Connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather

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

Share this Blog
41
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 355 - 305

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22Blog Index

Quoting Neapolitan:
Given that my comment dealt with temperature data--in fact, I think I used the word "temperature" at least a dozen times--there was no discussion of tropical cyclone activity. However, as has been noted here and elsewhere, climate change theorists predict a decrease in overall TC activity, but an increase in storm strength--and the trendlines on the graph you posted seem to corroborate that prediction.

That graph to which you linked shows a pretty sharp increase in extreme weather events beginning around 1970, doesn't it? That is, right about the time that warming began in earnest:

:"yikes"

Seems like a connection to me...

On a side note: I saw a comment or two of yours over on WUWT. I've commented there, too, but my contributions are never allowed to remain. It's very telling that little Anthony is so afraid of his tenuously unscientific position that he won't allow dissenting commentary. But it certainly is nice to have a site like WU where all opinions can be posted sans censorship, no?


LOL, you are a great climonista. I really like how you edited the graph and cut it in half so as to provide a 1/2 truth consistently. Wow !

Gnight>
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nigel20:

And they(Twaves) usually moisten the environment for future Twaves. What's up Grothar?


Evening, Nigel.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Im thinking with the more wave-like and vigorousness of the wave emerging, it might actually be our first wave of the season, although, the NHC marine map is the one that confirms it.


Do you have this link. You can change to vorticity on it and animate it.

Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
nite all. Should be another 90F day tomorrow in N GA.
Can't wait for the cooldown.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


An image of it was posted last night on here. There is another big batch of thunderstorms behind it. Not much happens with these this time of year thought,but they are interesting to watch.


And they(Twaves) usually moisten the environment for future Twaves. What's up Grothar?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
Quoting Ossqss:


Please connect the dots for us.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/cei/graph/cei/0 1-12

Lets toss in Hurricane activity to boot?



What kinda dots do you have?
Given that my comment dealt with temperature data--in fact, I think I used the word "temperature" at least a dozen times--there was no discussion of tropical cyclone activity. However, as has been noted here and elsewhere, climate change theorists predict a decrease in overall TC activity, but an increase in storm strength--and the trendlines on the graph you posted seem to corroborate that prediction.

That graph to which you linked shows a pretty sharp increase in extreme weather events beginning around 1970, doesn't it? That is, right about the time that warming began in earnest:

:"yikes"

Seems like a connection to me...

On a side note: I saw a comment or two of yours over on WUWT. I've commented there, too, but my contributions are never allowed to remain. It's very telling that little Anthony is so afraid of his tenuously unscientific position that he won't allow dissenting commentary. But it certainly is nice to have a site like WU where all opinions can be posted sans censorship, no?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13799
well good night folks, clear skies here and there is a beautiful full moon out tonight, cant wait to see that super moon tomorrow night if i can keep my eyes open til 11:35 but i will try..have a safe night everyone
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


An image of it was posted last night on here. There is another big batch of thunderstorms behind it. Not much happens with these this time of year thought,but they are interesting to watch.


Im thinking with the more wave-like and vigorousness of the wave emerging, it might actually be our first wave of the season, although, the NHC marine map is the one that confirms it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricane23:
Hurricane season 2012 trailer


No joke, that was pretty epic. :P
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
just beat me to the point Grothar, your like a weather ninja.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hurricane season 2012 trailer
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
May 3, 2011

May 3, 2012
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
that fact has been discussed and opined about all week here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Anyone know anything about the Tropical wave watch?


An image of it was posted last night on here. There is another big batch of thunderstorms behind it. Not much happens with these this time of year thought,but they are interesting to watch.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting weathermanwannabe:



I don't have a clue "when" the first emerged. If you want to stick to the science, an average of about about 60 tropical waves emerge off the coast of Africa during the Atlantic Season from June to November; however, only a small percentage of those actually spin up to become tropical storms. As far as when these waves start emerging, they do so before the start of the Atlantic Season and they start to moisten the ITCZ and help contribute to some of the entities that emerge on the E-Pac side. The one emerging today is the first one that caught my eye but I could not tell you if it has been the first to emerge over the past few weeks.

I guess noone is aware, this week and next week are times to watch for our first african tropical wave to emerge from africa. It doesn't mean much, but its something to look for and track.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Looking for a sure Derby bet? Never count on the weather

BY GREG KOCHER

The state song proclaims that the "sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home," but all bets are off when it comes to nice weather for the Kentucky Derby.

Of the 137 Derbys run so far, nearly half --63-- experienced rain at some point during the day, according to the National Weather Service office in Louisville.


http://www.kansascity.com/2012/05/04/3594313/look ing-for-a-sure-derby-bet-never.html
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RTSplayer:
Thanks guys.

No problem RTS
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
Well....Good Night Folks. Check with Yall back on Monday....Have a Nice Weekend.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Neapolitan:
Now that April's numbers are complete, and in light of Climate Impact Day, here's a quick recap of the temperature situation in the United States so far this year (all numbers are from the NCDC's weather records page):

29,397 - The number of high and high minimum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

2,946 - The number of low and low maximum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

Hot, hot, hot

9.98:1 - The ratio of high and high minimum temperature records to low or low maximum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

12,316 - The number of daily high temperature records that have been broken this year

763 - The number of daily low temperature records that have been broken this year

Hot, hot, hot

94.4 - The percentage of weeks this year that have seen more high temperature records than low temperature records set or tied

5.6 - The percentage of weeks this year that have seen more low temperature records than high temperature records set or tied

27 - The number of days this year that have seen 300 or more high or high minimum temperature records set or tied

0 - The number of days this year that have seen 300 or more low or low maximum temperature records set or tied

12,316 - The number of daily high temperature records that have been broken this year

763 - The number of daily low temperature records that have been broken this year

1,740 - The number of all-time monthly high or high minimum temperature records set or tied this year

73 - The number of all-time monthly low or low maximum temperature records set or tied this year


Please connect the dots for us.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/cei/graph/cei/0 1-12

Lets toss in Hurricane activity to boot?



What kinda dots do you have?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Im talking about our firt tropical wave



I don't have a clue "when" the first emerged. If you want to stick to the science, an average of about about 60 tropical waves emerge off the coast of Africa during the Atlantic Season from June to November; however, only a small percentage of those actually spin up to become tropical storms. As far as when these waves start emerging, they do so before the start of the Atlantic Season and they start to moisten the ITCZ and help contribute to some of the entities that emerge on the E-Pac side. The one emerging today is the first one that caught my eye but I could not tell you if it has been the first to emerge over the past few weeks.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Thanks guys.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
You have a link to that product?

I can't seem to find that one anywhere.
Try this
Link
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
Quoting RTSplayer:
312:

You have a link to that product?

I can't seem to find that one anywhere.

Link
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32814
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Nope; been away for a few days and just posted the pic of one emerging today but I am not aware of any official "watch"............ :)

Im talking about our firt tropical wave
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Anyone know anything about the Tropical wave watch?


Nope; been away for a few days and just posted the pic of one emerging today but I am not aware of any official "watch"............ :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anyone know anything about the Tropical wave watch?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Thanks Skyepony. Yeah most teams at big races have their own weather guys. So much money in it. You've seen too many tornadoes for a non chaser :) Glad your up close and personal one was an under 85mph variety.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
321. Skyepony (Mod)



Quoting wxmod:


That's depressing! Not unexpected though.


It's hard to look at. I can see how this has been swept from sight so easy..it's so bad we don't want to know.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Evening. Interesting how the ITCZ has been pretty active down around the North Coast of South America and around Central America flowing into the E-Pac; this is part of their normal Summer monsoon season pattern but it will soon be the beginning of the E-Pac season (around May 15th I think). Atlantic side of the ITCZ is not as active yet but slowing starting to rise into place. Way too early for the strength and frequency of our normal peak of the Season "wave train" in August coming off of Africa but I took a quick look across the Pond and caught this nice looking wave emerging from Africa today (link below)..........Will start to see more of these start to make the journey in the coming months.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The SOI is going back up, don't know if it's temporary though

Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
Now that April's numbers are complete, and in light of Climate Impact Day, here's a quick recap of the temperature situation in the United States so far this year (all numbers are from the NCDC's weather records page):

29,397 - The number of high and high minimum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

2,946 - The number of low and low maximum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

Hot, hot, hot

9.98:1 - The ratio of high and high minimum temperature records to low or low maximum temperature records that have been set or tied this year

12,316 - The number of daily high temperature records that have been broken this year

763 - The number of daily low temperature records that have been broken this year

Hot, hot, hot

94.4 - The percentage of weeks this year that have seen more high temperature records than low temperature records set or tied

5.6 - The percentage of weeks this year that have seen more low temperature records than high temperature records set or tied

27 - The number of days this year that have seen 300 or more high or high minimum temperature records set or tied

0 - The number of days this year that have seen 300 or more low or low maximum temperature records set or tied

12,316 - The number of daily high temperature records that have been broken this year

763 - The number of daily low temperature records that have been broken this year

1,740 - The number of all-time monthly high or high minimum temperature records set or tied this year

73 - The number of all-time monthly low or low maximum temperature records set or tied this year
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13799
317. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Tribucanes:
How wild Skyepony, your looking out one side and it hits the south side, scary. Sound like a strong waterspout. Had one in Madison last year winds only 65mph. Is that the only twister you've been in?


Last on I saw was that long tracker in March 2010. The track one was the only one I saw the inside off. Maybe seen 10 or twelve total, all the weak FL variety, two were waterspouts, heard one in Frances but it was dark, seen a few out pony riding.



Being a racing official for so many years at different tracks..I can say the way we called them was there was several people that could call it. Building Owner, Directors, Racing Secretary, Judges (state or otherwise). After a few years of me giving them a longer lead on what was about to happen they usually had me call it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HASTINGS NE
811 PM CDT FRI MAY 4 2012

NEC077-175-050130-
/O.CON.KGID.TO.W.0023.000000T0000Z-120505T0130Z/
GREELEY NE-VALLEY NE-
811 PM CDT FRI MAY 4 2012

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHEASTERN VALLEY AND
SOUTHWESTERN GREELEY COUNTIES UNTIL 830 PM CDT...

AT 807 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR SCOTIA...OR 15 MILES SOUTHEAST OF ORD...MOVING
SOUTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
MAINLY RURAL AREAS OF SOUTHWESTERN GREELEY COUNTY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR
OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4140 9845 4139 9882 4156 9883 4161 9866
TIME...MOT...LOC 0112Z 324DEG 12KT 4148 9867
HAIL 1.75IN

$$
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
312:

You have a link to that product?

I can't seem to find that one anywhere.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
May 4, 2012 SST anomaly
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8472
311. wxmod
Quoting Skyepony:
Fukushima is doing as bad as the pronunciation. The birds that are making it back to New Zealand are in bad shape. Raising exposure on the workers. Radiation readings around Japan are high, even after decontamination. Air exhausting on 2 was increased, pressure down, hydrogen up. Maybe this has something to do with the new yellow fog coming from the plant. details


That's depressing! Not unexpected though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORT WORTH TX
747 PM CDT FRI MAY 4 2012

TXC363-367-050145-
/O.CON.KFWD.SV.W.0100.000000T0000Z-120505T0145Z/
PALO PINTO TX-PARKER TX-
747 PM CDT FRI MAY 4 2012

...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 845 PM CDT
FOR NORTHWESTERN PARKER AND NORTHEASTERN PALO PINTO COUNTIES...

AT 747 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING PING PONG BALL SIZE HAIL...
AND DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR
MINERAL WELLS...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 15 MPH. PING PONG SIZE HAIL WAS
REPORTED NEAR THE MINERAL WELLS AIRPORT AT 747 CDT.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR...
COOL AROUND 755 PM CDT...
MINERAL WELLS STATE PARK AROUND 800 PM CDT...
POOLVILLE AROUND 845 PM CDT...

LAT...LON 3298 9818 3301 9812 3300 9773 3299 9770
3293 9764 3268 9810 3282 9819
TIME...MOT...LOC 0047Z 232DEG 14KT 3281 9807

$$
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Very dangerous storm in Nebraska.  East northeast of Broken Bow, NE






Member Since: Posts: Comments:
813 PM CDT FRI MAY 4 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PADUCAH HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
SOUTHERN EDWARDS COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS...
SOUTHERN WABASH COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS...

* UNTIL 900 PM CDT.

* AT 809 PM CDT...RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF
PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL...AND DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60
MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR ALBION....MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

STORM SPOTTERS HAVE REPORTED A WALL CLOUD JUST SOUTHWEST OF ALBION
WITH THIS STORM.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNED AREA INCLUDE...
MOUNT CARMEL...BONE GAP...BROWNS...BELLMONT AND KEENSBURG.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
305. wxmod
Quoting Sangria:


Really?? You are going to bash him because he is a member on more than one site? What a juvenile and hostile attitude to take. I am glad that this is pre-season, and that a lot of "non-regulars" did not read your comment.


Your post is bashing. I don't understand how anyone could just make a post on a blog and expect the others on the blog to just jump on their issue and analyze it. Analysis takes a lot of effort and there are a lot of micro climates happening all over the place. Some of us are on the other side of the world. Call your local weather bureau for insights into your local weather.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 355 - 305

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Overcast
30 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron