Tag archive for heat wave

Fevered: Global warming facts you probably don’t know

Am reviewing expert science reporter Linda Marsa's Fevered, about a hotter planet and what that means for human health. (Spoiler: It's not great news, although "heat adaptation" is possible in many cases.) 

Though I'm not yet finished, must say I'm impressed with this book. Perhaps the best climate change book I've read since Tim Flannery's "The Weathermakers." Short, direct, and uninterested in bickering wtih climate change deniers or minimizers, this book is all about consequences. Might say Fevered is a Sugar Ray Robinson of a climate change book: short, muscular, and punchy as hell. Pound for pound, as they say in sports, as good a book as you'll find on the subject.

It's also a book that includes a good number of interesting and useful facts usefui to know but not likely to show up in the sort of articles Marsa has written for newspapers (such as the Los Angeles Times) or magazines (such as Discover). And hence, worthy of blogging. 

For instance, from a stunning chapter about heat waves called "The Hot Zone":

"…when heat waves occur early in the summer, people are more likely to die because they're not yet acclimated to hotter weather. But as the summer goes on, our bodies gradually adapt by helping sweat glands produce more perspiration on the skin's surface, cooling the body. "By the end of the summer, bodies have become more resilient," said [Gary] Szatkowski, of the National Weather Service. "The exact same weather conditions that might prompt us to issue a warning in early June wouldn't be as dangerous in late August."

Brings to mind the Great Heat Wave of 2006 in California, which according to authorities killed a minimum of 147 people — making one of the worst natural disasters in recent history in California.

Point is, these heat waves are getting hotter, even in California — and especially at night.

Nighttimeheatwave
From California Heat Waves in the Present and Future  (Different colors indicate different regions, teal colored line indicates the coastal north — one reason why the Great Heat Wave of 2006 in California turned so deadly, because the northern coastal region was not accusted to real heat.)  

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New Mexico conifer forests gone by 2050: Scientist

The pine forests of New Mexico have been around since the Pleistocene, but they're not going to be around much longer, according to a scientist named Nate McDowell at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

For as long as there have been forests, there have been droughts,” [McDowell] said. “But the droughts we’re experiencing now are very novel because they’re warmer.”

And after just a year monitoring the trees [in his experiment duplicating a future climate], McDowell has come to a sobering conclusion: Within about 40 years, most of New Mexico’s pine, juniper and pinon trees will have dried up and died out.

“(By) about year 2050, we shouldn’t have conifer forests in the Southwest,” he said.

Certainly the idea that the heat waves are getting hotter makes sense. McDowell phrases the idea of drought and heat in a way I hadn't heard before from a scientist, but it makes a lot of sense:

“Warmer air can hold more water,” McDowell said. “So the more water it can hold, the more it will suck out of the Earth.”

Could use some cool air around here myself.  

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19 firefighters in Arizona killed in wildfire/heat wave

Global warming casulties

Story at the top of the front page of the New York Times doesn't mention the heat wave, which drovetemperatures to 120 degrees in Phoenix, nor any possible link to global warming, but does note that since 1955, a total of 21 firefighters have died battling fires in Arizona. Which means this was the worst day in history of firefighting in the state.

For AZCentral.com:

Rancher John Hays, 85, lives in the heart of Peeple's Valley. He said
the fire is burning the edge of his property line, but as of 9:30 p.m.,
it was burning only brush.

"You can't believe the fierce winds we're having and how dry it is —
I've never seen it so erratic — the fire turns back and forth," Hays
said. "The horror is that people have died trying to put it out. It's
heartbreaking. It's tragic."

Seems to be a journalism tradition not to discuss causes immediately in the aftermath of a tragedy. Perhaps that's respectful. 

Fire5-web-hpMedium

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An “intensification of the hydrological cycle”: CA

This is a scientific cliche describing a central fact of climate change. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water, about 4% more, which leads to more extreme weather. It's an idea that Kevin Trenbeth, who has published more than 400 scientific papers in climatology, has for a decade been translating into conversational English as "the wets get wetter and the dries get drier."

It's a well-understood phenomenon that this week in California took an interesting turn. 

Here we have a surprisingly wet couple of days , in fairly heavy rains that hit the Bay on 6/24:

RaininJuneinBay
And here we have a huge drying out, as in a heat wave that looks likely to set all-time highs across the entire West, blankets the entire West just four days later:

HeatwaveJuly

The purple on the latest warnings map for some reason stands for red flag warnings. 

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Is Earth d**med? AGU scientist Jason Box wants to know

Credit where credit is due: Brilliant story on this year's AGU by Jonathan Mingle in Slate

Many of us have wondered at some point in almost precisely these terms: “Is Earth F**ked?” But it’s not the sort of frank query you expect an expert in geomorphology to pose to his colleagues as the title of a formal presentation at one of the world’s largest scientific gatherings.

Dare you not to read the rest

Spoiler: The blunt-spoken scientist wants to save his beloved Greenland

Greenland20120724-640

At the conference the idea that the heat wave that melted 97% of Greenland's ice sheet in five days this July came up, and its similiarity to other heat waves, in this country in the Midwest especially.  

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Killer heat wave breaks Dust Bowl-era records

It's "folly" to blame the killer heat wave blanketing the eastern United States under misery on global warming, says climate change denier Anthony Watts, because, after all, the entire globe isn't suffering a heat wave. No, seriously:

The is weather, not climate. It is caused by a persistent blocking high pressure pattern. In a day or two, that red splotch [denoting heat] over the eastern USA will be gone.

Countless scientists disagree. Leading the pack on-line is Dr. Jeff Masters, who offers Chicago in 2012 as an example of a persistent change, and not a hiccup in the passage of weather patterns:

Chicago, IL hit 103° Friday, which was just 2° shy of their official all-time high of 105° set on July 24, 1934 (the unofficial Midway Airport site recorded 109° on July 23, 1934, though.) Friday was the third consecutive day with a temperature of 100° or hotter in Chicago, tying the record for most consecutive 100° days (set on July 3 – 5, 1911 and Aug 4 – 6, 1947.) Historically, Chicago has 15 days per summer over 90° and 1 day every 2.3 years over 100°. Under a higher-emissions scenario, climate change models predict that Chicago could experience over 70 days above 90° by 2100 and 30 days over 100°. With summer less than half over, Chicago has seen 18 days over 90° and 4 over 100° in 2012. The record number of 100° days in Chicago is 8, set in 1988. The heat wave in Chicago comes at the end of a nine-month period of record warmth in the city, including the warmest March on record. As a result, Lake Michigan has heated up to the warmest levels ever seen this early in the year. Temperatures of 80°–fifteen degrees above average–were measured at the South Buoy on Lake Michigan on Friday. 

And he points out that if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will get markedly worse: Chicagoextremeheat

[Graph from the Union of Concerned Scientists.]

Blogger/thinker/writer Matthew Iglesias puts it another way, on Twitter

There’s a conceptual error in asking whether global warming causes unusual heat waves when the issue is that it consists of them.

And then adds:

It’s like arguing about whether hurricanes cause high wind speeds.

Have we been thinking about this all wrong?

Futurist Alex Steffen, also young, is not so philosophical:

We are waging an undeclared war on the future. 

Can't help but note the irony here: For p.r. reasons, apparently, right-wing political action committees, or CAPs, routinely reference the future. It's so uniform that they've taken virtually all the obvious names: Restore Our Future (Romney), Winning Our Future (Gingrich). American Crossroads (Rove).

A duo of young Democratic political operatives, determined to start a PAC of their own, discovered this, as chronicled in a NYTimes magazine story:

It took several weeks for Burton and Sweeney to come up with a name for their start-up [PAC]. To their irritation, every slogan they considered had already been trademarked by Republicans. “We gave our lawyer 10 more names,” Burton recalls. “Then like 50. We’re literally trying every combination of whatever. You can’t come up with a name that has the word ‘future’ in it that the Republicans don’t control. Romney’s Restore Our Future — that doesn’t even make sense, and that’s probably why they were able to get it.”    

It's so perfectly Orwellian. If you wish to have a free hand to destroy our future, it's helpful to at first take the word itself hostage. 

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Massive heat wave linked to Colorado fires heading east

At what point do we start to notice that our new climate isn't improved? 

Fri-heat

Massive heat wave moving East: Washington Post

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Still w/the Midwest heatwave: Climate Change? Yes or no?

Probably yes, the recent heat wave in the Midwest can be attributed to global warming, write Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou for RealClimate. They conclude their statistical discussion with: 

…let’s take the most simple case of a normal distribution that is shifted towards the warm end by a given amount – say one standard deviation. Then, a moderately extreme temperature that is 2 standard deviations above the mean becomes 4.5 times more likely […]. But a seriously extreme temperature, that is 5 standard deviations above the mean, becomes 90 times more likely! Thus: the same amount of global warming boosts the probability of really extreme events, like the recent US heat wave, far more than it boosts more moderate events. 

And they include a couple of telling graphs, including this one from the most recent IPCC report: 

Ipcc-extremes1

But no, argues Marty Hoerling, for NOAA:

A black swan most probably was observed in March 2012 (lest we forget 1910). Gifted thereby to a wonderful late winter of unprecedented balmy weather, we also now know that all swans are not white. The event reminds us that there is no reason to believe that the hottest, "meteorological maddest" March observed in a mere century of observations is the hottest possible. But this isn't to push all the blame upon randomness. Our current estimate of the impact of GHG forcing is that it likely contributed on the order of 5% to 10% of the magnitude of the heat wave during 12-23 March. And the probability of heatwaves is growing as GHG-induced warming continues to progress. But there is always the randomness.

And Hoerling has an example to point to, in which conditions in models in February led to a record predicted heat wave:

The key feature of the evolving predictions is a sudden and abrupt emergence of a very warm March prediction for the Upper Midwest/Ohio Valley region in the February initialized forecasts. These are substantial changes statistically because each plot represents a 40-run average. Prior forecasts had anticipated warm conditions mostly along the southern tier of the U.S., consistent with the impact of ongoing cold tropical Pacific SSTs associated with a La Nina event.

It's puzzling to me that Hoerling should be able to see an extreme heat wave in model runs from February, but still doubt that a black swan event could be attributed to climate change.

I'm missing something, I guess. 

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Midwestern Heat Wave: Attribute to global warming?

A Climate Central reporter tries to tease out the contribution of climate change to the unprecedented heat wave in the Midwest, mentioned above, but the attribution studies have yet to be done, and many questions remain. 

For instance, the extraordinary leap in temperatures this month in places like Michigan is due in part to the fact that oddly little snow was on the ground before the heat wave started. If we assume that global warming has no part of that oddity, then the leap in temperatures should be separated from our attempts to attribute the overall weather pattern to this or that cause.

But what if climate change contributed to the lack of snow in the first place?

Story doesn't really get into that. Story does point out that the "blocking high" that knocked the jetstream off its usual path may have no connection to climate chage. Marty Hoerling, the silver-haired dead of Southwestern climate change modelrs, argues that the blocking pattern was not caused by global warming. The story explains: : 

Such “blocking patterns” are often associated with temperature and precipitation extremes, and were present during the 2010 Russian heat wave and the 2003 European heat wave, as well. However, there is a lot of uncertainty about what causes blocking events or how global warming influences them.

Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at Earth Systems Research Lab, agreed with [Randall] Dole, saying that although global warming is likely playing a role in this event, it probably did not play a major one. “Meteorology, not climate change, is the main ingredient in the current March 2012 U.S. extreme warmth,” he wrote. Of climate change, he said, “. . . its contribution to the magnitude of current conditions (+30°F departures [from average]) is quite small (but not zero) indeed.”

But he's talking specifically about the dome of high pressure. On a broader scale, as Kevin Trenberth of the National Center on Atmospheric Research points out in a study published openly this month, global warming is contributing to all of this:

Anthropogenic global warming inherently has decadal time scales and can bereadily masked by natural variability on short time scales. To the extent that interactions arelinear, even places that feature below normal temperatures are still warmer than theyotherwise would be. It is when natural variability and climate change develop in the samedirection that records get broken. For instance, the rapid transition from El Niño prior to May2010 to La Niña by July 2010 along with global warming contributed to the record high seasurface temperatures in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans and in close proximity toplaces where record flooding subsequently occurred. A commentary is provided on recentclimate extremes. The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climatechange is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate changebecause the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.

Here's my question. Suppose a similar blocking high developed over the Midwest in August. How much hotter could it get? Surely not 30 degrees. But how much?

Someone must be thinking about this…perhaps I should ask Mr. Trenberth.  

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Climate: If it’s not a crisis, newspapers can’t be bothered

Talked to my mom last night, and mentioned to her that the Midwest is experiencing a heat wave the likes of which no one alive has ever really seen. 

The experts have been floored for a week. It's "unprecedented." Thousands of records broken.  

Marchheatwave

Jeff Masters' weather historian: "It's almost like science fiction –" Bill McKibben: "This is what climate change looks like." In Michigan, lows for the day (53 degrees) that are higher than the previous high for the date (49). "That's incredible — to me, that's just mind-boggling," said Mike Halpert, of a NOAA climate center. 

"I didn't know about that!" said my mom, a little perturbed. As the proud daughter of an eminent meteorologist, she's always been interested in weather, and she's also a person who reads two newspapers a day, and three a week. Yet the papers haven't mentioned it. 

Because it's March, and unusually pleasant in the MidWest, news of the heat wave has yet ot make the front page of the Times, the Post, the Los Angeles Times, or my paper, to the best of my knowledge. Certainly hasn't made a splash, even though the President himself wondered at the possibility of global warming, on a campaign swing. "It gets you a little nervous about what's happening –" Obama said. 

Almost as if it could be due to climate change. 

 To which ABC News' Ginger Zee replies:
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Essentially, yes.

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