72 F. yesterday at Fairmont, New Ulm and Owatonna.
70 F. reported at Mankato and St. James.
61 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
38 F. average high for November 21.
36 F. high on November 21, 2011.
35 degree temperature tumble later today, from 56 F. midday to 21 later tonight.
Thanksgiving Day Climatology In The Twin Cities. Here’s an excerpt of a good post from The Minnesota Climatology Working Group: ”Because Thanksgiving Day occurs at the transition period between autumn and winter, Thanksgiving weather can be balmy to brutal. A typical Thanksgiving Day in the Twin Cities has high temperatures in the 30′s and at least a bit of filtered sunshine.
Having a mild day in the 50′s on Thanksgiving Day is relatively rare, looking at the historical record back to 1872. A maximum of 50 or more has happened only ten times in 140 years, or about once every 14 years or so. The warmest Thanksgiving Day is a tie of 62 degrees set in 1914 and 1922. The mildest recent Thanksgiving Day is 59 degrees on November 24, 2011. This was the fourth warmest Thanksgiving back to 1872 for the Twin Cities.
On the other side of the spectrum, it is common to have a high temperature below 32. The average Thanksgiving Day temperature is right around freezing. What about extremely cold Thanksgivings? Looking at the past 140 years, It is a little more likely to have a minimum at or below zero on Thanksgiving Day, as it is to have a maximum of 50 or above. Below-zero lows have occurred twelve times in the past 140 years. The coldest Thanksgiving Day minimum temperature was 18 degrees below zero on November 25, 1880. The coldest high temperature was one below zero on November 28, 1872. The last time it was below zero on the morning of Thanksgiving was in 1985, with eight below zero.
Measurable snow fell on 27 of the past Thanksgivings back to 1884, about every five years or so. The most snow that fell on Thanksgiving was five inches in 1970. The last time there was measurable snow on Thanksgiving was in 2007 with .2 (two tenths of an inch) of snow. Historically, about one in three Thanksgivings have at least one inch of snow on the ground. The deepest snow pack is a tie with 1921 and 1983, both with 10 inches on the ground by Turkey Day.”
Thanksgiving Day Weather: Remarkably Quiet. The predicted map for midday today looks like somethig out of late September or early October for much of the USA with temperatures 10-20 F. warmer than average. The only exception: Dakotas into the Red River Valley, where an advancing cold front will turn on gusty winds and a quick burst of light snow. Model guidance: WSI.
Reality Check. Yes, the honeymoon is almost over. We salvage a few mild hours during the morning and midday hours, before temperatures go off a cliff this afternoon. Highs hold in the upper 20s to near 30 Friday and Saturday, ECMWF model data showing chilly (dry) weather spilling over into most of next week.
Giving Thanks. Enjoy it while you can – in fact take the day off. I’ll write you a note. It won’t get much better than today: blue sky, a light breeze, low 60s by early afternoon, a day that would feel right at home in late September. Clouds increase Thursday with a slight chance of a (rain) shower as colder air approaches, but the morning hours should still be quite nice. Friday will feel like December, as wind chills dip into the teens at times. One silver lining: no accumulating snow or ice in sight – no problems getting home by land or air this weekend. Chilly weather spills over into next week, but I still don’t see anything remotely resembling a storm, looking out 1-2 weeks. When in a drought, don’t predict rain…or snow. Enjoy today’s weather bliss – by Friday there will be NO doubt in your mind that December is right around the corner.
Drought Shows Little Sign Of Easing. Worried about plants, trees and shrubs with our ongoing drought? Here is some good information from The Garden City Telegram: “…spruce trees in particular have been hard hit by the dry weather that has plagued Kansas for most of the past year, Upham said. New plantings and new trees are the most are the most vulnerable to these dry conditions, he said, because their root systems haven’t had a chance to extend deep into the ground. For trees to benefit most from watering, he said, the soil must be soaked as much as a foot below the surface. “The rooting hairs that actually take in water close to the surface have gone dormant,” Upham said. “You need to get that (water) down to where there are live feeder roots that can pick it up.”
* the latest NOAA U.S. Drought Monitor is here.
How Does The Jet Stream Work? The U.K. Met Office has an informative YouTube clip focused on explaining the how’s and why’s of the ubiquitous jet stream steering currents aloft: “What is the jet stream? How does the jet stream affect our weather in the UK? This animation explains how the jet stream works.”
Shifting Gear. NOAA’s NAM model is consistent, pulling a burst of numbing air south of the border today, pushing from the Dakotas into Minnesota by afternoon, sparking a band of rain showers (tomorrow) from Cleveland to Memphis. Heavier, steadier rain pushes into Seattle and Portland tomorrow, while dry weather persists over most of the south.
Drought Conditions Threaten Mississippi River Transport. There just isn’t enough water in the Mighty Mississippi, the result of one of the worst droughts since the 1930s. Details from The Epoch Times: ”Persistent drought conditions in the upper Midwest are threatening the nation’s waterways, with the mighty Mississippi River so low that barge traffic has been affected and may be forced to halt. Over 90 barges have been either stranded or grounded due to low water in recent weeks, according to the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), a public policy organization representing shippers and ports. Low water levels are also likely to increase due to continuing dry conditions, compounded by the actions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who have orders to reduce water flow from the Missouri River into the Mississippi…”
Photo credit above: “A Coast Guard boat patrols in the foreground as a barge makes its way down the Mississippi River Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, in St. Louis. A top Corps of Engineers official has ordered the release of water from an upper Mississippi River reservoir in an effort to avoid closure of the river at St. Louis to barge traffic due to low water levels caused by drought.” (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Can We Engineer Storm-Proof Metropolitan Areas? Will we go the way of the Dutch, building huge seawalls, dikes and levees to keep the sea out? Huffington Post has a very interesting story focused on possible ways to mitigate the next (inevitable) storm surge; here’s an excerpt: “…Next time the damage done in dollars and in lives could be far worse. At its peak, Sandy was only a Category 1 storm. Its winds never went above 90 miles per hour near New York. Were something like a Category 4 storm, with winds of 131 to 155 miles per hour, to make landfall near the city, the devastation would be awful. Many more would die. Houses would be toppled over by sheer windforce, subway tunnels could be flooded for months instead of a week, and the economic capital of the United States could be paralyzed. The city would incur $500 billion worth of damage, according to a 2006 analysis by the Department of Homeland Security. As the climate continues to change, the damage could be even worse. According to a 2007 report by Risk Management Solutions and the University of Southampton, by 2070 the New York area will have 2.9 million people and $2.1 trillion in assets exposed to coastal flooding...”
How To Build A More Resilient Power Grid. Here’s another thought-provoking article from Scientific American: “In the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy’s destructive march on the East Coast, utilities warned customers to prepare for widespread outages and potentially extensive power failure. The question was not if the grid would fail, but to what extent. The storm highlighted an already well-known problem: The U.S. power grid is vulnerable to extreme weather. As officials from New York to Venice, Italy, have acknowledged in recent weeks, climate change is likely to increase the prevalence of such weather. And according to analysts and outside groups working on the problem, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy that can insulate the ailing grid against an escalation of the elements…”
Photo credit above: “Technology such as smart meters and micro-grids can help the vulnerable U.S. electric grid weather extreme storms.” Image: Flickr/Christopher Schoenbohm
Vetoing Business As Usual After The Storm. Rebuilding in high-risk coastal areas after each and every hurricane is not only futile, but expensive, considering (all) U.S. taxpayers are picking up the tab. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The New York Times: “Not a month after Hurricane Sandy there’s a rough consensus about how to respond. America is already looking to places like London, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Tokyo, where sea walls, levees and wetlands, flood plains and floating city blocks have been conceived. New York clearly ought to have taken certain steps a while back, no-brainers after the fact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ought to have installed floodgates and louvers at vulnerable subway entrances and vents. Consolidated Edison should have gotten its transformers, and Verizon its switching stations, out of harm’s way, and Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea…”
Photo credit above: “One of the largest piles of storm debris at the Jersey shore is shown in this Nov. 15, 2012 photo in Long Branch N.J. Superstorm Sandy created tons of debris that towns in New York and New Jersey are still struggling to dispose of weeks later. Three weeks in, the round-the clock effort to remove storm rubble has strained the resources of sanitation departments and landfill operators, and caused heartaches and headaches for thousands of families.” (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Outsmarting The Surge. How do we build more surge-resilient communities along the coast? Is it even theoretically, and cost-effectively possible to do so? Here’s an excerpt of a terrific article at Time Magazine: “After Hurricane Sandy hurled the Atlantic at the Northeast coast on Oct. 29 and 30, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo returned from touring a shell-shocked New York City to face reporters. The storm surge had inundated lower Manhattan, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. It had obliterated the New Jersey shore. Across more than a dozen states, from North Carolina to Maine and as far west as Michigan, it left more than 50 people dead and more than 8 million without power, and it likely caused more than $20 billion in damage. Sandy, a seemingly minor Category 1 hurricane, was a major catastrophe...”
Photo credit above: Andrew Quilty / Oculi for Time.
Hurricanes And Climate Change. An estimated 90% of warming has gone into the world’s oceans. Are those (increasingly warm) ocean waters helping to spike the hurricanes that do get going? Here’s a clip from PBS NOVA: “When it engulfed swaths of coastal New York and New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy became an instant symbol of a new age of extreme weather fueled by climate change. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama to nudge him to address climate. Bloomberg Businessweek summed up this sentiment with its Sandy cover story, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” But is it, really? As one of the most extreme kinds of extreme weather, hurricanes already pose a mortal threat to anyone living along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and other tropical cyclone trouble spots. If we face the prospect of routine superstorms amped up by the extra heat and moisture from global warming—or, in the case of Sandy, merging with other systems into freakish weather hybrids—that’s a truly apocalyptic threat.…”
NOAA Scientist; 80% Percent Chance Recent Heat Records Due To Climate Change. Is it possible to connect the dots and link attribution to a warmer atmosphere? The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang has the story – here’s an excerpt: “Is climate change giving our weather just a little nudge to make setting heat records – like Washington, D.C. just experienced – vastly more likely? That’s the opinion of one NOAA scientist. Meet Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. I recently participated with him and several other climate scientists in a Google Hangout conversation. What Hoerling had to say about climate change and record-setting temperatures was fascinating. He makes a compelling case that human-caused climate change isn’t causing heat waves, but – in many instances – adding to their intensity. Consider these excerpts from his commentary, about 34-38 minutes into the 60 minute panel discussion. “….the globally averaged temperature of the planet has risen beyond any doubt beyond where you would expect … with natural variability alone...”
“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A.
About Face: U.S. Tornado Activity Near Low Point In Modern Record. The always prolific, always-interesting Capital Weather Gang summarizes America’s tornado situation for 2012. It turns out the drought and excessive heat had at least one silver lining: ”After one of the busiest years for tornadoes in 2011, tornado numbers in 2012 have come crashing down to historic lows. In 2011, there were 1692 twisters – second most on record. This year, only 882 tornadoes have touched down. (Tornado records date back to 1950*). “[W]e are approaching a theoretical minimum in the annual tornado count for the modern era,” said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Ok. What’s especially remarkable about the year’s depressed numbers is that tornado activity got off to a red-hot start. Through mid-April, tornado counts were highest on record. But then, an extended tornado drought struck and the count ranking plummeted...”
Graphic above courtesy of SPC, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.
Weather Data From Nation’s Largest Wind Farms Could Improve U.S. Models, Forecasts. Here’s one way to initialize models with higher quality (real-time) weather data – tap the network for wind farms around the U.S. – a brilliant idea described in this phys.org article: ”NOAA now has data sharing agreements with Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., and NextEra Energy Resources of June Beach, Fla. – the country’s two largest generators of wind-generated electric power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The companies will provide valuable weather observations from instrumented towers in their wind farms and wind speed data from instruments atop wind turbines. Since 2011, Excel Energy of Minneapolis, Minn. has provided similar observations to NOAA….”
Lukewarm November. 70 at Rochester…on November 21? Not bad, considering we’re a month away from the winter solstice, when the sun is as low in the southern sky as it ever gets. The “cool spot” was International Falls at 50, 56 St. Cloud and 69 at Redwood Falls.
Paul’s Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
THURSDAY NIGHT: A chance of light snow and flurries – a coating possible in the metro. Low: 22
* long range models are hinting at 40s, even a shot at 50 as we start the month of December. We’ll see.
New Model Says Science Underestimates Climate Change. Public Radio International (PRI) has the story and audio clip; here’s an excerpt: “Scientists agree that the planet is warming, but there is a wide range of projections as to how hot it’s going to get. A new analysis from scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that the more alarming estimates may be the most accurate. John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado responsible for the analysis, said scientists have projected a global increase in temperatures of between three and eight degrees. In short, he said, that’s a question of whether New York City becomes more like Richmond, Va., or more like Atlanta, by 2100, or roughly 90 years from now. “There is the capacity for further warming after that, or if we take action to curb climate change, less warming eventually,” he said. The biggest source of divergence, from three to eight degrees, Fasullo said, is how clouds will change from the increase in greenhouse gasses…”
Photo credit above: “John Fasullo, right, and colleague Kevin Trenberth work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorad.” (Photo by John Fasullo.)
President Obama’s False Choice: Global Warming Or The Economy? The story from Huffington Post; here’s an excerpt: “…The president is understandably concerned that the American public elected him with a mandate to focus on jobs, growth and the economy, and any deviation from this is, as he says, not something “I would stand for.” However, the very jobs he hopes to create and the economic engine he hopes to stoke will be influenced by the impacts of climate change. According to a report in Time, the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy will cost from $30 billion to $60 billion. Clearly, the world cannot afford too many super-charged storms. Meanwhile, record heat plagued most states during the summer of 2012, leading to a drought that might be the most costly natural disaster in history. There are brand-new jobs to be had in new green energy technologies. Plus, according to the respectable Stern Review, spending just 1 to 2 percent of GDP today (about $900 per person per year, or the price of a cell phone plan) will take care of current emissions. Waiting a few decades means the cost goes up to a far more painful 20 percent. In simple terms, if we don’t deal with the issue of climate change it will hurt jobs, growth and the economy, saddling not just our generation, but our children’s generation as well, with debt and consequences…”
Warming Lakes: Climate Change And Variability Drive Low Water Levels On Great Lakes. Here’s a snippet of an interesting blog post at National Geographic: “For people living around the Great Lakes, water levels this past month have appeared much lower than many will remember. The upper Great Lakes reached near-record low water levels in October. This was most evident on Lakes Michigan and Huron, where lake levels dropped to less than two inches (4 cm) above record lows and 28 inches (71 cm) below the long-term average. All five lakes, plus Lake St. Clair, remain below their long-term averages. Rock and sand recently exposed by low water levels made stretches of the northern Lake Michigan shoreline look like a moonscape. Recreational boaters had trouble navigating the shallow water this fall, and shipping companies lightened loads to compensate for low water. Lakes Michigan and Huron hovered just above a record low set nearly 50 years ago, and Lake Superior was within five inches (11 cm) of a record low set in 1925…”
Photo credit above: “Low water levels expose the sandy lake bottom on Lake Michigan.” Photo by Jeff J. Cashman.
China Issues Report Addressing Climate Change. There is no more “debate” about climate science, in China or in Europe. The Chinese have been witnessing the implications of a warming climate, and they are moving forward with plans to mitigate and adapt – slowly moving away from coal-fired power generation. Here’s an update from Xinhua: “China on Wednesday published a report detailing policies and efforts that have been made over the past year in facing up to the challenges of global climate change. The report, titled China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (2012), was released before the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 in Doha, Qatar. The report outlines actions taken by the Chinese government to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also documents measures to promote the building of low-carbon communities and advance international negotiation and cooperation. During the 2006-2010 period, the aggregate energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 19.1 percent from that of 2005, which is equivalent to a reduction of 1.46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This means China has accomplished its energy conservation goals listed in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), said the report...”
Why The U.S. Can’t Stop Climate Change Alone (In 2 Graphs). Speaking of China, here is why an international treaty is essential. Greenhouse gases don’t respect borders – this is a global challenge and will require a global solution. I suspect this is another factor that makes some people uneasy, involving the U.N. – one more step toward a “One World Government”, according to my conspiracy-theorist friends. I don’t see a plot around every corner, but it makes sense, at least to me, that we need to get China and India (specifically) to agree to drastic cuts in the dirtiest of fuels, which includes coal. Here’s more from The Atlantic: ”President Obama’s election night reference to global warming kindled a bit of hope among liberals that his administration might make a concerted effort to tackle the issue in its second term. And unless we all plan on getting used to an annual superstorm season, we should hope so. But here’s a reminder, courtesy of a recent World Resources Institute report on coal consumption, that whatever the U.S. does to deal with climate change, our efforts will be for naught unless they’re part of a global effort. Coal-fired power plants are the top contributor to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, and the future of coal will not be decided, by and large, in the United States, which consumed about 13 percent of the worldwide total in 2010. Instead, it’s in the hands of China, which burned up 46 percent of it...”
History Repeats Itself. Here’s an excerpt from a PBS companion piece to Ken Burn’s excellent 2-part series, The Dust Bowl, which is must-see TV. See if this rings a bell with current concerns about what we’re doing to our (global) environment? ”…As historian Robert Worster wrote, “The ultimate meaning of the dust storms of the 1930s was that America as a whole, not just the plains, was badly out of balance with its natural environment. Unbounded optimism about the future, careless disregard of nature’s limits and uncertainties, uncritical faith in Providence, devotion to self-aggrandizement – all these were national as well as regional characteristics.”
Climate Change Made Sandy Worse. Period. Chris Mooney explains at Mother Jones; here’s an excerpt: “Superstorm Sandy—and its revival of the issue of climate change, most prominently through Michael Bloomberg’s sudden endorsement—probably aided President Obama’s reelection victory last night. But at the same time, there has been a vast debate about the true nature of the storm’s connections to global warming (as well as plenty of denialism regarding those connections). In fact, there has even been the suggestion, by cognitive linguist George Lakoff, that if we all stopped thinking about causation as something direct (I pushed him, he fell) and rather as something systemic (indirect, probabilistic), then we really could say with full accuracy that global warming caused Sandy. Systemically….”
Photo credit above: “Flooding in Breezy Point, Queens.” Brett Brownell, Mother Jones
World Bank Climate Report Says “Turn Down The Heat” On Warming Planet. This report created quite a stir; here is the first of several reports from Reuters and Huffington Post: “All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but it is the world’s poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report on climate change. Under new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the global development lender has launched a more aggressive stance to integrate climate change into development. “We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today,” Kim told reporters on a conference call on Friday. The report, called “Turn Down the Heat,” highlights the devastating impact of a world hotter by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, a likely scenario under current policies, according to the report. Climate change is already having an effect: Arctic sea ice reached a record minimum in September, and extreme heat waves and drought in the last decade have hit places like the United States and Russia more often than would be expected from historical records, the report said...”
More Fallout From Urgent World Bank Climate Report. Live Science has an interesting quote from climate scientist Michael Mann: ”..Climate deniers often claim that solutions to global warming are part of a “global socialist agenda,” Mann told LiveScience. “The fact that the World Bank — an entity committed to free market capitalism — has weighed in on the threat of climate change and the urgency of acting to combat it, puts the nail in the coffin of that claim,” he said.
A changing world
The report, issued by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics for the World Bank, urges nations to work to prevent the Earth from warming 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) past preindustrial averages. Already, global mean temperatures are running about 1.3 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) hotter than before the onset of the industrial revolution…”
Photo credit above: Huffington Post.
Global Warming Will Devastate The Poorest Countries, World Bank Study Finds. More details from Think Progress:
- Extreme heat waves, that without global warming would be expected to occur once in several hundred years, will be experienced during almost all summer months in many regions. The effects would not be evenly distributed. The largest warming would be exptected to occur over land and range from 4° C to 10° C. Increases of 6° C or more in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States.
- Sea level-rise by 0.5 to 1 meter by 2100 is likely, with higher levels also possible. Some of the most highly vulnerable cities are located in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart. The full story from desmogblog.com.
How To Profit From Global Warming. If you don’t factor water struggles, along with a morphing (stormier) climate into your portfolio you may be doing your investments a long-term disservice. As I’ve been saying for 20 years, climate change is a threat, and a massive opportunity. Here’s a clip from Seeking Alpha: “Based on the global warming hype you would probably think that it’s a diabolical thing to end all life and bring on the end of days. We constantly hear about all of the negative effects, but does anyone talk about the positive effects? Of course our masters in Washington, London, Brussels, and Beijing will never spoil a good narrative by giving any mention whatsoever to such needless complexities. But in fact it is a complex situation and if we think about it for a while we can find positive effects and even ways to profit from global warming…”
World’s Largest Investors Call For Climate Change Action. When people start to notice their investments are being routinely, consistently impacted and battered by a changing climate, some of the deniers may eventually see the light. Some (proactive, enlightened) companies are already trying to get out ahead of the curve, as reported by Reuters and Huffington Post: “A coalition of the world’s largest investors called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally. The group called for dialogue between investors and governments to overhaul climate and energy policies. The call comes less than a week before major U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar. Almost 200 nations will meet in Doha from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7 to try to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations that runs to the end of 2012…”
200 Investment Firms Issue A Warning On Climate Change. Business Insider has more details here.
Iowa Scientists: Drought A Sign Of Climate Change. Here’s the intro to a story from AP and ABC News: “This year’s drought is consistent with predictions that global climate change would bring about weather extremes including more frequent droughts, said a report released Monday. The Iowa Climate Statement updates the 2010 report, reflecting the year’s lingering drought and the belief that it signifies what many scientists have predicted — increasing instability in weather patterns will lead to extremes during both wet and dry years. Iowa has experienced such extremes in recent years; in 2008, flooding caused an estimated $10 billion in damage, making it the worst disaster in the state’s history. More broadly, this year’s drought brought about parched croplands, reducing corn yields across the nation’s Grain Belt, from South Dakota to Indiana. And last month’s Superstorm Sandy — a combination of a hurricane, a wintry storm and a blast of arctic air — devastated parts of the Eastern seaboard and killed more than 100 people….”
U.S. Carbon Emissions: 2012 Levels At 20 Year Low. There is some good news, at least here in the USA. The combination of a severe recession, increased CAFE mileage standards and a transition away from dirty coal toward cleaner natural gas has resulted in some promising trends here in the USA. Of course this is a global problem, so emissions in China and India (which are not going down) continue to be a real problem. Huffington Post reports: “In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal. Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming…”
The UP Side Of Global Warming. Not sure about this one, but I’m including it to show one more example of the “glass half full” mentality that’s out there in the popular media. It remains to be seen whether thawing permafrost in northern Canada and shifting weather patterns up north will be a good thing long-term. Here’s an excerpt of a story at canada.com: “When it comes to guilty pleasures, there is a new one in Canada — walking out the door on a winter morning and instead of shivering in bitter cold, basking in unusually warm and pleasant weather. The negative effects of global warming have been well-documented by activist politicians and scientists such as Al Gore and David Suzuki, but the positive effects have so far received less attention. But a group of global-warming experts, made up mainly of university economists and anthropologists, is pushing the notion that global warming might not be an unmitigated disaster, especially for certain northerly regions, such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavia…”
What’s At Stake With Climate Change. In the wake of Sandy here’s a thoughtful post from Chris Hayes, host and moderator of MSNBC’s “Up” program: ”At about 8 p.m. on Monday night the east facing windows in my Brooklyn apartment started to bubble and buckle inward in a deeply unsettling way. The wind howled and we thought it prudent to move ourselves away from the wall exposed to the elements. But that one moment of sharp anxiety was as bad as things got. We were lucky: Our power never went out, and my neighborhood is on high enough ground that it wasn’t flooded by the storm surge. There were a few downed trees that took out parked cars, but that was about it. Just a few neighborhoods over, a young couple named Jessie Streich-Kest and Jacob Vogelman were out walking their dog at some point that evening when they were struck by a falling tree and killed. They are two of the estimated 109 people who’ve died due to the storm here in the U.S., a death toll that is mercifully lower than one might anticipate given the scale of the damage. The destruction is most evident here in New York City in Staten Island, in Queens’ devastated coastal neighborhoods and in the powerless precincts of lower Manhattan, where cars roll through intersections without street lights, and commuters trundle over the bridges, walking over an east river whose waters overflowed its banks, filling the subway tunnels that connect the boroughs, and rendering much of the system unusable…”
Global Warming Could Lead To Runaway Ice Cap Meltdown. One thing we’ve discovered (among many) is that most natural systems aren’t linear – things don’t tend to move in a straight line. That’s why climate scientists talk about tipping points, when forcings cause dramatic changes in a short period of time. We saw record melting of the Arctic this year; ice levels have not been this low in recorded human history. Where will it go? The Summit County Citizens Voice examines the trends and takes a look at the future; here’s an excerpt: “A new study confirms the strong links between global temperatures, melting ice and sea level and suggests that sea level responds more quickly that previously believed, probably because of the feedback warming effect of open water. Ice volume changes during ancient times can be reconstructed from sea-level records, but detailed assessments of the role of ice volume in climate change is hindered by inadequacies in sea-level records and/or their timescales. Now, a research team led by Eelco Rohling, Professor of Ocean and Climate Change at the University of Southampton, has developed a new way to date sea level rise and accurately link it with changes in ice volume. The scientists were able to apply the new dating method throughout the entire last glacial cycle (150,000 years), which resulted in an unprecedented continuous sea-level record with excellent independent age control. By comparing the ice-volume fluctuations with polar temperature reconstructions from the Greenland and Antarctica ice cores, the scientists found that changes in temperature and ice volume/sea level are closely coupled with a response time lag of only a few centuries. This timing relationship was previously unknown, and it reveals a very fast response between global temperature and ice volume and sea level…”