Weathering Climate Change

April 15, 2012

Welcome to the real future: The National Weather Service received 121 reports of possible tornado touchdowns Saturday and early Sunday in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
This morning also via CNN, five people, including two children, were killed in a suspected tornado in the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward — the impact of a surging climate change will only make for more and more ‘weird weather.’

My youngest daughter moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, last August amid concerns on the usually harsh winters up there — yesterday an e-mail response from her on reality: The weather has been soooo weird here. I heard it’s supposed to snow on Monday. Yesterday, it was freeeeezing, and there was a huge thunderstorm and today it was sunny and beautiful. I don’t even know what to think, man.

(Illustration found here).

Join the crowd, kid.
A shitload of people don’t know what to think, either — yet there’s a shitload that do.
From Skeptical Science and Global Warming in a Nutshell:

Global warming is NOT about the daily weather, and there’s no clear connection between global warming and any single hurricane or snow storm or drought.
That’s not the right way to think about it.
Instead, adding energy to the whole Earth System leads to such things as more frequent severe weather events that on average are stronger and more damaging.
That is, it’s a statistical thing that has to do with averages and long-term trends, rather than one’s own experience with the daily weather.

Global warming IS about an overall increase in the amount of energy in the whole Earth System caused by an increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The experts are only talking about a few degrees of average temperature increase, which doesn’t sound like much, but consider this example.
Imagine a glass of water and ice cubes in a refrigerator whose temperature is set right at the freezing point of water, 0°C or 32°F.
The mixture of ice and water will remain pretty much as it is, but if the temperature is raised by even 1 degree, the ice cubes will start to melt, and at 2 degrees they will melt faster.
Everything was in balance at the old temperature, but at the slightly warmer temperature you eventually end up with all water and no ice, much like what is happening right now to Earth’s Arctic sea ice and mountain glaciers.

What happens when the planet gets warmer?
More extreme weather, disappearing Arctic sea ice, and receding glaciers have consequences, such as less habitable coastal areas, extinction of the polar bears, and disappearing fresh water supplies for billions of people.

Other consequences of global warming include extended droughts and encroaching deserts, increasing wildfires and insect infestations, and changing rainfall and agricultural patterns.

And reality of climate change is reality of the actual-bottom line: For me, this issue is way above politics, it’s about the future of my daughter and my species.
Totally about the size of it (couldn’t have said it better) — only if one has any kind of compassion coupled maybe with any kind of walking-around sense.
Read the whole Skeptical Science post — lots of graphs and charts — and it’s all there, in a nutshell.

Despite a feel of a faraway-happening climate change, the ultimate, immediate end result appears to be found in the weather — the way-near future weather, of say, the middle part of the US now experiencing those tornadoes, is expected have an environment/weather similar to the area in the 1930s, a dust bowl.
Just like a lot of other shit, nature changes, but a warming environment whiplashes those changes, and one is desertification — this phenomenon is occurring in north Africa/southern Europe, and in the US southwest — and oddly weird this shit, desertification also helps accelerate climate change, so thus a real-vicious circle.
On them US arid lands there’s already indicators.
Little, nearly-unnoticeable alterations foretell near-humongous impacts to come, maybe a tiny shift in cow turdage:

Scientists have evidence to believe woody plants began displacing grasslands as a result of overgrazing, but has since been propelled by changing climate.
“If there are too many cattle, they have the same effect as a lawn mower,” Barron-Gafford said.
“They’re tilling the soil, and because they don’t eat the prickly things, they stay away from the established mesquite trees.
But they consume their pods and drop them off in little fertilizer islands.
It’s a perfect formula for landscape change.”

Weather is not climate, as per instructed, and one single event can’t be held accountable to global warming, but it’s the overall path the planet is currently traveling — i.e., similar to walking your dog: The climate is a dog-walker. The weather is his less predictable dog. It’s about as simple and elegant as a way to describe trend and variation — a la climate and weather — as there is.

And the warming of the Arctic influences our overall weather — a new study published last month from the American Geophysical Union reports that rising temperatures in the Arctic would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events that result from prolonged conditions, such as drought, flooding, cold spells, and heat waves.
The folks at Climate Central explain:

The study shows that by changing the temperature balance between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, rapid Arctic warming is altering the course of the jet stream, which steers weather systems from west to east around the hemisphere.
The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, due to a combination of human emissions of greenhouse gases and unique feedbacks built into the Arctic climate system.

The study contains a stark warning about future weather patterns, given projections showing that Arctic climate change is likely to accelerate in coming years.
“As the Arctic sea ice cover continues to disappear and the snow cover melts ever earlier over vast regions of Eurasia and North America, it is expected that large-scale circulation patterns throughout the northern hemisphere will become increasingly influenced by Arctic amplification,” the study reports.

Last month, an example of the hands-on feel for life via a changing climate and those record warm temperatures:

The magnitude of how unusual the year has been in the United States has alarmed some meteorologists who have warned about global warming.
One climate scientist said it is the weather equivalent of a baseball player on steroids, with old records obliterated.
“Everybody has this uneasy feeling.
This is weird.
This is not good,’’ said Jerry Meehl, a climate scientist who specializes in extreme weather at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
“It’s a guilty pleasure.
You’re out enjoying this nice March weather, but you know it’s not a good thing.’’

Neither are tornadoes.

As a long-time former resident of the deep south — I grew up in southeast Alabama/northwest Florida — and twisters were a nasty part of our weather systems.
My grandparents on my daddy’s side even had a tornado shelter dug into the side of a hill not far from the house — don’t know if they ever used it (my cousins and I used to play in it), but we all encountered bad weather all along life’s little way living in that particular environment.

Although the actual evidence linking climate change to twisters is apparently not overly-obvious to scientists, there’s a certain wariness to mounting substantiation.
Also at Climate Central, Andrew Freedman wrote shortly after the monster tornado outbreak in April 2011 no discernible trend has been detected in the observational data, and studies of how tornadoes will fare in a warmer world show somewhat conflicting results, but further noted:

Tornadoes are a bigger wild card for climate scientists than other types of extreme weather and climate events, such as heat waves and flooding. (Studies have consistently found that both of these hazards will occur more frequently and severely as the world warms.)

In my own brain it runs like this: The world heats and in doing so creates higher temperatures which make interaction between wind/temperature/moisture more violent, which makes everybody’s weather much-more irrational and mean.
Some of the climate science is over my head and out the window — but a tornado in central California last week, though considered not unusual for this time of year, does perk the ears a bit — and how these brainiacs can figure out how much CO2 was in the air in 1750 is way-beyond me.
But crazy weather I can most-frightfully understand.

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