Climate Change

Discussion in 'Politics' started by dbphoenix, Sep 26, 2014.

  1. dbphoenix


    What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?

    By Roxanne Palmer

    A big link between climate change and severe weather may be lurking 30,000 feet above your head. More and more scientists are interested in the links among the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream and the disappearance of ice and snow in the Arctic and other extreme weather trends. The linkage is suggestive, though not proven, but if true would clearly demonstrate that what happens in the Arctic affects more than just polar bears.

    What's happening to the polar jet stream

    One of the biggest drivers of weather in North America is the polar jet stream, a ribbon of high-speed winds that flows east from Alaska, across the U.S. and Canada, and over the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe. The jet stream alters weather conditions below it by moving warm and cold air masses around, allowing weather systems to migrate across land and sea. The jet stream's path undergoes some natural variation, but has gotten downright loopy in recent years, according to scientists.

    "I've been doing meteorology for 30 years, and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I've never seen," Jeff Masters, meteorologist at Weather Underground, said in 2013. "The fact that the jet stream is unusual could be an indicator of something. I'm not saying we know what it is."

    Rutgers University atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis thinks there is a clear climate change factor in the jet stream's wobbliness: the warming of the Arctic. Temperatures are rising in the Arctic regions faster than anywhere else in the world, an effect called "Arctic amplification" that may be due to the fact that as sea ice melts it exposes darker water that absorbs more heat then the reflective ice. As the Arctic warms more quickly than other regions, this lessens the temperature gradient between the equator and the North Pole, a key factor governing the behavior of the polar jet stream.

    How? A weakening temperature gradient slows the jet stream, which has the effect of making it wavier — or so goes the theory. Francis compares the situation to a river flowing down a mountain and out towards the coast. While it's moving quickly down an incline, the river takes a more straightforward route; when it slows, as the base of the mountain shallows approaching the coast, the river naturally adopts a more wandering path. Similarly, a slower jet stream is more likely to be wavy, with more peaks ("ridges") and dips ("troughs").

    How a wavier jet stream equals wilder weather

    And a wavier jet stream has historically been associated with extreme weather. In one study published inNature Climate Change in June 2014, University of Exeter mathematician James Screen and University of Melbourne earth scientist Ian Simmonds combed through historical weather data going back to 1979 and focused on 40 extreme weather events, from heavy rainfall to droughts, cold snaps, and heat waves. In general, they found that large waves in the jet stream tend to coincide with such events.

    Jet stream waviness has also been linked to all sorts of extreme weather events in recent years. Francis has argued that the left hook that Hurricane Sandy took (sending it towards New Jersey) was due to a blocking ridge. And the 2013-2014 winter, which was unusually warm in Alaska, unusually dry in California, and unusually cold across the Midwest and East Coast, occurred as the jet stream stayed in a holding pattern, in a shape that had a big ridge to the west and a deep trough to the east.

    "It's a great example of the kind of pattern we expect to see more often," Francis says.

    Why there's complexity, uncertainty, and chaos

    Not every scientist is on board with the theorized connection between the jet stream and extreme weather. Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Elizabeth Barnes took a look at jet stream waviness between 1980 and 2011, and proposed that the increased waviness that Francis and other scientists were seeing is "likely an artifact of the methodology" they used.

    Barnes' analysis of the data showed no wide trends in jet stream speed or increased episodes of blocking ridges over that 30-year period. But Francis and other scientists point out that the extreme type of Arctic melting we're seeing today has only kicked into gear within the last decade, so looking at data going back thirty years might muffle the signal of the changes that are currently happening.

    "I'm pretty much on the middle ground here," says NOAA scientist James Overland. "We've seen more severe weather in the mid-latitudes" — the zones between the tropics and the polar regions — "in the last 5 years or so, and we also know that the Arctic is changing and warming up quite a bit. But the uncertainties are in understanding the mechanisms that tie the two together. The timescale is very short, [making it harder to] totally prove that there is a connection… and weather is very chaotic to start with, so it's hard to isolate what the Arctic contribution would be."

    Even if the changing jet stream is found to influence weather trends, individual weather events don't typically stem from a single cause. In an unusual 2010 snowstorm that buried Washington, DC under three feet of powder, for example, there was cold Arctic air ferried south by a dip in the jet stream, but there was also an El Nino event bringing moisture laterally, across the southern U.S. "It was the two acting together," Overland says. "If you'd just had one or the other it wouldn't have been so extreme."

    Overland doesn't really see a consensus emerging in the next few years; the problem isn't just a lack of data, but in the differences between computer models and climate scientists' own interpretations. The jet stream might not end up being the smoking gun; there are other proposed mechanisms that tie climate change and wild weather together. Still, "we believe that we're going towards a nearly sea ice-free Arctic in the next 10-20 years," says Overland. "The question now is: Do you wait for more perfect information, or do we act on incomplete information?"
  2. fhl


    "Free speech is essential to freedom, but with it comes a level of personal responsibility.
    Supposedly, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized this in his observations about shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. People assume this meant you can’t do it, but his original comment included the critical word, “falsely”. In the US, your right to shout fire is part of free speech, but Holmes argued that you couldn’t shout fire, if it is false...

    What if you shout fire in a supposedly crowded world?"

    How about jail time.
  3. If one looks at this time series one can how much more the Arctic has warmed. This has to cause some changes in weather. Especially considering that weather systems and ocean currents depend on the difference between high and low latitude temps. The temp differences are decreasing.

  4. dbphoenix



    Cities could put a massive dent in global warming if they got serious about cutting their carbon emissions, with or without the help of national governments.

    That’s the word from a new report put out Tuesday by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), a network of major cities around the world, along with the Stockholm Environment Institute and Michael Bloomberg, the United Nation’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. The top line number from the paper is that city governments could cut the world’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 3.7 billion tons in 2030 and 8 billion tons in 2050 on their own, with no national direction.

    As the study notes, pledges by national governments so far to cut their emissions have focused on policies that cover multiple industrial sectors, like electricity and industrial production. “Their pledges and action plans have seldom considered or reflected the impact of urban climate actions,” the report said. “Cities also have unique and strong influence overs several policy levers — such as urban planning and public transportation — that may be less available to national actors.”

    What this means is that emissions reductions from specifically city-based actions can be considered in addition to national reductions, rather than as a piece of the latter. And when the potential of the two is added together, the reduction is significant.


    “The reality is that the work is going to be done in cities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “It will be done mostly by mayors. And then we will drive our respective nations’ national agendas around these issues.”

    Furthermore, once we’ve emitted carbon pollution, it stays in the atmosphere for centuries. So annual emission rates don’t matter nearly as much as the total amount we emit, ever. And cumulatively, the urban actions outlined in the report could avoid 140 billion tons of GHGs by 2050. The latest work from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)pegged the total amount the world can emit and still stay under 2°C of global temperature rise — the threshold beyond which scientist believe climate change will become truly dangerous — at 1,102 billion tons (1,000 billion metric tons). We’ve already emitted 585 billion tons, and under a business-as-usual scenario the IPCC thinks we’ll blow through the rest sometime in the early 2040s. So while cities can’t single-handedly save us, they could buy the world a fair amount of time.

    Specifically, there are four things city governments can do. The biggest move would be improving building energy use through efficiency and weatherization retrofits, more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and more rooftop solar to cut fossil energy use. Next, cities can move toward pedestrian and public-transit-reliant traffic through better urban planning. One quarter of the average product’s shipment occurs in urban areas, so the third thing cities could is improve the logistics and efficiency of rail shipments. Fourth, better waste systems and recycling operations can reduce the GHGs from garbage and landfills, and waste.


    This insight is especially consequential for American politics. As David Roberts just pointed out at Grist, Republicans are likely to hold the House of Representatives for decades, where they can stymie national climate action. But a big reason they’ll be able to hold it is the intense clustering of liberal voters in cities — what’s come to be known as the “urban archipelago.” As a result, the governments of American cities are tilting increasingly liberal, putting them in a perfect political position to take maximum advantage of C40′s recommendations, even as the national legislature dithers on climate change.

    Meanwhile, Zack Colman laid out at the Washington Examiner how the U.N. is stepping up efforts to coordinate emission-cutting efforts between city governments directly, bypassing the bigger and more cumbersome national governments. “Mayors are not waiting to take decisive action to combat global climate change,” added Eduardo Paes, the chairman of C40 and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, in a statement.

    “Leading mayors are setting the example for the rest of the world, and this research shows what could be achieved.”
  5. dbphoenix


    This past week was a big one for climate change. In other ways, of course, it was like every other week for climate change. It began when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, in New York and in 160 countries around the world, to demand action on an issue that affects every person on Earth. Those protests were subsequently ignored by the Sunday news programs.

    And that was generous, it turns out, considering how the right-wing media chose to cover the protests. Looking only at how Fox News, Breitbart and the New York Post, among others, were covering the news, you would be forgiven for thinking that the most notable thing that happened was that protesters left some litter behind.

    Nary a mention, in other words, of what a huge deal it is to have nearly 400,000 people mobilize for the climate, of what was the biggest and most diverse showing, by far, of Americans expressing true concern over climate change. The only thing that put a damper on what activist Bill McKibben called “the day the climate movement came of age” was the fact that it had come so late in the game, at a point when drastic, heroic efforts are called for to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

    Well, that, and the fact that a march that included everyone was still missing one important group: Republicans. The constituency who, as a political body, rejects the one belief that everyone who did show up shares: that climate change is a big, serious deal and that the government has to do something about it. Here’s David Roberts’ sobering assessment:

    As long as climate sanity is defined as heresy in the epistemologically vacuum-sealed Fox bubble, no conservative lawmaker will touch it with a 10-foot pole. It doesn’t matter if you get a million or 10 million people marching in the streets — as long as you don’t get any of the resentful white guys who vote Rs into office, Republican reps won’t care. To see all those unions and brown people and professors and feminists and queers gathered in one place, shouting for an international treaty, just confirms their worst fears. (Of course, to be a conservative in America today just means having your worst fears confirmed 24 hours a day.)​

    That’s a shame, because climate sanity isn’t necessarily at odds with conservative politics. Represented at the climate march were stereotypical tree-huggers and people who believe that the climate crisis won’t be solved without the complete dismantling of capitalism, to be sure; but the sheer numbers involved meant there was plenty of room for diversity. Another potential solution to climate change, of course, is a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s been called ”the Republican case for climate action.”

    But Republicans can only back their preferred method of climate action if they first agree that climate change is a real, serious problem. And unfortunately, they haven’t gotten there yet. Witness, for example, the number of flat-out falsehoods that National Review editor Rich Lowry managed to squeeze into one climate march-bashing column, in which he both questions humanity’s influence on the climate and revives the long-debunked conspiracy theory of the global warming “pause.”

    Interestingly, Lowry also advises climate marchers to abandon their “anti-industrial apocalypticism” and instead dedicate themselves to causes that “would have an immediate positive effect on human welfare.” But here’s the thing: Cutting CO2 emissions, in fact, would have an immediate, positive effect on human health. The American Lung Association predicts, for example, that the EPA’s new power plant rules will prevent up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks in just their first year; that’s not to mention all the other ways that climate change threatens public health.

    And the willful misrepresentation of this week’s climate actions goes even further.

    Tuesday, President Obama addressed 120 world leaders at the United Nations headquarters, hoping to build momentum and enthusiasm for a global climate treaty that, if all goes well, could be our last, best shot at averting catastrophic climate change. That is, unless we’re going by Fox News’ version of events, in which case the speech was the latest step in Obama’s conspiratorial, scaremongering campaign to give the government control over our energy choices. (Yet somehow, it’s the climate scientists who are living in a “fantasy world.”)

    Rush Limbaugh, unsurprisingly, insisted that the president was addressing the U.N. on “something that is not happening.” In Limbaugh’s bizarro world, “the debate about global warming due to increased levels of CO2″ is over, not because the science on that is settled, but because that science is “a total joke.”

  6. dbphoenix


    The ultimate test of anti-science sentiment, of course, is to see what climate deniers do when confronted with science that actually appears to confirm their views. Which is why this study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, was brilliantly timed. The researchers found that warming in the Pacific Northwest over the past century can primarily be explained by natural wind patterns, not human activity – the perfect bait for those looking for any shred of evidence to hold up as “proof” that climate change isn’t happening.

    Fox News, in its coverage of the U.N. climate summit, provided the perfect example of this:

    While the Climate Summit has undoubtedly raised the profile of the U.N.’s green agenda, skeptics continue to question the effort to cut carbon emissions, particularly its impact on global economic growth.

    “If you look at the big picture of fossil fuels, at the positives and negatives, the only conclusion to draw is that it’s imperative to use more of them, because they are so beneficial to human life,” Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, and author of the forthcoming book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, told

    On Monday a study reported that rising temperatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America over the past century followed natural changes in the wind, as opposed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions.​

    If you’re keeping track at home, the train of thought here is that one person arguing we need to use more fossil fuels, plus one study about climate patterns in one region of the United States, constitutes the body of skepticism that somehow undermines the entire premise of the U.N. summit.

    Were the researchers surprised by their findings? Climatologist James Johnstone, one of the study’s authors, calls the result “mind-blowing.” But it’s important to remember, as the L.A. Times points out, that these findings have to be considered very, very carefully: “The study focused only on trends at the regional level and did not offer conclusions about the influence of naturally occurring winds on warming throughout the world. If anything, the results reinforce what scientists have known for years: that global climate projections fall short in predicting how temperatures are actually changing at the regional scale.”

    Unfortunately, that nuance was lost on Rush Limbaugh, who, citing the L.A. Times, insisted that the study “totally debunks a major spoke of the wheel of global warming.”

    None of this denialism is new, but man, does it present an ugly contrast to the testimonies of world leaders at the U.N. — like, for example, Bosnian President Bakir Izetbegović, who spoke of floods that cost almost 15 percent of his country’s GDP, or to Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, who proclaimed, ”I’ve been shouting about climate change for so long, I have lost my voice.”

  7. Lucrum




    Hahaha .. an article by Lindsay Abrams .. an assistant editor at Salon. No bias there!
  9. dbphoenix


    The Obama administration appears to be losing ground in its efforts to cut U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, according to new government figures that show pollution levels rising again after several years of gradual decline.

    Data released Friday by the Energy Department show American factories and power plants putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during the first six months of 2014 compared with the same period in each of the past two years. The figures confirm a reversal first seen in 2013, when the trend of steadily falling emissions abruptly halted.

    The higher emissions are primarily a reflection of a rebounding economy, as American businesses burned more gas and oil to meet higher demand. But the shift also underscores the challenge confronting the Obama administration as it seeks to honor a pledge to sharply cut U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by the end of the decade.

    The release of the new emissions figures comes just three days afterPresident Obama stood before a United Nations climate summit to highlight U.S. progress in reducing levels of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the planet.

    “The United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth, but we have to do more,” the president told world leaders at U.N. headquarters in New York.

    Administration officials said the increase was not particularly surprising given the improving economy, and some pointed to one of the report’s bright spots: Even as the economy expanded, carbon emissions from automobiles have remained essentially flat, as more Americans switched to fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

    Some also cited another encouraging trend in the report: Big jumps in the use of alternative and renewable energy. Solar, wind and hydropower were up more than 7 percent compared with two years ago, according to the report, and renewable sources now account for nearly 12 percent of the country’s domestic energy production.

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, while declining to comment specifically on the new Energy Department figures, predicted faster reductions in carbon emissions in the near future because of shifting attitudes among many of the country’s top corporations and investment houses. Driving the change, she said, is the growing appeal of alternative energy as a business investment, as well as concerns about the impacts of global warming on corporate profits.

    “Companies like General Mills and Coca-Cola see climate change as a threat to commerce,” McCarthy said Thursday at a forum on the economic impacts of global warming. “Paying more for soda and cereal means less cash to buy other things. That chokes economies and stunts job growth. The bottom line is: We don’t act despite the economy, we act because of it.”

    The Obama administration has taken a number of steps to lower U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, including tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and proposed new regulations limiting carbon emissions from power plants. The White House has promised to lower U.S. carbon emissions by 2020 to a level 17 percent below where they stood in 2005.

    “America will meet that target,” Obama told the U.N. gathering. “And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.”

    The Energy Department data, a routine snapshot of U.S. energy consumption by the department’s Energy Information Administration, show higher pollution levels from all major classes of fossil fuels, including petroleum, natural gas and coal. Trend lines were up in nearly all industrial sectors, as factories, retail stores and utility plants all consumed more fuel compared with previous years.

    American homeowners also contributed to rising pollution levels, the report showed, as households used more electricity, natural gas and fuel oil in a year that brought record-breaking cold to the East Coast and Midwest, and extreme heat and drought in the western third of the country. Across the nation, carbon emissions for the first six months of the year were nearly 3 percent higher than during the same period last year, and about 6 percent higher than in 2012.

    The return of higher carbon emissions was viewed by environmental groups as a setback, given the administration’s commitment to addressing the causes of climate change.

    “The growth in U.S. CO2 emissions is clear wake-up call,” said Ken Bosson, director of the SUN DAY Campaign, the Maryland-based nonprofit organization that promotes the use of renewable energy. “Much more needs to be done to accelerate the continued growth of renewable energy sources, as well as improved energy efficiency if the nation is to successfully address climate change.”

    Joby Warrick
  10. Lucrum


    I wonder what Judy Garland would have thought of the climate change hoax?
    #10     Sep 27, 2014