Record May warmth

The planet experienced the second warmest May recorded since such records began in 1880. The warmest May occurred in 2010. The United States saw is warmest spring ever recorded. The global average temperature for May was 1.19 degrees F higher than the 20th century average.

Climate change deniers will tell you that there is no warming. That is, until the data just can’t be ignored any more. Now, there favorite claim is to say that warming has stopped and the planet is actually cooling. They do this by what is known as cherry-picking. That is when you selectively pick data points to prove the point you want to make while ignoring others. 1998 was an abnormally hot year. Compared to 1998 many years have been cooler. But, when compared to the averages the warming continues.

Now, we have the two warmest Mays on record and they both occurred since 1998.

So, tell again how global warming has stopped and the planet is actually cooling?


China emitting more than thought

A team of researchers took the Chinese national data on greenhouse emissions and compared it to a total emission calculation from all of the Chinese provinces. The results were interesting and showed there is a discrepancy of about 1.4 billion tons between the two. The national data appears to be too small, so that is a discrepancy in the bad direction.

The researchers found that, according to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions have been growing 7.5 percent annually from 1997 to 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010. At the same time, though, the total emissions of all Chinese provinces have increased 8.5 percent on average to 9.08 billion tonnes in 2010. In comparison, U.S. emissions were 6.87 billion tonnes in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The extra amount of CO2 that China is putting into the air is roughly equivalent to what Japan emits every year.

This is very bad news and will certainly complicate things. This means climate change is happening faster than we thought because our calculations are based on the lower emission rate. And, all of our climate models have been receiving bad input data. This has an effect on the long range calculations, but not so much on the short term forecasts.

So, what this means is we have less time to fix things than we previously thought. Considering how reluctant we have been to address the problem so far, this does not look good for our future.

Fastest warming states are warming faster

Climate Central, a research and public outreach organization, examined historical climate data and identified the the U.S. states that are experiencing the greatest and the least amount of warming over the last 100 years. The state that has warmed the most over the last 100 years is Rhode Island. They also found three states have actually cooled over the last 100 years – Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama. It is interesting to examine their result as applied to regions. The northeast region has warmed the most, while the southeast has warmed the least.

But, there is an even more interesting result from their data. What they found is that they had to break it down to subsets of before 1970 and after 1970. Comparisons between these two data sets show the warming trend since 1970 has been three times as much as before 1970. In other words, the states were, mostly, warming before 1970. But, the warming rate is now three times as much as it was before 1970.

Keep that in mind next time someone tells you global warming has stopped.

Sea ice reflectance

I read an article in the science journal Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union today about how well sea ice reflects the sunlight. It was summarizing a paper that appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. What these researchers found was there was that old and new sea ice reflected pretty much the same amount of sunlight during the winter months, but there was a big difference in the summer months. In fact, they found that areas with seasonal sea ice (ice that melts in the summer) will absorb 40% more energy than areas covered with multi-year ice.

Since the area covered with multi-year ice is getting smaller every year and being replaced with seasonal sea ice, this is a significant finding. As the ice melts at a greater rate and gets thinner and thinner, we will get a positive feedback where even more ice will melt. This will result in changes in the currents and weather systems in the arctic region and that will affect the rest of the world, including us. Just exactly what those changes, and resulting effects, will be is not entirely clear, so it will be increasingly important for us to study and document these changes in coming years.

Severe winters linked to melting sea ice

We have seen winters over the last few decades become increasingly severe. Some times, the winter is harsh, while other times it is very mild. There have been a lack of  ‘average’ winters. Now, new research indicates this may be due to the melting of Arctic sea ice.

As ice melts in the summer the ocean absorbs sunlight and stores it as heat. Previously, much of the sunlight was reflected back into space by the bright ice that covered the Arctic Ocean year round. But now, thanks to global warming, much of the Arctic Ocean that use to be ice covered is now ice free and more energy is being stored in the region as a result. As the summer turn to fall the amount of sunlight falling on the Arctic Ocean decreases and the amount of energy being stored begins to drop. As a result of this, the energy that was stored in the summer time is released into the atmosphere. This changes the difference in air pressure between the arctic and the lower latitudes, resulting in changes in the jet stream.

The jet stream curves northwards and southwards as it moves from west to east. This means some areas will see the jet stream far to the north, which will allow warm southern air to move northwards. Other areas will see the jet stream move to the south, allowing cold arctic air to move down. This means areas of the world will have severe winters while other areas will have mild winters at the same time. That is just what we saw this past winter. The U.S. was very mild while Europe was very severe.

Even if the details of this research are not correct the basic principle still is. The Arctic Ocean is storing great amounts of extra heat in the summer time above what it use to store. That energy is then being released into the atmosphere and will result in changes to weather patterns. The atmosphere is a heat engine. If you juice it up with more energy you are going to get results. It is like stomping on the gas pedal in your car.

What will the winter be like this year? We don’t know. We can’t make forecasts that far in advance. But, you should be prepared for something severe, one way or the other.

Arctic sea ice and phytoplankton

Researchers in the Arctic Ocean have drilled through the sea ice and found the levels of phytoplankton far exceeded anything that was expected. This was under thin, new ice that was about 3 feet thick. Analysis of the currents and plankton growth rates show that this plankton is actually growing under the ice and is not being swept in by the currents. One of the reasons this was unexpected is that light does not penetrate ice very well. This is especially true of the thick, older ice that can be very rough and irregular. However, the thinner new ice tends to be flat and allows melt water to form large ponds. The optical properties of these ponds work to allow light to pass through.
Credit: Don Perovich/U.S. Army Cold Regions and Engineering Laboratory

What this will mean in terms of the environment is yet to be determined. But, we see yet another example of how the climate is changing due to global warming. The evidence keeps mounting and has become an entire mountain range. And, as we keep debating this massive amount of evidence, we see that the effects keep mounting as well. Instead of acting, we are being held hostage by the climate change deniers that want to keep any of us from doing anything that will benefit us.

Why is that?


Warm weather records keep falling

NOAA has reported that the lower-48 states have seen their warmest spring on record, as well as the warmest year-to-date, and the warmest 12-month since record keeping began in 1895. December, January and February (the winter months) were the fourth warmest ever recorded in the lower-48. March was the warmest March ever recorded, followed by the third warmest April and the second warmest May.

The significance of this, other than illustrating the issues of climate change, is how this puts the lie to the climate change deniers. They frequently claim that there has been no global warming since before the year 2000 and that global temperatures have actually been dropping. Both claims are false. They are able to make these claims by doing what is known as ‘cherry picking.’ This is when you selectively take data to support your claims while ignoring any data that doesn’t. Climate change deniers like to take 1998 as the baseline year for data. The reason for this is because 1998 was extremely hot. It is either the hottest or second hottest year ever recorded. Depending on the data you use, 2011 was either hotter or tied with 1998. So, by using the hottest recorded year they can make everything else look cooler. But, you can only do that if you ignore all other data.

Let me put it this way. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade ever recorded. Every year in the 1990s was hotter than the average temperature from the 1980s. Then, every year of the 2000s was hotter than the average of the 1990s. Now, so far, every year of the 2010s has been hotter than the average of the 2000s. If you don’t cherry pick the data but look at the entire picture we see there has been a constant rise in the average temperature.

And, we see this last year is setting new records for temperatures. At what point will the deniers stop making their false argument? And, more importantly, when will the public stop believing them?