Category: extreme weather

Connecting the climate dots, from E-cars to rising sea level

Global climate reporting from Summit Voice

Oceans are warming, sea levels are going up, and will continue to rise for centuries to come. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

If you’re a long-time Summit Voice follower you’ve noticed that the pace of posts has dropped off a bit in the past few months, but that’s only because some of the content has moved to other locations. So here’s a quick roundup of some of my latest environment and climate stories from around the world.

For InsideClimate News, I took a close look at some of the latest research on ocean heat content, featuring work by Kevin Trenberth, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The new study he co-authored took a close look at data from thousands of autonomous ocean probes that measure ocean temperatures from the surface all the way down to a depth of 2,000 meters. The study found that the rate of ocean warming has doubled since the early 1990s from previous decades, and that the heat is getting into deep waters. The study also tracks regional variations in ocean warming, important because it will affect where and when sea level rises fastest: Rate of Ocean Warming Has Nearly Doubled Over 25 Years.

I also did some in-depth reporting on a potentially groundbreaking legal case in Austria, where an administrative law court ruled that citizens have a legal right to be protected from climate change impacts when the blocked construction of a third runway at the Vienna International Airport: Vienna Airport Expansion Blocked on Climate Change Grounds.

In my first story for Deutsche Welle, which is a German equivalent of NPR and PBS, I reported on how global warming is increasing forest fire danger all over the world, including forests in temperate, wet climates like Central Europe, even in the Alps. While residents of the West already have seen fire activity surge in the past 20 years, some other regions are just starting to experience those changes, and the risks are great: Global warming is increasing forest fire risk in the Alps.

Globally, there are also burgeoning efforts to electrify the transportation system in the fight to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avert dangerous climate change. In Austria, the federal government has teamed up with the private sector to invest in e-mobility. Consumers can get rebates of up to €4,000 for buying electric cars, and even E-bikes, and there are also subsidies available for investments in expanding the electric charging infrastructure. Altogether, the government expects that their initial €72 million investment will help spur the creation of 30,000 new jobs and €3 billion in new economic activity: Austria Is Making Electric Cars More Affordable Than Ever.

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What caused ‘snowball Earth?’

Volcanoes seen as likely trigger for global glaciation

In the right conditions, global ice can spread rapidly from pole to pole. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A 10-year string of steady volcanic eruptions may have been the trigger for a massive global cooling event that left much of the Earth encased in glaciers and ice sheets about 771 million years ago.

The eruptions could have spewed so much sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere that the planet’s climate reached a tipping point, resulting in what scientists call ‘snowball Earth,” according to a new study published this month in Geophysical Research Letters. Understanding the natural variability of climate is important to understanding current climate change driven by emission of greenhouse gases. Continue reading “What caused ‘snowball Earth?’”

February ends up as second-warmest on record for U.S.

16 states report record heat

States stretching from Texas to New York were record warm in February.

Staff Report

Nearly a quarter of the U.S. was record warm in February, and nationwide, it ended up as the second-warmest February on record, just behind 1954. The winter (December to February) was the sixth-warmest, according to the latest State of the Climate update from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

By the numbers, the average temperature across the lower 48 states for Februrary was 41.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. The winter as a whole (December to February) was 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit above average.

The only state reporting widespread below-average temperatures was Washington, with slightly below to near average readings in Oregon, Northern California, northern Idaho and Montana.

By contrast, 16 states, stretching from Texas up the Mississippi Valley to the Midwest, New York and the central Atlantic Coast, were record warm. Three states, including Colorado, reported their all-time warmest minimum average temperatures, in line with global warming trends showing nighttimes heating faster than days.

According to the report, there were 11,743 daily warm temperature records broken or tied, compared to 418 daily cold records. Of those, 1,151 daily records also broke the warmest temperature record ever observed during February, compared to just 2 cold records.

Read the full State of the Climate report here: https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/national-climate-201702.

The U.S. February temperatures are in line with the rest of world, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which reported earlier this week that the average global temperature for February was the second-warmest on record.

Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record

No post El Niño cool down …

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The global average temperature for February 2017 was the second-warmest on record, with record heat across the Arctic and parts of North America. Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Staff Report

So far, there’s little sign of a post El Niño drop in global temperatures, according to the European Copernicus Climate Change Service, which has new data showing that last month was the second-warmest February on record for Earth. According to the report, February 2017 “extended the spell of exceptional global warmth that has now lasted since mid-2015.”

February had the highest departure from average for any month since April 2016, at 0.69 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. That was just 0.18 degrees Celsius cooler than February 2016, which was the warmest February on record. Continue reading “Global heat wave continues with second-warmest February on record”

How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?

Study eyes impacts to North Atlantic Oscillation

How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles?
How will the Arctic meltdown affect weather in the British Isles? Photo courtesy UK Met Office.

Staff Report

The loss of Arctic sea ice may not lead directly to an increase in cold weather extremes in Europe, according to scientists who studied the links between Arctic changes and mid-latitude weather. In the study, scientists with the University of Exeter found that dwindling sea ice does affect the  North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) weather phenomenon, which affects winter weather conditions in Northern Europe, in places such as the UK, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Continue reading “How will the melting Arctic affect European weather?”

USGS study tracks West Coast El Niño erosion

Some of the biggest waves on record took a toll on beaches

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Santa Monica beach during a break from the El Niño storms of 2015-2016. @bberwyn photo.

The  2015-16 El Niño may have been a bust as far as precipitation in California, but it still ended up as one of the strongest episodes of the last 145 years, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who studied erosion along the West Coast.

They found that, on average, erosion was  76 percent above normal, with most beaches in California eroded beyond historical extremes. If, as some research suggests, El Niños become stronger in a warming climate, then the West Coast, with its 25 million inhabitants, will become increasingly vulnerable to coastal hazards.

The study covered seasonal changes at 29 beaches from Washington to Southern California. They used 3-D maps and aerial lidar imaging, GPS topographic surveys, and direct measurements of sand levels, combined with wave and water level data to measure the changes.

Winter beach erosion or the removal and loss of sand from the beach is a normal seasonal process, but the extent of erosion can be more severe during El Niño events than in other years.

Continue reading “USGS study tracks West Coast El Niño erosion”

It’s official — 2016 is the warmest year on record

Climate data show steady pace of global warming

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A NASA map shows the pattern of global warming in 2016.

Staff Report

For the third year in a row, the average global temperature climbed to a new record in 2016, reaching 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, according to the most recent state of the climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During a conference announcing the new data, federal scientists said they can confidently  determine that Earth is now in its warmest era since about 125,000 years ago, during a break between ice ages, and there’s no sign that the warmup will stop anytime soon. Continue reading “It’s official — 2016 is the warmest year on record”