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.

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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640. thelmores
4:15 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

Gulf..... good to see you haven't lost your sense of humor! :D
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638. thelmores
3:58 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Well..... I see the sky is falling again! LOL

While we are debating "global warming", maybe somebody can explain the fact that "There were settlements along the southern coast of Greenland in the Middle Ages. "

who caused the global warming then???

Please don't get me wrong, I do agree the earth is warming, and I do agree we need to reduce pollution emissions..... but I see these as two different issues.

Bottom line, we still don't know "why" the earth is warming.....

It certainly is a very active time for the sun.... and polar ice caps are melting on mars.....

You make your own judgments, but in the end, we may not have as much to do with climate change as we think..... If I am wrong, I am waiting for the day for somebody to prove it conclusively.....

i would like for somebody to acknowledge that the earth has warmed before...... and man "was not" the cause..........
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637. Patrap
11:06 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
hello junkie.! lets see "Hmmm,..2400 New York Cabs..thats in Queens 1 mile in 60 seconds..while I type this.(im slow)..x 60 minutes in an Hour x's all those others cabs with Humans. and lets throw in all those French cabs..those ASians cabs..x 2400 miles..SHoot..Theres ya Probelm.!" .8
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636. cajunkid
11:00 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
StormJunkie, nice to see you back!
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635. franck
3:54 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
I've seen this piece of news on major network television this morning, and it is all over the internet. How do you think the media is treating the story of a gas guzzling vehicle transporting cats 2400 miles with no return fare??...'Ohh, isn't that sweet, retirees riding with pets from New York to Arizona'.
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634. cajunkid
10:54 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
Panama is about to get some rough stuff Link
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633. TheCaneWhisperer
3:53 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Sure is Cajunkid! It appears to have a surface or mid-level reflection also! If it had more time before it hit land, maybe! Shear is, dare I say it, rather low down there.
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632. cajunkid
10:27 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
We had a discussion over some Easter BBQ grandfather (who was a farmer all his life like his dad and grandfather)said, he has been watching the weather for 60 years b/c he had to, and GW or not, our climate changes. This may sound too simple and ignorant, but listening to him and his references to his father and grandfather, he makes a good case in stating that. We just don't know what is actually going on. All we know is that it cycles. Warmer and colder every 50 years. Now, if each warmer cycle is warmer than the last warmer cycle, it may just be a cycle in itself. We just don't know. I know everyone sites scientific evidence of everything. You have to ask yourself, do we really have enough info to make statements as fact? He really has no affinity to any political party or group and says, if you wade through all the muck (not the actual term he used)...we are just scratching the surface on the issue.
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631. franck
3:45 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Michael...the truth is practically nobody of substance is being listened to about global warming. As a matter of fact the global military/industrial complex which controls every media syllable you read or hear is gung ho on consuming every ounce of fuel on the planet and setting it afire, if it generates more profits.
If you want that proven in a nutshell, go to this article, which has been picked up by all the major media news services. Not a word of the bestial wastefulness of this act has been alluded to.
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630. MisterPerfect
3:47 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Great, another global warming topic..wake me up when we get to Mexico...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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629. StormJunkie
11:40 AM EDT on April 09, 2007
Morning all. Good to see everyone.

Been awhile pat and Cajun!
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628. Caffinehog
3:19 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Not really a sponge, CB....

Imagine using a tire pump to try to pump up a tire with a slow leak. The more you pump, the harder it is to put more air in. But the more you pump, the faster it leaks! And on a hot day, the pressure is higer, so it leaks faster and it's harder to pump!

In fact, this is a particularly good analogy... It works on almost exactly the same principle as the oceans absorbing CO2!
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627. DocBen
3:31 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
The difference between today's stories on GW and those 'popular press' stories in an ice age is that back then there were not such stories in the technical literature. In fact, I think the ice age stories were based on a supposition that THOUSANDS OF YEARS FROM NOW the Milankovitch cycles would take us back into a glaciation. Back then we were only beginning to understand these things.
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626. weathermanwannabe
3:25 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
As I live in North Florida now (after moving here some years ago from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale), I will encourage my kids (and future grandchildren) to buy property up here so my family in South Florida can "relocate" in the coming generations........Very sobering indeed if this comes to fruition in the next 50-75 years...........
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624. airman45
3:21 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
All I know is, in the late 70's, there were cover stories about "The Next Ice Age" on Time and Newsweek. That's what the alarmists of the time believed. I imagine alot of the same alarmists are running around today screaming about GW. We haven't had satellites long enough to prove that there are more frequent or more powerful storms now than in the past. The only way storms could be reported in the past were if they hit a populated area...I'm not talking about since the 1800's, I'm talking about since the beginning of time. GW alarmists seem to only go by data collected from the last 30 years or so.

Thank you jake436. Im glad someone remembers the Ice Age scares from the 70s. I never heard a word about GW back then. Too much is based on short term data.
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622. cajunkid
10:10 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
There is a mean little storm just off the coast of PanamaLink
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621. txag91met
2:52 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
In the meantime, Texas has had the latest snowfall (measurable) ever recorded. Waco, TX reported 3", Temple had 4.5".

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620. cajunkid
9:42 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
FL might accually get some rain. I hope ya'll do get some! I know it pretty crispy down there.
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619. biff4ugo
7:02 AM EST on April 09, 2007
It is interesting that Florida is expected to get cooler in this scinerio. But Hurricane impacts will make up for that good news.
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618. Patrap
8:19 AM CDT on April 09, 2007
Morning "Latte Spill"...
Entergy to begin charging for fund
Fee provides reserve for future storms

Monday, April 09, 2007
By Pam Radtke Russell

Entergy New Orleans customers' bills will be a little bit longer and a little bit higher this month as the utility begins to build up a $75 million fund to pay for damages from future storms.

The "storm reserve rider," as listed on bills under both gas and electric service, will cost the average household $2.59 a month: $2.01 for electric service and 58 cents for gas service.

The charges were approved in October by the New Orleans City Council as part of a settlement with Entergy New Orleans, which asked to raise rates and to create a storm reserve fund. The settlement also calls for natural gas rates to increase this month by about 2 percent, or $3.75 a month for the average customer. In all, the agreement allows Entergy to raise electric and gas rates, including the storm reserve rider, by about 7.5 percent through April 2009.

Entergy New Orleans had insisted that it be allowed to collect money for a storm reserve fund, saying such a fund might be necessary for it to emerge from bankruptcy. Entergy New Orleans has been in bankruptcy since weeks after Hurricane Katrina but is still operating.

In part, the company went into bankruptcy because it did not have the cash flow to repair damage to its gas and electric systems. The reserve fund is expected to be sufficient to cover damage from future storms while averting any similar financial crisis.

"We know any bill increase, particularly in these difficult times, is unpopular. But we also know that after a storm, everyone wants their lights turned on as quickly as possible, and given the post-Katrina realities, this is the most responsible way to achieve that goal," said Morgan Stewart, a spokesman for Entergy New Orleans. "The storm reserve gives Entergy New Orleans the ability to restore the New Orleans electric and gas systems following future disasters, without burdening customers with the costs."

Entergy had originally requested that it be allowed to collect about $6 per month from every customer to create a $150 million fund. That request was deemed excessive by the City Council Utilities Committee and cut to $75 million.

The fee will be collected for 10 years. The City Council will review the collections in five years to make sure the fund amount is "appropriate," according to the agreement between the city and Entergy.

According to the agreement with the city, the money will be put in a separate "lock box" escrow fund that Entergy New Orleans will not be able to access unless it incurs at least $500,000 in storm costs.

As interest accumulates in the account, Councilwoman Shelley Midura said, it might become possible to reduce the amount collected.

Midura also said that such a fund, because it will provide assurances that Entergy New Orleans can better survive future storms, will allow the company to borrow money at lower rates, a savings that eventually could be passed on to customers.

Storm reserves were developed because standard insurance is not readily available on wires, poles and other portions of a utility's system that are most likely to be damaged in a hurricane. They aren't unique to New Orleans, nor are they unprecedented here.

Though it wasn't collected under a separate line item on customer bills, Entergy New Orleans had such a fund until it was wiped out by Hurricane Cindy in 2005.

As part of its agreement with the city, Entergy agreed to work with the city to urge that Congress amend the Stafford Act, which governs emergency federal spending. The amendment would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of utility damage in future storms.

If such a change were made, the storm reserve rider could become unnecessary, Midura said.
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617. refill
8:19 AM AST on April 09, 2007
The other hurricane that reach category 5 status en three times without make landfall as a Cat5 was Hurricane Allen in 1980
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614. Caffinehog
8:40 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
The Earth has a fever!

And the only perscription is...

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613. Caffinehog
8:22 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Actually, the oceans haven't absorbed all of the CO2... there's an equalibrium... Most, yes, all, no. And if the ocean warms, it will hold less as the equalibrium shifts!

Now, I see somebody say to make the ocean more alkaline. That's funny. It would take roughly 240 cubic kilometers of NaOH to make the ocean 0.01 pH point more basic. And how do we make NaOH? Electricity, and lots of it. And where do we get electricity??? Oh, yeah, we burn fossil fuels.
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609. weatherboykris
3:53 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
I stand corrected.It happens,goodnight
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
608. bappit
3:53 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
wbk: Carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid and similar acids when dissolved in water. See this link.

"It is estimated that the oceans have absorbed around half of all CO2 generated by human activities since 1800."

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604. weatherboykris
3:46 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
603. weatherboykris
3:45 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
You don't know what you're talking about.CO2 has nothing to do with acidity.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
600. weatherboykris
3:32 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Alright,what does acidity have to do with CO2?Nothing!
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
599. weatherboykris
3:30 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
You're absolutely right.I'm sorry,I'm an ignorant fool and I should've realized you can get consistent readings by putting a CO2 detector near a volcano.Forgive me for my ignorance!
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
597. sullivanweather
3:25 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
cyclonebuster, Proxy CO2 data is taken from Vostok, which typically runs 10ppm lower than readings taken at Mauna Loa, not that it's any consolation (Vostok will be where Mauna Loa is today in 6 or 7 years (CO2-wise)).

However, it's just another example of how far the GW crowd will go make everything seem much worse than it really is.
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595. weatherboykris
3:27 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
The point is that to stick a CO2 detector on a volcanic island and expect meaningful results is stupid.
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594. weatherboykris
3:25 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
You could stick it over the open ocean.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
592. weatherboykris
3:21 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
591. weatherboykris
3:21 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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