Wood-Be Inferno

July 30, 2009

Via ClimateProgress this morning:

We show that increases in temperature cause annual mean area burned in the western United States to increase by 54% by the 2050s relative to the present-day … with the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains experiencing the greatest increases of 78% and 175% respectively.
Increased area burned results in near doubling of wildfire carbonaceous aerosol emissions by mid-century.

This outlook is painted in a scenario of moderately increasing emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and leads to average global warming of 1.6 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050.
Moderate (or medium) is the focus of the above weather synopsis, both in CO2 emissions and warming temperatures.
However, reality might be different.
Last March, the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change met in Copenhagen, Denmark, with more than 2,000 registered participants and nearly 1,600 scientific studies from researchers in more than 70 countries.
A key finding:

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised.
For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived.
These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events.
There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

The IPCC is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tasked by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity.
The panel was established in 1988 and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

And the IPCC’s worse-case scenario?
Again from ClimateProgress:

The A1F1 scenario takes us to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of 1000 ppm (parts-per-million)in 2100 — otherwise known as the end of human civilization as we have known it.
Actually it’s worse than that.
The 2001 IPCC report largely failed to model amplifying carbon cycle feedbacks.
The 2007 IPCC report, which began to consider such feedbacks, warns that even averaging 11 GtC (billion metric tons of carbon) a year this century could take us to 1000 ppm.

Complicated is not the half in the science of global warming — immediate and current physical impacts does, however, like more tornados, longer hot spells and bigger forest fires.
And the best online site I’ve discovered is Climate Progress to somewhat explain this phenomenon that’s taken not-so-long to get here.

Climate change/warming/cooling in itself appears to be a natural state of the planet, depending upon many variables
There’s even been a “Little Ice Age” somewhat recently (not millions and millions of years ago, anyway), from the late 14th century to the end of the 19th century, but the real change in climate change came just 150 years ago.
The Discovery Channel online has a fairly simple global-warming timline, outlining the movement of climate down through the eons:

The Industrial Revolution added a new player to the climate game: Humans.
Suddenly, we were burning coal and oil in vast amounts and releasing huge amounts of carbon-rich greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
All that carbon has been locked up deep in the earth, where it could not interfere with the climate.

So there you are.

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