“We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change” NYTimes.February 27,2010
“We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change” NYTimes.February 27,2010
From CBC News, unprecedented rain in the High Arctic this past week:
Spring showers are next to non-existent in the High Arctic, so Environment Canada’s senior climatologist says he’s baffled to hear that it rained near the North Pole this week.
A group of British scientists working off Ellef Ringnes Island, near the North Pole, reported being hit with a three-minute rain shower over the weekend. The group reported the rain on Tuesday.
Rain in the High Arctic in April is nothing short of bizarre, said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.
“My business is weird, wild and wacky weather, and this is up there among fish falling from the sky or Niagara Falls running dry,” Phillips told CBC News in an interview that aired Thursday. Click here to read full story on CBC.ca.
In a related story, Accuweather.com reports a dramatic flip from severe, even record-setting, cold to unusual warmth has happened over that part of western Asia centered upon the west of Siberian Russia.
From Huffington Post, news that BP aggressively fought new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling — which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry:
As families mourn the 11 workers thrown overboard in the worst oil rig disaster in decades and as the resulting spill continues to spread through the Gulf of Mexico, new questions are being raised about the training of the drill operators and about the oil company’s commitment to safety.
Deepwater Horizon, the giant technically-advanced rig which exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, is leaking an estimated 42,000 gallons per day through a pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface. The spill has spread across 1,800 square miles — an area larger than Rhode Island — according to satellite images, oozing its way toward the Louisiana coast and posing a threat to wildlife, including a sperm whale spotted in the oil sheen.
The massive $600 million rig, which holds the record for boring the deepest oil and gas well in the world — at 35,050 feet – had passed three recent federal inspections, the most recent on April 1, since it moved to its current location in January. The cause of the explosion has not been determined.
The article goes on to say that the Oil Industry has been lobbying vigorously against newer, more stringent safety rules, writing over 100 letters to object to them, including a PowerPoint presentation that asked, in bold letters:
“What Do HURRICANES and New Rules Have in Common?” against a backdrop of hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico. On the next page, the answer appears: “Both are disruptive to Operations And are costly to Recover From”.
Click here to read the full story on The Huffington Post.
And, via Climate Progress, news that senior American military leaders have publicly announced their support for the U.S. climate bill currently making its torturous and uncertain way to becoming law:
Today an unprecedented 33 retired US military generals and admirals announced that they support comprehensive climate and energy legislation in a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell as well as a full page ad (click to enlarge). The news release points out:
It was the largest such announcement of support ever, reflecting the consensus of the national security community that climate change and oil dependence post a threat to American security.
To read the full story on Climate Progress, including the text of the letter the admirals and generals sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, click here.
Yesterday, it rained. In Winnipeg. In the middle of the Canadian Prairies. In January. That’s more than just weird – it’s down right unnatural.
Unfortunately, climate change will be causing more and more weird and unnatural weather. A better word for climate change or global warming is “Global Climate Destabilization”.
That would explain rain on the prairies in January.
Check out Can Climate Change Explain the Odd Weather?, a 2007 interview with Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on NPR. Trenberth states:
…of course one of the things which definitely alters things and makes you suspect that there’s just no good analog, which is what you’re really talking about here, is global warming. You know, and this has really kicked in in the last 25 to 30 years. It’s rearing its head more and more, and it just means that conditions nowadays can never be quite like what they used to be in the past. The oceans are warming up. The oceans have warmed up about a degree Fahrenheit as a whole. There’s more water vapor over the oceans. That invigorates storms. It changes the character of hurricanes, makes them more intense typically, these heavier rainfall events that we’re experiencing across North America.
And so the – you know, this is not – this is not your grandfather’s weather anymore.
For more discussion on this topic, check out the CBC science show Quirks and Quarks discussion on the difference between climate and weather.
It should be celebrated as wonderful news that the Himalayan glaciers are not retreating as quickly as was earlier reported by the IPCC. Predictably, the climate change contrarians are trumpeting this, along with “Climategate”, as proof that climate change is not happening. The truth is that there is an error in the 2007 IPCC report on climate change regarding when the Himalayan glaciers will disappear completely. It is mentioned on one page of a 400 page report. This error should have been caught in the peer-review process, if not before, as the information was gathered from 3 non-peer-reviewed sources. Like the so-called “Climategate” incident, where 13 years of illegally hacked emails from East Anglia University were mysteriously made public only days before the UN Copenhagen Conference on climate change, the Himalayan glacier error is likely be blown completely out of proportion by those that oppose action on climate change. The contrarians, no doubt, will make calls for accuracy and accountability from the scientists that the contrarians themselves consistently fall short on.
Not that the scientists at the IPCC or indeed, anywhere, shouldn’t be held to the highest standard of scientific reporting and peer review. The misreporting of the rate of glacial melting shows that there is room for improvement in the review that the IPCC report undergoes before publication. Yet, it is that same peer review process that the contrarians often attempt to cast doubt on. But being consistent isn’t something that the contrarians seem very concerned about, so I doubt that this will keep them from proclaiming that this error is proof that global warming is a sham. *heavy sigh*
Yet, it is all of us that should be celebrating. The Himalayan glaciers hold the largest body of ice outside of the world’s polar caps, and are the source for many of the world’s largest rivers such as the Ganges, the Indus, and the Brahmaputra, on which hundreds of millions of people depend. That they are melting is not in question – yesterday the Indian environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, after telling reporters the claim that climate change would cause Himalayan glaciers to melt away by 2035 was unfounded, went on to say
“They are indeed receding and the rate is cause for great concern… [but the claim is] not based on an iota of scientific evidence.”
Worldwide, glaciers are in retreat, according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service.
There is mounting evidence that climate change is triggering a shrinking and thinning of many glaciers world-wide which may eventually put at risk water supplies for hundreds of millions — if not billions — of people. Data gaps exist in some vulnerable parts of the globe undermining the ability to provide precise early warning for countries and populations at risk.
To simplify the science, glaciers retreat when there is less snow in the winter than what is melted away in the summer. The pollution that humans, particularly in industrialized nations, have been spewing into the atmosphere for the last 200 years is changing the earth’s climate and as a result glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate. Precipitation in Canada last year was 2.6% below normal, and 2009 ranked as the tenth driest out of the 62-years of record. As for temperature, the national average for 2009 was 0.8°C above normal. Environment Canada indicates that much of Canada’s above normal temperatures were experienced in the north, where they were more than 2 degrees above normal.
The following pictures show the retreat of the Blomstrandbreen glacier in Norway (picture from Greenpeace), between 1922 and 2002.
To view more pictures of glaciers around the world, click here.
Protect Our Winters is a group organized by winter sports enthusiasts concerned about the impact of climate change on northern winters. Go to their website to learn more about this issue, and to become a follower on Facebook. Meanwhile, here in Winnipeg, in the middle of a Prairie winter, the police have issued a thin ice warning. In Florida, an unusual cold snap has resulted in a severe fish die-off and subsequent fishery closures.
If this strange weather alarms you, and you want to get better informed, check out high school science teacher Greg Craven’s website where he asks the questions “what is acceptable risk?” and “to act or not to act?” in the issue of climate change.