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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

Sign In or Register Sign In or Register

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 541 - 491

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

541. ryang
7:00 PM AST on April 08, 2007
LOL Cane.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
540. weatherboykris
11:01 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
I don't understand the question.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
539. plywoodstatenative
10:58 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
anyone remember when we had storms that had these names, but were not retired? Basically what I am asking, is there any other year that anyone remembers that all these names were to become storms at the same time
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
538. weatherboykris
10:58 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
No...I didn't notice.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
537. StoryOfTheCane
10:55 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
aww the probability went back to dark purple
536. StoryOfTheCane
10:53 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
anybody else notice how strange the storm names are for this season?
535. weatherboykris
10:48 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
not much
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
534. hurricanetrak6671
10:41 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
hey guys whats up?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
533. StoryOfTheCane
9:46 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
yeah, im not saying im expecting development anytime soon, im just saying you cant rule out something if it has happened before. Obviously you are correct, conditions are not ripe at this time, but can be in a few weeks, its all in the air.
532. hurricane23
5:40 PM EDT on April 08, 2007
SST'S are only slightly above normal across the most areas across the atlantic basin.You can have the warmest water on the planet but if current atmospheric conditions dont favor development the chances for a system to flurish is very low.Adrian
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
531. Patrap
4:42 PM CDT on April 08, 2007
The planet has no EARS..AND CANNOT READ.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
530. StoryOfTheCane
9:38 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
in my opinion the season starts the month the earliest ever recorded storm has occurred, and ends when the latest ever storm occurs.

The season should be April-December, regardless of the inactivity in the early and later months. Doesn't mean storms can't occur during these times, and if this global warming phenomenon is true then we might see a significant extension in the typical hurricane season.
529. Thunderstorm2
9:38 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Hmmmm...first blue of the year...more hmmmm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
528. Patrap
4:38 PM CDT on April 08, 2007
pretty Blue fav color..LOL!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
527. StoryOfTheCane
9:36 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
thanks captain obvious lol jk
526. Patrap
3:50 PM CDT on April 08, 2007
Atlantic Season dont begin till June first.The East Pac Season begins May 15th.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
525. StoryOfTheCane
8:49 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
first blue of the season

524. Thunderstorm2
8:07 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Jaya has finally dissipated and is definitly not expected to reorginize
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
523. Inyo
7:59 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
a giant burning cross in the ocean? That's just weird and morbid.

also, it seems like Dr Grey is about as spot-on with politics as he was with last year's hurricane forecast - aka totally full of it.

comparing Al Gore to Hitler? Come on, I'm no Al Gore fan, but that's ridiculous. At worst, Gore is a hypocrite, not a genocidal mass murderer. Bush has killed way more people than Gore but Bush is nothing compared to Hitler
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
519. BahaHurican
1:27 PM EDT on April 08, 2007

Last year may have been below average, but when u average the last two years, it is immediately obvious that activity is still above average.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
517. BahaHurican
11:54 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
Geez! It took me an hour to read the posts that went up since Friday afternoon!

Happy Easter, all!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
516. AllyBama
11:45 AM CDT on April 08, 2007
christian glitter graphics myspace code christian images
Christian Glitter by

Happy Easter to you and your family Dr. M!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
515. pensacolastorm
11:03 AM CDT on April 08, 2007
sleet in p'cola on Easter...amazing
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
514. BahaHurican
11:27 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
weatherguy03 said: I see 50 years of cooling and right now about 30 years of warming. Given the current AMO cycle, that will give us about another 20 years of warming followed by another trend downward towards the cold end. Its called a cycle.

I see that too. What I also see, however, is that the extent of the warming in this positive part of the cycle already far exceeds the extent of the cooling in the last negative loop. I can see some cause for concern about that.

The problem with everybody who's shouting about this argument is that there just isn't enough data. Even if we DO reduce the release of pollutants into the environment, can we be certain it will impact the warming trend?

It sure isn't an issue to be ignored . . .
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
513. Tazmanian
8:46 AM PDT on April 08, 2007
welll went me say that this is the 1st 500 commet blog i have seen this year on dr m blog when was the last time dr m had 500 commets ? oh well any way whats go for 600 commet
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5101 Comments: 118263
512. hurricane23
11:42 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
Happy Easter Myspace Glitter Graphics
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
511. palmettobug53
3:33 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Dr. M, I hope that you've had a wonderful Easter weekend.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
510. bbreaker
3:32 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
I wish it were warmer for Easter
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
509. charlesimages
3:29 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
508. lilmax
3:15 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Good morning and Happy Easter everyone.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
507. weatherboykris
1:52 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Happy Easter everyone.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
506. rxse7en
9:26 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
Happy Easter all!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
505. Jebekarue
12:36 PM GMT on April 08, 2007
Hi everyone, I am a lurker but I love this blog, dont know much about the weather but pay attention. But if you check out my blog, I have pictures of Pensacola, FL with ice on Easter Sunday morning. Its not alot but its still ice.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
504. bbreaker
11:30 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
I wish Dr Masters and Family Blessed Easter Holiday
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
503. bbreaker
11:27 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
Happy Easter to ALL
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
502. oakland
7:24 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
HAPPY EASTER, DR. MASTERS. Hope you have a wonderful blessed day today.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
501. bbreaker
10:49 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
I wonder what the chances are of the northestern coast of the US getting a Hurricane this year are ??? We are LONG OVER DUE !!!!!
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
500. Raysfan70
6:11 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
{{Dr.Master's and Family}}
MySpace Layouts
MySpace Graphic Codes
Rays,Wobbie and Boys
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
499. StoryOfTheCane
6:04 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
Shear is dropping over the past 24hrs

498. Grifforzer
5:45 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
[location southeast pacific ocean]

Tropical Disturbance (unnumbered)
18.0S 148.0W -- 1006 hPa

moving slowly

Tropical Disturbance Summary
System lies beneath the upper trough axis and will be in an unfavorable area once the trough moves east. The southeast surge by the surface ridge of high pressure to the south maintainins the fresh easterlies south of the system. 10 to 20 knot shear remains over the system with strong shear to the south.

The potential of this disturbance to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours is LOW
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
497. StoryOfTheCane
5:15 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
check out the MPI's. The top one represents the potential mb's in any given location and also gives the SSTs in Degrees Celsius. The bottom shows the potential intensity at any given location.

496. StoryOfTheCane
5:14 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
when the shear drops waves will develop like hotcakes off of Verde. When is the ITCZ expected to rise?
495. hurricane23
12:56 AM EDT on April 08, 2007
In a few months the ITCZ will begin to shift to the north and allow for some off these waves to develope.Many tropical waves roll of the african coast in any given season and only a select few go ahead and develope into tropical cyclones.If development occurs far east the chances of affecting the united states are slim.Anyway hope everyone has a great easter.Take care Adrian

Adrian's Weather
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
493. StoryOfTheCane
4:54 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
lol yes does not answer my question Taz
492. Tazmanian
9:49 PM PDT on April 07, 2007
By: StoryOfTheCane at 9:22 PM PDT on April 07, 2007.

Taz wheres this potential invest you were talking about earlier?

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5101 Comments: 118263
491. Hu
4:38 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
We are getting light sleet in Zachary, La. This situation has never happened before. It is usually warm around this time of year. Totally amazing!!!! My sister called from Alaska. She said that they are having a warm spell. Go figure. Global warming is real and unless we do something about it, we will continue to have these weather anomalies among other issues. Hu

Viewing: 541 - 491

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

Top of Page
Ad Blocker Enabled

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog


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

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Grizzlies in Lake Clark National Park
Mount Redoubt Lava Dome
Matanuska Glacier
Icebergs From Columbia Glacier