Connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:15 PM GMT on May 04, 2012

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Connecting the dots between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. One the one hand, the underlying physics is clear--the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather. But the weather has huge natural variations on its own, without climate change. So, communicators of the links between climate change and extreme weather need to emphasize how climate change shifts the odds. We've loaded the dice towards some types of extreme weather events, by heating the atmosphere to add more heat and moisture. This can bring more extreme weather events like heat waves, heavy downpours, and intense droughts. What's more, the added heat and moisture can change atmospheric circulation patterns, causing meanders in the jet stream capable of bringing longer-lasting periods of extreme weather. As I wrote in my post this January, Where is the climate headed?, "The natural weather rhythms I've grown to used to during my 30 years as a meteorologist have become significantly disrupted over the past few years. Many of Earth's major atmospheric circulation patterns have seen significant shifts and unprecedented behavior; new patterns that were unknown have emerged, and extreme weather events were incredibly intense and numerous during 2010 - 2011. It boggles my mind that in 2011, the U.S. saw 14 - 17 billion-dollar weather disasters, three of which matched or exceeded some of the most iconic and destructive weather events in U.S. history."


Figure 1. Women who work on a tea farm in Assam, India hold up a dot in honor of Climate Impacts Day (May 5, 2012), to urge people to connect the dots between climate change and the threat to their livelihood. Chai is one of the most consumed beverages in India, but a prolonged dry spell and extreme heat has affected tea plantations in Assam and Bengal with production dropping by 60% as compared to the same period in 2011. Image credit: 350.org.

May 5: Climate Impacts Day
On Saturday, May 5 (Cinco de Mayo!), the activist group 350.org, founded by Bill McKibben, is launching a new effort to "connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather." They've declared May 5 Climate Impacts Day, and have coordinated an impressive global effort of nearly 1,000 events in 100 countries to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather. Their new climatedots.org website aims to get people involved to "protest, educate, document and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world to support the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis." Some of the events planned for Saturday: firefighters in New Mexico will hold posters with dots in a forest ravaged by wildfires; divers in the Marshall Islands take a dot underwater to their dying coral reefs; climbers on glaciers in the Alps, Andes, and Sierras will unfurl dots on melting glaciers with the simple message: "Melting"; villagers in Northeastern Kenya will create dots to show how ongoing drought is killing their crops; in San Francisco, California, aerial artist Daniel Dancer and the Center for Biological Diversity will work with hundreds of people to form a giant, moving blue dot to represent the threat of sea level rise and ocean acidification; and city-dwellers in Rio de Janeiro hold dots where mudslides from unusually heavy rains wiped out part of their neighborhood. I think its a great way to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather, since the mainstream media coverage of climate change has been almost nil the past few years. A report by Media Matters for America found out that nightly news coverage about climate change on the major networks decreased 72% between 2009 and 2011. On the Sunday shows, 97% of the stories mentioning climate change were about politics in Washington D.C. or on the campaign trail, not about extreme weather or recent scientific reports. You can check out what Climate Impacts Day events may be happening in your area at the climatedots.org website.


Figure 2. Front Street Bridge on the Susquehanna River in Vestal, NY, immediately following the flood of September 8, 2011. Image credit: USGS, New York. In my post, Tropical Storm Lee's flood in Binghamton: was global warming the final straw? I argue that during September 8, 2011 flood, the Susquehanna River rose twenty feet in 24 hours and topped the flood walls in Binghamton by 8.5 inches, so just a 6% reduction in the flood height would have led to no overtopping of the flood walls and a huge decrease in damage. Extra moisture in the air due to global warming could have easily contributed this 6% of extra flood height.

Also of interest
Anti-coal activists, led by climate scientist Dr. James Hansen of NASA, are acting on Saturday to block Warren Buffett's coal trains in British Columbia from delivering coal to Pacific ports for shipment overseas. Dave Roberts of Grist explains how this may be an effective strategy to reduce coal use, in his post, "Fighting coal export terminals: It matters".

The creator of wunderground's new Climate Change Center, atmospheric scientist Angela Fritz, has a blog post on Friday's unveiling of the new Heartland Institute billboards linking mass murderers like Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden to belief in global warming. In Heartland's description of the billboard campaign, they say, "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen." The Heartland Institute neglected to mention that the Pope and the Dalai Lama are prominent advocates of addressing the dangers of human-caused climate change.

Jeff Masters

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Morning all.

The three day rainfall total at the Nassau airport for last Saturday, Sunday and Monday was 7.05 inches. That's pretty remarkable for April.

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Good morning



Norfolk,NE has been in the highest threat area for like the past week.

No fair
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
We ended up with quite the outbreak yesterday:


Is this the one you meant to post?

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Quoting DoctorDave1:
"the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather."

Of course it must, because you said so.

The CO2 level has at most increased by 0.005 % of the atmosphere due to humans. Water vapor averages 1.8% of the atmosphere and it is a much more effective heat-trapping gas than CO2. Global temperatures have at best been flat for the last 10 years while CO2 levels have continued to increase. What part of AGW logic am I missing?
do not forget the massive tree cutting down thats been happening all the way around the world for so many purposes, that also adds to the co2..maybe even more than the cars and trucks of the world..tree's are our best defense, and we cut them down gladly..geez
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"the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather."

Of course it must, because you said so.

The CO2 level has at most increased by 0.005 % of the atmosphere due to humans. Water vapor averages 1.8% of the atmosphere and it is a much more effective heat-trapping gas than CO2. Global temperatures have at best been flat for the last 10 years while CO2 levels have continued to increase. What part of AGW logic am I missing?
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good morning everyone, beautiful day shaping up here in sunny Florida, have a great weekend folks!...................
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We ended up with quite the outbreak yesterday:

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8047
Quoting Grothar:


You just wake up one morning and it is there. Of course once you shake off all the crumbs on your stomach from the eclairs and doughnuts, it becomes more evident.


Doughnuts rule! But they don't deliver. Great! NOW I have a dilemma. Sigh...good mornin' all. :)
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Good morning

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8047
Janesville is depressing now. Been there a few times passingly. Beats Beloit though. Sad, Janesville, Beloit, Gary(Indiana), used to be thriving and fun. No more.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
we must not forget that sheep are the dirtiest, dumbest, helpless little things; but they're also very valuable for their coats and meat. Even the sheep need saving for they are valuable.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
North of Madison but not terribly far. Lived in Madison for over a decade.
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Quoting Tribucanes:
even up here in Wisconsin, the WhatGlobalWarming? crowd is shouting the loudest and the sheeple follow the loudest wolf unless led elsewhere. Outside of Madison or Milwaukee 70 percent of the population will never accept any argument given to support GW.


As a resident of Janesville I sadly have to agree with this. Although then again I hate Janesville so I'd agree with any put down of this city. You live in Madison?
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Quoting geepy86:

And what are you basing that on?


History and basic economics. Many civilizations have suffered immensely (if not outright collapsed) even from relatively local climate changes.

For example, take a look at the midwest US. This is a major world agricultural region, as it provides the US with a lot of it's produce as well exports. What do you think a 10 year drought would do if one were to strike that region? Not only would it be devastating for the country, it would also lead to significant repercussions globally. We got to see a small demonstration when Russia turned into an oven during that heat wave a couple years ago. Not only did it lead to deaths, fires, and water issues but they had to suspend wheat exports. This drove up prices on the global market which had other effects.

That's just one example of course, but it demonstrates that we really on "normal" conditions to provide for ourselves on the massive scale that we do now. Anything that upsets that will cause repercussions.
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Cosmic Events was really twisting the truth of the whole situation to get his side of the argument heard. You just nailed it and slammed any argument he may have, thank you. Hope he was just looking for attention, if not, your right; he was being very negligent. Skyepony said she was the caller in to events at times. The difference was they used her because she is very good. Thanks again for nailing it Xyrus

Churchill Downs has dozens of meteorologists with teams and with the event checking weather. This was just bordering on silly or intentional.
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well said Xyrus
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


Normal is what we've built our civilization around. It doesn't take a lot to bring that crashing down.




All it takes is a little, pushhhhhhhhh.
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Who said this had anything to do with money? Though that is part of what I do today was about getting warning and trying to prevent an injury, as best we can in the face of nature. And one of my contacts is a bigwig in security at Churchill Downs, and he got a call from me, ultimately based on what the radar was showing. A hailstorm near Evansville, 100+ miles away. I advised him of the situation and that it appeared to be heading his way. As best as I could. No thanks to this blog for any further insight on what my eyes were showing me. And I'm not a weather expert...I was looking for some insight into what might be. If you don't believe me, then pony up the 100k....yay or nay if my phone call didn't lead to the first warning the track received, at the highest level. I can produce the names. My invitation to take it off-line stands, as does my admonition to zip your lip.
.


I'm sorry dude, but you're clearly out of line here.

This is a blog of weather enthusiasts/volunteers. Scattered among us may be a few certifiable mets, but this is hardly the place to get professional advice on ANY weather events. The blog is not here to serve at your beck and call. If people aren't on, or lurking, feeling lazy/uninterested, or simply don't want to respond then you're not going to get a response.

If you are actually advising event organizers of weather conditions (especially major events), then pay for a professional service to provide real-time weather analysis or at the very least refer to your local NWS office. Going to blogs to get an analysis of a potential weather threat for an event with 100,000 people would be consider gross negligence at best and certainly wouldn't give you a leg to stand on in court if it came to that.
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nope just me only name I've ever had here
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Tribucanes, I know who you are....LOL
had me going.......
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in the West we're comfortable with everything, hence everything is normal. The characteristics that made us great have been replaced with a society that excepts everything and is shocked by none. Take away a few freedoms, and no one notices.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting Xyrus2000:


Normal is what we've built our civilization around. It doesn't take a lot to bring that crashing down.


And what are you basing that on?
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Quoting EugeneTillman:



What's normal?


Normal is what we've built our civilization around. It doesn't take a lot to bring that crashing down.

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Quoting geepy86:
The season is winding up.
26 days away
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
The season is winding up.
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some blips on the screen i see

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Quoting geepy86:
Hey Keep, how ya been?
good
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Hey Keep, how ya been?
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Quoting geepy86:
Tribu, you a preacher?
seems so
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Dude ya can stop the preaching....nobody is listening...just saying
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If you watch him or listen to his verb usage it seems to give him a huge rush of power knowing the control he has over the Sheeple.
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To have millions hooked on your every word believing the lie. He loves the press he gets and he loves lying and having people believe him.
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Now I use the First and Second law of Thermodynamics all the time in debating Creation, which I believe they support, but Bastardi knows he's spreading nothing but lies. He just takes such glee in it.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Looks like this was suppose to the the first in a series of billboards leading up tot he The 7th International Conference on Climate Change that Heartland has been hosting. Top of the speaker list..Joe Bastardi..The Co-chief Forecaster at Weatherbell Analytics, with Joe D. Aleo, and new acquisition Dr. Ryan Maue..
Joe Bastardi? You mean the guy who misrepresented basic freshman-level physics such as the First Law of Thermodynamics during his "science lesson" at FoxNews last August? I'd be curious to see what kind of enlightening conclusions this particular climate change "conference" will reveal…
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I love the South lots of good people are buying multiple lies the Right's been selling em for ever now it seems.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
You know, throughout all of this arguing about climate change there seems to be something missing from the "discussion":

Is it not better to take the side of caution than ignore it completely? Is it not the wiser decision to heed the warnings? Or is there something else deeper-seated, that we're blocking the chance of catastrophic global change from our minds because we can't imagine a world different than the one we live in today?

The other thing that is seemingly missing from this "discussion" is:

Ok, we know there's something going on. What can we do about it? What are the individual changes we can make that would lead to systemic changes? Even if we can't reverse the tide of change we might be able to reduce it and if it's not happening then we're better for it anyway.

I'm finished.
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 946
More prophetic messenger. Who specializes in geopolitical talk, sports, weather, impending DOOM of the TSA Total System Arrest, where people's individual FEMA camps will be located, I specialize in the good book, but I keep it usually close to topic. Humor occasionally is good too. Go Cubs, there I tried :)
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting wxgeek723:
Conversations like these make me so happy to live in the Northeast where a more respectable chunk of people actually have their heads screwed on right...

Well said...but I'm from the south...
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Conversations like these make me so happy to live in the Northeast where a more respectable chunk of people actually have their heads screwed on right...
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Tribu, you a preacher?
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Quoting Tribucanes:
scary thing is millions of Americans belief just what that billboard is portraying. And in the South or even up here in Wisconsin, the WhatGlobalWarming? crowd is shouting the loudest and the sheeple follow the loudest wolf unless led elsewhere. Outside of Madison or Milwaukee 70 percent of the population will never accept any argument given to support GW.

I'm so glad not to be sheeple...I just do my thing.
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By truly loving someone and being their true friend then you get to share your beliefs without nagging to death. So many kids never turn from God and Christ they turned from their parents who forced them to Church and lived just totally opposite lives. Sorry you've been prejudiced against. Down south is another world compared to Madison Wisconsin you'd love it here Korithe.
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Yes, I'm a Christian and I get what your saying. I believe loving anyone is the only way relate to someone as a Christian. I've have many friends of both. No one is ever nagged to Christ.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Looks like this was suppose to the the first in a series of billboards leading up tot he The 7th International Conference on Climate Change that Heartland has been hosting. Top of the speaker list..Joe Bastardi..The Co-chief Forecaster at Weatherbell Analytics, with Joe D. Aleo, and new acquisition Dr. Ryan Maue..
i liked ryan use to use and view his site at fla state all the time more so during tropical season
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting Tribucanes:
Lets put it this way, I'm from the Carolina's. There are many places in the South where it is still dangerous to go around with pro GW talk. Turns out misinformation and brainwashing works wonders.


There are still many forms of stigma associated with certain positions/sincerely held beliefs in my area of the south. I'm an atheist and a bisexual, neither of which, particularly when combined, would go over well with 95% of the people here. In fact, although I lack direct evidence, I think the reason one of my coworkers has been treating me poorly is because I told him I was an atheist (I wasn't trying to instigate anything, but we had been talking about religion long before that, and I got fed up with his preaching, no matter how well-intentioned). I've even had family and friends delete me from their Facebook.

Perhaps one day. Just maybe.
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Lets put it this way, I'm from the Carolina's. There are many places in the South where it is still dangerous to go around with pro GW talk. Turns out misinformation and brainwashing works wonders.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
never with the same debate against, none of the reasons make any scientific sense, but you get that same committed crazy look in their eyes that lets you know they're 100 percent committed to what they believe. World View narrowed to the little corner of the world they live in and the messages they hear repeated. Or, which is more common in those who are national debaters on this; they know they're spreading the lie, but they also know this lie is worth trillions and ultimately power.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
scary thing is millions of Americans belief just what that billboard is portraying. And in the South or even up here in Wisconsin, the WhatGlobalWarming? crowd is shouting the loudest and the sheeple follow the loudest wolf unless led elsewhere. Outside of Madison or Milwaukee 70 percent of the population will never accept any argument given to support GW.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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