Watch out for flying biological debris as we get closer to making it official. As an arctic blast envelopes the eastern US, 2014 becomes, more and more obviously, the warmest year, globally, in the instrumental record.

CBC:

Despite a bitter cold snap in parts of North America, the globe is rushing hell-bent toward its warmest year on record with last month setting the fifth monthly heat record of the year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that last month was the hottest October on record worldwide. The 14.74 Celsius (58.43 degrees Fahrenheit) beat out October 2003.

“It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record,” said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “The remaining question is: How much?”

With only two months left in the year, 2014 has now surged ahead as the globe’s warmest year so far, beating 2010 and 1998. So far this year, the world is averaging 14.78 degrees Celsius (58.62 degrees Fahrenheit). If the last two months of the year are only average for the 21st century, it will still be the warmest year ever, Arndt said.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said in an email he hopes the new data will put to rest “the silly ongoing claims that global warming has ‘stopped’ or that there is a ‘hiatus’ in global warming.”

The world is approaching the warmest year “in spite of the U.S. being pretty cold,” Arndt said. That’s because the United States is only 2 per cent of the world’s area and the part that’s unusually cold is about 1.5 per cent of the entire globe, he said.

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This story obviously still developing, will update as I find out more..

Weather Channel’s Ari Sarsalari discusses video of the recent snow event near Buffalo NY.  The area has been smacked by 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) of heavy snow, with more on the way before it breaks.

Sarsalari pronounces the clip, “..one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen..”.
With 2014 looking to break the warmest-in-the-record record,  and an El Nino setting up in the Pacific, we may be seeing some very, very cool video in the coming years.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Lake-effect snow and the climate change connection

Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive. How can you have more snow, earlier in the season with a warming climate?

An oversimplified explanation goes like this.

  • Warmer climate = warmer water in Lake Erie
  • Arctic warming = a wavier jet stream pushing unseasonably cold arctic air mass into the eastern U.S.
  • Unusually cold air masses and unusually warm lake water temps = extreme temperature contrast of 50 degrees between lake surface and air mass
  • Extreme temperature contrast = more intense lake effect snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per hour with 60-plus inch snowfall totals

Now a more thorough explanation with supporting data.

First the warm water. An unusually warm bubble of water for November at the eastern end of Lake Erie helped fuel this extreme lake-effect event.

lake_erie_snow

Average Lake Erie water temp for November 19th is 47 degrees. You can see the bubble of 50 to 54 degree water just west (upstream) of Buffalo in the image above

Longer-term trends show Lake Erie has become measurably warmer. The reduction in winter ice cover actually produces an increase in lake-effect snow as more moisture is available for incoming arctic air to tap and wring out onshore in intense lake-effect driven snow plumes.

Lake-effect snowfall in the Great Lakes is increasing, even as non lake-effect snowfall is steady to falling in a warming climate.

Long-term trends show an increase in winter totals from these extreme precipitation events.

Slate’s Eric Holtahus connects the dots on how the State of New York has recognized that increased lake-effect snowfall is part of a warming climate for now.

Earlier this year, New York state updated its assessment of statewide climate change impacts, essentially giving a forecast of the future of lake-effect snowfall in the state:

Annual ice cover has decreased 71 percent on the Great Lakes since 1973; models suggest this decrease will lead to increased lake-effect snow in the next couple of decades through greater moisture availability (Burnett et al. 2003). By mid-century, lake-effect snow will generally decrease as temperatures below freezing become less frequent (Kunkel et al. 2002).

The high ice extent of the 2013-2014 winter highlights the fact that natural variability is expected to continue, even as long-term trends gradually shift the statistics in favor of low-ice winters.

Bottom line? There is increasing evidence to show that Buffalo’s lake-effect mega storm is another example of an extreme weather event with a climate change connection.

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Hunters and Anglers, some of our keenest and most experienced observers of the natural world, are increasingly freaked out by climate change.

Above, trailer for a new movie about climate impacts on sport fishing.

National Wildlife Federation:

Growth rates may increase in warmer waters, but so too would stress from excessively high temperatures. Northerly lakes may become more suitable for warm-water species, but fish may have no means to move into these areas
unassisted. Warming may also affect prey species or the broader ecosystem.

Warmer air could also lead to earlier stratification of lakes and ponds in the spring, causing increases in summer fish kills due to oxygen depleted waters. Seasonal temperature stratification is a normal process for temperate zone lakes wherein the steep temperature gradient between shallow warm water and cold deep water during the summer prevents mixing of the water layers.17 This inhibits delivery of oxygen-rich water from the surface to the lower depths, leading to fish kills in deep waters.18,19 In states like Minnesota where early stratification is becoming an issue, lakes may someday be unable to support lake trout and other species that live in the deepest, coldest zones.

Rising temperatures threaten to compromise the success of restoration efforts underway in many freshwater systems. For example, the restoration of a diverse fish community to Ohio’s lower Black River is at risk due to rising stream temperatures
projected with climate change.21 The maximum temperature thresholds22 for 12 of 22 of the river’s fish species assessed would be exceeded by mid-century based on projected increases in water temperature. Especially vulnerable are the river’s cool-water species, such as the white sucker, as well as popular sport fish such as pumpkinseed, yellow perch, rock bass, and
smallmouth bass.

National Geographic:

Fish are sensitive to temperature, explained Jack Williams, a senior scientist with the conservation group Trout Unlimited and a co-author of the NWF report, who describes a massive geographical shift in fish species already underway. “Already, native trout have been pushed around,” Williams wrote in an email.

“Non-native species are pushing up from downstream and have sent the native trout into the higher elevation streams,” Williams explained. “Unfortunately, these streams are going to be hard hit as wildfire, drought, and increased storm intensities hit these isolated high-elevation areas hard.” (See “Amid Drought, Explaining Colorado’s Extreme Floods.”)

“In the Southwest,” said Williams, “the evidence is in your face each time you survey a stream.” Small streams in New Mexico, home to Rio Grande cutthroat, Gila, and Apache trout, are particularly susceptible to temperature increases.

Making things even worse are the wildfires, which Williams says the Southwest is seeing “at scales that we have not seen before.” Wildfires rip through trout habitat, and the increased runoff that results when the riparian areas burn eventually leads to siltation effects. “It’s a killer one-two punch in these small streams,” said Williams

My friend Todd Tanner is founder and President of Conservation Hawks, an organization of Hunters and Anglers that seeks to raise awareness on climate change.

Todd Tanner interviewed in Syracuse.com:

You talk about walking outside and observing. Talk about what you see outside of your home in Montana.

Our snows come later than they use to, the run-off in the spring comes earlier. Our forests are dying here – millions of acres of trees. As the climate has warmed, it’s dried. Trees are stressed by the lack of precipitation and that allows insects like pine bark beetles to attack the trees. You don’t get the cold snaps like you use to, which used to hold the insect numbers down. In addition, our forest fire season is about two months longer than it used to be.

Also, we’re getting more stream closures. With things getting warmer, and the run-off (snow melt) coming earlier, the trout stream temperatures are getting unnaturally hot here in the later part of the summer. As a protection for the fish, a number of trout streams are being shut down later in the summer to fishing. That never used to happen when I first moved here.

Finally, we’re losing access to hunting areas. With the colder winters, the snow would push the elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer down from the mountains. Now, since it doesn’t get cold as quick, they’re staying up at the higher elevations, and are coming down later in the hunting season – or not at all.

My video on Hunters, Anglers, and Climate Change, is below.

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Links here:

Read “The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert: http://amzn.to/1xGKn0K

Rodolfo Dirzo et al. “Defaunation in the Anthropocene” http://bit.ly/1H7JQdw
Stuart Pimm et al. “Biodiversity of Species and Their Rates of Extinction” http://bit.ly/1A5UZJM

Get to know an endangered species: http://discover.iucnredlist.org/

Half of world’s wildlife has died off in past 40 years: http://bit.ly/1BHl8jR

oktobeBTW. “It’s Ok to be Smart” with host Bill Hanson, might be the “Science Guy” to a newer generation.

Earth’s species are dying off at an alarming pace, with species going extinct at thousands of times their natural rate. There have been five major extinction events in the history of life on Earth, but scientists are beginning to realize that we’re at the start of a new great era of dying: Welcome to the Sixth Extinction.

Many people outside of science aren’t even aware that this is going on, because most of the time when we talk about extinction we’re talking about cute or charismatic species like pandas, tigers, or tortoises. Those animals are certainly in trouble, but this problem goes much deeper.

It’s time we take a long hard look at the current “great dying,” because, well… you know how an asteroid killed the dinosaurs? Turns out this time WE are the asteroid.

It may not be the most cheery episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart ever, but I think it’s one of the most important.

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” – John Muir

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chinablade

On September 17, 2013, I posted this under the title “China’s Coming War on Coal”,

A primary denialist talking point is that any attempts by the US and Europe to address climate change are doomed to failure, because China and India will continue to build their economies on fossil fuels, and wipe out any gains that might be made.
But reality intrudes. Any idea that China can blindly follow US development models is faulty.

NYTimes:

BEIJING — Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total, according to a new summary of data from a scientific study on leading causes of death worldwide.

Figured another way, the researchers said, China’s toll from pollution was the loss of 25 million healthy years of life from the population.

Last week, the joint press conference between Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled the beginning of a long-inevitable course correction.

Shanghai Daily:

CHINA issued an energy strategy for the upcoming years on Wednesday, and a long list of targets in the hope of building a modern energy structure.

The Energy Development Strategy Action Plan (2014-2020) released by the State Council, promises more efficient, self-sufficient, green and innovative energy production and consumption, with a cap on annual primary energy consumption set at 4.8 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent until 2020.

Annual coal consumption will be held below 4.2 billion tonnes until 2020, 16.3 percent more than the 3.6 billion tonnes burned last year, according to the National Coal Association.

The share of non-fossil fuels in the total primary energy mix will rise to 15 percent by the same year from 9.8 percent in 2013, according to the plan.

The share of natural gas will be raised to above 10 percent and that of coal will be reduced to under 62 percent. Production of both shale gas and coalbed methane could reach 30 billion cubic meters by 2020.

ClimateProgress:

This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.

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The Climate Generation Gap

November 19, 2014

climate_gengap2

The once great Republican party has long been completely captive to a rabidly anti-science faction of its base.  There may be some in Washington celebrating the re-ascendance of 80 year old climate denier Jim Inhofe to to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.   More thoughtful heads might counsel, be careful what you wish for.

The stage is set for a demographic earthquake.

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post:

Several commentators have suggested that climate change could become the gay marriage issue of the future for the GOP. In other words, demographic changes within the Republican Party itself and in society in general could leave GOP leaders looking badly out of step with their own constituency and scrambling to switch sides.

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Above, lake effect snow storm from an office building in Buffalo, NY.

Not just in Buffalo. I’m getting daily reports from my son in Michigan’s UP, near Lake Superior. Ridiculous numbers even for that very snowy area.

Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

Up to five feet of snow fell along the south and east sides of the city in the 24 hours ending at 10 pm EST Tuesday, thanks to an intense band of heavy lake effect snow coming off of Lake Erie. The extreme snow band was very narrow; in the 24 hours when Lancaster on the city’s east side was pummeled with 60″ of snow, the Buffalo Airport, just six miles to the northwest, received only 3.9″. Extreme atmospheric instability due to relatively warm waters in the lake were responsible for the intensity of the storm; water temperatures were 47°F at the Environment Canada Port Colborne buoy at the east end of Lake Erie on Tuesday. A state of emergency has been declared in Erie County, New York, which includes Buffalo, and the National Guard has been called out to help dig people out. Thankfully, the band of heavy snow responsible for the extreme accumulations shifted northwards out of the city on Wednesday morning, and only minor accumulations will occur during the remainder of Wednesday. On Thursday morning, though, a new lake effect snowstorm will set up. The NWS in Buffalo is forecasting that while this storm will not be quite as intense, up to two feet of additional snow could fall in the same regions that received up to five feet of snow already this week.

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