The 2010s will go down in history as Earth’s warmest ~ The Washington Post

The planet is also finishing its warmest five-year period as effects are felt from the oceans to the Greenland ice sheet.


Global average surface temperature departures from average for the January-to-October period. (WMO) (World Meteorological Organization)

December 5

The 2010s almost certainly will be the warmest decade on Earth since instrument temperature data began to be gathered in the 19th century (and very likely long before that), according to new data released this week from the World Meteorological Organization. “Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than the last,” the WMO stated in its provisional state of the climate report.

The WMO also found that the past five years have been the warmest such period on record, as 2019 careens toward the second- or third-warmest year.

The past month tied for the warmest November on record globally, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, in a statistical dead heat with November 2016 and just behind November 2015. The global average temperature in 2019 (January through October) was about 1.96 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial period.

What’s remarkable about the warmth this year is that there has been no strong El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean, as there was in 2015-2016. Such events tend to boost global average surface temperatures and can reconfigure weather patterns from the United States to Africa and Australia. Typically, the hottest years of a given decade occur when an El Niño is present, but 2019 illustrates the increased role played by human-caused climate change in driving temperatures ever higher.

One trend the WMO pointed to is a sharp uptick in ocean heat content, which is leading to more pervasive marine heat waves.


Marine heat waves in 2019, with the dark red areas denoting the “severe” heat wave category. (WMO) (World Meteorological Organization)

The oceans are the world’s main heat sponge, absorbing more than 90 percent of the added energy building up in the climate because of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.

“In 2019, ocean heat content in the upper 700 meters (in a series starting in the 1950s) and upper 2000 meters (in a series starting in 2005) continued at record or near-record levels, with the average for the year so far exceeding the previous record highs set in 2018,” the WMO found.

Marine heat waves can have a cascading effect on marine ecosystems, bleaching or even killing coral reefs, driving out cold water fish species, and causing mass mortality events in iconic marine species such as gray whales.

The effects of warming were observed far and wide. The Greenland ice sheet shed an unusually large amount of ice in 2019, the WMO found, amounting to a loss of 329 billion tons. This was not a record but was well above the long-term average of 260 billion tons per year. Ice melt from land-based ice sheets, including Greenland, are the largest contributor to sea level rise.

Atmospheric rivers caused 85 percent of recent flood damage in Western U.S. ~ The Washington Post

Risks are slated to increase with global warming

A car sits underwater in a flooded neighborhood on Feb. 27 in Forestville, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

December 4 at 2:52 PM

Considering atmospheric rivers didn’t even have a rating system until earlier this year, science is making up for lost time in studying this meteorological phenomenon.

The latest research puts a price tag on the havoc wreaked in the Western United States by atmospheric rivers (ARs): a yearly average exceeding $1 billion. Atmospheric rivers are akin to airborne veins that connect the midlatitudes with the moisture-rich heart of the tropics. These channels, which can stretch for thousands of miles, contain large quantities of water vapor and deliver it in highly concentrated doses.

Atmospheric rivers are capable of carrying more than twice the volume of the Amazon. And for parts of the West, ARs bring up to half of their annual precipitation totals.

But what really caught the attention of researchers who cross-referenced four decades of insurance losses against weather records is the degree to which ARs are responsible for flooding.

“Maybe the most important policy response this research suggests would be providing post-disaster assistance to people not to rebuild, but to move to a safer community,” said study co-author Tom Corringham of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E), part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.

The study, which also involved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.


Map of atmospheric water vapor, showing an atmospheric river aimed at California on Wednesday. (University of Wisconsin)

That’s exactly what happened in the San Francisco Bay area and eastward a few days ago, when a midlatitude cyclone, brought along an AR, stalled out over the northeast Pacific Ocean. The event’s water transport wasn’t much, but its long duration (66 hours) boosted the Ralph scale rating to a 3, which is classified as strong. On the ground, more than 5 inches of precipitation fell in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada, with higher elevations receiving more than two feet of snow.

Damage was limited to closed highways and roads, sporadic power outages and downed trees.

The AR, following days of little movement to the north or south, has finally slid down the coast, setting up for a wet Wednesday in the Southland. Los Angeles was expecting 0.75 to 1.5 inches of rain, perhaps double that in the mountains; San Diego’s forecast called for a spritz — less than 1 inch.

And once this clears, the Golden State anticipates yet another AR — perhaps also rated as strong — arriving Thursday.

According to the study, over the past 40 years, flooding from all causes across the West has led to nearly $51 billion in damage. This was tallied by combining National Flood Insurance Program loss data from 11 states with measures of total damage from an NWS data set and a catalogue of more than 600 West Coast ARs.

Of the $42.6 billion in damage that can be pinned on ARs, nearly half that total, $23 billion, was due to just 10 such events.

Corringham also was surprised to learn the power of the relationship between an AR’s strength and how much harm it does.

Instead, historical averages show the difference to be exponential. For example, the difference between the median flood damage of an AR2 (Moderate) and an AR4 (Extreme) isn’t a doubling, but a 50-fold increase, from $400,000 to $20 million.

There’s reason to be concerned about the future of ARs, too, given studies showing that they are likely to carry more moisture as the world’s oceans and atmosphere continue to warm.

“We know from other research that the intensity of these storms is increasing due to climate change and is projected to keep increasing over the coming century,” Corringham said. “So even if it were a linear relationship, it would be quite significant.”

Weather is turning into big business. And that could be trouble for the public

Infrared satellite image from the time of Hurricane Michael's landfall on Oct. 10, 2018. (CIRA/RAMMB)
Infrared satellite image from the time of Hurricane Michael’s landfall on Oct. 10, 2018. (CIRA/RAMMB)

How Life on Our Planet Made It Through Snowball Earth ~ NYT

Rusty rocks left over from some of our planet’s most extreme ice ages hint at oases for survival beneath the freeze.

Credit…Chris Butler/Science Source

By

Today, the world is warming. But from about 720 to 635 million years ago, temperatures swerved the other way as the planet became encased in ice during the two ice ages known as Snowball Earth.

It happened fast, and within just a few thousand years or so, ice stretched over both land and sea, from the poles to the tropics. Life lived in the oceans at the time, and the encroaching ice entombed that life, cutting it off from both the sun and the atmosphere.

“This is the one time when Earth’s natural thermostat broke,” said Noah Planavsky, a biogeochemist at Yale University. “The question on everyone’s minds was: How did life actually make it through this?”

Glaciations can drive mass extinctions of life. Yet life, including perhaps our distant animal ancestors, somehow survived these deep freezes. In research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Planavsky and his colleagues report the discovery of oases just beneath the ancient ice sheets that likely helped life persevere.

Libertarian killed while protesting socialist snowplow ~ StubhillNews

snowplowsocialism

A libertarian activist was killed this week while protesting against a government funded snowplow.

Ronaldo Paul, the deceased activist, died as he had lived: obnoxiously and on the internet.

Paul was livestreaming while he was run over by the very snowplow he had come to protest.

“If the market truly wanted this snow plowed, then it,” were Paul’s final words before he was run over, abruptly ending the livestream.

Earlier in the day, Paul had tweeted that he was “willing to die to end #snowcialism.

When reached for comment, family and friends of the deceased asked if they were being detained.

 

When did routine bad weather become such big news?

Cars and trucks are stopped in deep snow on Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir in northern California on Wednesday. Thanksgiving travel has been snarled in some places by a pair of powerful storms. (Caltrans via AP)
Cars and trucks are stopped in deep snow on Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir in northern California on Wednesday. Thanksgiving travel has been snarled in some places by a pair of powerful storms. (Caltrans via AP)
November 29, 2019 at 2:49 p.m. MST

Bad weather on Thanksgiving week can be stressful in the best of circumstances. But this week’s outbreak of TV weather hysteria was a sight to behold.

For days on end, even Trump news was booted from the top of the network evening newscasts by dire warnings of the “triple storm danger” heading across the country and the “holiday travel nightmare” likely to result. The reports hit all the usual TV-weather bases: shots of skidding cars and chugging snowplows; airport scenes of passengers stranded by flight delays; Al Roker bounding among the weather maps as though he were plotting a military operation. And, as always, the alarming statistics: 21 million people under winter-weather alerts; 97 million vulnerable to high winds; “2,000 miles’ worth of winter-storm watches, advisories and warnings,” stretching from California to the upper Midwest.

Just when did ordinary winter storms — lots of snow in Denver, surprise! — become such big news? I doubt Walter Cronkite introduced more than a handful of weather stories during his entire 19-year run as anchor of the “CBS Evening News.” Dan Rather, Cronkite’s successor, was famously fond of hanging onto lampposts in the middle of hurricanes. But for the most part, routine stretches of bad weather were considered just that: routine.

No more. Now, every cold front that threatens to slicken roads and cause airport delays along the Eastern corridor (where, not merely coincidentally, almost all network TV news executives live and work) has become urgent news. And not just in winter. Springtime thunderstorms, summer heat waves, the first cold snap of the fall — all of them get breathless treatment, often accompanied by a barrage of scary stats: “14 states under severe weather watches”; “24 million people at risk for the possibility of tornadoes”; “43 million people at risk for flash flooding.” I grew up in Kansas City, Mo., in what used to be known as Tornado Alley. In the late spring and early summer, we were always at risk. It never seemed to make the national news.

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