These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.
It's not our imagination.
The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events...and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are shorter and noticeably, measurably milder.
We're all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents "Minnesota."
In 2013 at MPR we're devoting more coverage to the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe. You can hear me discuss the week's top climate stories in our new "Climate Cast" every Thursday morning at 9:50am with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.
Every Thursday, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.
Climate Cast for Janaury 17th, 2013
This week on Climate Cast, we talked about 2012 coming in as the 10th hottest year on record globally.
We also discussed a new forecast that predicts Minnesota's average temperature warming 5 degrees by 2050 with current greenhouse gas emissions.
Here is an edited transcript of the conversation:
Here are some additional climate stories this week:
Seeley: January trending warmer in Minnesota
Mark Seeley highlights some interesting trends toward warmer Januarys in Minnesota in this week's Weather Talk. Here's a preview.
Topic: A measure of persistence in recent January warmth
In addition to the absence of below 0 F January cold, it is noteworthy to examine the signals of persistent warmth in the recent climate data for the month.
Over the past 15 winters the mean value of January temperature on a statewide basis has been below normal in only three years (2004, 2009, and 2011). The other twelve have all been warmer than normal, and four have ranked among the 12 warmest months of January in state history (2001, 2002, 2006, 2012).
In addition over 62 percent of all daily measures of temperature in January have been above normal values. These are measures of persistence. Some individual days have been 25 F or more above normal, such as last January 10 (2012) when the Twin Cities reported a high of 52 degrees F and a low of 27 degrees F. As Paul Huttner has shared on his Updraft blog, the signal of warmth in the winter months has been very pronounced in recent years.
New NOAA CPC outlook favors wetter spring for Minnesota & Upper Midwest:
Looking at the maps, I have a hunch we may trend into a snowier pattern for the second half of winter. NOAA's CPC seems to agree.
Here's the latest precip outlook from NOAA released Thursday.
THE FMA 2013 PRECIPITATION OUTLOOK FAVORS ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION FROM NORTH DAKOTA EASTWARD AND SOUTHEASTWARD ACROSS THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY AND UPPER GREAT LAKES REGION TO ILLINOIS, INDIANA, AND NORTHWESTERN OHIO, AND FOR MUCH OF THE ALASKA PANHANDLE.
This could mean more snow in February & early March...and potentially more rain by late March & April.
It would be a godsend if we can manage a second wet spring in Minnesota for 2013.
Drought eases in South & Ohio Valley but persists in West:
The rain falling on my head in Austin Texas last week felt good, and any rainfall was a welcome sight to Texans.
In fact, it's been a good two weeks of heavy rainfall for the south central USA into the Ohio Valley, with some 5" to 10" rainfall totals.
This week's U.S. Drought Monitor shows the positive effects of that rain, but shows drought hanging tough from the central Plains into Minnesota.
NOAA seems hopeful about some easing of drought for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest by spring. That would be truly good weather news indeed.
Monster Storm Lashing Outer Reaches of Alaska: This is a big one, and impressive from space. 62 foot waves? That's why the call the show "The Deadliest Catch.
Climate Central's Andrew Freedman has details:
An extraordinarily powerful ocean storm, packing hurricane-force winds and waves towering up to 62 feet, has been spinning its way toward Alaska's Aleutian Islands after undergoing a phenomenally rapid intensification process in the Western North Pacific Ocean since Sunday. This satellite image, which captured the storm near its peak intensity on Tuesday, offers a rare glimpse at a storm system of this magnitude.
This visible satellite image shows a massive and intense low pressure system swirling over the Western North Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Credit: Facebook/Stu Ostro via. University of Dundee, Scotland. Click to enlarge the image.
At its most intense point, the storm had an air pressure reading of about 932 mb, roughly equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and more intense than Hurricane Sandy as that storm moved toward the New Jersey coastline in October. (In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.) The storm's central pressure plunged by 48 to 49 mb in just 24 hours, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying storms at a mean latitude of 34°N since 1979, according to a data analysis by Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.
On Tuesday, the storm spanned a staggering 1,440 miles, according to David Snider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Alaska. That's equivalent to the distance between Denver and New York City.
Black Carbon Second Only to CO2 in Heating the Planet:
This one caught my eye. It turns out good old "soot" may be one of the most powerful greenhouse agents.
New research says the second most important heat-trapping pollutant isn't a gas at all: it's black carbon, generated mostly from the burning of diesel fuel, coal and woody plant material.Credit: A6U571N/flickr.
Climate Central's Michael D. Lemonick elaborates:
No discussion of climate change can get very far without focusing on greenhouse gases -- pollutants including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and more, which are trapping heat and driving the planet's temperature upward.
But according to a report published Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, the second most important heat-trapping pollutant isn't a gas at all: it's black carbon, more commonly known as plain old soot, generated mostly from the burning of diesel fuel, coal and woody plant material. "There's a relatively small amount in the atmosphere," said the study's lead author, Tami Bond, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in an interview. "But it's very powerful."
Climate Cast resources:
Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.
-NOAA NCDC's "State of the Climate" report
-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk
-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources
-Mark Seeley's Weather Talk
-Common climate change myths
-Climate change in the news from Climate Central
Would you guys be sensitive to hyperbole and the word history. This morning I heard Mark (?) on NPR talking about the streak of consecutive days without a high below zero. He said something to the effect of this is the longest streak in history. Really, in 4 billion years it’s never gone this long? I’m sure he meant in recorded history in Minnesota. So in the past 130 +- years we haven’t recorded a streak this long. I don’t know why it struck me so this morning. Perhaps I think someone needs to reduce the hyperbole in the climate discussion. Both sides are guilty. I’m sure at some water cooler this morning someone is going to repeat Mark’s claim verbatim and leave people thinking in 4 billion years this has never happened thus the world is ending as one side seems to claim. After all Mark (and yourself) are considered authorities on the topic.
The conversation goes on to talking about the 69 degree high in Montevideo in January 18?? So one hand this is historical below zero high yet over 100 years ago it hit 69 in January. Yes, I realize one is a streak and one is a single data point and they aren’t necessarily related.
I’m not arguing the climate change deniers points. Are we warming, yep, did we cause it, no but probably contributed somewhat, are we going to survive, I have no doubt so let’s all relax and be careful not to freeze the beer on the deck this weekend.
"Both sides are guilty"
There are not two legitimate sides to this issue. There is fact, and there is fantasy.
We have climate data that goes back hundreds of thousands of years because we've drilled ice cores. We can look at long-term trends in atmospheric CO2. We can see that it began to inexorably rise when the industrial revolution started.
Doesn't it strike you as a bit odd that the ten globally warmest years on record all happened since 1998? Or do you, in the face of overwhelming evidence believe that 2 plus 2 equals 5?
Ultimately, the debate over climate change needs to end. The climate is changing; the facts cannot be denied. We can sit and pointlessly argue over the cause. But the bottom line is that we need more efficient and cleaner forms of energy. For starters, burning less oil is a good thing no matter the motivation. I think we can all agree on that.
Just because you don’t think it’s legitimate doesn’t mean there aren’t other sides. A current fundamental problem these days, not recognizing other points of view.
We certainly have ice cores that tell us the data at a particular site. Certainly gives us a clue to global conditions when combined with other sites. But do you really think Greenland, Antarctica, maybe Alaska, Canada and Russia plus a few mountain glaciers can tell us what the high temperature at MSP was for the last 1466 days? I’m certainly no climate expert but can the cores tell you the high temperature January 18, 1527? Because you know it might have been 1467 days without having a high below zero at that point.
No, the cluster since ‘98 is no stranger than the clusters of records in the 1930’s. It’s also no stranger than the sunspot cycle or the hurricane cycle before we identified those cycles. It’s also no stranger than the Medieval warm period or the Dark Ages mini ice age.
So should we have ended the debate in the late ‘30’s on climate change? Maybe we should have ended it in the ‘70’ with the next ice age coming. Maybe we should have ended the debate on an Earth centered universe way back when?
That may be your bottom line but remember there is no free lunch. You can stop burning oil but as long as you use energy there are consequences to the production. Batteries – mining and geopolitical reliance shifting from Mid-East to China. Nuclear – mining and waste. Solar – currently inefficient conversion, effects on the ground now shaded below, probably mining and production waste. Gas – still produces CO2 and fraking may be a problem that we haven’t discovered yet. Wind – how about all those death birds and ground vibrations, production of the equipment. Sure some are better than others on a particular issue but none is without consequences.
And all this is largely irrelevant because we’re all downwind of China and India. Yes, the climate is changing, but so what? There will be winners and loser, that’s life. No matter what we do it will change back. Humans have shown a nearly infinite ability to adapt. If we fail I’m not worried about Mother Earth, she’ll be around long after us no matter what we do. Humans by definition are an anomaly on this planet as far as we know.
Sorry folks and especially Paul, this wasn’t meant to be a climate debate. I was just pointing out the hyperbole of ‘history’ with only 130 years of data out of 4.5 billon years, or even 50,000 or so years of modern humans.
Thanks for the comments Chris & Disco.
I very much appreciate and welcome the discussion in this forum, and the high level of thinking the two of you present to our audience.
Chris I think what Disco is trying to say here is that the facts of climate science are quite literally settled to the highest degree of scientific certainty...far beyond any reasonable doubt. The earth is rapidly getting measurably warmer, greenhouse gasses are measurably increasing in the atmosphere and human activity can be measurably fingered as a major cause.
Now we can reasonably debate what, if anything to do about that as individuals, a country or a planet. That's policy and politics. It's the perfect place for that kind of discussion.
Climate Cast stops at science. We inform about climate change and climate science. We do not advocate any specific policy or course of action. We are mindful to try and stay in a credible, journalistic mode. Inform on the science, and leave policy to citizens and policy makers.
I'm sure Mark meant to say (or did say) "on record" when referring to the sub -zero data. He is always very mindful of that and has taught me and others in this market to be accurate about what we say regarding weather records.
Chris, each of your specific notions and assertions on climate change science are common "myths" and objections that are often raised, but do not pass the test of climate science. I encourage you to read the science behind each one here.
Also, you can find many links at the end of each Climate Cast post to study the latest, peer reviewed science on climate change.
Thanks for the excellent discussion!
you make a few good points, and I certainly agree that hyperbole is counterproductive to a general understanding of the issues involved. That said, your tone strikes me as being rather fatalistic - something along the lines that its gonna to happen anyway, so what the hell, lets not worry. Well, I am worrying, if no other reason than I want my children to experience the beaty of growing up in the northland. That means pond-hockey in the winter, lots of snow for skiing, etc. I am not ready to kiss that good-bye without a fight. And I willing contribute my tax dollars to make it happen. Call me naive, but I believe its not too late to make a difference. Peace.