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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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
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490. StoryOfTheCane
4:29 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
lol look at Africa right now, there are people saying this is going to be an average season
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489. StoryOfTheCane
4:27 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
i wonder what the highest amount of shear a storm has ever managed to muster in is
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488. alphawulf
11:25 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Could be--1971 was reasonably active--but not for us
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487. StoryOfTheCane
4:23 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
or this?

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486. StoryOfTheCane
4:22 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
do you mean the Caribbean activity?

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485. StoryOfTheCane
4:22 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
Taz wheres this potential invest you were talking about earlier?
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484. Tazmanian
9:19 PM PDT on April 07, 2007
i am sick of hearing of GW it been talking about it all winter
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483. StoryOfTheCane
4:18 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
guess what that all means, alpha, when you have any type of ice or snow this usually means your climate is lacking adequate amounts of water vapor in the air, and if you are in a hurricane prone area it is not something you want this time of year to have happen
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482. StoryOfTheCane
4:17 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
but I do agree Im totally sick of hearing about it, its just if it comes up as a blog that Dr. Masters writes about it makes it hard for others not to discuss it
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481. alphawulf
11:17 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Get this--sleet by UNO too

Statement as of 3:20 PM CDT on April 07, 2007

... Freeze warning in effect from 2 am to 7 am CDT Sunday...

The National Weather Service in New Orleans has issued a freeze
warning... which is in effect from 2 am to 7 am CDT Sunday.

Unseasonably cold air will cause overnight lows to fall to near
freezing Sunday morning across southwest Mississippi and east
central Louisiana... posing a threat to tender vegetation.
Residents are urged to protect sensitive plants overnight
tonight. On the South Shore of Lake Pontchartrain... temperatures
are expected to fall to near 40 degrees.

The cold temperatures are 20 to 25 degrees below normal. Freezing
temperatures in April are exceedingly rare in our area. The
latest freezes on record at New Orleans International Airport are
April 8th 1971... and April 13th 1940 in Baton Rouge.

A freeze warning means freezing temperatures are imminent or
highly likely. These conditions will kill crops and other
sensitive vegetation.
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480. StoryOfTheCane
4:08 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
well until we have our first invest theres not much else to discuss at the moment, theres no reason to be so emotionally unstable that you can't take hearing someone else's opinion
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479. Tazmanian
9:14 PM PDT on April 07, 2007
oh gives a rate about global warming evere time i come on this blog its about global warming
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478. StoryOfTheCane
4:08 AM GMT on April 08, 2007
lol everybody is still talking about global warming today?
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477. jake436
10:02 PM CST on April 07, 2007
I can't wait until we actually have blogs about the tropics here again. Every time GW is the topic, it gets ugly on here. I have my opinion, and there are plenty with the opposite one. 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. This is such an inexact science, and I'm not enough of an alarmist to buy into it, nor do I completely refuse to believe it. I just know that every time it's brought up here, it turns into a polital discussion, which almost always gets out of hand.

That being said, I know for a fact that, today, 4/7/07, while boiling crawfish at my in laws in Metairie, LA, the party had to be moved indoors due to SLEET! I know that doesn't discount GW, but it's damn funny!

Someone mentioned earlier in the blog that both Gore and Bush were idiots, and that doesn't mean conservatives should give up their beliefs just because Bush is an idiot. True, but Bush isn't winning Oscars for his idiocy, and he's not being praised by the alarmists on TWC, or this site.

I enjoy the blog, and have for years as a lurker, and a year as a poster. But the GW debate deserves it's own blog, one that I can avoid completely, while I visit here and learn about tropical weather. That's the only reason I visit this site, and that is what it's advertised as being about. It's your blog, Dr. M, and you may not give a rip if I like the topic you choose. But that's my $.02, for what it's worth.
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476. Tazmanian
5:21 PM PDT on April 07, 2007
: hurricanic dont fell up the dr m blog with youtube it will slow the blog down
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474. lightning10
10:18 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I am convinced that So Cal is getting the most boring weather in the nation right know. Thinking about it makes me tired. We are getting the very tail end of a weak weather system. Not even enough to get rain just AM clouds in the beaches and Valleys and just a hint of drizzle here or there. Nothing at all to get excited about.
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9:31 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
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471. Thunderstorm2
9:03 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Could Be
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 130 Comments: 7608
470. hurricanic
9:01 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I suppose this is what you would call an "eddy."

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469. hurricanic
8:57 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
This is definitely a dust devil, and an awesome one, at that!

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468. Thunderstorm2
8:52 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
That's what i'm thinking with the fan.

the 2nd one is definitly a Dust Devil
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467. hurricanic
8:53 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Cyclonebuster, I have no idea. I didn't shoot the video.
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465. hurricanic
8:48 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
That's what it looks like, Thunderstorm2, but I don't quite understand how it originated. I wish the guy moved the camera up so we can see what the ceiling looks like--if there's a fan.

Here's another cool video...a dust devil, at the beach! Actually, this may be a weak water spout, rather.

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464. Thunderstorm2
8:42 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
A little dirt devil in a room?
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 130 Comments: 7608
463. hurricanic
8:40 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Do you guys know how this was formed? It's pretty cool.

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462. sullivanweather
8:35 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Everytime a global warming report comes out or Al Gore goes somewhere to make a speech about global warming it seems as though snow and record cold are right around the corner (a tip for forecasters).

I'm only kidding of course...
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461. Patrap
3:28 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Current Conditions
Updated: 2 sec ago
Disable Rapid Fire About Rapid Fire
Observed at: Highway Park, Kenner, Kenner, Louisiana
Elevation: -
[Light Rain]
53.4 F / 11 C
Light Rain Ice Pellets
Humidity: 28%
Dew Point: 21 F / -6 C
Wind: 5.8 mph / 9 km/h from the SW
Wind Gust: 5.8 mph / 9 km/h
Pressure: 30.26 in / 1024.6 hPa
Visibility: 10.0 miles / 16.1 kilometers
UV: 3 out of 16
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy 7000 ft / 2133 m
Overcast 13000 ft
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140095
460. wxfan
8:20 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Bill Gray disagrees with the UN:
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459. Thunderstorm2
8:18 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
It will be my first Hurricane season with him in it.
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 130 Comments: 7608
458. plywoodstatenative
8:17 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Thunder, the momment he gets nailed by a storm. Then his written in stone will cease and desist
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457. Thunderstorm2
8:14 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I thought that 4.3 N latitude was too close to the equator to get a cyclonic spin----

Well it is in away but it is possible for the system to get a spin going.

if its a busy season then StormTop will be here unfortunately

I will not be able to cope with his 'written in stone' forecasts
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 130 Comments: 7608
456. Patrap
3:13 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Sleet here in Kenner west of New Orleans..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140095
455. plywoodstatenative
8:07 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Thunder, if its a busy season then StormTop will be here unfortunately. I wish that guy on no one here at all.
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453. Thunderstorm2
8:02 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Tropical Disturbance ex-Jaya 20 knots 1008 hPa (This System's not going to give up)

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Disturbance Summary
The Area of covection previously located near 18.5S
40.1E is now located near 18.5S 40.1E, approximatly 375 nm west of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Maximum sustained surface winds are estimated at 22 to 27 knots. Minimum sea level pressure is estimated to be near 1002 mb

The Potential for the development of a significant Tropical Cyclone in the next 24 hours remains FAIR

Storm Name- Invest 95B

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Disturbance Summary
The Area of covection has presisted near 4.3N 77.2, approximatly 220 nm sothwest of Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Maximum sustained surface winds are estimated at 20 to 25 knots. Minimum sea level pressure is estimated to be near 1004 mb

The Potential for the development of a significant Tropical Cyclone in the next 24 hours is upgraded to POOR
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 130 Comments: 7608
451. cajunkid
2:10 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Sleet in Louisiana the day b/f Easter :o
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450. hurricanic
6:52 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Another beautiful image from GOES Project Sceince!

Image Hosted by
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449. pottery
2:07 PM AST on April 07, 2007
Not if you are receiving it, CB........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 26675
447. Patrap
12:41 PM CDT on April 07, 2007
Expedition 15 now safely on-orbit after a on time launch and ride up. Rendevouz with ISS to occur Monday.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140095
445. hurricanic
5:31 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Exactly, hurricane23.
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444. hurricane23
1:26 PM EDT on April 07, 2007
54 days till hurricane season but we could also very well not see our first system develope till late july early august.
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443. hurricanetrak6671
5:23 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Thats compleatly true taz
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442. Tazmanian
10:16 AM PDT on April 07, 2007
By: hurricanetrak6671 at 10:09 AM PDT on April 07, 2007.

Hey taz, ur one of the luckeys guy going out and filming a hurricane for the weather channel i would love to caputuer the natral beauty of a hurricane

well i do not wrok for the weather ch i wish i did lol but i do rec hurricane when they do make land fall i rec hurricane from my own TV from TWC and cnn and i hop i get some this year to not that i want a hurrican to make lanf all onany one but hey you cant tell them where to go they go where they want to go
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441. hurricanetrak6671
5:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Omg only54 days until the offical start of the atlantic hurricane season!!!!
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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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