Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Dust devil on fire (warning, bad music). Imagine a mini-tornado with flaming tumbleweeds set to metal (well, don’t imagine, because it’s right here^).

Neato wave clouds caught on video in Utah. Science, here.

I’m headed to Kazakhstan tomorrow (working on our Climate Resilient Wheat project for USAID and the UN). It will not be warm. Not even a little bit.

infinity-imagined:

A warmer Arctic could permanently affect the pattern of the high-altitude polar jet stream, resulting in longer and colder winters over North America and northern Europe, US scientists say. The jet stream, a ribbon of high altitude, high-speed wind in northern latitudes that blows from west to east, is formed when the cold Arctic air clashes with warmer air from further south. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the jet stream moves.

According to Jennifer Francis, a climate expert at Rutgers University, the Arctic air has warmed in recent years as a result of melting polar ice caps, meaning there is now less of a difference in temperatures when it hits air from lower latitudes. “The jet stream is a very fast moving river of air over our head, but over the past two decades the jet stream has weakened. This is something we can measure,” she said Saturday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a result, instead of circling the earth in the far north, the jet stream has begun to meander, like a river heading off course. This has brought chilly Arctic weather further south than normal, and warmer temperatures up north. Perhaps most disturbingly, it remains in place for longer periods of time.  

Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio [x]

I have a feeling this was taken out of context.

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

Winter Storms and Climate Change, in English

There are few good explanations of how strong winter storms can exist in a warming world. Most explanations, I find, take a defensive posture against climate deniers. I think science writers should just stick to the science, and move away from addressing deniers. Or at least stop weaving denial into articles. The main points get buried, the author looks defensive, and the reader is left exasperated. Climate Communication has a pretty darn good explanation of how winter storms work, and why they could be getting stronger. They stick to the science, and avoid the fray.

Winter Storms

Climate change is fueling an increase in the intensity and snowfall of winter storms. The atmosphere now holds more moisture, and that in turns drives heavier than normal precipitation, including heavier snowfall in the appropriate conditions.1

Heavy snowfall and snowstorm frequency have increased in many northern parts of the United States.2 The heavier-than-normal snowfalls recently observed in the Midwest and Northeast United States are consistent with climate model projections. In contrast, the South and lower Midwest saw reduced snowstorm frequency during the last century.3 Overall snow cover has decreased in the Northern Hemisphere, due in part to higher temperatures that shorten the time snow spends on the ground.

Snowstorms Shift Northward in the Northern Hemisphere

The regional pattern of fewer snowstorms in the southern United States and more in the North corresponds to a similar northward shift of cold-season storms in the entire Northern Hemisphere over the past 50 years. Mid-latitude storms have decreased in frequency (e.g., in the United States overall) while high-latitude storm activity has increased (e.g., in Canada).4 It is likely that human influence contributed to these changes.5

See more at: www.climatecommunication.org

I am embarrassed I hadn’t heard about The Weather Channel’s climate documentary series, “Tipping Points.”

A tipping point, in climatology, is when a major change occurs to a major environmental system due to climate change, such as a shift in ocean currents or atmospheric circulation. These systems “tip” over from one stable state to another stable state, thus creating an entirely new situation. This new situation is irreversible. Sort of like spilling a glass of wine, you can’t put the wine back in the glass. Climate activists (whom I often disagree with) colloquially call this new state “the new normal.”

The show, Tipping Points, is hosted by Bernice Notenboom, an interesting journalist who combines science writing and adventure travel. She’s pretty good on camera, but most of the show seems to focus on showing 1) a climate change problem as it occurs in the real world (such as drought in the Amazon rainforest) and 2) a series of scientific experiments that aim identify the moment of a tipping point and then figure out how to manage the new system.

Tipping Points: Breaching Climate Stability

Hosted by Climate Journalist and adventurer Bernice Notenboom, Tipping Points embraces commentary from leading climate scientists surveying the complexity of the major tipping points effecting our current climate and their impact on changing weather patterns around the globe.

Adventurous and informative, Tipping Points explores the interconnectedness of all the elements that make up our climate system that influence global and local weather patterns. The Earth is in a delicate equilibrium; once one factor reaches its respective tipping point the other factors will also breach stability. As the atmosphere heats up and the chemical makeup of the atmosphere shifts there will be repercussions felt on a global scale. These elements are what Bernice and her team of climate authorities are going to explore is some of the most remote locations on the planet.

From the canopies of The Amazon to the ice sheets of Siberia, these climate specialists will chase answers to behavioral patterns of tipping elements in the climate system affecting our weather systems. View, here.

newyorker:

The Minneapolis-based photographer Paula McCartney has exploited extreme weather to dazzling effect, capturing detailed portraits of natural winter elements, from frozen waterfalls to ice stalagmites to snow flurries. A look at her photographs: http://nyr.kr/LkiZ5l

Above: “Ice Floe #5” (2008). Photograph by Paula McCartney/Klompching.

Lovely photos. I like “Blizzard #9 2009” best.

Brilliant, real-time, animated map of earth’s current weather conditions. Must see, here: http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/

earth 

a visualization of global weather conditions

  • forecast by supercomputers 
  • updated every three hours    
  • ocean surface current estimates  updated every five days
California drought threatens coho salmon with extinction

Excellent reporting from SFGate

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.

image

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!

Cheers!

Michael

100,000 bats fall dead from the sky during a heatwave in Australia - Telegraph

About 100,000 bats have fallen from the sky and died during a heatwave in Australia that has left the trees and earth littered with dead creatures.

In scenes likened to “an Alfred Hitchock thought bubble”, a heatwave across the north-east state of Queensland in recent days caused mass deaths of flying foxes from an estimated 25 colonies.

"It’s a horrible, cruel way to die," a conservation worker, Louise Saunders, told The Courier Mail.

"Anything over 43 degrees [Celsius, 109F] and they just fall. We’re just picking up those that are just not coping and are humanely euthanising what we can.”

Health experts have warned residents not to touch the dead creatures amid concerns about the spread of virus or bites and scratches from bats that may still be alive. At least 16 people have been are receiving antiviral treatment after coming into close contact with a bat.

Temps topped 109 degrees in Australia, decimating some bat populations.

We the Geeks: “Polar Vortex” and Extreme Weather | The White House

White House invites the public to chat about the Polar Vortex and climate change. Yep, the White House! h/t Revkin