Climate change, uncertainty & natural disasters 2015-16

Written by  //  December 2, 2016  //  Climate Change, Natural Disasters  //  1 Comment

UN & Climate Change

Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

Politicians discussing global warming. Sculpture by Issac Cordal.

Politicians discussing global warming. Sculpture by Issac Cordal.

(The Passionate Eye) Could we survive a mega-tsunami in North America? Using CGI simulations, scientists predict a wave even bigger than the tsunamis in Thailand & Japan could devastate the Atlantic Coast. 17 January 2015
Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial
Robert Kenner’s documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change
Bloomberg Business – 120 years of global warming, in 3 minutes. (video)

Dull Disasters
Dull Disasters? How planning ahead will make a difference
Daniel J. Clarke and Stefan Derco
Edited by Sabra Ledent
Shows how countries can better prepare for natural disasters
Aims to make disaster responses business as usual: something we are prepared for, indeed something rather dull and mundane
Details a range of solutions implemented around the world; what works and what doesn’t
Each chapter concludes with a set of key lessons and a literature review (published 16 July)

2 December
Climate Change in the Trumpocene Age
Bo Lidegaard argues that the US president-elect’s ability to derail global progress toward a green economy is more limited than many believe.
(Project Syndicate) In the year since the Paris climate agreement was concluded, the world’s efforts to limit global warming seemed to gain momentum. How worried should the world be about the prospect that US President-elect Donald Trump and the fossil-fuel lobbyists populating his administration will derail progress?
How might US climate-change policies change under Trump? The initial signs do not bode well. As Oxford University Chancellor Chris Patten notes, Trump “has already appointed Myron Ebell, an outspoken climate change denier, to oversee the transition at the US Environmental Protection Agency.” Under US President Barack Obama, the EPA was at the forefront of American efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and to phase out dirty energy sources such as coal. Those efforts will almost certainly be scrapped if Trump is taking advice from Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – which has received funding from hydrocarbon producers.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt shares Patten’s pessimism, and sees a link between Trump’s stated intention to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal and his threat to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. As Bildt points out, “These are two of the international community’s only significant diplomatic achievements in recent years. The consequences of a US retreat from them are anyone’s guess.” But one thing we do know, Bildt concludes, is that “global stability will certainly suffer.”

25 November
Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level
Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean
(The Guardian) Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.
The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.
Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.
13 November
New Zealand earthquake: two dead as tsunami threat passes
Latest updates as New Zealand authorities lift tsunami warning for east coast of South and North Islands and Wellington city workers told to stay at home
(The Guardian) the full impact of the overnight 7.5 magnitude earthquake is beginning to be understood. Power is out and phone lines are still down in some areas and roads have cracked and sunk by up to half a metre, restricting access by emergency services.
Paramedics are being flown by helicopter to Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura, where a command unit is being established.
New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, has suffered some damage with workers in the city centre told to stay home. Ships and ferries are waiting in the harbour until authorities can assess the damage to wharves before they dock, which is expected to be in the mid-afternoon.
14 October
‘There’s nothing left’: Haiti farmers left devastated after Hurricane Matthew
Nearly 100% of crops and 50% of livestock destroyed in one region
(CBC) Haitian and international agricultural officials say it could be a decade or more before the southwestern peninsula recovers economically from Hurricane Matthew, which struck hard at the rugged region of more than one million people that is almost completely dependent on farming and fishing.
The Civil Protection Agency said Friday that the death toll from Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall here on Oct. 4, had risen to 546, though it was likely to climb higher as reports continued to trickle in from remote areas, and there are other reports the death toll has risen to more than 1,000. Likewise, the statistics about economic losses are still approximate, but appear to be catastrophic.
12 October
Humanitarian ‘industry’ part of the problem in Haiti, critics say
Aid organizations ‘only ever accountable to the people who are giving it money,’ author says
(CBC) As aid agencies pour money and resources into Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, experts are warning the international community to heed lessons learned from the response to the 2010 earthquake.
“The humanitarian industry — and make no mistake, it’s an industry — it comes in, it sets up shop, it will work in different ways until its money runs out,” said Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.
“It doesn’t really ever have to make any effort to … create institutions that will be there to outlast it, so that when it leaves it won’t need to come back,” he said. “And second of all, [the industry doesn’t need to] be accountable to the people it works for.”
Relief efforts in the wake of the deadly [2010] quake have been widely criticized for lacking co-ordination and an overarching plan that would see the country’s own institutions built up.
The problem goes beyond the kind of mismanagement documented in a report by ProPublica and NPR, which outlined how the American Red Cross succeeded in building only six permanent homes, despite raising nearly half a billion dollars with the promise to provide aid and help rebuild communities.
The American Red Cross defended its work, admitting it had only built six houses as part of a pilot project before revising its long-term shelter plans. The organization instead said it provided more than 6,000 transitional homes and provided more than 5,400 households with rental subsidies.
Hurricane Matthew damage in U.S. likely to cost $10B
(AP via CTV) For a storm that inflicted less damage than many had feared, Hurricane Matthew nevertheless impaired or destroyed more than 1 million structures, forced businesses from Florida to North Carolina to close and put thousands temporarily out of work.
In many affected areas, small-business owners were still assessing the damage.
All told, the storm probably caused $10 billion in damage, according to an estimate from Goldman Sachs. Insurance companies will likely be liable for about $4 billion to $6 billion of that total, according to an estimate Saturday by CoreLogic, a real estate data provider.
But the figures suggest Matthew’s effect on the broader national economy will be minimal. Though damage estimates are usually revised higher after more comprehensive assessments, the current figures would still make Matthew the 22nd-worst storm since World War II, Goldman estimates.
By comparison, Hurricane Sandy, the second-worst storm, caused $15 billion to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion to $60 billion in overall damage in 2012.
Cholera rises in southern Haiti in wake of Hurricane Matthew
11 October
haiti-nobody-is-haitiThis cartoon sums up the world’s response to the hurricane in Haiti
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon has urged the world to help Haiti following the nationwide damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, calling for a “massive response”.
He said:
“Hundreds have died; at least 1.4 million people need assistance at this time. Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map; crops and food reserves have been destroyed; at least 300 schools have been damaged.”
Up to 90 per cent of the south of Haiti has been destroyed and over 1,000 killed by Hurricane Matthew, said to be the most powerful Caribbean storm for decades.
CNN was criticised for its coverage of the disaster; despite the fatalities, Haiti was hardly mentioned in the network’s coverage. Florida, which at the time suffered strong winds as the hurricane passed over it, had zero fatalities, but the network was broadcasting live footage of the storm from there.
Illustrator Miguelito Villalba Sanchez noticed that there wasn’t a Facebook campaign to support Haiti, and created a cartoon:
6 October
Hurricane Matthew May Reach Category 5 Status, Has Already Killed 113 in Caribbean
Hurricane Matthew is now officially a Category 4 storm, which means its winds are reaching speeds between 140 and 165 mph. The storm may even soon reach Category 5 status—the most dangerous level at which hurricanes are classified—and hurricane warnings have been issued for cities as widely spread as Palm Beach, Orlando (about 40 miles inland of the Atlantic) and Savannah, Georgia.
5 October
Hurricane Matthew: At least 21 dead in Haiti as storm moves toward Bahamas, U.S.
Hurricane Matthew churned toward the Bahamas and Florida’s east coast on Wednesday after killing at least 21 people in Haiti and prompting the hard-hit country to postpone a long-awaited presidential election
The hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, whipped Cuba and Haiti with 140 mile-per-hour (230 kph) winds and torrential rains on Tuesday, pummeling towns and destroying livestock, crops and homes.
In the United States, millions of people were urged to evacuate the southeastern coast and Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents to prepare for a possible direct hit that could be catastrophic.
Haiti cannot endure any more broken promises after Hurricane Matthew
Matthew Smith
Whoever turns out to be the next president, what Haitians need most is genuine support from the international community
(The Guardian) … in the wake of Matthew the election has been postponed indefinitely. The poll was to have been a restart of a controversial first round held in October 2015 that cost millions, only to dissolve in fraudulent results and widespread national protests. This time around, the campaign had been prolonged by repeated delays and clashes between the electoral council and the candidates.
Politics and natural disasters have a way of converging to disturb the state of things in Haiti. In most recent memory the devastating 2010 earthquake that struck the capital Port-au-Prince and its environs led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, bringing unimaginable trauma. A global outpouring of support drew sympathy and attention but few lasting resources. It also came in an election year. The elections were held at a time when the country, and the world, were still coming to terms with the earthquake. The cost was significant. International assistance addressed short-term needs while repeating the same approaches that had made the scale of the disaster so expansive. In 2004, seven months after the ousting of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Tropical Storm Jeanne deposited 13 inches of water in Haiti and claimed more than 3,000 lives. And as far back as the 19th century, a massive earthquake in the north of Haiti in May 1842 preceded an uprising against president Jean-Pierre Boyer less than a year later.
20 September
Earth records 16th month of record heat
(RCI) The average world temperature for August smashed records making it the 16th record-breaking month in a row, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.
The average temperature for August was 16.52 C and it was also the hottest summer according to records going back 137 years. The National Academy of Sciences released an open letter urging U.S. leaders to not pull out of the Paris accord to curb global warming.
The government of Canada has signalled it will sign the agreement although leaders of some provinces are furious that it did not first gain their approval.
Environmentalists are disappointed that the government has not set a higher target for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The NOAA also Africa and Asia had their warmest August. South America had its second. The average Arctic sea ice extent for August was 23.1 per cent below the 1981-2010 average.
4 September
Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun
Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical.Huge vertical rulers are sprouting beside low spots in the streets here, so people can judge if the tidal floods that increasingly inundate their roads are too deep to drive through.
Five hundred miles down the Atlantic Coast, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., is disappearing beneath the sea several times a year, cutting the town off from the mainland.
And another 500 miles on, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., increased tidal flooding is forcing the city to spend millions fixing battered roads and drains — and, at times, to send out giant vacuum trucks to suck saltwater off the streets.
For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline.
Now, those warnings are no longer theoretical: The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes.
17 August
As Louisiana Floodwaters Recede, the Scope of Disaster Comes Into View
(NYT) In Louisiana, severe weather can often seem a trauma visited and revisited. But the disaster unfolding here this week fits into a recent and staggering pattern in more than half-dozen states, where floods have rolled out at such a scale that scientists say they might be a once-every-500-or-1,000-year occurrence. The cumulative, increasingly grim toll, from Maryland to South Carolina to Louisiana to Texas, includes scores of lives and billions of dollars in economic losses.
In Louisiana, severe weather can often seem a trauma visited and revisited. But the disaster unfolding here this week fits into a recent and staggering pattern in more than half-dozen states, where floods have rolled out at such a scale that scientists say they might be a once-every-500-or-1,000-year occurrence. The cumulative, increasingly grim toll, from Maryland to South Carolina to Louisiana to Texas, includes scores of lives and billions of dollars in economic losses.
As Louisiana on Tuesday faced its second catastrophic flood in about five months, climate scientists elsewhere cautioned that the state was unlikely to be the last to confront a disaster like this one.
“There’s definitely an increase in heavy rainfall due to climate change,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist in Texas. “The actual increase from place to place is going to be variable because of the randomness of the weather. Some places will see a dramatic change.”

5 June
Paris floods 20164-6 June
Grand Palais reopens, Louvre still closed after Paris flooding
(AP via CBC) The Louvre Museum, several Paris train stations and roads remained closed. Quayside restaurants along the Seine were still engulfed in water Sunday and tour boats were unable to pass under bridges, a blow to the riverside economy.
Paris floods ease but at least 18 killed in flooding across Europe
New thunderstorms are forecast for eastern France on Sunday and more rain elsewhere.
Paris floods: ‘There’s something terrifying about it’
(TorStar) Roads and picturesque cobbled walkways in the French capital have disappeared, submerged by a vast expanse of brown river water carrying an unusual assortment of debris including logs, big wooden planks and a metal sign from a boat-club in its angry, swirling current.
The rain-swollen Seine, which has spilled over on to embankments in many places in Paris, peaked at 6.07 metres on Friday night, its highest level in more than 30 years.
Seine River peaks in Paris, top museums stay shut for days
(WaPost) The Seine River peaked early Saturday around Paris, hitting its highest level in nearly 35 years — almost 4.5 meters (15 feet) above average — then began a slow descent. That drew a collective sigh of relief but authorities cautioned it could take up to 10 days for the river to return to normal.
It will take at least four days before tourists in the French capital get a chance to view art at the world-class Louvre Museum, where workers have been scrambling to move 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas to rooms upstairs to keep them safe from flooding.
3 June
Here’s what the science really says about Fort McMurray and climate change
(National Observer) [Mike] Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire from the University of Alberta, and many other climate change scientists agree that while the Fort McMurray fires cannot be directly linked to the carbon pollution produced by humans, Canadian wildfire activity of the past few years is well above average. And it’s connected to the warming climate.
In terms of the total areas destroyed by fires, there’s an unmistakable escalation, they say.
They see these fires as vivid markers of dangers to come for the forests and for the people and wildlife that live in them and around them.
11 May
‘Death Awaits’: Africa Faces Worst Drought in Half a Century
(Spiegel) The worst drought in half a century has stricken large parts of Africa — a consequence of El Niño and high population growth. More than 50 million people are threatened by hunger and few countries have been hit as hard as Ethiopia.
The United Nations estimates that more than 50 million people in Africa are acutely threatened by famine. After years of hope for increased growth and prosperity, the people are once again suffering from poverty and malnutrition.
The governments of Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland have already declared states of emergency, and massive crop losses have caused food prices to explode in South Africa. Particularly hard stricken are the countries in the southern part of the continent as well as around the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and especially Ethiopia.
Meteorologists believe the natural disaster is linked to a climate phenomenon that returns once every two to seven years known as El Niño, or the Christ child, a disruption of the normal sea and air currents that wreaks havoc on global weather patterns. The El Niño experienced in 2015-2016 has been particularly strong.
5 May
Alberta wildfireFort McMurray and the Fires of Climate Change
(New Yorker) We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility, and then we need to do something about it. The fire next time is one that we’ve been warned about, and that we’ve all had a hand in starting.
We Need to Talk About Climate Change
Tragedies like the Fort McMurray fire make it more important, not less.
(Slate) Fire is a natural part of the boreal ecosystem, but what’s happening in Fort McMurray isn’t natural. A messy mix of factors—including inadequate forestry management practices, rapid encroachment of the urban area into the surrounding environment, a particularly stagnant weather pattern, a record-strength El Niño, and human-caused climate change—all aligned to turn this fire into this continuously unfolding tragedy. And it’s that last factor—climate change—that has spawned a commentary firestorm of its own this week.
… Talking about climate change during an ongoing disaster like Fort McMurray is absolutely necessary. … We’ve reached an era where all weather events bear at least a slight human fingerprint, which, as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the New Yorker, means “we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno.” That’s a scientific fact. We need to talk about what we want to do with that information. Since climate change is such a pressing global problem, there’s no better time to have that conversation than now—when we can see what exactly inaction might continue to cause.
The ‘Extreme’ Wildfires in Fort McMurray
The government in Alberta said Thursday a total 49 wildfires are burning in and around the Canadian city.
(The Atlantic) A small blaze began in Fort McMurray, located in Canada’s oil-sands country, over the weekend. Dry conditions and a sudden spike in temperature to 32 degrees Celsius, or about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, fed the flames, which by Tuesday had become too severe to control.
18 April
Hundreds Dead, Thousands Homeless After Quake In Ecuador
While coastal tourist destinations were the most devastated, the damage spans vast regions of Ecuador.
(NPR) A magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday has left more than 350 people dead and many more injured.
Thousands are homeless, The Associated Press reports, and highways, air traffic control towers and buildings along the coast have collapsed.
Rescue workers are now working to find and aid survivors, while officials are warning the general public of the perils of digging through the rubble.
Some of the hardest-hit areas in Ecuador are remote and impoverished, Carolina Loza Leon, a Quito-based freelance reporter, tells Morning Edition.
19 February
Catastrophic Cyclone Winston bears down on Fiji’s main island in worst case scenario
(WaPost) Winston took an incredibly unusual path to get to where it is right now — winding through the South Pacific and crossing over a single island twice. The cyclone passed Tonga’s island of Vava’u once earlier this week as a category 2, and then strengthened, turned and passed over the same islands again as a category 4. Australia’s ABC News reports that Vava’u fared better than expected as Cyclone Winston passed by.
25 January
Washington faces days of cleanup after epic blizzard
(Reuters) Officials in Washington, D.C., warned residents on Monday that it would take several more days for the city to return to normal after a massive weekend blizzard dropped more than two feet (60 cm) of snow along the East Coast and killed more than 30…., including traffic accidents and heart attacks while shoveling in Washington, D.C., Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Polar Vortex Brings Heavy Snow And Frigid Temperatures To East Asia
How does -52 degrees Fahrenheit sound to you right about now?
(HuffPost) Temperatures in Inner Mongolia dropped to a bone-chilling -46.8 degrees Celsius (-52 degrees Fahrenheit), according to The Guardian. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency also recorded temperatures of -18 C (-0.4 F) in Seoul.
On Sunday, the Chinese city of Guangzhou, which usually experiences a warm and humid climate all year round, saw snow for the first time since 1967, The Associated Press reported. The city of Hong Kong, which lies just 22 degrees north of the Equator, also experienced its coldest weather since 1957, with temperatures plummeting to 38 F.
The cold was the result of a polar vortex, or large area of cold air, that moved south from the Arctic to East Asia.
Record hot years almost certainly caused by man-made warming
(Reuters) A record-breaking string of hot years since 2000 is almost certainly a sign of man-made global warming, with vanishingly small chances that it was caused by random, natural swings, a study showed on Monday.
UN risk chief: Disaster risks cannot be ignored
Countries need to pay more attention to smaller-scale disaster risks, says Robert Glasser, head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. “One of the problems with disaster risk reduction is that even governments haven’t quantified the costs of disasters,” Glasser said, “and unless they can put a price on it, if you talk to a finance ministry, they have competing priorities.” Thomson Reuters Foundation (1/21)
8 January
Aid agencies call for funds to save lives in El Nino-hit countries
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An inadequate response to El Nino would put tens of millions of people at risk of hunger, water shortages and disease, a group of leading aid agencies said, calling on donors for funding to save lives in countries hit by the weather phenomenon.
The United Nations launched a record humanitarian appeal in December, asking for $20.1 billion to help 87 million people in 37 national and regional crises in 2016.
But some countries affected by El Nino, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and El Salvador, were not included in the appeal, the humanitarian agencies said.
The aid groups, including Oxfam and World Vision, said “urgently required” funding should go into disaster preparedness, resilience building and crisis response, which would save money in the future.
“According to the United Nations, every $1 that is invested in disaster preparedness and resilience now could save up to $7 in emergency relief if a disaster unfolds over the coming months,” World Vision’s El Nino response director, Kathryn Taetzsch, said in a statement.


30 December
El Nino weather ‘could be as bad as 1998’, says Nasa
(BBC) That El Nino played havoc with world weather systems and was blamed for several extreme weather events.
The current El Nino has been linked to several floods and unusually warm conditions in the northern hemisphere.
The phenomenon sees warm waters of the central Pacific expand eastwards towards North and South America.
Nasa says the current El Nino “shows no signs of waning”, based on the latest satellite image of the Pacific Ocean. …
This year’s El Nino has been linked to the worst floods seen in 50 years in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The floods there have forced more than 150,000 people from their homes.
El Nino weather: Worries grow over humanitarian impact
29 December
UK floods: Storm Frank threatens more misery
(BBC) There are four severe flood warnings – meaning “danger to life” – in force in England and Wales, along with 47 flood warnings requiring immediate action.
An old stone bridge in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, has collapsed, and as a result a nearby gas pipe has ruptured.
Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced on Tuesday £50m extra funding to help households and businesses affected by flooding in northern England. The government says it has now pledged more than £100m towards the crisis.
10 December
Uncertain Over Paris Climate Talks, Marshall Islanders Prepare For The Worst
People who live on the front lines of climate change are starting to get ready.
(World Post) Preparing for climate change in the Marshall Islands involves a lot of this kind of traditional knowledge melded with modern science. These islands were colonized thousands of years ago, and over time the Marshallese have achieved a deep understanding of their precarious and sensitive environment — the crashing waves of the Pacific, the ceaseless wind, the scarce freshwater, the fish and the breadfruit tree. Modern climate science now injects a sense of urgency.
30 November
Unearthing America’s Deep Network of Climate Change Deniers
A new study attempts the first tally of those driving the peculiarly American strain of climate change denial.
(Bloomberg) New research for the first time has put a precise count on the people and groups working to dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. A loose network of 4,556 individuals with overlapping ties to 164 organizations do the most to dispute climate change in the U.S., according to a paper published today in Nature Climate Change. ExxonMobil and the family foundations controlled by Charles and David Koch emerge as the most significant sources of funding for these skeptics. As a two-week United Nations climate summit begins today in Paris, it’s striking to notice that a similarly vast infrastructure of denial isn’t found in any other nation.
27 October
Indonesia haze: Child evacuation plan prepared
South-East Asia has been particularly hit hard this year by the haze, an annual occurrence.
Extreme heatwaves could push Gulf climate beyond human endurance, study shows
Oil heartlands of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and Iran’s coast will experience higher temperatures and humidity than ever before on Earth if the world fails to cut carbon emissions
(The Guardian) The extreme heatwaves will affect Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and coastal cities in Iran as well as posing a deadly threat to millions of Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, when the religious festival falls in the summer. The study shows the extreme heatwaves, more intense than anything ever experienced on Earth, would kick in after 2070 and that the hottest days of today would by then be a near-daily occurrence.
“Our results expose a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in the absence of significant [carbon cuts], is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future,” said Prof Jeremy Pal and Prof Elfatih Eltahir, both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change.
They said the future climate for many locations in the Gulf would be like today’s extreme climate in the desert of Northern Afar, on the African side of the Red Sea, where there are no permanent human settlements at all. But the research also showed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions now could avoid this fate.
Oil and gas rich nations in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, have frequently tried to frustrate international climate change negotiations. The Gulf, where populations are rising quickly, was hit in 2015 by one of its worst-ever heatwaves, where temperatures topped 50C (122F) and led to a significant number of deaths.
Asia-Pacific Most Disaster-Prone Region, Says New Study
(IPS) Asia-Pacific is the world’s most disaster prone region and its disaster risk is likely to increase without necessary action, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) said in a new report released here.
The study, titled 2015 Asia-Pacific Disaster Report: Disasters Without Borders launched on Oct. 27, illustrates the extent of damage and loss caused by disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.
In just the past decade, the region experienced over 1600 natural disasters, 40 percent of the global total, which resulted in the loss of half a million lives. Such disasters have affected an additional 1.4 billion people, constituting 80 percent of those affected globally. …
The report stated that drought, the “forgotten disaster,” has impacted more than 1.6 billion people in Asia-Pacific since 1970, costing an estimated 53 billion dollars in economic damages. Poor farmers are especially vulnerable to such disasters.
26 October
Rescuers race to reach quake zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan
(Reuters) Rescuers on Tuesday rushed to deliver relief aid to victims of a massive earthquake that hit northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing at least 275 people over a wide swath of mostly mountainous terrain.
Thousands spent the night outdoors in near-freezing temperatures reluctant to go back inside for fear of aftershocks, Pakistani media reported.
Landslides in mountainous northern Pakistan over the weekend caused by heavy rain and snow had already left thousands of tourists stranded.
The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record on April 25. Including the toll from a major aftershock in May, 9,000 people lost their lives there and 900,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centered.
23 October
Is Naomi Klein Right That We Must Choose Between Capitalism and the Climate?
(New York Magazine) Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate uses a rendition of the purity fallacy to explain climate change. Klein’s book came out last year, and a documentary based on its reporting premiered this week in many cities across the country. The odd thing about her ideologically comforting explanation for the failure of the anti-climate-change movement is that the movement is not actually failing. Or, at least, it is more closely approaching success than at any time in its history. By either economic metrics (the plummeting cost and rising usage of renewable energy) or political metrics (growing international movement for commitments to reduce emissions across the globe), the efforts she dismisses as a failure have entered a golden age and can be gainsayed only on the grounds that they aren’t progressing quite fast enough to keep up with the speed required of them. …
Klein’s fervently ideological, anti-empiricist style, and her deep skepticism of the mainstream liberals who believe emissions can be controlled without destroying capitalism, places her in odd agreement with the far right. Visiting a conference of climate-science deniers, Klein discovers the kind of absolutist ideological reasoning and suspicion of mushy technocracy to which she can relate. Climate-science deniers see the fight to restrain emissions as a pretext to expand government power over the economy. Since that is exactly how Klein sees climate change, she thinks they are on to something: “I think these hard-core ideologues understand the real significance of climate change better than most of the ‘warmists’ in the political center … ” she writes, “when it comes to the scope and depth of change required to avert catastrophe, they are right on the money.” Finally, somebody else who understands that the real choice is capitalism versus the climate.
In the actual world outside this jointly inhabited ideological bubble, capitalism and climate science are discovering ways to co-exist. Klein dismisses the “past quarter century of international negotiations,” which she characterizes as “struggling, sputtering, failing utterly to achieve its goals.” In reality, American greenhouse-gas emissions peaked several years ago. European Union emissions peaked several decades ago. Chinese coal use has peaked, and its energy intensity has fallen. The world may not be decarbonizing as rapidly as it should, but it is moving rapidly. It may be slow by the standards of atmospheric conditions, but it is fast by the standards of global political cooperation.
Is Indonesia’s fire crisis connected to the palm oil in our snack food
The widespread burning of tropical rainforests and peatlands to develop palm oil plantations is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution today
Indonesia fires 2915Solving this crisis is not about fighting fires. Extinguishing thousands of peat blazes across thousands of square miles of remote tropical landscape is hugely expensive and ultimately unfeasible. The only real solution is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
(The Guardian) The widespread burning of tropical rainforests and peatlands to develop pulpwood and palm oil plantations is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution occurring in the world today. It is estimated that the fires are producing more carbon pollution than the entire daily emissions of the United States.
According to an analysis of World Resources Institute data from September, of the hundreds of fires burning in Sumatra, almost half have been traced back to pulp plantation concessions, most of which supply the logging giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Most of the rest originate in or near palm oil plantations, many of which are connected through the big palm oil traders that purchase from them to the supply chains of international food companies, including those dubbed the Snack Food 20.
Many of these fires are a direct result of the industrial manipulation of the landscape for plantation development. Palm oil giants are accused of displacing local communities from their land and livelihood, opening up massive peat swamps with road building and forest clearance and installing extensive networks of canals. The lowering of the water table by peat canals dries out the land and allows fires to burn in areas where they would never naturally occur.
Companies like APP are quick to accuse small farmers and villagers of lighting many of the fires. Even if that is true, the displacement of communities and the drainage of peatlands by large scale plantation companies is ultimately responsible for the allowing these fires to take place. Communities whose forest-dependent subsistence livelihoods have been disrupted by plantation development often turn to clearing what land they can find, using the only cost-effective method available to them: fire.
Erik Meijaard: Indonesia’s Fire Crisis — The Biggest Environmental Crime of the 21st Century
I consider it a crime, not just a disaster, because even though setting fire to land remains perfectly legal in Indonesia, endangering the lives of millions of people, destroying protected forests and their wildlife, and threatening the global environment are criminal acts. This is especially the case because the fires could largely have been prevented by solid policies, land-use planning, and law enforcement. None of these were enacted, and the Indonesian government is ultimately culpable for its failure to act effectively.
(Jakarta Globe) The immediate solutions are obvious: a complete and enforced fire ban, especially on peat; a major scale-up of firefighting efforts, using all available means, national and international; and a prohibition on further peat development and funding for peat restoration. There is an immediate need to start divesting from all agricultural production on peat, or only allowing production that can ensure near-surface water tables. For the areas of drained, degraded peatland not under agriculture there need to be massive programs to block and fill all canals, followed by reforestation to get something like a humid microclimate at the peat surface. None of this will happen without a fully committed government that focuses all its attention on overcoming this global disaster. There is no choice. If the government of Indonesia cares for its people, its economy, its wildlife, and for people elsewhere in the world, it immediately must do more.
15 October
How Indonesia’s gigantic fires are making global warming worse
UPDATE: Emissions from Indonesian fires have continued to rise since this article was published and now are estimated to be roughly equal to Japan’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. See here.
(WaPost) Experts say that along with dramatic global coral bleaching, thousands of fires across Indonesia represents the next sign of an intensifying global El Niño event. And the consequences, in this case, could affect the entire globe’s atmosphere.
27 September
A curious cold spot in the Atlantic has scientists thinking their worst fears have come true
Scientists have observed record high temperatures around the world all summer long. People everywhere are suffering from the intense heat, and the higher temps have contributed to the increasing western drought, wildfires, and all manner of environmental destruction. All points on the globe seem to be hitting new peaks on the thermostat, except for one. There is a curious cold spot in a map of ever-warming ocean waters, showing a “blob” of cooler-than-expected water in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and it has climate scientists more than just a little freaked out.
31 August
Why California’s fires are burning longer and harder
(PBS Newshour) High temperatures, unpredictable winds and extremely dry conditions caused by the relentless drought have made managing this summer’s blazes particularly challenging and unpredictable in California
Twelve thousand firefighters are battling 14 active wildfires in California, and the state, which is in its fourth year of drought, is on track to have one of its worst fire seasons ever.
11 August
Los Angeles is protecting its water supply with millions of little black balls
California is getting desperate enough in its historic drought to deploy the ultimate weapon: Balls. Shade balls.
Shade balls are tiny plastic black spheres that are dumped en masse into reservoirs as a conservation and protection measure. As the Los Angeles Daily News reports, you need a lot of them to be effective, and L.A. has released about 96 million of them into its Van Norman reservoir.
They help save water by preventing evaporation. In blocking the sun, they also prevent the chemical reaction that forms the carcinogenic compound bromate (which is not your friend, despite the name). And they form a protective ball-barrier across the surface of the water that helps keep birds, animals and other contaminants out.
5 August
The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected
(Rollingstone) On July 20 James Hansen, the former NASA scientist1 who first brought climate change to the public’s attention, reported that he & a team of scientists had identified a feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise ten times faster than previously predicted : 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”
As our friend Nick Rost van Tonningen says Whether one agrees with him or not, it’s worth reading for the factual information it contains (in 2008 the OECD listed 15 major cities (incl. Calcutta, Mumbai, Miami, Shanghai, Bangkok, New York/Newark, Tokyo, Alexandria & Amsterdam), in which 100MM people & US$22TR in assets would be at risk if sea levels were to rise just 0.50 mtrs/1.66 ft by 2070 (& a much, much more of both, if it were to rise by 2 mtrs/6.6 ft).
2 August
Obama Wants You to Think His Climate Plan Is Bold. It’s Not.
(Slate) the Clean Power Plan, if fully enacted as it is, would definitely help reduce our carbon emissions. But to imply that Monday’s nudge toward cleaner electricity will bring about a bold new era in American climate leadership is disingenuous. Growing economic headwinds in the fossil fuel sector—particularly in the coal and oil industries—may bring about radical change much sooner than Obama’s Clean Power Plan. If Obama really wants to make a lasting impact on global warming, he can work across the aisle or across the Pacific in Beijing, to work toward implementing a meaningful, economy-wide carbon tax as quickly as possible. Just because such a breakthrough feels impossible doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.
Obama climate plan derided by Republicans, hailed by green groups
US President Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions from US power plants has been hailed as visionary by the UN, EU and environmental groups. Republicans have vowed to do whatever it takes to halt the measures.
31 July
More from my friend Nick (Nick’s Gleanings)
A talk with a climate change denier friend prompted a search for evidence it is real, not a figment of the imagination of ‘junk scientists’ with an interest in promoting the idea. This led to an NOAA website, & a chart entitled January-December Mean Temperature over Land and Oceans that, using the 1901-2000 average temperature as a benchmark, showed the average temperature “anomaly” (deviation from the benchmark) had gone from < 0.1° C in 1975 to > 0.6° in 2005 (although it since has plateaued), & another one that showed this to be a combo of somewhat higher ‘over-the-ocean’-, & lower ‘over-the-land’-, temperatures (which helps explain the recent torrential rain phenomenon; for warmer water has a greater evaporation rate, & warmer air can hold more water; so when more ocean water-laden warm air masses collide with colder air over land, there’s more water to come down). Next was a NASA website that stated outright “The year 2014 ranks as the warmest on record” (breaking the record set in 2013) & “as of January 2014 the average global temperature was 0.68° C above the 1951-1980 average”. Then, more interestingly, it divided the world into, & tracked temperatures in, three latitudinal zones, North of 23.6°N, between 23.6° North & 23.6° South 1, and South of 23.6°S. And while the temperature change pattern in all three was similar, first hovering around its 1951-1980 benchmark from 1935 to 1970, & then rising, it did rise faster in the Northern zone than in the other two, so by 2005 the anomaly was 1.0° C in the Northern zone, and just 0.6°in the Equatorial-, & 0.4° in the Southern-, zones – (‘coincidentally’?) 88% of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere (& well over half North of latitude 23.6°N).
1 The former runs roughly across the Gulf of Mexico, Southern Egypt, Central India & Northern Vietnam, & the latter across Central Brazil, Central Mozambique & Northern Australia.
25 July
Citing Worries grow as serious drought hits São Paulo, Brazil, Nick Rost van Tonningen (Nick’s Gleanings) points to the global crisis. “Meanwhile apart from the California & São Paulo droughts, in North Korea the official Korean Central News Agency admitted on June 16th that the worst drought in a century has caused 30% of the rice paddies to dry up and that “Water level of reservoirs stands at the lowest, while rivers and streams (are) getting dry”. And there are serious drought problems in all or part of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Australia & Morocco (countries that between them account for well over one-third of the world’s population), while a recent OECD report projected that, due to industrialization, urbanization & thermal power generation, global water demand will increase by 55% by 2050.”
9 July
Global warming is the cause of bumblebee decline: study
Bumblebee populations have been on a steady decline worldwide and, according to a new report in the journal Science, the main culprit isn’t loss of habitat or pesticides — it’s global warming.
“Bumblebee species seem to be having a real hard time expanding their ranges into areas that used to be too cold for them,” says Jeremy Kerr, professor of biology at the University of Ottawa, and the lead author of the study. Climate change killing off bumblebees, new study suggests — Bumblebees can’t move north to cope with warmer temperatures and are slowly disappearing from North America and Europe
28 June
Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle
Social activist ‘surprised but delighted’ to join top cardinal in high-level environment conference at the Vatican
She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.
Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.
“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.
24 June
From Bloomberg: These Charts Debunk Climate-Change Deniers’ Biggest Arguments What’s really warming the world with delightfully animated graphs
Hague climate change judgement could inspire a global civil movement
Dutch ruling could trigger similar cases worldwide with citizens taking their governments to courts to make them act on climate promises
“You have been negotiating all my life”, cried out 21-year-old Anjali Appadurai from the lectern of a UN climate change conference four years ago. The activist, speaking on behalf of her nation’s youth, could have speaking for anyone who has taken a mild interest in more than two decades of international negotiations on climate change and stood aghast as world leaders have failed to protect the most basic of human rights – to exist.
But today, thanks to 886 Dutch citizens who decided to sue their government, all of that may change. We may not have to wait for the politicians to save us – the lawyers may step in instead. In the first successful case of its kind, a judge in the Hague has ruled that the Dutch government’s stance on climate change is illegal and has ordered them to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a hefty 25% within five years
12 June
Dr. Bjorn Lomborg argues the climate change fight isn’t worth the cost
(Globe & Mail) It’s not easy to take a public stand against the internationally agreed upon goal of limiting the increase in average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a rise that some scientists describe as a tipping point that would be followed by the collapse of ice sheets, rising sea levels and an onslaught of dramatic weather events.
But Dr. Lomborg has, for years, been arguing that the target is simply too difficult and too expensive to achieve and the world’s development dollars would be put to better use in reducing poverty, preventing disease, educating the illiterate and feeding the hungry. And, yes, he would also protect the environment, but in smaller, more achievable ways.
Dr. Lomborg’s message comes as the members of the United Nations prepare to set global sustainable development goals that will influence how $2.5-trillion (U.S.) in aid is spent between 2015 to 2030. The list of goals is expected to be finalized at a summit in New York in September and follows on the eight Millennium Development Goals and 18 associated targets which end this year.
At the moment, there are 17 proposed new goals and 169 proposed new targets. They advocate ambitious actions as diverse as eradicating extreme poverty, ending epidemics of deadly diseases, putting a stop to violence against women, ensuring affordable access to energy and halting climate change. The analysis done by his institute says that, if the world’s aid money is distributed evenly over all of the 169 targets, it would do about $7 worth of good for every dollar spent. But, if the number of targets were reduced to the most economically efficient 19, the money would do about $32 worth of good for every dollar spent.
What does the ‘skeptical environmentalist’ make of G7 decarbonization pledge?
Bjorn Lomborg on how realistic the G7 commitment is, and what he wants the UN to focus on in the next 15 years.
190 countries meet to streamline UN climate change pact
Officials from 190 countries began 11 days of consultations today in Bonn, Germany, aimed at streamlining the draft text for the United Nations’ climate change agreement. “[W]hat is being built here is much more of an alliance, a broad collaboration among countries to get a deal together,” says Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief. Reuters (5/31), Responding to Climate Change (U.K.) (6/1)
Rapid Arctic ice loss linked to extreme weather changes in Europe and US
Arctic warming appears to be the prime reason behind fluctuations in the polar jet stream that is causing unusual weather, study says
(The Guardian) The string of massive snowstorms and bone-chilling cold on the US east coast, as well as flooding in Britain and record temperatures in Europe, are linked to rapid ice loss in the Arctic, new research appears to confirm.
While the rapidly-thawing Arctic cannot be held responsible for specific weather events like the “snowmageddon” in 2009, Hurricane Sandy, or European heatwaves, researchers at Rutgers university said it appears to be a prime reason why the polar jet stream – a ribbon of winds that encircles the globe – gets ‘stuck’ with increasing frequency.
Western Europe and large parts of North America will experience more extreme weather because of “Arctic amplification” – the enhanced sensitivity of high latitudes to global warming, the team suggested in a paper published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.
12 May
Nepal earthquake: Dozens die in new tremor near Everest
(BBC) The latest earthquake hit near the town of Namche Bazaar and sent thousands of panicked residents on to the streets of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. It had a magnitude of 7.3, compared with the 7.8 of the 25 April quake.
El Nino has emerged, Asia braces for crop damage
In 2009, the El Nino brought the worst drought in four decades to India. It razed wheat fields in Australia and damaged crops across Asia. Food prices surged. A closely watched forecast by Japan on Tuesday confirmed its return this year.
A strong El Nino will roil economies that are heavily dependent on agriculture, particularly India which is already reeling from bad weather. It would also unhinge supply chains of commodities such as rice, corn and palm oil. In fact, the heat is already up in some places in the Asia Pacific.
8 May
As Lake Mead hits record lows and water shortages loom, Arizona prepares for the worst.
(Slate) The huge Lake Mead—which used to be the nation’s largest reservoir—serves as the main water storage facility on the Colorado River. Amid one of the worst droughts in millennia, record lows at Lake Mead are becoming an annual event—last year’s low was 7 feet higher than this year’s expected June nadir, 1,073 feet.
4 May
China says climate change threatens major projects
(Reuters) Climate change threatens some of China’s most important infrastructure projects, China’s top meteorologist warned in a state newspaper, adding the country’s rate of warming was higher than the global average.
Zheng Guoguang, head of China’s Meteorological Administration, told the weekly newspaper the Study Times that the uptick in recent weather disasters such as floods, typhoons, droughts and heatwaves had a “big connection” to climate change.
Such catastrophes were a threat to big-ticket schemes such as the Three Gorges Dam and a high-altitude railway to Tibet, he said. “Global warming affects the safety and stability of these big projects, as well as their operations and economic effectiveness, technological standards and engineering methods,” he added in the paper.
25 April
Ancient Collision Made Nepal Earthquake Inevitable
(NYT) More than 25 million years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth’s crust, crashed into Asia. The two land masses are still colliding, pushed together at a speed of 1.5 to 2 inches a year. The forces have pushed up the highest mountains in the world, in the Himalayas, and have set off devastating earthquakes.
Experts had warned of the danger to the people of Katmandu for decades. The death toll in Nepal on Saturday was practically inevitable given the tectonics, the local geology that made the shaking worse and the lax construction of buildings that could not withstand the shaking.
10 April
Ocean acidification from CO2 blamed for world’s worst mass extinction
CO2 spewed from colossal volcanic eruptions in Siberia 252 million years ago
(CBC) It is one of science’s enduring mysteries: what caused the worst mass extinction in Earth’s history. And, no, it is not the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Scientists said on Thursday that huge amounts of carbon dioxide spewed from colossal volcanic eruptions in Siberia may have turned the world’s oceans dangerously acidic 252 million years ago – long before the dinosaurs went extinct – helping to drive a global environmental calamity that killed most land and sea creatures alive at the time.
The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct
(Vice) Dr. Rachel Wood, a professor of carbonate geoscience at the University of Edinburgh: “We are concerned about modern ocean acidification, … Although the amount of carbon added to the atmosphere that triggered the mass extinction was probably greater than today’s fossil fuel reserves, the rate at which the carbon was released was at a rate similar to modern emissions.”
In other words, the Siberian Traps probably spewed out more carbon in total, but we’re spewing out just as fast. And that’s overwhelming the planetary equilibrium. “This fast rate of release was a critical factor driving ocean acidification,” Wood said
24 March
The Maldives: Beautiful, Corrupt and Slowly Disappearing
(HuffPost) The Maldivians set a good example. The entire country is committed to carbon neutrality by 2020, every child is educated in environmental science and they have furiously built retaining walls around every island. In November 2008, Nasheed announced plans to buy land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia for his people if the danger of inundation becomes too great. He famously told British parliamentarians that being carbon-neutral ” … is not going to stop us from annihilation. But at least we can die knowing that we’ve done the right thing.”
It’s surreal and oddly disconcerting to think of political corruption, vote-rigging and torture afflicting an island paradise like the Maldives when the place is so indelibly associated with a noble, desperate battle against global warming.
The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse.
A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise.
Meanwhile, 2015 could be the year of the double whammy — when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again. Northern Hemisphere residents and Americans in particular should take note — when the bottom of the world loses vast amounts of ice, those of us living closer to its top get more sea level rise than the rest of the planet, thanks to the law of gravity.
The findings about East Antarctica emerge from a new paper just out in Nature Geoscience by an international team of scientists representing the United States, Britain, France and Australia.
Boston has broken the record for the snowiest winter in the city’s recorded history.
The National Weather Service said the city received 108.6in (275.8cm) of snow this winter, beating the 1995-1996 record of 107.6 inches.
16 February
US blizzard: Charting the snow depth – using six dogs
The north-east of the US has endured a succession of snowstorms. The BBC’s Franz Strasser looks at the historical numbers – and uses an unconventional measure to chart how deep the snow is in Boston.
10 February
Boston snow 2015What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming
(WaPost) You could treat this as ordinary weather, or, you could think about it in a climate context. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, the fact remains that — as I have noted previously — some kinds of winter precipitation could indeed be more intense because we’re in a warming world.
Consider, for instance, that sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England are flashing red, showing an extreme warm anomaly. That’s highly relevant — because warmer oceans have atmospheric consequences.
“Sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England right now are at record levels, 11.5C (21F) warmer than normal in some locations,” says Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann. “There is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.”
18 January
Last year was Earth’s hottest on record, U.S. scientists say
(Planet Ark|WEN) Last year was Earth’s hottest on record in new evidence that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S. government agencies said on Friday.
The White House said the studies, by the U.S. space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change was happening now and that action was needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas emissions.
The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since 1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims by some skeptics that global warming has stopped in recent years.
Record temperatures in 2014 were spread around the globe, including most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, the western United States, far eastern Russia into western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia and elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said.

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