural follow-up: Is there some unusual factor, ocean warming or something not necessarily seen in the usual datasets, that could explain this unusual warming?

Crouch said, in effect, no. “As to the temperature outlook, we saw some natural ridging building across the southwest, bringing hotter temperatures and some human health impacts to the region. We think it’s more of a weather phenomenon than any other factor.”

So there you have it. Until some new research comes in, anyhow.

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Baked Alaska

daily-cartoon_090115-alaska-1000

From The New Yorker, of course, in today’s daily cartoon.

It’s worth noting that in earth’s long history yes, evidence of the existence of palm trees and other tropical plants living at the North Pole has been documented. A tropical Arctic existed for over a million years. Runaway global warming is not only possible, it’s already happened.

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“The forks in the road”: Park Williams

Happy to say I found a way to profile the adventurous young forest ecologist Park Williams for the Santa Barbara Independent. The on-line version is the complete version of what I wrote; the print version is somewhat shorter. But let me add a couple of images and notes, because this story has a lot of different angles.

First, here’s a pic (if I can find it) of the way fog characteristically forms on Santa Cruz Island:

BishopPineonSantaCruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under those fog banks grow Bishop Pines — and nowhere else on the island.

These pics came with the help, may I add, of researcher Sara Baguskas, who presented a paper on the subject of Bishop Pines and other trees on Santa Cruz Island at the AGU science conference this past December, and passed on her slides.*

But that’s background. Here’s the story.

A sense of play and a willingness to take big chances have always been important to Park Williams.

Although he is one of the most honored young scientists to attend UC Santa Barbara in recent years, winning a Graduate School Researcher of the Year award at UCSB and an Ecological Society of America award for young scientists in 2013, as well as becoming a fixture at the prestigious Tree Ring Lab of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Williams didn’t plan to become an ecological scientist, and he didn’t have his heart set on attending UCSB.

Born in l981 and raised near Sacramento, he went to UC Irvine for his B.S. degree but had a difficult time choosing a field after graduating. He applied to Berkeley, to Davis, and to Santa Barbara, each in different fields, from atmospheric chemistry to geology to forest ecology (at UCSB).

“I applied to UCSB, but I thought I was going to Berkeley because it had a bigger name. But then I visited Santa Barbara and talked to Chris Still, who later became my graduate advisor,” he said. “After talking to him, I accepted their offer the next day.”

Still, who now leads an ecosystem research lab at Oregon State University in Corvallis, remembers working with Williams well. They bonded over a fascination with cloud forests — moist tropical or subtropical forests filled with low-level clouds.

“Park is a terrific scientist, but he’s also a person who loves life and has a great time, which is a balance not all scientists have worked out,” Still said, mentioning a wild and crazy charitable project Williams launched after Hurricane Katrina.

Amazingly, a little of that direct-from-the-time is available on line through archives kept in UCSB’s geology division. Here’s the link.

In fact, there is an on-line available picture of Park in this wild and crazy phase of his life.

daringiscaring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how does Park explain his outfit? From September 21, 2005:

“Thanks for noticing,” Park Williams said when I commented on his outfit. Well, it’s hard not to notice a strapping weightlifter when he’s wearing a pink tutu, pink hair curlers, and pink slippers—and sporting a new moustache. No, he’s not campaigning for gay rights or doing field research on an arcane aspect of behavioral geography. As Park, a grad student working on his PhD in Climatology, puts it, ”In an attempt to spice up my life and do my part to save the world at the same time, until November 1, 2005 I will be accepting and acting upon dares and double-dog-dares for monetary donations that will go directly to the Hurricane Katrina Red Cross relief effort.”

Here’s what happened:

After New Orleans was devastated late in the summer of 2005, Williams set out to raise money for the Red Cross. He launched a site called Daring is Caring and took on dares for contributions to the cause. “It was really a hilarious thing he did,” said Still. “Basically he enlisted a bunch of his friends to help him out and solicited dares for pledges to the Red Cross.”

Williams began by singing karaoke rap songs down on State Street but soon graduated to wilder gigs, wearing tutus, delivering pizza around campus in a Speedo, and taking “a double dog dare” from a local radio show, which included going to a high-end pet store — now defunct — on State Street dressed only in a bathing suit and covered with dog treats and allowing the dogs to lick him clean.

(A reliable source told that Williams raised considerable funds with the help of a radio station — into the thousands.)

In an interview at the enormous fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in December, Williams admits that at first he had a little too much fun at UCSB.

“I think it is a party school, at least compared to some of the other UCs,” he said. “And I think undergraduates especially need to be careful to be sure they can succeed in an environment where there’s a party going on almost all the time. It took me a couple of years.”

Williams initially wanted to do research into the cloud forests of Costa Rica, but he couldn’t find funding and ended up working in cloud forests much closer to home — on Santa Cruz Island.

“I don’t think I appreciated at the time how beautiful it was and what an opportunity it was to be living in Southern California but isolated from the gigantic human population,” he said.

Although he spent most nights in the field station on the western side of the island, the work often called for camping and rising at dawn to check the harp-like machine constructed to harvest fog water. By comparing the chemical composition of fog water to that inside the trees, the research group discovered how dependent the tree was on fog — about 10-15 percent it turns out.

So, it seems, Williams went from a wild and crazy party life at UCSB, to pursuing his science into beauty and isolation on Santa Cruz Island and, somewhat to his own surprise, discovering a whole new world out there.

This world includes some tough news, an example being how devastated Bishop Pines were on the islands by long (five-year) droughts, as of 1987-l991, and the most recent drought, which is also going into its fifth year. The land is changing profoundly out there, even without direct human intervention.

Here’s a slide from Sara Baguskas’ research, linked below.

Baguskasfogsurvival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Park explain:

Williams went on to compare tree ring growth with records of fog occurrence kept by local airports and showed that the trees do grow significantly more in years with foggy summers. The rare pine species also depend on winter rain, and droughts — such as the drought of 1987 to l991— led to mass tree mortality.

Williams went on to pore over decades of cloud records collected at airports since the 1940s to see if fog behavior has been changing, possibly as part of global warming.

“I was really surprised what a clear story came out of the data,” he said. “Out of that jumps this correlation between the urbanization of Southern California and the warming which comes with that.”

In a widely publicized study last year, Williams showed that in large urbanized areas the warming associated with the “heat island effect” means that marine moisture condenses into clouds at higher altitudes than it does in wild environments, reducing shading and fog and raising temperatures on land in cities.

“These low clouds are really important regulators of drought at the Earth’s surface,” he said. “For people, it’s not such a big deal [because they have alternate water sources], but for ecosystems the fog water is all they’ve got during summer.”

Williams has gone on to become something of a wizard at crunching vast datasets. He has worked with noted researchers in the Southwest, including Nate McDowell and Craig Allen, showing how imperiled forests in the region are by climate change. With a team led by Richard Seager, he studied global warming and drought in California, showing that about 15-20 percent of the drought’s impact can be attributed to human-caused warming.

“Global warming has significantly enhanced an existing trend towards fire weather in the Southwest,” he said. “It’s tough watching this happening, and it makes for a lot of sad stories, but maybe this work will be of benefit to western land managers and allow them to peer into the future.”

As for advice Williams would give to younger researchers, he turns contemplative. “Don’t sweat too much about the decision of what to study,” he said. “Just go and work very hard. Do something you’re interested in, and don’t worry too much about the forks in the road.”

And then, the way I would like to present the image:

And then he grinned.


ParkWilliams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[*Baguskas presented a paper at the AGU on fog and mass mortality among pines at the AGU, filling in for a colleague, but it happened not to be the paper available from the conference for linkage.]

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The climate “pause” that didn’t refresh: Tom Toles

This month has seen a number of studies showing that the much-discussed "hiatus" or "pause" in global warming reported by the IPCC two years ago was a misreading of the data.

In the words of Nature:

“The bottom line is that the IPCC reported that the rate of warming was less in the last 15 years than it was in the previous 30–60 years,” says Tom Karl, the study's lead author and the director of the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. “That is no longer valid according to our data.”

The analysis follows a raft of papers that seek to explain why global temperatures seemed to level off around the turn of the millennium. NOAA's updated temperature record still shows cooler observed conditions than those projected by most climate models for the same period. But Karl says that the warming trend is clear up to the end of 2014. That holds true even if researchers choose 1998, which saw extreme heat associated with an El Niño weather pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean, as the starting point for such an analysis.

In other words, even if you cherry-pick the data, you still can't find the "pause." But Tom Toles can!

ClimatepauseToles

Tom Toles publishes more editorial cartoons on climate than anyone else and it's not close. 

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Baseball manager and Twain on global warming

It's kind of random, but that's the uncanny nature of pop culture — when one looks for developments and change about an issue, you never know what you will catch. 

From the LA Times, the manager of the LA Dodgers, Don Mattingly, wonders if drier air, due to the drought in California, could be affecting the anomalous number of home runs early this season. 

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has, at times, hypothesized that the especially dry weather means less drag on the balls. Maybe, he pondered, global warming is behind it?

"I don't know," Mattingly said. "But it was good to get a few [home runs] tonight."

It's worth noting that the California drought/global warming connection is suspected but not proven. 

In this context, there's also the impossible-to-forget Mark Twain remark — and an interesting hint from cartoonist Kevin Siers of the global warming/Middle East crisis connection:

Twainglobalwarming

 

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Huge blizzard to hit NYC: Homer Simpson bent out of shape

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress points out that scientists believe that the finger of blame has already been pointed at climate change when it comes to the size of storms hitting the mid-Atlantic and New England coastal regions.

Romm writes:

"Another epic blizzard is bearing down on New England. There is a “big part” played by “human-induced climate change,” especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures, according to Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

I asked Dr. Trenberth to comment on the role climate change has on this latest storm, which is forecast to set records. He explained:

The number 1 cause of this is that it is winter. In winter it is cold over the continent. But it is warm over the oceans and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. At present sea surface temperatures are more the 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change.

Before this latest storm, we’ve seen a long-term pattern of more extreme precipitation, particularly in New England winters. Climate scientists had long predicted this would happen in a warming world.

Here’s why."

    

  NCAHeavyPrecip-638x421

But Mr. Romm, this doesn't sound logical. Global warming leads to more blizzards? 

Homer Simpson expresses this frustration better than anyone, I think:

Simpsons take on Global Warming from Jørgen Larsen on Vimeo.

Let me add one personal note, as someone who had the pleasure of spending the last week in New York City. Blizzards in New York can be fun!

Without overlooking the risks, I hope some people in the region can enjoy this rare time when Mother Nature takes over and asserts herself with the quieting and beautifying powers of snow.  

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IPCC report leaked: global warming a disaster of poverty

Seth Borenstein of the AP leads the national press in reporting on a leaked IPCC report starkly warning that global warming will give us a poorer, sicker, more violent world.

And he puts the language of the report itself front and center:

"Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger," the report says. "Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality."

The warnings pull no punches:

The report says scientists have high confidence especially in what it calls certain "key risks":

—People dying from warming- and sea rise-related flooding, especially in big cities.

—Famine because of temperature and rain changes, especially for poorer nations.

—Farmers going broke because of lack of water.

—Infrastructure failures because of extreme weather.

—Dangerous and deadly heat waves worsening.

—Certain land and marine ecosystems failing.

Reminds me of a tweet today, that actually comes to us from deep in the past:

Mobydick

 

 

 

 

 

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Funniest tweet ever: Global warming edition

One of the funniest tweets of all time, according to one semi-disreputable media outlet, is about climate change. 

Tweet-013

#13, to be precise. From Playboy

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Overrated movie of the year: Snowpiercer

Yours truly sees all sorts of movies with alleged environmental messages (even the recent Godzilla, for crying out loud) to see how pop culture understands the on-coming prospect of planetary disaster.

One of the best such movies in recent years was "The Host," from South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, which at least one other critic called "the best monster movie ever made." That 2007 movie had it all: a classic premise, brought to vivid (and anti-American life); a bizarre failure of a man who became a hero more or less in spite of himself; an endearing child battling a ghastly monster; an odd but captivating sense of humor; great action direction; a surly Communist to set events in motion — surely one of the best genre movies of the century to date. 

So yours truly eagerly awaited the director's next major outing, complete with a plethora of stars: young Chris Evans; Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, and the two most memorable Korean characters from "The Host." And so did other critics, evidently, for as a group they have fallen all over themselves in praising it — jeez, the usually reliable Andrew O'Hehir of Salon has called it "the best action film of 2014, and probably the best film, period." 

Its numerical rating on Rotten Tomatoes comes in at an absurd 94%. Metacritic's algorithm puts it at 83% (Though the real people rating comes in lower — 75%).

But folks, let me tell you, even if you like the global warming analogy (in which a substance sprayed into the sky brings on a freeze fatal to nearly the entire planet, within six months), you won't like this movie. Even if you enjoy the brutal parable of the 99% living on a train, trying to win some decency in life from the 1% who runs the show. Even if you can stand the ghastly axe-battling, the hoary disco decadence, the bizarre schoolteacher ruling the kids — all the metaphors, in other words — it's still a crummy movie, with some of the most banal dialogue in memory, the most boring hero imaginable (Chris Evans, showing not a smidge of the wit of his previous outing as Captain America), and a completely unreal setting. 

Politically I have no real problems with the movie (except for the preposterous ending). But I don't think it's too much to ask for a veneer of plausibility, or, if that's not possible, at least a compensatory outrageousness or, um, fun? This is grim, bitter, harsh obvious stuff, in look and in plot. 

Think you can see its dullness in this publicity still:

Snowpiercer

Weird thing is that the critics praise the movie even as they damn so many of its individual elements. O'Herir says it has "a creaky start." David Edelstein, perhaps my fave overall critic today, says the action scenes "are choppy and gracelessly staged, and the actors are high on the hog." Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, another critic who usually keeps her wits about her, calls the movie 

a tonal mishmash that can never decide between thoughtful political metaphor, lightheartedness and pulverizing violence. Bong seems most at home with the latter, which he stages with tiresome, slow-motion fetishism, mixing costumes and weaponry in an effort to distract from the scenes’ sheer repetitiveness.

And yet her mostly laudatory review is headlined: "All aboard a cold train to nowhere!'

Inexplicable. Perhaps the legendarily overbearing producer Harvey Weinstein twisted arms, or spiked the critics' drinks, or something. 

Demand better environmental apocalypse movies! Avoid this dumb one. Please. 

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The Titanic/global warming analogy takes a dramatic turn

Last week The New Yorker led off with an uncharacteristically labored analogy/editorial from Adam Gopnik, who pointed out that the Titanic had a twin sister, the Olympic, which sailed unharmed through the frozen northern seas for decades and (he suggested) so could we. 

"It reminds us that our imagination of disaster is dangerously more fertile than our imagination of the ordinary. You have certainly heard of the Titanic; you have probably never heard of the Olympic."

Okay, that's sweet, but doesn't it seem rather besides the point? Far more memorably last week a snarky Internet commentator not nearly as famous as Gopnik found a detail from the familiar Titanic story/metaphor that made a far bigger splash on the intertubes, because it briliantly dramatized what has become an all-too-frequent pattern among deniers. Too often the likes of James Inhofe (who wore long underwear to work at the Senate last week, to show that the evidence for global warming is "laughable") will exalt  an ephemeral detail — a cold snap — in an attempt to wave off the facts. This new metaphor fought that mockery with its own mockery.

Take it away, Nerdy Jewish Girl!  

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