The Climate Change Storm

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

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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741. kmanislander
9:48 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

here is a good discussion on the loop current

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740. StoryOfTheCane
2:47 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
why do we need to watch it if there is no storm present?
739. StoryOfTheCane
2:46 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
you mean the loop current?
738. kmanislander
9:44 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
the map is showing the speed and location of the loop current. later on it may show a cut off eddy. these can be particularly dangerous as a hurricane passing over an eddy can ramp up in intensuty very quickly. I believe katrina passed over an eddy before landfall.
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737. StoryOfTheCane
2:45 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
if I had to guess Id say its circulation
736. Tazmanian
2:44 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
it shows you where the loop eddy are and there 2 loop eddy we need to watch
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735. StoryOfTheCane
2:44 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
looks like the S Caribbean blob isnt taking a liking to the 30knots of shear

734. kmanislander
9:42 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

are u referring to the loop current map ?
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733. StoryOfTheCane
2:43 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
732. Tazmanian
2:43 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
you mean this map?

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731. kmanislander
9:39 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Could be N as a rain maker for the Caymans
We sure need it. Been like a desert here since last Nov save for the odd shower or two

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730. StoryOfTheCane
2:39 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
can someone tell me how to read the map that Taz posted at the top? Is it signifying surface circulation or wind speeds?
727. StoryOfTheCane
2:35 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
yeah Doc, I think the blob will head North. As for if it goes inland or not on the way we'll have to see
726. kmanislander
9:33 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

Navy site not down for me

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725. TS2
9:32 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
90L is a great possibility now
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723. ryang
5:27 PM AST on April 09, 2007
The GFS has a storm in the gulf in 10 dats....UNBELIEVABLE!

Kman lol
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722. kmanislander
9:24 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

chances of what, raining in Costa Rica or Panama? lol

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721. kmanislander
9:19 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
hey there storm

Hard to believe that it is almost that time of year again. Water temps in the W Caribbean are already near 83 F.

The " winter " months in the Caymans have been strange with very strong winds out of the NE from Dec all the way to the end of March. We have not seen this pattern for as long as I can remember.

Don't know if it means anything for the upcoming season but the winds have only relaxed in the last week or so. Still hot, dry and dusty. No rain expected until mid May.

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720. ryang
5:17 PM AST on April 09, 2007
Hello all!

My blog has to southern caribbean blob....what are the chances.LOL
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719. StormJunkie
9:14 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Right Islander, June first means there will be a storm! I mean that is how it works since it is the beginning of the season? Right....

lol, good to see you.
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718. kmanislander
9:08 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Hi all

With all this talk of blobs and the loop current June 1st can't be far away !! LOL
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9:08 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
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716. StormJunkie
9:01 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Nice link Pat!
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715. Inyo
8:52 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Do you have evidence either way?? Didn't think so!

I offered an olive branch earlier, but I guess it was passed over.....

hey, i don't have any hostile intentions towards you, and i agree with your conclusions that we should reduce co2 emissions regardless of if it affects the climate. I just don't agree with the mars analogy.
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714. Patrap
3:58 PM CDT on April 09, 2007
GOM Loop current 60 Hour Forecast from the LSU site..Link
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713. DocBen
8:59 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
story - that blob is getting interesting looking. Think it will go west into Costa Rica or lift north?
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712. Hellsniper223
8:49 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
How quickly does the loop current shift in position? Like... Can we expect the current eddies and things of that nature to be near their current positions in the next 3 months?
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711. StoryOfTheCane
1:49 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
710. Tazmanian
1:42 PM PDT on April 09, 2007
the loop eddy in the gulf is doing a un oh thing and it this off of FL oh one more thing we now have a loop eddy in the Carribean


ok that commet got lost lol

whats go for 800 commets
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709. TheCaneWhisperer
8:37 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
That is also Why I think we didn't see the typical El Nino winter this year in certain areas. Mainly the West Coast.
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708. TheCaneWhisperer
8:33 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
I think it may have something to do with the rapid transition cool to warm and back to cool again. I woulden't think the oceans would have a chance to equalize. Just my opinion but, I think it will be a late start this year. With lingering effects of El Nino.
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707. StormJunkie
8:35 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
I did like the name though TCW...

What's up JF and Inyo?
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705. TheCaneWhisperer
8:32 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Yeah, being referred to as PP got old real quick, lol.
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704. Inyo
8:03 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
weird that despite la nina, the tropical north pacific is still above average. does that mean another active e-pac season, or will la nina inhibit that?
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703. StormJunkie
8:25 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
What's up JP!

Good to see ya thel! Whats this debate about?

TCW works better anyway Pulse ;) lol. Good to see ya.

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701. DocBen
8:17 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
thelmores - click on "education" above and then follow all sorts of other links Wunderground provides.
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700. TheCaneWhisperer
8:12 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
ProgressivePulse here SJ and JFlorida! New handle for this year! Good to see some old names coming out again! How you guys been in the off season?
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699. thelmores
8:07 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
"Posted By: Inyo
again, warming on two out of eight (or nine) planets does NOT mean the sun is getting warmer. If all of the planets were warming, it would be a much more convincing argument."

Do you have evidence either way?? Didn't think so!

I offered an olive branch earlier, but I guess it was passed over.....

"We do have global warming, and we do need to reduce pollutants in the atmosphere....... we ought to at least be able to agree on that! :)"

Present your "facts", and let the readers decide! :) Please leave the Al Gore and GW cracks on another site.
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698. StormJunkie
4:04 PM EDT on April 09, 2007
The John Hopkins APL SST maps are pretty interesting for a year to year comparison of sea temps throughout the year. I have the past few years for the GOM and Gulf stream in my blog. There is not enough data there to really say much one way or another on GW and what the exact cause is, but it is still interesting to see. Prior to this cold snap things were considerably warmer then last year. I don't think these maps represent any sort of depth of heat...

Sorry, had the wrong link in there. Should work for now.
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696. Inyo
7:56 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
again, warming on two out of eight (or nine) planets does NOT mean the sun is getting warmer. If all of the planets were warming, it would be a much more convincing argument. The argument for warming caused by solar fluxuations is much weaker than that for CO2 caused warming. However, that doesn't mean they aren't 'comorbid' with each other.. if they are, we're really screwed.
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695. Hellsniper223
7:59 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
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694. TheCaneWhisperer
7:57 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

greater than symbol,img src=urlofpicture,less than symbol

try that lol.
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693. Hellsniper223
7:56 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
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692. TheCaneWhisperer
7:56 PM GMT on April 09, 2007
Sorry img src=URL OF PICTURE Place all of that inside
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691. TheCaneWhisperer
7:55 PM GMT on April 09, 2007

Make sure the picture is not too big, otherwise you will blow the margins on the blog.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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