If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month
With the average temperature on Earth in October becoming the 332nd consecutive month at a higher-than-normal mark, we’re defining the new normal for a whole generation.
And that’s not a “new normal” that we should be okay with. Because a warming Earth with frequent droughts and supercharged storms could make Hurricane Sandy look like an afternoon sprinkle.
The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.
-David Attenborough, from a fascinating profile of the naturalist: Force of Nature.
Because if you listen to anyone, you should listen to him.
Portrait of Global Aerosols
Aerosols, clouds of microscopic particles suspended in air, are key players in the health of our atmosphere and climate. They also happen to make really pretty sunsets. Aerosols can scatter sunlight back into space, which can cool the planet, or seed dangerous chemical reactions like those that destroy ozone. Understanding how different types of aerosols move and react in our atmosphere is crucial to smart climate science.
The image above is a NASA supercomputer simulation of different aerosols moving around Earth. It sort of looks like someone painted Earth and then swirled the colors around before they dried, doesn’t it?
Dust is red (remember that half the Amazon gets its nutrients from African aerosols!), smoke from fires is green, volcanic eruptions are white, and sea salt is blue.
See the beautiful hi-res version of the image here. Phil Plait has more explanation at Bad Astronomy (now at Slate!)
If you loved this visualization, revisit NASA’s Van Gogh-esque Perpetual Ocean current simulation. Beautiful stuff.
Click to embiggen. At UMass-Amherst, I recall a professor (a one Mr. Dr. Jack Ahern) showing us Massachusetts was deforested not once or twice, but four times in its near 400 year history. Now it’s one of the most forested states (yep!).
Amazing photos of vintage logging industry in the Redwood Forests of California via U of C
Any image of deforestation is synonymous with the construction of contemporary metropolises. What’s most profound about the industrial moguls of the 19th century is that even though they were fierce in the utilization of natural resources that led to a catastrophic decline, they recognized the need for conservation practices and restorative developments.
The Pinchots, millionaires from the wallpaper industry, pushed their son Gifford into forestry. What started as an investment in an industry led to conservation of natural resources, support for academic programs, and further development of infrastructure in the United States. The US Forest Service gave us telephone poles, railroad ties, land for grazing livestock, and timber to fuel construction for modern life.
Yes, it is a tragedy that natural history was destroyed by old logging practices. But we’re lucky enough to be living in an age where more people are understanding the limitations of our landscape. The thing we need to work on now is our frivolous consumption (ie: disposable goods).
Seeing a living organism of this size is just flabbergasting. As Richard Feynman reminded us recently, trees big and small grow out of the air. That’s about 98% right (they do need water and nutrients from the ground to complete their photosynthetic reactions).
But think about the sheer volume of carbon dioxide that a tree like this takes in over its lifetime! Think about the effect these have in balancing the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere! A 25-inch redwood can hold the equivalent of ONE TON of carbon dioxide. These trees are at least six times that diameter, and would have held orders of magnitude more than that. It’s called a “carbon sink”, and these would have been gold-medal winners in that event.
On one hand, it’s amazing to see an immobile living thing capable of growing to this size, over hundreds of years, felled by the humble tools of man. On the other hand, it’s tragic to see these Fort Knoxes of the carbon cycle laying useless on their side. Let’s keep this in the history books, and not in the current events pages.
Burning Up The Climate Record Books
328: The magic number
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released their latest “State of the Climate” report. June 2012 marks the 328th month in a row that global surface temperatures – the temperatures that affect our local climate and weather - were above average. This unfortunate proof of the “new normal” is just the latest straw on the climate camel’s back, and you really have to wonder how many more it will take before more people start to view this as the serious situation that it is.
Some other high/lowlights:
- The Northern Hemisphere was more than 2˚F above normal for June, an all-time record.
- Globally, June 2012 was the warmest on record (for land temps).
- Ocean temperatures, whose rise is perhaps more dangerous than land (feeding extreme weather and ice melt), were at their 10th highest level on record.
There’s hope, however. A new poll from Stanford University and The Washington Post says that 6 in 10 Americans now agree that the climate is changing, and two-thirds want the U.S. to lead the world in fighting climate change. They can’t yet agree on what that means, exactly. More interesting tidbits from that poll here.
Previously: Record highs to record lows ratio at 10:1 in 2012! Ack!
What’s Behind the Record Heat?
Behind the records is a set of weather and climate conditions that is keeping the heat locked in over the country, with little respite in sight.
(also, this seems like the best reason to move to Canada yet. Well, at least the blue parts in this NASA image above.)
A Swirl of Clouds South of Greenland
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of long lines of clouds, known as “streets”, wrapping around the southern tip of Greenland on March 6, 2012.
Cloud streets are created by cylinders of air rotating parallel to the surface, forming clouds where the air rises and clear zones where the air falls back downwards. As the air cylinders move from above the sea ice in Baffin Bay out over the warmer southern water, clouds form along the rising air channels.
Aqua is a NASA Earth Science satellite mission named for the large amount of information that the mission is collecting about the Earth’s water cycle, including evaporation from the oceans, water vapor in the atmosphere, precipitation, soil moisture, sea and land ice, and snow cover.
Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
We will have wrecked the planet, but our great-grandchildren won’t care much, because they’ll have been born into a planet already wrecked.
, eviscerating the U.S. and others for not acting in the Durban COP17 climate talks. (via climateadaptation
Billion dollar weather disasters, by NOAA. This takes a minute to grasp. See the green bar on the far far right? It shows the number of climate related events in 2011 that exceeded one billion dollars. So far, it shows 12 event at $200 billion dollars in damage - the highest number of events and most costs in history. Background:
- To date, the United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters in 2011, with an aggregate damage total of approximately $52 billion. This record year breaks the previous record of nine billion-dollar weather/climate disasters in one year, which occurred in 2008.
- These twelve disasters alone resulted in the tragic loss of 646 lives, with the National Weather Service reporting over 1,000 deaths across all weather categories for the year.
- Previously only 10 events were reported; the two new billion-dollar weather and climate events added to the 2011 total include:
- The Texas, New Mexico, Arizona wildfires event, now exceeding $1 billion, had been previously accounted for in the larger Southern Plains drought and heatwave event. This is in line with how NOAA has traditionally accounted for large wildfire events as separate events.
- The June 18-22 Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather event, which just recently exceeded the $1 billion threshold
- NOAA continues to collect and assess data regarding several other extreme events that occurred this year including the pre-Halloween winter storm that impacted the Northeast and the wind/flood damage from Tropical Storm Lee. Currently, these events are not over the $1B threshold using the available data.