A dramatic greening of the Arctic over the past 30 years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:30 PM GMT on March 18, 2013

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A remarkable transformation in the vegetation of the Arctic has occurred over the past 30 years, according to a study of satellite data published on March 10, 2013, in Nature Climate Change. The authors found that Arctic vegetation growth and temperatures in 2011 resembled what occurred 250 - 430 miles farther to the south back in 1982. That's the approximate distance in latitude between San Francisco and San Diego, or Washington D.C. and Atlanta. More greening occurred in Eurasia than North America, and the Arctic's new greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees. Large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, an area about equal to the contiguous United States. "Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said co-author Dr. Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment, in a NASA press release. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems." The changes in the Arctic's vegetation are being driven by human-caused global warming, which is occurring in the Arctic at more than double the rate of the rest of the planet. This so-called "Arctic amplification" is due, in part, to the increased melting of ice and snow near the pole. When ice and snow melt, they uncover darker surfaces underneath, which absorb more sunlight and increase Arctic temperatures in a vicious cycle which melts even more ice and snow. Using 17 climate models, the researchers predicted that a continuation of warming in the Arctic in coming decades could lead to over a 1300 mile latitudinal shift in Arctic vegetation zones by the year 2100, compared to the period 1951 - 1980. That's a distance greater than the north-south extent of the contiguous United States. However, more frequent forest fires, increased pest outbreaks, and summertime droughts due to a warming climate might slow down Arctic plant growth.


Figure 1. Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth (green and blue), 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth (orange and red), and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes (yellow) over the past 30 years. Satellite data in this visualization are from AVHRR and MODIS. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.


Figure 2. Trees take hold as permafrost thaws near the Altai Mountains in Russia. Credit: Terry Callaghan, EU-Interact/Sergey Kirpotin, Tomsk State University.

Commentary
One often hears complaints that global warming may be greatly overestimated, due to many temperature sensors being located in increasingly urbanized areas where local "urban heat island" effects are not being properly considered. If this were true (and it isn't), then we would not expect to see "nature's thermometers"--plants and animals--change their behavior and ranges much. But plants and animals are responding in major ways to the warming climate, and the greening of the Arctic is merely one more example of "nature's thermometers" telling us that the planet is warming significantly. Some other examples:

Fall is falling back: During 1982 to 1999, the end of the growing season was delayed by 4.3 days in the Northern Hemisphere. During 2000 to 2008, the end of the growing season was further delayed by an additional 2.3 days. In the U.S., fall now occurs ten days later than it did 30 years ago.

Spring is springing forward: Spring events, like bird and butterfly migrations, flower blooming times, and frog mating, have been advancing by about three days per decade over the past 30 years.

Animals are changing migration patterns: New species have colonized previously ‘cool’ regions, including sea anemones in Monterey Bay, and lichens and butterflies in Europe. Over the past 50 years, maximum range shifts vary from 200 km (butterflies) to 1,000 km (marine copepods).

Related blog post: New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for gardeners shows a warming climate

Dr. Myneni's petition to protect Earth from climate change
Professor Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth & Environment, co-author of the greening Arctic study, has developed a simple one-sentence petition that he hopes one billion people will sign by Earth Day, 2014:

Dear Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon,

We, the People of the Earth, request You to act judiciously and expeditiously to protect the Earth from anthropogenic climate change.

Respectfully,
People of the Earth


The petition, which I have signed, is at: https://yourclimatechange.org/, and was recently featured by Discovery News.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


the tornado could be heading straight his way...
I hoe he is very aware of this situation...and taking shelter


I told him..they are taking shelter..waiting it out..
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Gotta laugh when the Storm Prediction Center mis-spells THREAT and makes it TREAT.
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Good rain in S FL today!!:)
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Quoting Doppler22:

I hope your brother is ok


the tornado could be heading straight his way...
I hope he is very aware of this situation...and taking shelter
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Quoting Doppler22:

I hope your brother is ok


He is fine..shook up but fine..LOL..
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
@WxMeddler
Cross section view of debris being sucked up 8kft into the #tornado that is south of Atlanta near Gay



Ahh, dual-pol.
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Quoting ncstorm:
My brother lives is Concord, GA..he said he has never seen anything like that in his life...hail was size of golf balls and were bouncing in the air like actual tennis balls...said were cars alarms were going off all in his neighborhood..

I hope your brother is ok
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 3754
Frank Strait Fan Club
Main #tornado concern will be in GA and SC Lowcountry. #scwx #gawx
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Yikes.

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6:32 PM ET: Likely #tornado heading directly toward Concord, GA

take cover immediately! headed to Concord!

RT @wxnick: Most ominous tornado signature yet today near Gay, GA moving E twd Concord, Zebulon in Pike County #gawx

Pike County, GA storm has a "debris ball" on radar - tornado likely in progress. This is about 45 mi S of Atlanta
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My brother lives is Concord, GA..he said he has never seen anything like that in his life...hail was size of golf balls and were bouncing in the air like actual tennis balls...said were cars alarms were going off all in his neighborhood..
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Concord, GA better be underground right now
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 3754

Global temperature increases could boost hurricane-caused flooding
       

By Erin Wayman

As the climate warms, deadly flooding caused by storm surges will occur more frequently, scientists predict.

A storm surge is the rise in water above normal tide level that occurs when hurricanes push water toward a coast. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina smacked the Gulf Coast with a storm surge of up to 8.5 meters. During the 20th century, storm surges of this magnitude hit the United States about once every 10 to 30 years.

To calculate how the frequency of extreme storm surges will change, Aslak Grinsted of Denmark’s University of Copenhagen and colleagues combined records of storm surges in the southeastern United States since 1923 with several climate simulations. For every one degree Celsius increase in global temperature, the results suggest, large storm surges will become two to seven times as frequent, the team reports March 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Dr. Forbes sounds quite concerned about this storm on TWC, and for good reason with debris being detected by radar.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7787
6:29 ET PM: Power is out in downtown Concord, GA

6:27 PM ET: Very concerned about #severe thunderstorm and possible #tornado near Gay, GA right now. http://wxug.us/12ds3
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@WxMeddler
Cross section view of debris being sucked up 8kft into the #tornado that is south of Atlanta near Gay

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Wow, this is freaky:

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7787
There is a tornado east of Gay, GA. A yellow TVS has poped up and debris is being tossed into the air.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Good chance this has a very strong tornado with it.


that's a tornado there in that swirl..pretty bad one
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Good chance this has a very strong tornado with it.
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... So this is the first time this season since the new Wundermap has been implemented that I needed to use it to track actual local weather during a tornado warning.

This is what i get.



This is ridiculous. Yes. I'll be "submitting feedback." You can not adjust the opacity of storm tracks... you didn't need to before but wow... do you need that option now. :| First time in years I had to go over to another site to check their map. Not cool.
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I now live in Calhoun Ga(4 years now)..It was 52 degrees and a under a tornado warning ???....Heavy rain here in NW Calhoun,small hail is all we received ..no damage in my area. This is usual as there is something that blocks weather systems that come from the west and pushes them just south or north of my area. The damage a month ago was about 5 miles to the east and south towards Adairsville.
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Frank Strait Fan Club
Likely #tornado moving S of Atlanta through Meriweather/Pike/Lamar Counties, take cover NOW if you're in that area. #gawx
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Snow beginning to fall here
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
TWC HEADQUARTERS TO GET HIT AS WELL!!!!...LOL

Bow echo about to hit The Weather Channel HQ. High winds likely across I-75 corridor NW of Atlanta now!
That area has been prone to some nasty weather activity this year... Cartersville, Calhoun, Adairsville... Kind of a tornado magnet this year
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5864
Sounds like Georgia is takin a woopin...I wonder how much we would know about these storms if we didnt have all this radar technology...probably less then 25% of the current analizing stuff.
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Quoting wxchaser97:
Green TVS on storm east of Primrose or west of Gay. This storm is likely producing a tornado.
That is one wild-looking hook echo...
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TWC HEADQUARTERS TO GET HIT AS WELL!!!!...LOL

Bow echo about to hit The Weather Channel HQ. High winds likely across I-75 corridor NW of Atlanta now!
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


highest positive hopes
Thanks Max... Many people do not realize the weather problems that may be approaching them... My dingbat niece is one of them...
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5864

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PEACHTREE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
NORTHERN HENRY COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL GEORGIA
NEWTON COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL GEORGIA
SOUTHERN ROCKDALE COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL GEORGIA

* UNTIL 700 PM EDT

* AT 612 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR
STOCKBRIDGE...MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
PORTERDALE...OXFORD AND COVINGTON.
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 3754
6:16 PM ET: Reports of several houses damaged from Cave Spring to Silver Creek, GA

like I expected

Hail has ended at #ATL airport, but emerg mgmt says golf ball hail fell at airport, and cars on nearby I-85 have shattered windshields.
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Quoting Jedkins01:



Hail that size will lead to some massive repairs in the body shop as well. I've seen pictures of hail that size actually puncturing holes in roofs of cars.
I've seen cars that looked like someone hopped all over them on a pogo stick.

BTW, 34 degrees and rain mixed with sleet here in SE PA.

Nasty, nasty conditions to be out in.

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Picture of hail from collage park, taken by a friend.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Thanks, Dr. Masters.

It's currently 48F in Maniitsoq on the northwestern coast of Greenland.


I thought about what you stated and all I can do is reply with this:-
Stockholm, Sweden
Monday 23:00
Light snow
-6/C

So if you are stating that the northwestern parts of Greenland are at +48/F then thats about 16/F above freezing, so anything which was ice will now be well on its way to becoming water, if it hasn't allready achieved that status.
Interesting. to say the least?
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The weather in the Florida Panhandle right now reminds me of the day the tornado hit Tuscaloosa. It was cloudy, warm, humid, and breezy with clouds moving very fast, but that day back in 2011, we basically didn't get any thunderstorms as it was all to the north. Now I wonder if this will make it all the way to the coast still severe?

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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
That's scary... I hope my niece is paying attention in Woodstock Ga... I tried calling her but no response


highest positive hopes
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Very likely, a tornado is on the ground south of Rocky Mount. It is headed for Gay and Concord in Georgia.

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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Tornadic supercell south of Atlanta at 6:12p - baseball hail just reported in Luthersville; possible tornado south of that city moving E.
That's scary... I hope my niece is paying attention in Woodstock Ga... I tried calling her but no response
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5864
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PEACHTREE CITY GA
608 PM EDT MON MAR 18 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PEACHTREE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN BUTTS COUNTY IN CENTRAL GEORGIA
NORTHERN LAMAR COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
NORTHERN MERIWETHER COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
PIKE COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
SOUTHERN SPALDING COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA

* UNTIL 700 PM EDT

* AT 603 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR
LUTHERSVILLE...MOVING EAST AT 45 MPH. MOVE TO A SAFE PLACE NOW!

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
GAY...CONCORD...WILLIAMSON...ZEBULON...MEANSVILLE. ..GRIFFIN...
ORCHARD HILL...MILNER...ALDORA AND BARNESVILLE.

another one...further south
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Green TVS on storm east of Primrose or west of Gay. This storm is likely producing a tornado.
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Tornadic supercell south of Atlanta at 6:12p - baseball hail just reported in Luthersville; possible tornado south of that city moving E.
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Just got a text from a friend, our school is located in Collage Park and he had outdoor lax pratice. Apparently they did not escape the hail and some people got hurt. Nothing serious though. He sent a pic of one of the hailstones will post it in a sec.
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Canton, GA cam
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Miami NWS Disco

They were serious about a cool down early next week!

LOW PRESSURE WILL DEVELOP ACROSS EASTERN TEXAS ON FRIDAY...AND THE
FRONTAL BOUNDARY WILL MOVE BACK NORTH AS A WARM FRONT FRIDAY INTO
SATURDAY. SO TEMPERATURES WILL WARM ONCE AGAIN ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA.
LOW PRESSURE IS EXPECTED TO DEEPEN ACROSS TENNESSEE ON
SUNDAY...PUSHING A STRONG COLD FRONT INTO SOUTH FLORIDA...WITH
ANOTHER GOOD CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. COOLER AND DRIER
WEATHER IS THEN EXPECTED ACROSS THE REGION.



Oh, and thank you Grothar...

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11159
Update: Silver Creek Mini Mart said to be destroyed by tornado, according to 911 dispatches. Trees are reported down on the Rockmart Highway and U.S. 27 south. Injuries have also been reported at the Mini Mart, according to 911 dispatches.


Read more: RN-T.com - Weather update Tornado warning issued unconfirmed reports of tornado in Cave Spring
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THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PEACHTREE CITY HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN BUTTS COUNTY IN CENTRAL GEORGIA
NORTHERN LAMAR COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
NORTHERN MERIWETHER COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
PIKE COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA
SOUTHERN SPALDING COUNTY IN WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA

* UNTIL 700 PM EDT

* AT 603 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR
LUTHERSVILLE...MOVING EAST AT 45 MPH. MOVE TO A SAFE PLACE NOW!

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
GAY...CONCORD...WILLIAMSON...ZEBULON...MEANSVILLE. ..GRIFFIN...
ORCHARD HILL...MILNER...ALDORA AND BARNESVILLE.
Member Since: February 13, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 3754
Tornado may be on the ground with this one.
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Brandon, MS earlier today:

EDIT: Already posted, but will show again anyways.



Photo credit to NWS Jackson, MS.
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Atlanta cam
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Looks like trouble coming to Georgia... My niece lives in Woodstock... I need to give her a call about the impending weather..
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5864

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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.