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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841. cajunkid
1:57 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
What happens when the pine needles are covered with snow?
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
840. franck
1:43 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
HopquickSteve....whole premise of that 'pseudoscientific' article is flawed. Forested areas may not reflect sunlight to the extent snow and ice does, but forests do not absorb nor concentrate heat. Cellulose lacks the density necessary for heat absorption. That's why you can handle leaves on a 100 degree sunny day, and not get burned. Try that with black asphalt.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
839. HopquickSteve
1:28 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Now some ppl are saying the deforestation will stop global warming. Can we all just collectively go, "huh?"

Link to "Deforestation = Cooling" article
Member Since: May 17, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 635
838. TheCaneWhisperer
1:27 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
argggg! Looks like the rain is gonna miss South FL today!
837. cajunkid
1:27 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
DocBen, at least FL has better roads than we do here in LA
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
836. cajunkid
1:25 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Cane, yea
you have to set almost every page/app. you view...its a royal pain
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
835. cajunkid
1:17 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
can anyone tell where the warmest water in the GOM is? Link
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
834. TheCaneWhisperer
1:15 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Morning Thel
833. TheCaneWhisperer
1:15 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Tech Support said it had to do with all the security verification. Things that used to automatically complete tasks now need verification that you want that to happen and it would shut down the program as a result.
832. thelmores
1:06 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
morning everybody! :)
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3788
831. cajunkid
1:05 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
I can usually fix most things on my pc, but vista...another animal

Cane, thanks
looks like I'm gonna fire up the dinosaur
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
830. TheCaneWhisperer
1:00 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
My design software would not work with it and the manufacturer said it will be a year or more before it will be able to run with vista.
829. TheCaneWhisperer
12:59 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Your going to hate Vista in Advance applications. I ended up switching back to XP because I was running into so many problems. For everyday applications it is great but, in more advanced programs and software it is horrible.
828. TheCaneWhisperer
12:55 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
I don't know Cajun but it is getting pretty darn bad. The lake behind my house is about dried up, down 8 feet.
827. DocBen
12:55 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
cajunkid - I think it has to do with the subsidence under the Farrell-Hadley cell boundary. That has shifted to higher latitude.
Member Since: May 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 98
826. cajunkid
12:55 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
anyone know why I can't get the noaa models to loop? It will load and play sometimes and then sometimes nothing on all resolutions !@$#%%^@%^!
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
825. cajunkid
12:50 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
arrgg...vista is not loop or applet friendly
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
824. geographerguy
12:45 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Thanks Patrap. True enough. I guess I was thinking that often we refer to a hurricane in shorthand as a cat 5, with no detailed report for obvious reasons. I just liked the idea of
a shorthand like 5-5 or 5-4. Point well taken though.
823. K8eCane
12:45 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
you all know that the weather channel is Gods favorite sitcom
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3041
822. MisterPerfect
12:36 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Not likely cajun.. :(

Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20123
821. cajunkid
12:30 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
I've been watching the drought in south FL...for the life of me...why wont it rain south of the tropic line?


Just thinking out loud, and feeling for you guys down there.

Maybe today is the buster!
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1276
820. Patrap
12:30 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
ALL Hurricane Advisories contain that info already. All Offical NHC advisories have the Hurricane force wind field..and HOW far the Hurricane force winds extend from the center. They also include How far out Tropical Storm winds extend out from the center.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125753
819. MisterPerfect
12:28 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
Nelson: War hurting hurricane efforts

JACKSONVILLE -- (AP) -- The war in Iraq has depleted the equipment inventory of the National Guard, potentially hampering its response to the predicted heavy hurricane season, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said.

The Florida National Guard has only 53 percent of the dual-use equipment it once had for responding to a storm or domestic disturbance, a recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office found. Texas, California and Louisiana also have about half of their dual-use equipment available to nondeployed Army National Guard forces.

''Problems from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the Florida National Guard further than ever before, leaving it without all the resources it should have for responding to a domestic crisis,'' Nelson said. ``Hurricane season is coming fast, and we need to make sure the Guard has what it needs.''

The hurricane season, which runs June 1 through Nov. 30, is predicted to be worse than recent years.

Florida has about 600 to 700 soldiers in Iraq. Members were sent overseas with their equipment, but when they come back, the gear often stays in the war zones.

The Florida Guard was down 500 Humvees, 600 trucks, short 4,000 pairs of night vision goggle and needed 30 more wreckers, spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle said.

Yet Tittle said sufficient manpower and equipment remained to respond to a major hurricane, and additional supplies could be borrowed from other states or rented if needed.

But Nelson questioned the lag time and the fact that the other state Guard units also are facing the same depletion of equipment problems.

''I know that at the highest levels . . . they are concerned about this,'' Nelson, a Democrat, said.

Nelson said a memorandum of understanding between the Army and the National Guard could allow Gov. Charlie Crist to use Army Reserve trucks and generators upon the declaration of a state of emergency. Without such a memorandum, the governor has to go through a bureaucratic process to request that the president release Reserve equipment that is being held unused in Florida.



Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 71 Comments: 20123
818. geographerguy
12:16 PM GMT on April 10, 2007
I've often thought that measuring hurricanes by highest windspeeds alone isn't really enough. Maybe someone in this community, or maybe Dr. Masters could propose an additional category based on how far hurricane force winds extend from the center of the storm. You could take the smallest on record, the largest and divide it into 5 categories. So Katrina for example might be a 5-5.
Any thoughts?
817. StoryOfTheCane
6:07 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
the high is building up

815. verity
4:54 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Some of you might be interested in how the IPCC reports are put together...you may surprised and perhaps a bit dismayed.

Although there are many competent scientists in the various WGs (Working Groups), the Panel is directed by just a handful of scientists and an overwhelming majority of politicians who represent the 120 nations that comprise the Panel. This latter group is responsible for the SPM (Summary for Policy Makers). The WG reports usually run to about 30-50 pages; the SPM about 5-10. The SPM was released in February. The WG report issued last Friday was actually in completed draft form almost a year ago last May and was available on the Net shortly thereafter. If there are differences in the thrust of the SPM and WG reports, the differences must be settled before the combined (Synthesis) Report is issued, and differences there were.

Now if you really want to see how sausages are made, the regulations for accomplishing this can be found in paragraphs 4.3 to 4.4 of Appendix II: Procedures for the Preparation, Review, Acceptance, Adoption, Approval, and Publication of IPCC Reports. So, here is the kicker: Any differences between the science WGs report and the mostly politically orchestrated SPM Panel report must be resolved in favor of the SPM! What that means is that its the politicians, not the scientists who have the last word. This makes a complete mockery of what science is all about.

N.B. Since I just started posting here I'm a bit confused about the protocols and put this piece elsewhere. I'll try not to double-post in the future.
813. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:39 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
thats exacly what happen and continues to happen till la nina levels off then intense heat of summer starts its march north in late may by jul we may see the start of the 30 day heat wave temp at 100 or greater that will cover pretty much all of north america till the first intense storms of the season starts showing up by mid august.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52406
811. TheCaneWhisperer
4:16 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
This has already happend about a month ago and La Nina Continues to grow.
810. TheCaneWhisperer
4:13 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
at the end of an El Nio, surface currents return to their normal conditions, but they often first overshoot that condition, resulting in unusually cold waters along the Peruvian coast and in the eastern equatorial Pacific -- this unusually cold water along the equator causes the intertropical convergence zone (the doldrums) to shift northward, which then displaces the jet stream and leads to droughts in the U.S.

Both observations in the US this year!

credit to maritime.haifa.ac.il
809. Tazmanian
4:02 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
yes we are all most at 800 what try for 900 but dont think we will make it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114075
808. BahaHurican
3:56 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Well, Taz, it looks like we hit 800 for the first time this year. Imagine once the season actually starts! 1500+ posts a day will be the norm . . .
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20744
807. Tazmanian
3:48 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
bump
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114075
806. TheCaneWhisperer
3:03 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Hurricane Myths! Hurricane Cycles run about 12 years.
805. bbreaker
3:02 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
South florida needs rain as does ALL of Florida. I was there and I know
804. TheCaneWhisperer
3:01 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Doing a little Research! Every year that transitioned from a warm phase to a cool phase early to mid year resulted in an active hurricane season. The most recent notables are 1995 and 2005. 1995 had 19 named storms and 2005 had 28. Dr. Grey also referenced some analog years prior to the recent warm phase, 1964 being the most active with 14 storms. Also interesting is the names for 1995 closely match the names for 2007!
803. thelmores
2:57 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
"Posted By: DocBen
thelmores - click on "education" above and then follow all sorts of other links Wunderground provides."

I'll do that friend..... thanks! :)

Night to all my weather friends....

Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3788
802. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:23 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
nice blob looks like a little burst of engery nuttin much be gone by dawn 07 will lull us to sleep storms come late after the heat
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52406
801. BahaHurican
2:22 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
On that loop current map, I keep looking at the two super-loops on the west coast side of Panama . . . talk about fuel for a passing Twave . . .

Oh, wait.

No passing twaves so far . . .

Whew.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20744
800. BahaHurican
2:17 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
G'nite all!

I see a crowd of last year's usual suspects are here tonight! Talk about old home week . . .

I noticed kman talking earlier about the abnormal wind from the NE, and I want to say - give me back my wind pattern! We've had more days with winds from the W and S than we usually see in the 1st three months of the year.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20744
798. TayTay
2:08 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
That blob will look like a wisp of clouds by tomorrow. It does look impressive now, but like 95% of last year's blobs, it will die.
797. Ldog74
1:54 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Hurricanesurvivor, the question is not whether the earth is warming, because we can see that it is, and has been doing so for the last 10,000 years even with a few blips in the overall curve such as the Middle Ages mini Ice age and other such events, but whether humans, our pollutants, and other things are causing more than a negligible amount of Global Warming.
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 165
796. DocBen
1:45 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Survivor - not an alarmist - a REALIST. The evidence is overwhelming.
Member Since: May 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 98
794. KYhomeboy
1:08 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
SW Carib is starting to look interesting. Maybe keep an eye on this one....
793. taco2me61
12:40 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
JP whats up and yes I will go over and check it out...



BRB

Taco:0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3182
791. HurricaneSurvivor
12:37 AM GMT on April 10, 2007
Wow, I use to come to this site for good information about the weather. Now Dr. Masters has become a global warming alarmist. What a pity.

I think I"ll go exercise but then again, I might create more C02. ;)

Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 16

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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.