Climate-Change Melt — ‘When It Rains, It’s Increasingly Likely To Pour, Just Because Of Basic Thermodynamics’

February 28, 2023

Drizzling rain in way-chilly wind this late-afternoon Tuesday here in California’s Central Valley, continuing this winter’s wettest-in-a-while season of storms and weather-whatnot (chaos and turbulence).
Despite the way-wet environment, we’re not that bad off  where I’m located — a goodly chunk of the state is snowbound, along with all that implies, like no power and road closures. Northern California is one big snowstorm.

A weather pattern in line with a changing climate — noted UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain (Yahoo! News yesterday):

“A lot of folks are saying, ‘Everything is getting more extreme, it’s wetter and drier and hotter and colder.’ One of those isn’t true … Three out of the four are in California. The one thing that isn’t happening is it’s not getting colder.”


“We’ve broken dozens of daily cold records across the state in this event and this winter. Just in the last two years, we’ve broken hundreds, if not thousands, of the equivalent hot records in California,” Swain said. “You will continue to experience cold extremes even in a warming climate, but there’s so much evidence that we’re seeing far more of the record warm events than we are the record cold. We’ve quantified this on a U.S.-wide basis, it’s about a 3:1 ratio. In a stable climate, you’d expect it to be about 1:1.”


“When it rains, it’s increasingly likely to pour, just because of basic thermodynamics, and when it’s not raining, when it’s sunny and hot — and, of course, increasingly hot due to climate change — it’s going to be easier to evaporate that water back into the atmosphere, leading to more arid conditions during that period, more rapidly intensifying droughts,” Swain said.


“We’ve seen two historically severe droughts in the past decade in California, both of which were probably comparable in magnitude to each other, but individually were the worst droughts in the modern instrumental record going back to the 1800s,” Swain said. “But this is also the same decade where we’ve had the wettest winter on record in much of Northern California, the wettest individual days on record in places like Sacramento and now Fresno and any number of cities and smaller places. A lot of Northern and central California, the single wettest day in the last 100 or 150 years has been within the last five or six years, in the same period when you had this historically severe, multiyear drought.”

I was going to post this yesterday, but Rupert Murdoch got his rich-lying ass in the way — climate change and the US southern coast:

Details/background via The Washington Post, also yesterday:

Hurricane winds fueled by climate change will reach further inland and put tens of millions more Americans’ lives and homes at risk in the next three decades, according to a detailed new analysis released Monday.

The data from the nonprofit First Street Foundation comes as hundreds of people remain displaced across southwest Florida, five months after Hurricane Ian barreled across the state and killed nearly 150 people.

A Washington Post analysis of the group’s data found that nearly 30 million Americans in about 235 counties across 18 states in the contiguous United States, from Texas to New England, will face new threats from hurricane-force winds. A third of Americans could experience damaging gales by 2053, in places as far inland as Tennessee and Arkansas.

People continue to move to possibly problematic areas. The Post analysis found people have been moving to counties categorized as high risk for hurricane-force winds at six times the rate of other counties.

In some places where people are flocking, few residents have lived through storms that produce destructive winds, said Kerry Emanuel, an MIT climate scientist and longtime hurricane researcher whose data helped inform the First Street analysis. “Even if the risks are well known, it doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that we are going to be well prepared,” Emanuel said.

No one is really paying full attention. And considering the approaching speed of the worst aspects of climate change, ‘decades‘ into the future might just end up being a few, scant years.

Also from yesterday, and maybe in the climate-change-theory-action category — a ‘Hail Mary,’ bandaid solution. — unsafe technology vs stop burning fossil fuels routine.
And another bleak future assessment — via CNBC:

Global efforts to respond to climate change are so far insufficient, making it time to begin studying technologies to reflect sunlight away from the Earth to cool it down temporarily, said a new report from the United Nations published on Monday.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the only way to permanently slow global warming, but worldwide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are currently “not on track to meet the 1.5° Celsius Paris Agreement goal,” the U.N. Environment Program said in a written statement accompanying the release of the report.

With the world not responding to climate change urgently enough, a “speculative group of technologies” to reflect sunlight back away from the Earth have been getting more attention recently, UNEP said in a written statement accompanying the report. This category of technologies is often called solar radiation modification (SRM) or more broadly solar geoengineering.


“We only have one atmosphere. We cannot risk further damaging it through a poorly understood shortcut to fixing the damage we already caused,” wrote Inger Andersen, the executive director of UNEP, in a forward to the study.

And right now, there is not enough reliable information to make an informed decision.

“The review finds that there is little information on the risks of SRM and limited literature on the environmental and social impacts of these technologies,” Andersen wrote. “Even as a temporary response option, large-scale SRM deployment is fraught with scientific uncertainties and ethical issues. The evidence base is simply not there to make informed decisions.”

The big flop to eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Humanity might be f*cked.
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit in an op/ed in the Guardian this morning reflects on why that assessment is worse than correct — we’re in a longtime habit of oil-powered life, and we might be stuck in it:

Human beings are good at regarding new and unfamiliar phenomena as dangerous or unacceptable. But long-term phenomena become acceptable merely because of our capacity to adjust. Violence against women (the leading form of violence worldwide) and slower forms of environmental destruction have been going on so long that they’re easy to overlook and hard to get people to regard as a crisis. We saw this with Covid-19, where in the first months most people were fearful and eager to do what it took to avoid contracting or spreading the disease, and then grew increasingly casual about the risks and apparently oblivious to the impacts (the WHO charts almost 7 million deaths in little over three years).

To normalize is to turn something into the status quo, into something no longer seen as a problem, and this in turn undermines the impetus to pursue a solution. The very term crisis often implies a turning point or a decisive moment; these are problems with no turning point in sight, a long succession of indecisive moments as the damage mounts. Often what activists need to do is turn the status quo back into a crisis, as US Civil Rights Movement organizers so ably did in the 1960s by making racial inequality, exclusion and violence more dramatically visible and more unacceptable, as well as insisting that the world could be different, that change was possible.


The climate movement has spent decades trying to stop one kind of extraction; I wish I could say that we could end the age of extraction altogether, but the billions of people on Earth cannot all revert to a pre-industrial state. With renewables the materials need to be extracted once and then are used for many years and are thereafter, in many cases, recyclable; with fossil fuel we burn it up as we go, so constant new interjections of coal, oil or gas are needed. They literally go up in smoke.

Read the whole piece, really spot on, though, seriously depressing and scary.

A final nudge — snow falls on Hollywood:

Snowflakes odd or not, yet once again here we are…

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion,’ found here.)

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