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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591. weatherboykris
3:21 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
589. weatherboykris
3:17 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
I mean come on man!That's the same of sticking a Co2 detector near the exhaust pipe of a car!It's gonna vary alot,and won't be a reliable indicator of anything other than if the car's on or off.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
588. weatherboykris
3:16 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Wait for what?
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
586. weatherboykris
3:11 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
They're in Hawaii!Isn't their Co2 concentrtion pretty dependent on volcanic activity?
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
583. weatherboykris
2:57 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
check my blog
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
582. StoryOfTheCane
2:38 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
581. StoryOfTheCane
12:08 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
fairly weak SAL

580. BahaHurican
10:31 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
There's another one.

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579. weatherboykris
2:27 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Yes,it did.Sorry,I'm a bit busy at the moment.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
578. sullivanweather
2:20 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Ivan...Didn't it reach Cat5 after passing the islands, and twice in the northwestern Carribean/southeastern Gulf?
Member Since: March 8, 2007 Posts: 273 Comments: 12612
577. BahaHurican
9:30 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
A bit of trivia -

Which ATL hurricane achieved cat 5 status on three separate occasions without making landfall as a category 5 hurricane?
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576. weatherboykris
2:08 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Never in 650 thousand years,huh?Check this out:
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
574. weatherboykris
1:56 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
I don't have a link...but of course he doesn't deny CO2 is increasing.It's obvious.He just thinnks that it isn't causing GW.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
572. weatherboykris
1:42 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Of course.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
570. weatherboykris
1:31 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
CB...Dr. Gray,in my opinion,is probably right about GW being not human caused,and just a natural cycle.I'm currently researching on a large blog on this issue,that I hope to have finished around the start of hurricane season.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
569. BahaHurican
9:15 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
Daaag . . . not only a flying lawnmower, but a stuntflying lawnmower . . .

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567. BahaHurican
8:53 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
Hmmm. . . I see I was wrong. It went ashore for the final time south of Monterrey, Mexico. It did bring heavy rain to S. Texas, though. Maybe that is what I was recalling.

Gilbert hit the Yucatan as a cat 5!
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566. Skyepony (Mod)
1:04 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
LOL~ I bet we could even come up with making a flying lawnmower that didn't leave chemtrails if we wanted:)
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564. Patrap
8:03 PM CDT on April 08, 2007
Never say it cant be done either...
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562. Patrap
7:56 PM CDT on April 08, 2007
Very well put Skye..I learned one thing as a Mediator in Union disputes years ago.."Some people, if they DONT wanna know, cant tell um". Period. And in the words of a Famous Shrimper,.."dats all Im gonna say Bout that"..
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561. Skyepony (Mod)
12:56 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
Nice research Baha~ I had forgotten who took down Wave Dancer.
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560. Skyepony (Mod)
12:27 AM GMT on April 09, 2007
As recommennded by Dr Masters, I took the 30 mins to read the IPCC summary he linked to. Very informative. Interesting the tropics & poles already mostly having negative impacts. A few islands are gone, the inuitt have moved a few villages, the Alaskin oil pipeline is most threatened, etc. With mid latitudes experencing mostly positives, unless in a heat wave area up to but not past the +2-3 mark, at which would spirel them down a negative effects path as well.

Because of how conservative the IPCC tends to be, having such a huge number of specialists from around the world contributing & or agreeing, disagreeing to come up with percentages of confidence, as does the added amount of global info & research since the last summary of impact (2001), well that's what makes it so ominus. That & realizing it's already happening. It has begun. Even the big oil companies agree...

I don't see the topic being over done here this winter. I see people with opinions that don't want to discuss it even though ice is melting, this changes currents, which effects our weather & how we would predict our weather.

In weather if you don't look at the big picture, your not gonna see what weather is gonna happen.
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559. ryang
8:52 PM AST on April 08, 2007
Baha you have mail!
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558. BahaHurican
8:51 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
Hmmm. . . 2001 was also the year that hurricane hit Nova Scotia, or somewhere in Canada.
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557. BahaHurican
8:48 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
If u are interested, I posted a blog about Michelle.

I find myself going back to read comments from the NHC on past storms. They actually have quite good records of landfalling storms as far back as 1900 at NHC. At slow times (like this) I often browse through. I wish there was more available for Pacific and Indian Ocean storms, though.

I thought Gilbert did hit the US???
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556. jake436
6:43 PM CST on April 08, 2007
Thanks for the info, Baja. I realize storm names can be retired even if they hit somewhere other than the US, but I just didn't follow storms then like I do now, so I just didn't KNOW why they were retired. I do, however, know that there will never be another Mitch, or Gilbert. For obvious reasons, (incredible storms), I remember them, even though they didn't hit the US.
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555. BahaHurican
8:37 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
And here is Michelle:

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552. BahaHurican
8:32 PM EDT on April 08, 2007

Here is a picture of Iris
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551. BahaHurican
7:54 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
Allison caused so much damage from it's flooding rains in the Houston area, it was retired. I don't know why the other two were retired.

Michelle was a freaky and devastating storm that formed in the W. Caribbean and headed NE out of the basin via Cuba. It did quite a lot of damage there before passing into Bahamian waters, where it basically disappated. I remember watching the satellite image as it was basically shredded by the mountains of Cuba. At the time I likened it to a cat running its claws through fluff.

Iris made a run across the Caribbean, hitting southern Belize and Northern Honduras doing quite a bit of damage in the process. NHC says of Iris, "As a result of favorable atmospheric and oceanic conditions, intensification began and the minimum pressure dropped from 990 mb to 950 mb in about 18 hours and the winds increased from 75 to 120 knots. Iris became a powerful Category Four hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS) by 1200 UTC 8 October." Iris was also the storm that capsised the yacht Wave Dancer.

It's good to remember that hurricanes don't have to hit the US for their names to be retired . . .

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550. StoryOfTheCane
11:45 PM GMT on April 08, 2007

549. StoryOfTheCane
11:41 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
im going with May 11th for the first named system
548. jake436
5:34 PM CST on April 08, 2007
LinkHere's the list from '01. No storms made a US landfall as hurricanes, but Allison caused so much damage from it's flooding rains in the Houston area, it was retired. I don't know why the other two were retired.
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545. jake436
5:26 PM CST on April 08, 2007
Yes, but is it the first time a certain name has been used? That, I believe is the question. One or some of the names from 6 years ago may have been retired, and new ones added this year. If none were retired 6 years ago, then all of the names this year were on the list 6 years ago. They are on a 6 year rotation. You can always go check the archives on this site, and see the list from 2001. They should be the same as this year's, unless there are some that were retired after '01.
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544. ryang
7:14 PM AST on April 08, 2007

When viewing the ENSO progression from Dec into March as it rapidly transitioned from warm phase toward cooler La Nia, it appears oceanic circulation continues to drive cooler SST's into the central ENSO region.
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543. weatherboykris
11:09 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
I'm sorry,but I still don't understand the question.If a name is on the list for this year,it hasn't been retired.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
542. plywoodstatenative
11:04 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
I know we had a Hurricane Felix, of the names on the list this year. How many of them became storms, but were not retired. Also of the names on here, were there any that were storms in the same year?
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541. ryang
7:00 PM AST on April 08, 2007
LOL Cane.
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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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