extreme weather

Sat, 2014-05-10 09:07Chris Rose
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New Study Links California Drought to Climate Change and Burning of Fossil Fuels

California, widely considered the U.S. state that most promoted the American Dream, may turn into a nightmare this summer as a result of the worst drought in at least 15 years.

And a new academic study suggests there may be a direct connection between the persistent drought and climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

The study shows that, beginning with unusually cold waters off Southeast Asia, a persistent high-pressure ridge, or dipole, built up late last year and anchored over the Gulf of Alaska, preventing usual levels of moisture from reaching the West Coast of North America.

Reviewing weather data and sea surface temperatures, the study also determined that the dipole generated a low-pressure ridge built up north of the Great Lakes, eventually resulting in so-called freezing Polar Vortex events in central Canada and the U.S.

Wed, 2014-05-07 13:52Chris Rose
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Climate Change "Has Moved Firmly into the Present," Latest NCA Federal Report States

Climate change is already negatively affecting every region in the United States and the future looks even more dismal if coordinated mitigation and adaptation efforts are not immediately aggressively pursued, according to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report released Tuesday.

Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” notes the massive NCA report.

Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”

The report adds evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the nation. The report says Americans are already noticing the results of climate change, from longer and hotter summers to shorter and warmer winters. Rain falls in heavier downpours, there is more flooding, earlier snow melt, more severe wildfires and less summer sea ice in the Arctic.

Wed, 2014-04-23 20:00Guest
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Only With Political Will Can We Avoid The Worst Of Climate Change

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

It’s fitting that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released during Earth Month. After all, the third chapter of its Fifth Assessment focuses on ways to keep our planet healthy and livable by warding off extreme climatic shifts and weather events caused by escalating atmospheric carbon.

Doing so will require substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions – 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 and to near-zero by the end of the century. We must also protect carbon “sinks” such as forests and wetlands and find ways to store or bury carbon. The good news is that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, conserving energy and shifting to cleaner sources comes with economic and quality-of-life benefits.

There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said economist Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working Group III, which produced the chapter.

Doing nothing isn’t an option. That would lead to a significant increase in global average temperatures and extreme weather-related events such as storms, droughts and floods, wreaking havoc on our food systems, communities and the natural environment we depend on for our health and survival. Technological measures and behavioural change could limit global mean temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, but only with “major institutional and technological change.”

Because we’ve stalled so long, thanks largely to deceptive campaigns run by a small but powerful group of entrenched fossil fuel industry interests and the intransigence of some short-sighted governments, we must also consider ways to adapt to climate change that’s already occurring and that we can’t stop.

Thu, 2013-03-14 11:28Ben Jervey
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Climate Disruption Tax Costs Americans Billions

Here’s a term that bears repeating: climate disruption tax. What is a climate disruption tax? It’s the cost to the American taxpayer of dealing with the impacts of climate-related weather events, as introduced by NRDC’s Dan Lashof and Andy Stevenson.  

The concept of a climate disruption tax is actually hugely important. Why? Because climate change is costing us more than trying to avoid climate change ever would, but unfortunately, this troubling little bit of economics is somehow constantly overlooked in the climate debates. We always hear about how much it will cost to transition away from fossil fuels and to slow deforestation. But the costs of inaction rarely stick in the discussion.

It’s not for lack of research or knowledge, nor for lack of bloggers bringing it up. Over the past few years, a range of voices have weighed in with warnings from all across the socioeconomic and ideological spectra. If not quite first, but foremost, the master economist Sir Nicholas Stern sounded the alarm, only to recently double down on his dire predictions.

Then there are the massive insurers and even more massive reinsurers like Munich Re and Swiss Re. There are the , of course. There are NGOs and think tanks like DARA with a cold, hard economic calculus in their Climate Vulnerability Monitor. There are academics.There’s the U.S. government itself warning of the severe costs of unmitigated climate change.

These studies and reports are written about, blogged, tweeted, and sometimes cited, but they haven’t managed to nudge their way into the mainstream climate conversation. The costs often seem too far off, too theoretical–a problem for another time.

Which is why any clever new way of framing climate-related costs should be celebrated and spread far and why. Over on Switchboard, Lashof and Stevenson are onto something.

Say it with me again: Climate Disruption Tax.

Sun, 2012-12-23 06:00Ben Jervey
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Swiss Re Tallies Huge Costs of Climate Inaction

The world’s largest insurers are tallying the costs of climate inaction, and the numbers are staggering.

Swiss Re announced recently that total economic losses in 2012 from “natural catastrophes and man-made disasters” – primarily weather events – should reach roughly $140 billion. Over 11,000 lives were lost due to the so-called “natural catastrophes” alone.

According to the Swiss Re report, “Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2012,” the top five insured loss events are all in the U.S.

“Hurricane Sandy is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of wind span. This record storm surge caused widespread flooding and damage to a densely populated area on the East Coast of the U.S. It also led to the worst power outage caused by a natural catastrophe in the history of the U.S.”

Wed, 2012-10-31 17:05Laurel Whitney
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Climate Silence No More As Sandy Rips Through the East Coast

There's a question I often pose to my undergrad students after discussing the many implications of climate change:

“Do you think we'll be able to change before it's too late, or do you think it's going to take some kind of natural disaster to get us moving?”

Unsurprisingly, most students choose the latter, although melancholically. It's not that they want it to be the case, but with all the data and warnings from scientists, up against the misinformation spewing from powerful fossil fuel corporations, they logically don't see it happening any other way.

It's the sad truth considering we're on the verge of a major presidential election and not once has either candidate discussed climate change or its potential threat to our country in the debates.

And while environmentalists and climate hawks rightfully shamed the candidates for not addressing the issue, apparently Mother Nature wasn't going to let “climate silence” continue. Hurricane Sandy slammed into the coast bringing the east coast to its knees.

Sat, 2012-09-29 11:00Ben Jervey
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Congressional Report: Impacts of Climate Pollution "A Cocktail of Heat and Extreme Weather"

Ranking members of the House Committees on Natural Resources and on Energy and Climate released a joint report earlier this week that traces the imprints of climate change on recent extreme weather patterns.

With Going to Extremes: Climate Change and the Increasing Risk of Weather Disasters (pdf), Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) continue to forge ahead in their roles as the most outspoken and honest members of the House when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, they stand alone even in the critical committees on which they sit: the report includes a front page disclaimer that it “has not been officially adopted by the Committee on Natural Resources or the Committee on Energy and Commerce and may not necessarily reflect the views of its Members.” 

Going to Extremes opens with a quote by University of Arizona climatologist Dr. Jonathan Overpeck:

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

It then proceeds to catalog the worst of the devastating weather trends of late, connecting the dots between these impacts and the greenhouse effect.

Wed, 2012-08-08 11:20Guest
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Science Denial and Andrea Saul – Romney 2012 Campaign Spokesperson

This is a guest post from Connor Gibson, originally published at PolluterWatch.

INTRODUCTION

 
Andrea Saul, a prominent Romney 2012 campaign operative and spokesperson, formerly worked for DCI Group, a Washington DC public affairs and lobbying firm. During this period, DCI Group was on contract to ExxonMobil at the height of Exxon’s campaign attacking global warming science and climate change policy. DCI’s efforts included campaigns to undermine climate legislation and to push counter messages and spokespeople to media on the connection between extreme weather and global warming. Saul’s extensive role in these DCI Group climate campaigns can be traced through archived documents and press releases. Her role in shaping Romney’s climate and science policy is not known. 
“Gov. Romney does not think greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, and he does not believe that the EPA should be regulating them,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. Humans emit it every time they exhale.”  Politico, July 2011
.
Ms. Saul has also responded to Mitt Romney's contradictory public statements on global warming. NPR reported in October, 2011:
“Romney went from believing that humans contribute to global warming, though he was uncertain how much, to saying he didn't know what contributes to global warming.” Andrea Saul denied that Romney had “flip-flopped” on his climate stance, responding:
“This is ridiculous. Governor Romney's view on climate change has not changed. He believes it's occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn't know to what extent. He opposes cap and trade, and he refused to sign such a plan when he was governor. Maybe the bigger threat is all the hot air coming from career politicians who are desperate to hold on to power.”
Sun, 2012-07-15 07:00Carol Linnitt
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"Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives": Climate Crock Video on Extreme Weather Events

Since January more than 40,000 hot weather temperature records have been broken in tihe U.S. while fewer than 6,000 cold records have been broken. More than 3,000 of those hot weather records were broken in June alone. Over 2.1 million acres of land across the country has burned in raging wildfires and two-thirds of the country is experiencing extreme drought.

As fires, droughts, floods and extreme hurricane-like weather events have plagued the West and the Midwest for the past five months, the conversation surrounding climate change and its relation to evolving weather patterns worldwide has been steadily scaling up.

Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona told the Associated Press: “this is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.” Adding, “the extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfires. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

This week conservative commentator and climate change skeptic George Will dismissed the significance of the last month's heat wave, saying, “we're having some hot weather. Get over it.”

The latest installment of Peter Sinclair's Climate Denial Crock of the Week video series connects the dots between extreme weather and climate science.

If for nothing else, this video is worth watching to see the movement of a derecho - a freakishly strong storm front with unnaturally high wind and energy levels - as it gallops across the nation. The storm left millions without electricity and killed more than 20 people.

Thu, 2012-05-24 11:08Laurel Whitney
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NRDC Report Predicts 150,000 Heat-Related Deaths Due To Climate Change

Chances are, if you're already concerned about being off'ed by climate change, it's probably because you imagine being swept away by a super-charged hurricane, drowned by rising sea levels, starved because of drought-induced crop failure, or set aflame by roaring wildfires. But as it turns out, your risk of perishing by the titans of extreme weather may be a ways off - because the heat may get to you first.

If you didn't already know, heat is actually the number one killer amongst its weather-related brethren, causing more fatalities than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined, according to NOAA.

A new report released this week by the NRDC, “Killer Summer Heat: Projected Death Toll from Rising Temperatures in America Due to Climate Change” [PDF], estimates that 150,000 people could die because of heat-related deaths, with numbers increasing over the century as climate change continues to crank up the temperatures. And, predictably so, communities' ability to cope with the ordeal will depend on our efforts to reduce carbon pollution and employ life-saving adaptive measures.

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