The truth is molten

Extreme weather events are where the climate change rubber hits the road, and if events over the last month are anything to go by, global warming is currently doing doughnuts and burnouts on tarmac right round the globe. Kevin Trenberth put it rather nicely in an interview with PBS Newshour in the US: “This is a view of the future, so watch out.” John Vidal in The Guardian sums up the situation rather well:

…how much more extreme weather does it take for governments and individuals to act, or for the oil companies to withdraw from the Arctic, or the media to link global warming with the events now being witnessed around the world? Must the sea boil, the Seine run dry, New York flood and the London Olympics be consumed by fire before countries are shocked into taking concerted action?

Damn good question.

Let’s review the recent evidence. The extraordinary heatwave in the USA, coupled with horrendous forest fires, occurring in parallel with torrential rainfall and flooding and a rare but incredibly fierce derecho event1, has been making all the headlines, but the rest of the world has also been suffering. In India, heavy monsoon rains have drowned Assam, killing 77 people and driving over two million people from their homes. Britain and much of Europe has had a record wet spring and early summer. Huge forest fires have been burning in Siberia, and the Arctic sea ice is in record low territory for the time of year. It’s on track for a new record minimum come September2.

All of these events are taking place in an atmosphere that has already changed. Weather is being generated in a measurably different context to the recent past. There’s more water vapour — 4% more, globally, since the 1970s — available to drive storms and fall as rain. The retreat of sea ice in the Arctic is changing seasonal surface to atmosphere energy flows dramatically. As a consequence, northern hemisphere weather patterns are changing.

The atmosphere has already changed, and with it, our climate. Climate change is not some far off thing we can chose to ignore: it’s happening now. It’s here. Weather extremes are the most visible symptom of these changes, the most dramatic of near term impacts. Current events should be driving us towards taking action, but instead we have politicians paying lip service to reality while doing nothing of substance.

Bill McKibben got close to the truth in a piece earlier this week, in which he finally exposed climate change as a hoax:

It looks real, but it isn’t—it’s just nature trying to compete with James Cameron. So please don’t shout fire in the global 3-D theater. Stay cool. And get a big tub of popcorn—in this epic disaster flick we’re not even close to the finale.

Bill’s “hoax” may have been tongue in the cheek, but he’s right about the ending. We ain’t seen nothing yet3.

[Donovan (with Jeff Beck), and apologies.]

  1. It killed 20 people, and left millions without power around Washington DC. []
  2. But I won’t be betting this year. []
  3. Look out for the ENSO diagnostic due soon. []

19 thoughts on “The truth is molten”

  1. Damn good question indeed!

    I also notice considerably less enthusiasm and activity among Denier trolls right across the climate web (oh, they may be as busy as hell at the Sticky Bishop’s and µWatts bucking each other up, but who cares? In the real world I suspect for many ‘We never said it wasn’t warming’ – ho ho – is now morphing into ‘I was never a Denier’ and a discreet retreat. It’s just bad luck for those whose names we already know – they’re stuck with themselves out on their increasingly blighted limb.)

    There’s an El Nino still due at some stage, you know; when that busts all previous records you guys really are gonna be The Most Stupid People in History…

    1. The “denier” trolls are busy chipping away at the ice outside my house.
      Of course if you wish to cherry pick a single weather event as “proof” of your pseudo-science be my guest

      1. The point you seem keen to miss, Andy, is that it is the sheer number of extremes that is so persuasive, especially when a few of them (especially the US heatwave) are likely to have been made worse by climate warming.

  2. It is scary how much earlier in the summer that the heat and drought of 2012 is occurring for the USA than in 1988. Though 1988 possibly affected the midwest more than the east coast. I remember how extraordinary that event was and the worry then about world corn and grain reserves.

    Am surprised no denier trolls have popped up here pointing out how the record cold at Waipara West on 6 June negates all of this heatwave hysteria.

      1. Seems your hypothesis (that the denier trolls have somehow overnight evolved the capacity to learn) was quickly squashed by no other than your very own resident troll above….

      1. PS: Further down the valley, vineyards were reporting temps as low as -13C on the morning of the 7th. Nothing to worry the vines, but it wiped out the olive crop up here, and probably damaged a few trees. Harvest is usually the second half of June. Our olive trees are fine, but -3C was enough to spoil the crop.

    1. Oh, they’re doing it, alright.

      However, I think even they’re aware that not many outside of their little intellectual hinterland are swallowing it any more.

      After all, it requires a serious commitment not to understand that the globe is what’s warming – hence the massive imbalance between new heat and cold records – but that doesn’t mean it’s never going to be cold anywhere ever again. And it’s infantile to demand that it must!

      Furthermore, a perturbed non-linear system, particularly on a planetary scale, is going to perform some pretty wild oscillations on the road to a new equilibrium! And that’s a loooooooong way away…

      Seriously, we are dealing with people who have great difficulty with concepts such as ‘on average’.

      And concepts like ‘turbulence’, ‘complex interdependence’ and ‘disruption’, for that matter.

      Oh, and, frequently in my own experience, ‘a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, effectively putting the hydrological cycle on steroids, leading to both enhanced droughts* AND increased precipitation events, which, when they occur at certain altitudes and latitudes where temperatures are still low enough, gives us…?’

      But, but, but- snow is cold!!! if it’s raining it’s not hot anymore!!! – it’s not faaaaaair!!!…

      *which, by definition, andy, hardly qualify as ‘single weather events’. How long did the Australian drought last? How long has the US been baking?

  3. Natural weather cycles are like a ride on a Ferris Wheel. Add climate change and the hub of wheel is now slowly lifted, year after year, higher and higher. You still go around and up and down, but turn by turn the highs are higher and the lows not so low…. the climate escalator analogy.
    And just as sea level rise manifests itself profoundly only on king tides coinciding with storm weather exceeding previous flooding events, so will GW manifest itself most profoundly on the tops of natural cycles when new extremes are busted and living arrangements tested….
    Deniers will always cheer on the way down on the Ferris Wheel ride and never admit to the hub being lifted. Just as the cycles of the wheel carry on, so will the yahooing and the sneering from the ranks of the denier circus be predictable like the next La Nina….

    1. As I suggested in a footnote, the current state of ENSO is interesting.

      …observations are consistent with ENSO-neutral, but reflect a likely progression towards El Niño.

      NOAA put the odds at about 60% of an El Nino developing during the Atlantic hurricane season (good news, because it suppresses hurricane development). From a global temperature perspective, an El Nino is very likely to make 2013 a new record high.

  4. I don’t like the Ferris Wheel analogue as much as the Deck o’ Cards. Remove black cards from the shuffled deck and the odds that the next card will be red increases but not the odds that the next black one won’t be a record low.
    Our latest round of cold weather seems to be going in the wrong direction but apparently even that has a climate change component as the warmer Antarctic Ocean interferes with the circumpolar air streams that normally keep the cold air over the continent. That interference has allowed several polar blasts to leak out into the middle latitudes.

  5. NOt to mention worst drought for 100yrs north korea and large parts of spain on fire. And massive seasonal disruption to agriculture in africa.

    For the winter olympics last we didn’t have any snow for the snowboard event in Vancouver. They managed to franticly truck/helicopter just enough in to pull it off. just. No one got too upset about CC then.

Leave a Reply