The Climate Change Storm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:14 PM GMT on April 06, 2007

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Significant climate change is already occurring, will grow dramatically, and will cause serious disruptions to natural ecosystems and the lives of billions of people world-wide over the coming century. We need to better prepare for the inevitable changes--and attempt to lessen the magnitude of the these changes by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. That's the take-home message from today's latest report from the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Every six years, the IPCC releases a huge, influential study detailing the state of Earth's climate. Part 1 of the 2007 report, summarizing the science of climate change, was released in February. Today's summary, titled "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" addressed the likely impacts of climate change on Earth's ecosystems and people. Not all of the expected changes will be harmful--the IPCC emphasizes that "impacts of future climate change will be mixed across regions" for temperature rises of 1 to 3 �C above 1990 levels, with the big losers being the poor developing countries. However, if global warming exceeds 2 to 3 �C, the IPCC states it is very likely that all regions of the globe will suffer increased costs or declining benefits. I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen of the planet to take the 30 minutes needed to read the IPCC summary and familiarize themselves with what the world's top scientists say about the likely impacts of climate change. The scope and severity of the Earth-shaking changes that lie ahead present a breathtakingly formidable challenge for humanity.


Figure 1. Locations of significant changes in physical systems (snow, ice and frozen ground, hydrology, coastal processes) and biological systems (land, ocean, and freshwater) from 1970 to 2004. Between 90% and 100% of these changes are consistent with warming global temperatures, due in large part to human-emitted greenhouse gases. White areas are where not enough data existed to determine a temperature change. Figure 1 is a simplified form of Figure SPM-1 of the 2007 IPCC document, "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability--Summary for Policy Makers."

Observed impacts of climate change to date
The IPCC report begins by summarizing observed changes in physical systems (snow, ice and frozen ground, hydrology, coastal processes) and biological systems (land, ocean, and freshwater) reported in 577 papers in the scientific literature between 1990 and 2004 (Figure 1). They conclude, "Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases." Examples for which they are highly (80% chance) or very highly confident (>90% chance) of include:

Earlier bird migrations and leaf unfolding
Poleward shifts in the ranges of various plant and animal species
Shifts in the ranges and numbers of ocean species near the poles
Earlier migrations of fish in rivers
Earlier and increased peaks in spring run-off from glacier- and snow-fed rivers
Warming of lakes and rivers
More and bigger glacial lakes
Melting permafrost

Medium confidence effects (50% chance of being true) observed in the Northern Hemisphere include:

Earlier spring planting of crops
Increases in forest fires and pest damage to forests
Heat-related deaths in Europe, spread of disease in some areas, and changes in allergenic pollen
Hunting and travel by humans over Arctic snow and ice

Future impacts
This is where the IPCC report gets very sobering. Keep in mind that the predicted future impacts may be understated, given the cautious nature of scientists--and the fact that the final version was edited by government officials, who changed the original conclusions of the scientists. I'll present just of few of the more mind-boggling impacts (in blue, with my comments in black), and leave the rest for the interested reader to discover:

The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources) (high confidence).
In other words, some ecosystems will collapse, putting the people who depend on these ecosystems in grave peril.
Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk. The numbers affected will be largest in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable (very high confidence).
Expect damage and human suffering from hurricanes to greatly increase in coming decades, thanks to higher seas levels.
There is medium confidence that at least partial deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet, would occur over a period of time ranging from centuries to millennia for a global average temperature increase of 1-4 �C (relative to 1990-2000), causing a contribution to sea level rise of 4-6 m or more.
Along with drought and ecosystem collapse, sea level rise is my big concern. Sea level before the most recent ice age was about 4-6 meters (13-20 feet) higher than today, at global temperatures that we expect to match by 2100. The IPCC states that a sea level rise of 0.6-1.9 feet (0.18-0.58 meters) is expected by 2100, and a 4-6 meter rise is not likely for centuries. However, our understanding of the response of glaciers to climate warming is poor. An unexpected rapid partial disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets later this century raising sea levels by 2 meters (6 feet) has at least a 1% chance of occurring, in my opinion.

Conclusion
The language of the 2007 IPCC climate report is couched in uncertainly, but the broad picture is clear: future climate change may rival or exceed a World War in its effect on society. Steps to lessen its impact and adapt to it need to be made as soon as possible. The cost in lives, dollars, and human suffering will be far greater if we do not.

In his 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia, philosopher-scientist James Lovelock writes, "I am old enough to notice a remarkable similarity between attitudes over sixty years ago towards the threat of war and those now towards the threat of global heating. Most of us think that something unpleasant may soon happen, but we are as confused as we were in 1938 over what form it will take and what to do about it. Our response so far is just like that before the Second World War, and attempt to appease. The Kyoto agreement was uncannily like that of Munich, with politicians out to show they do respond but in reality playing for time...Battle will soon be joined, and what we face now is far more deadly than any blitzkrieg."

The climate change storm is coming, and the wind is already starting to rise.

Next blog
My next blog will be Monday afternoon or Tuesday. I've got several topics in mind--tornadoes in Chicago, Greenland glaciers, or hurricane model improvements.

Jeff Masters

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341. ForecasterColby
5:38 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
"Colby, while I dont agree with the report, Dr. Masters current blog is taken from a report from the IPCC. He is recounting what is in that report. So why are you telling him to state the truth?"

Not quite. I am mostly referring to the last few paragraphs of the entry (primarily the Lovelock quote).
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340. ForecasterColby
5:36 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
I see cyclone is still around. *sighs*
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338. StoryOfTheCane
4:46 AM GMT on April 07, 2007

337. Tazmanian
9:50 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
like hello we been talk about global warming all dam winter on this blog i like to talk about some in new any thing but for this dam global warming talk


oh care about global warming i dont care about global warming so shut up about global warming we been hering about global warming on this blog all dam winter on this blog

i want to talk about a name storm like a hurricane and thing like that not this dam global warming thing


i am not pointing any thing at dr m this is his blog and he can talk about what evere he wants but i want to start talking about hurricane where the high going to set up shop when we could see are 1st 90L you no thing like that but i had it with this global warming thing had it had it had it that we been talking about all winter this want some in new that dos not have to do with global warming


any one agree with me dont you think you this about had it with global warming blogs for the winter?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
336. Tazmanian
9:46 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
like when did we had that big severe weather was that back in march?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
333. Tazmanian
9:43 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
Radar Archive: NEW!

View a 24-hour animated loop for this radar station by selecting a date below. Please note, this image may take a moment to generate. Archive begins April 1st, 2006.

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
332. StoryOfTheCane
4:39 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
331. Skyepony (Mod)
4:36 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Making the effort is easy, people have just been trained that it isn't. Buy a different kind of lightbulb, upgrade to energy efficent appliances & cars, add insulation to your attic, caulk every nook, crack & seam in your house. All of these will require you to put a little money investment down, but they all quickly pay for themselves & then put extra money in your pocket.

Freebies include grow food instead of lawn & flowers, plant a tree that shades your house, walk somewhere.

Everything you do that lowers your CO2 output, puts money in your pocket. Most of it has very little to do with affecting a quality of life.
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330. Tazmanian
9:42 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
yes what stop with the global warming talk for tonight and start talking about snow
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
328. StoryOfTheCane
4:37 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
We need to worry about this issue, but its not like we need to fret about it like tomorrow is the end of the world
327. StoryOfTheCane
4:33 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Gore is just propaganda. he is just trying to gain popularity and earn a living through scaring the world. Why does he feel the need to develop a movie AND tour the country? Dont you think the movie would have been sufficient if all he was after was to raise awareness?
324. StoryOfTheCane
4:24 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
I think we should start talking about the tropics, im tired of this topic. its like fat people, they know they're fat, they know how to become skinny, its just a matter of making the effort, and America is just a bunch of "fat people" not willing to make the effort
323. Skyepony (Mod)
4:08 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Jer~ bp is huge in renewable resources, major leader.

bp quotes:


The world needs more energy. Combatting climate change means that it must take action to limit carbon emissions.

An area 200 miles square covered with solar panels could provide all the electricity the world needs

By investing in solar projects, we plan to grow our business by 300% over the next three years

All the big oil companies have stated the burning of fossil fuels causes incresed CO2, which has led to climate change. BP did it in May of 1997, Mobil was the last & should suffer not getting the head start in renewables, but for the shareholders the now has been wow. Who here thinks smoking cigerettes don't increase the chance of lung cancer, emphysima, heart attack, stroke, etc?
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322. weatherboykris
4:11 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
goodnight guys
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
321. StoryOfTheCane
4:07 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Graph showing albedo (ratio of light reflected to that received) of planet is lower in vegetated areas and remember that these areas also provide much of the atmospheric water vapor as well as maintain the carbon cycle. All 3 of these components add to warming. Ice and deserts reflect much of the solar radiation back into space and don't add to levels of carbon or water vapor (Snow and the resulting ice are actually due to a removal of water vapor from the atmosphere).

320. Skyepony (Mod)
4:07 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
From EH2R News

Last stand of Cold

Last year at this date I observed an area of very cold air exactly at the opposite side of the Pole, wondered what data this air mass might give. March just past gave me the opportunity to see just the same event, the sides of the Pole reversed, its North Americas turn to be colder, but only briefly, the rest of the world is warmer. The shock just past of Siberia not being the deepest freeze in the world means just that, North Americas last cold air stand will fail with warmer air from Russia. During March, a wide window of clear air covered much of the Canadian Archipelago, a stable conduit of heat radiation cooling to space went virtually unhindered, rendering the rising sun warming irrelevant. What was this? A zone of cooling, even with the warmest winter in history, there was one. All I monitored was a continuous monotony of very cold air, dipping a little by mid March, it is actually impossible to predict the future in such circumstances, when mixing occurs anywhere but here, this is why no projections were given. It took a 2 day blizzard to reintroduce Resolute to the rest of the weather world, the wait was not disappointing, a strong upward surge in heat was measured, indicating a climatic sensitivity recoil from zonal interchanges. Stand by for a formal projection, So far it looks a lot like the Spring of 2005 with more heat added, 2005+.

WD April 3,2007
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319. StoryOfTheCane
4:05 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Monthly mean of total water vapor content between the surface and the top of the atmosphere (in cm).

318. StoryOfTheCane
4:03 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
thats a good comparison with the frog in the heating water, good point Cat
317. StoryOfTheCane
3:59 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
theres always a fair amount of water vapor in Africa
316. CatWatchOne
3:56 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Governments are playing the same game they always play. Keep people happy and working until they can break the bad news over a long time period. Fast change causes real problems with society. Its like throw the frog in the hot water and he don't like it. Set him room temp water and heat it slowly and he don't care.
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314. SkulDouggery
3:59 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
The comment by Story of the Cane about sunglasses between the Sun and Earth may be more likely than one would think. One idea I've heard about proposes a large mylar filter in space above the North pole to block 1% of the solar energy to the Artic ice. Sounds crazy but may be easier than getting everyone to work together on CO2 emissions?
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313. CrackerMI
3:53 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Sebastianjer, the market forces have started, ethanol plants are sprouting like dandelions here in Michigan. Theres a lot of talk about wind farms.
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312. StoryOfTheCane
3:57 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
when did Michael become a Fortune Teller?
311. StoryOfTheCane
3:56 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
will it rain in Idaho on August 1st?
310. Tazmanian
8:55 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
well that moist air stay that way all the way to june?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
309. StoryOfTheCane
3:53 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
well until the day comes when we begin to slow the use of fossil fuels we will never truly know the cause of global warming. Until then its just a bunch of us all speculating different hypotheses
307. weatherboykris
3:53 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
STL,that's the REAL inconvient truth.Fact is,poeple don't care enough about GW to stop using fossil fuels,and that's not what the oil companies worry about.They worry about people hearing about the reserves running low,and THAT'S what they try to cover up.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
306. weatherboykris
3:52 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Yes,Taz.It has been moist.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
304. Tazmanian
8:50 PM PDT on April 06, 2007
STL or weatherboykris dont you think Africa been had vary moist air for some time now?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114963
303. StoryOfTheCane
3:51 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
we'll be gone long before we see the end of fossil fuels
301. sebastianjer
11:44 PM EDT on April 06, 2007
By the way nobody is more aware of the limits of fossil fuels than Oil Companies. I doubt seriously that they just plan on using up all the oil then going away. They are probably the leaders in R and D in alternative fuels.

Back in the 80's big tobacco companies began to diversify. Reynolds bought Nabisco and other such mergers, why? They weren't stupid, they knew that they tobacco industry was going to eventually be sued and regulated into near bankruptcy, so the did what they needed to do to survive. Big Oil will do the same.
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300. weatherboykris
3:50 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
If it's a problem at all.I still say it's a cycle.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
299. StoryOfTheCane
3:49 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
way to go Earth!
297. CatWatchOne
3:49 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
The global warming thing will take care of itself. Peak oil is not about running out of oil - It's about peak in production. Many say the world's oil production has already peaked. This means that the amount of oil available to the world has reached a peak and will, slowly at first, begin to decline. Thats why major powers around the world are trying to consolidate oil reserves. China's growing population wants an American lifestyle, and won't have it. It also means the US wont have this lifestyle for much longer.

Say goodbye to your fossil fuel powered mode of transportation. Yes - I know about the oil sands and ethanol and all the rest. Fact is - we didnt start looking for alternatives fast enuf. They can't be ramped up fast enuf to make the difference in the shortfall of oil production.

The bright side is lower levels of polution and CO2. Probably means a lower global population also.

So see - the Earth takes care of itself - global warming won't be a problem for long.
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296. StoryOfTheCane
3:46 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
or, we can build an artificial atmosphere with contraptions to siphon gases into space like cigarette smoke fans.
295. snowboy
3:46 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Folks if we keep using oil, gas, coal at current rates then we are toast. We need to gear down the fossil fuel consumption, waste less, use what we have to more efficicently, and develop alternative non-carbon energy sources..
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293. weatherboykris
3:46 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
I'm starting to see why STL has his filter on.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
292. weatherboykris
3:46 AM GMT on April 07, 2007
Oh,shut up CB.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346

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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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