Climate Adaptation


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Aaaaand here we go again… Next week’s forecast…

Connecting the Dots: Adaptation + Mitigation Synergies

How did they know the global average temperature in 1880? -a curious science follower

A question by Anonymous

Hey anon,

Great question! Simplest answer: thermometers. Simple instruments such as thermometers and barometers have been used for centuries. Governments began to collect data from these instruments beginning in the early 1700s. (There are early data sets, but these focused on local or route specific locations rather than globally. For example, shipping companies collected ocean temperatures during the 1600s along specific routes to report conditions to insurance companies.).

The old-school instruments were placed in locations all around the world (locations ranged from trees, church steeples and clocks, tall poles, cliff faces, to just stuck in the ground). Governments collected the temperatures typically for military, farming, and shipping purposes.

The U.S. Weather Bureau, established in 1735, was sporadically managed by a few individual states (rather than the Federal Government). The bureau collected local information - not global.

In 1814, the U.S. Federal Government established the U.S.’s first nation wide weather service. Army doctors and ‘war’ hospitals were instructed to keep diaries of local weather. But, again, this was not a global system.

In 1870, President Ulysses Grant established the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS):

The beginning of the National Weather Service we know today started on February 9th, 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a joint resolution of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to establish a national weather service. This resolution required the Secretary of War:

to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms

After much thought and consideration, it was decided that this agency would be placed under the Secretary of War because military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations. Via NOAA

The NWS worked internationally. It collected data from its own instruments, and also from data shared by other countries, such as Denmark, France, India, and the U.K.

The NWS’s information was collected over time, and digitized into big data sets. These sets are used today!

The chart below shows temperature data over 1,000 years. (NOTE: This chart is from wikipedia entry “Temperature record of the past 1,000 years." I do not endorse this chart. I’m posting for illustrative purposes to help answer anon’s question about records from 1880).

Note the black line (far right). It shows collected instrument data from 1850 to 2004. Data prior to 1850 is collected by climate proxies.


Finally, if you’re interested, you can read about the weather data sets collected in the 1850s. This paper, Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observed temperature changes: a new dataset from 1850, covers the history of that data, as well as issues with using it in modern climate models.

Hope that helps!



This map shows significant climate anomalies and events that occurred in 2013. It’s from NOAA’s State of Climate: Global Analysis - Annual 2013 report, available free here.

NASA and NOAA climate change ppt 2013 global temperatures

NASA and NOAA co-presentation on global temperatures in 2013. While these scientific organizations use differing techniques to measure climatic trends, both conclude that 2013 was among the hottest top 10 years on record. The presentation is available free, here.

This huge algal bloom in Lake Erie (that’s Detroit up there) broke out during government shutdown was not being tracked. The federal shutdown closed NOAA monitoring of unexpected health hazard. Read more at Sandusky Register

Ambivalent coverage of climate change’s ‘new normal’

NOAA retires GOES-12, an important weather satellite that monitored major hurricanes over the years.

NOAA’s GOES-12 satellite was decommissioned on August 16th, 2013 after 3,788 days in service.

From April 2003 — May 2010, GOES-12 served as GOES East, providing “eye in the sky” monitoring for such memorable events as the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and the series of blizzards during the winter of 2009-2010. After suffering thruster control issues, GOES-12 was taken out of normal service and moved to provide greater coverage of the Southern Hemisphere as the first-ever GOES South. During that time it provided enhanced severe weather monitoring for South America.

This animation shows one image from each day of the satellite’s life — a total of 3,641 full disk visible images.

More on GOES-12’s decom at NOAA

Noaa report says Arctic sea ice is disappearing at unprecedented pace

NOAA Removes ‘18-Wheeler’s Worth’ of Debris from Mid-Pacific Waters

A team of divers and oceanographers from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of NOAA’sPacific Islands Fisheries Science Center recently removed 14 metric tons of debris from the near-shore environment around Midway Atoll. The tiny island, located 3,218 km from the Hawaiian mainland, played a pivotal role as a U.S. Navy base during World War II, and is now part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The collected debris—equal in weight to an 18-wheeler—consisted largely of derelict fishing gear and all sorts of plastic. The largest single piece of debris removed by the team was a seven-meter-long vessel swept away during the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.


Real-time map of all forests on Earth launches next month

An online map that tracks in near real-time the vegetation area of all the world’s forests simultaneously will launch next month, after a preview was shown at a United Nations summit yesterday. Called “Global Forest Watch 2.0,” the map is a project years in the making led by the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on ecological issues.

They designed the map to help monitor and stop illegal forest clearing and deforestation by loggers and ranchers around the globe. “Deforestation continues today in part because by the time satellite images are available, analyzed, and shared, the forest clearing is long done,” the group notes on its website. 

Nice map. Helps monitor illegal tree slaughter. Check it out if you can. 

New Sea Level Rise Maps for NY and NJ

Sea Level Rise Maps

NOAA, in partnership with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has created a set of map services to help communities, residents, and other stakeholders consider risks from future sea level rise in planning for reconstruction following Hurricane Sandy.

These map services (click here for NJ and NY State counties andclick here for NYC) integrate the best available FEMA flood hazard data for each location with information on future sea level rise from two different peer-reviewed sources (click here for a visual guide to the data sources used in the tool):

  • A NOAA-led interagency report prepared as input to the National Climate Assessment, Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment. Scientists from multiple federal agencies and academic institutions synthesized the best available science to create a set of scenarios of global mean sea level rise through 2100. This team considered both ocean warming and melting of mountain glaciers and ice sheets. For all areas in NJ and NY outside the five boroughs, the maps use these global scenarios combined with the best available FEMA flood hazard data.
  • The 2013 New York City Panel on Climate Change report,Climate Risk Information 2013: Observations, Climate Change Projections, and Maps. Experts convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability developed regional sea level rise scenarios for the five boroughs in New York City out to 2050. These scenarios include sea level rise from both ocean warming and ice sheet melt, and factor in local conditions such as vertical land movement and regional climate variations. For all areas inside the five boroughs of NYC, the maps use these scenarios combined with the best available FEMA flood hazard data.

Via*Note, the U.S. Global Change Research Program program began in 1990 under President George H.W. Bush.)