February Shock: Global Temperatures Surpass 'Tipping Point', Planet at Risk
March 9, 2016 TeleSUR & Bill McKibben / The Boston Globe &
Scientists believe a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to irreversible climate change. Last week, Northern Hemisphere temperatures rose more than 2 degrees Celsius above "normal" for the first time in recorded history and, quite possibly, the first since human civilization began 100,000 years ago. Climate protesters are the planet's antibodies -- its immune system kicking in. The earth is running a high fever. The time to fight it is right now.
A Dangerous Record:
Global Temperatures Surpass 'Tipping Point' TeleSUR
(March 7, 2016) -- Scientists believe a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius will lead to irreversible climate change. Temperatures across the northern hemisphere reached more than 2 degrees Celsius above "normal ranges" at the end of last week for the first time in recorded history, and quite possibly the first time since human civilization began 100,000 years ago.
The milestone was recorded last week, with the heat wave stretching over the weekend. The rise is significant as all major governments across the world agree that a rise of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, is the tipping point to temperatures that may become dangerous for humanity.
--- --- Bill McKibben
✔ @billmckibben Today N. Hem. breached the 2C mark pols have talked about since '80s? Glimpsing the future
12:55 PM - 3 Mar 2016
Experts say that the ongoing El Nino weather phenomenon has played a part in this temporary rising of temperatures, releasing huge quantities of heat stored during the last couple of decades of global warming.
The weather effect, which lasts six to eight months, has unleashed cyclones in the South Pacific ocean, such as the tropical Cyclone Winston that devastated the island of Fiji in February, killing 40 people and damaging much of the country's infrastructure.
RELATED: COP21 Releases 'Historic' Agreement To Tackle Global Warming
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, writing in the Boston Globe last week, said the recent temperature rise offers a "bizarre glimpse of the future" and noted that temperature records are being smashed each month.
"But the future is clearly coming much faster than science had expected. February, taken as a whole, crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in . . . January," he wrote. "January crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in . . . December." Despite empirical evidence that the Earth's temperatures are rising, not all politicians have taken note of the issue at hand.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz criticized global warming "alarmists" last year. "The satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years," he claimed, falsely.
In 2012, billionaire Donald Trump said on Twitter that global warming "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
(March 5, 2016) -- Thursday, while the nation debated the relative size of Republican genitalia, something truly awful happened. Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above "normal" for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization.
That's important because the governments of the world have set two degrees Celsius as the must-not-cross red line that, theoretically, we're doing all we can to avoid. And it's important because most of the hemisphere has not really had a winter.
They've been trucking snow into Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod; Arctic sea ice is at record low levels for the date; in New England doctors are already talking about the start of "allergy season."
This bizarre glimpse of the future is only temporary. It will be years, one hopes, before we're past the two degrees mark on a regular basis. But the future is clearly coming much faster than science had expected. February, taken as a whole, crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in . . . January. January crushed all the old monthly temperature records, which had been set in . . . December.
In part this reflects the ongoing El Nino phenomenon -- these sporadic events always push up the planet's temperature. But since that El Nino heat is layered on top of the ever-increasing global warming, the spikes keep getting higher.
This time around, the overturning waters of the Pacific are releasing huge quantities of heat stored there during the last couple of decades of global warming.
And as that heat pours out into the atmosphere, the consequences are overwhelming. In the South Pacific, for instance, the highest wind speeds ever measured came last month when Tropical Cyclone Winston crashed into Fiji. Entire villages were flattened. In financial terms, the storm wiped out ten percent of the nation's gross domestic product, roughly equivalent to 15 simultaneous Hurricane Katrina's.
This was followed by a few months of the highest wind speeds ever recorded in our hemisphere, when Patricia crashed into the Pacific coast of Mexico. And it joins all the other lines of misery: the zika virus spreading on the wings of mosquitoes up and down the Americas; the refugees streaming out of Syria where, as studies now make clear, the deepest drought ever measured helped throw the nation into chaos.
The messages are clear. First, global warming is not a future threat -- it's the present reality, a menace not to our grandchildren but to our present civilizations. In a rational world, this is what every presidential debate would focus on. Forget the mythical flood of immigrants -- concentrate on the actual flooding.
Second, since we're in a hole it's time to stop digging -- literally. We've simply got to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground; there's not any other way to make the math of climate change even begin to work. There is legislation pending in the House and Senate that would end new fossil fuel extraction on America's public lands.
Senator Sanders has backed the law unequivocally; Secretary Clinton seemed to endorse it, and then last week seemed to waffle. Donald Trump has concentrated on the length of his fingers.
No one's waiting for presidential candidates to actually lead, of course. In May campaigners around the world will converge on the world's biggest carbon deposits: the coalmines of Australia, the tarsands of Canada, the gasfields of Russia. And they will engage in peaceful civil disobedience, an effort to simply say: no. The only safe place for this carbon is deep beneath the soil, where it's been for eons.
This is, in one sense, stupid. It's ridiculous that at this late date, as the temperature climbs so perilously, we still have to take such steps. Why do Bostonians have to be arrested to stop the Spectra pipeline? Anyone with a thermometer can see that we desperately need to be building solar and windpower instead.
In a much deeper sense, however, the resistance is valiant, even beautiful. Think of those protesters as the planet's antibodies, its immune system finally kicking in. Our one earth is running a fever the likes of which no human has ever seen. The time to fight it is right now.
Bill McKibben is the founder of the climate campaign 350.org, and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College. Our Hemisphere's Temperature
Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone Eric Holthaus / Slate
March 3, 2016: Since this post was originally published, the heat wave has continued. As of Thursday morning, it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above "normal" mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.
That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become "dangerous" to humanity. It's now arrived -- though very briefly -- much more quickly than anticipated. This is a milestone moment for our species. Climate change deserves our greatest possible attention.
Global temperatures hit a new all-time record high in February, shattering the old record set just last month amid a record-strong El Nino.
Ryan Maue/Weatherbell Analytics
Original post, March 1, 2016: Our planet's preliminary February temperature data are in, and it's now abundantly clear: Global warming is going into overdrive.
There are dozens of global temperature datasets, and usually I (and my climate journalist colleagues) wait until the official ones are released about the middle of the following month to announce a record-warm month at the global level. But this month's data is so extraordinary that there's no need to wait: February obliterated the all-time global temperature record set just last month.
Using unofficial data and adjusting for different base-line temperatures, it appears that February 2016 was likely somewhere between 1.15 and 1.4 degrees warmer than the long-term average, and about 0.2 degrees above last month -- good enough for the most above-average month ever measured. (Since the globe had already warmed by about +0.45 degrees above pre-industrial levels during the 1981-2010 base-line meteorologists commonly use, that amount has been added to the data released today.)
Keep in mind that it took from the dawn of the industrial age until last October to reach the first 1.0 degree Celsius, and we've come as much as an extra 0.4 degrees further in just the last five months.
Even accounting for the margin of error associated with these preliminary datasets, that means it's virtually certain that February handily beat the record set just last month for the most anomalously warm month ever recorded. That's stunning.
It also means that for many parts of the planet, there basically wasn't a winter. Parts of the Arctic were more than 16 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than "normal" for the month of February, bringing them a few degrees above freezing, on par with typical June levels, in what is typically the coldest month of the year.
In the United States, the winter was record-warm in cities coast to coast. In Europe and Asia, dozens of countries set or tied their all-time temperature records for February. In the tropics, the record-warmth is prolonging the longest-lasting coral bleaching episode ever seen.
The northernmost permanent settlement, Norway's Svalbard archipelago, has averaged 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal this winter, with temperatures rising above the freezing mark on nearly two dozen days since Dec. 1. That kind of extremely unusual weather has prompted a record-setting low maximum in Arctic sea ice, especially in the Barents Sea area north of Europe.
The data for February is so overwhelming that even prominent climate change skeptics have already embraced the new record. Writing on his blog, former NASA scientist Roy Spencer said that according to satellite records -- the dataset of choice by climate skeptics for a variety of reasons -- February 2016 featured "whopping" temperature anomalies especially in the Arctic.
Spurred by disbelief, Spencer also checked his data with others released today and said the overlap is "about as good as it gets." Speaking with the Washington Post, Spencer said the February data proves "there has been warming. The question is how much warming there's been."
Of course, all this is happening in the context of a record-setting El Nino, which tends to boost global temperatures for as much as six or eight months beyond its wintertime peak -- mainly because it takes that long for excess heat to filter its way across the planet from the tropical Pacific Ocean.
But El Nino isn't entirely responsible for the absurd numbers we're seeing. El Nino's influence on the Arctic still isn't well-known and is likely small. In fact, El Nino's influence on global temperatures as a whole is likely small -- on the order of 0.1 degree Celsius or so.
So what's actually happening now is the liberation of nearly two decades' worth of global warming energy that's been stored in the oceans since the last major El Nino in 1998.
Numbers like this amount to a step-change in our planet's climate system. Peter Gleick, a climate scientist at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, said it's difficult to compare the current temperature spike: "The old assumptions about what was normal are being tossed out the window . . . The old normal is gone."
Almost overnight, the world has moved within arm's reach of the climate goals negotiated just last December in Paris. There, small island nations on the front line of climate change set a temperature target of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius rise by the year 2100 as a line in the sand, and that limit was embraced by the global community of nations.
On this pace, we may reach that level for the first time -- though briefly -- later this year. In fact, at the daily level, we're probably already there. We could now be right in the heart of a decade or more surge in global warming that could kick off a series of tipping points with far-reaching implications on our species and the countless others we share the planet with.
Arctic Sea Ice Extent (Credit: NSIDC)
Another Month, Another Troubling Arctic Sea Ice Record Here's a snippet from Climate Central:
"February saw record low sea ice extent, with ice running a significant 448,000 square miles below average. In essence, a chunk of ice four times the size of Arizona went missing in action from the Arctic. The number would be even more pronounced if not for a small growth spurt in the last week of the month.
The culprit? Once again, the Arctic was super warm for this time of year. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which released the new data on Wednesday, said that temperatures ranged from 11°-14°F above average in the central Arctic…."
Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate's Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
New Climate Predictions Foresee a Dire Future David Kupfer / Special to EAW
(February 26, 2016) -- Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann yesterday told us the Arctic's changes are much worse, and are coming much faster, than we thought even last year. As Hartmann says in his introduction, temperatures in the Arctic in January were 4°C (more than 7°F) higher than average. It's all in Dr. Mann's interview with Thom Hartmann).
A few excerpts: (1:52) "Even I find myself surprised sometimes at the rate at which some of these changes are taking place -- taking place than we expected, faster than our models predicted would be the case. . . ."
(2:40) "[This year, winter Arctic sea ice] appears to have come to a peak about a month earlier and at a much lower level than we normally see at [winter] peak. And if it continues on this trajectory, we are afraid we will see levels of [sea ice] retreat this summer unlike anything we've seen before."
(4:10) "With all that warmth in the Arctic escaping into the atmosphere, it changes the pattern of the northern hemisphere jet stream . . . [which gives us] some of the unusual weather we've seen in recent winters. . . ."
(5:17) "This El Niño has been a very unusual El Niño, and all bets are off. . . ." (I found this discussion fascinating. This is a most unusual El Niño, and the global warming has almost completely removed the "heavy rainfall" effect that places like California were counting on to relieve their drought.)
(7:58) The tipping points discussion starts here. Have we passed a tipping point about ice in the Arctic? What other tipping points should we be concerned about?
Dr. Mann's answer begins, "Tipping points are like land mines. You don't know exactly where they lie, and you certainly don't want to step on one. What we're doing with climate change right now is we are risking stepping on more and more of these land mines."
Mann talks about the tipping point we have passed in the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet that commits us to 10-12 feet of sea level rise. The good news -- if we stop emissions, free ice in the Arctic is restorable, unlike ice in the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets. (Of course, we do have to stop emissions to do that.)
(10:35) "The climate change deniers often like to complain about how much it will cost to reduce our carbon emissions . . . and the sad fact is it's going to cost us a whole lot more simply not having acted on this problem soon enough. And we're already seeing the costs. . . ."
To the final question, why doesn't this get covered more in the press, the answer was enlightening. In part, Mann said that is seems this is a slowly evolving problem. For me: It's not slowly evolving. If you live another 10 years, you see the start of the panic.
World's Oceans, Temperatures Rising Faster than Feared
Steve Newman / Earthweek: Diary of a Changing World
Sea levels are rising around the world several times more quickly than at any other time during the past 2,800 years in an accelerating climb brought on by global warming.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of international researchers says that until the 1800s, the fastest that sea levels rose was about 1.2 to 1.6 inches per century.
Scores of people perished when the strongest cyclone ever to strike Fiji in recorded history leveled parts of the South Pacific island nation.
Writing in the journal
But the oceans rose about 5.5 inches during the 20th century as greenhouse gases accumulated.
Hot Times Ahead
Climate researchers warn that by the year 2075, if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced, the world is likely to be hit each year with searing heat waves of a magnitude that rarely occur today.
Writing in the journal Climate Change, a team of scientists concedes that even if emission reduction targets are reached, 18 percent of global land areas would still be subjected to yearly intense heat waves, defined as three exceptionally hot days in a row.
By 2050, the researchers say heat waves that now occur about once in 20 years will be at least 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter over 60 percent of the Earth’s land areas than today, without targeted emissions cuts.
“Mitigation is crucial,” said study author Claudia Tebaldi, a senior research scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. “We have a lot to gain from limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and benefits will be felt fairly soon.”