While we’re concentrating on the collapse of arctic sea ice, the drought goes on.

Michael Lemonick in Climate Central:

The massive and widespread 2012 drought that has gripped the nation since the spring refuses to die, according to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor — and in fact, it’s expanded a little: as of September 18, 64.82 percent of the contiguous U.S. was suffering from at least moderate drought, slightly more than the 64.16 percent reported a week earlier, enough of a gain to set a new record for this drought category.

At the same time, NOAA released its seasonal drought outlook for the period ending December 31, and it offers little prospect for significant improvement. Drought is projected to persist in a huge swath of the country, especially in the West from Southern California to West Texas, north to Wisconsin, and back west to Montana, Idaho, southeastern Oregon and back down to Nevada — and everywhere in between.

In addition, drought conditions are projected to develop during the period in the rest of the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest. A small swath from south Texas up through Indiana and parts of Ohio may see “some improvement” in drought conditions, as might parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The rest of the East and Southeast are mostly unaffected by drought at this time, and that is projected to continue.

The drought forecast for the next few months is being shaped by the expected influence of a developing El Niño event in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean. Such events are characterized by warmer than average sea surface temperatures, which can profoundly reshape weather patterns in the U.S. and elsewhere. El Niño winters tend to be wetter than average in the South and the Ohio Valley.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Hugh van den Dool, a climate forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said El Niño conditions are not developing quickly, and is likely to be modest in strength.

“We believe there will be an El Niño,” van den Dool said, “but the strength of it is debatable, and it may be a fairly weak one.” He said water temperatures halted their increase during September, and this may prevent a strong El Niño event from occurring. “We expect this will intensify a little bit as we get into later fall, but it is probably too late to get a major El Niño.”

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Only about 7 percent of likely voters have not yet decided whether they will support Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, a new national survey finds. But on the topic of climate change, at least, these undecideds look more like Obama supporters than Romney voters.

Undecided voters are more likely than Romney voters to see climate change as an important issue, and their desire for government action approaches levels seen in Obama voters. What’s more, undecideds are as likely as Obama supporters to believe that global warming is happening and that humans are causing it.

“We were surprised to look at how undecided voters broke on this issue, that they were much more similar to Obama voters than they were to Romney voters,” study researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, told LiveScience.

The new survey queried a nationally representative sample of 1,061 American adults, who filled out an online questionnaire on their voting plans and their climate-change beliefs. People chosen to be on the survey panel who did not own a computer or have an Internet connection were given one, ensuring that older and poorer Americans were not left out of the sample.

For Romney and Obama voters, the margin of error of the findings is plus or minus 5 percentage points. For undecided voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 11 percentage points.

Sixty-one percent of the undecided voters said they see global warming as an “important issue” they’ll consider when making their choice. Seventy-five percent of Obama supporters said the same, as did 32 percent of likely Romney voters. In many ways, undecided voters match likely Obama voters with their climate-change concern: 80 percent believe the globe is warming, compared with 86 percent of Obama voters. (In contrast, 45 percent of Romney voters accept that global warming is happening.) [10 Climate Myths Busted]

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

Global warming is an important issue for undecided voters and likely Obama voters when voting for President
Though few likely voters say global warming is the “single-most important” issue to them in this election, majorities of likely Obama voters (75%) and Undecideds (61%) say it will be one of several important issues determining their vote for President. Only 32% of likely Romney voters say it will be one of the “important issues” determining their vote.

Desire for Presidential and Congressional action
Undecided voters and likely Obama voters say that President Obama (64% and 61% respectively) and Congress (72% and 78%) should be “doing more” about global warming. By contrast, fewer than half of likely Romney voters think the President or Congress should be doing more (35% and 35% respectively) and, in fact, are more inclined to say they should be doing less to address global warming (47% and 44%).

Bipartisan agreement that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources
There is broad agreement among all likely voters – 85% of likely Obama voters, 83% of undecided voters, and 73% of likely Romney voters – that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, and geothermal) in the future.

However, while more than half of Undecideds and likely Obama voters say that in the future the U.S. should use fewer fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas (55% and 65% respectively), fewer than half of likely Romney voters agree (38%).

Is global warming happening?
80% of undecided voters believe that global warming is happening, while only 3% believe it is not happening – which is very similar to likely Obama voters (86% and 4% respectively).  By contrast, 45% of likely Romney voters believe global warming is happening. In fact, one out of three likely Romney voters believes it is not happening.


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Kind of a bookend to the summer just past, another jaw dropping record in a year of jaw dropping records.  Let me know what you think.

PBS Covers Sea Ice Minimum

September 24, 2012

Very informative interview here with Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

No false balance in this account. Just a scientist telling us what we, as a species, know about the astonishing pace of change on our home planet.

We’ve seen Exxon-Mobil signal they are officially throwing in the towel on denying that greenhouse gases will warm the climate. Company CEO Rex Tillerson tells us that climate change is “an engineering problem” that we can “adapt to”. So look for that to emerge as a meme among climate deniers who may be chastened after coming elections, (or climate disasters, whichever comes first).

But, a warning – as the inevitable recognition that all is not well sets in, be on the lookout for another variety of science denial tailored to the “Left Behind” crowd. Climate Change, in this formulation,  is not a result of greenhouse gases, but rather comes from God’s anger with the gay, muslim, socialist rays emanating from the White House, New York, and Los Angeles.

And it’s not computer modeled, it’s “prophecied”.

To be precise, this comes in several flavors, including one I ran into at a recent speaking event – the new age “earth changes” the “magnetic field is changing Nasa scientists say so” brand, so look out for that one, too.

Right Wing Watch:

Self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs, who blamed freak bird deaths on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and predicted that the Obama
administration’s support for LGBT rights will lead to a blizzard and the exposure of a major government scandalwarned Jim Bakker last week that more disasters are coming to America thanks to President Obama’s leadership. Jacobs told Bakker that she prophesied “that God had seen decisions made from our White House that were anti-biblical and that we were going to come into the season of the greatest weather patterns and disasters that we had seen, there were going to be floods and fires and more, and it all happened.”

She claimed that 2011 “historically was the worst year for weather-related disasters in our history, and I was mocked everywhere for that because they don’t understand spiritual things.” “We are going to have more weather disasters, it’s going to come up worse and worse, it’s not going to stop,” Jacobs contended.

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall
be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who
remains jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate
those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the
theory of the earth,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account,
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which
responds love,
It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings
of the earth,
Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths
of the earth,
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print can-
not touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best,
It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

~Walt Whitman

News that stays news.

Thanks to the commenters this week who reminded me of my love for this classic. If you don’t know Whitman, there is a piece of your soul out there that you did not know was missing.

Welcome to the Equinox. What’s it like where you are?


Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutger’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences is featured in my sea ice wrap video, which should be out early in the week.

Here is a lecture she gave in January of 2012. Longish, but worth dipping into, as  she summarizes some of the most recent research in regard to the effects of shrinking arctic ice on weather and climate in the temperate latitudes – the so-called “arctic paradox” so beloved by Fox News – “if there’s global warming, why are we having this record snow storm?”.

What she told me in a recent interview was that the sea ice record is not something that we just pay attention to in September – there will, in fact, be reverberations that will make fall and winter “very interesting” around the globe.

UPDATE: Dr Francis has a column today in the Washington Post:

As temperatures over the Arctic Ocean fall with the approach of winter, the extra energy that was absorbed during summer must be released back into the atmosphere before the water can cool to freezing temperatures. Essentially, this loads the atmosphere with a new source of energy—one that affects weather patterns, both locally and on a larger scale. In spring, a similar phenomenon also occurs, but it involves snow cover on northern land areas. Snow has been melting progressively earlier each year; this past June and July it disappeared earlier than ever before. The underlying soil is then exposed to strong spring sun, which allows it to dry and warm earlier – contributing to Arctic amplification in summer months.

The difference in temperature between the Arctic and areas to the south is what drives the jet stream, a fast-moving river of air that encircles the northern hemisphere. As the Arctic warms faster, this temperature difference weakens, as does the west-to-east wind of the jet stream. Just as a river of water tends to meander when it reaches the gentle slopes of coastal plains, a weaker jet stream tends to have steeper north-south waves. Arctic amplification also stretches the northern tips of the waves farther northward, which favors further meandering. Meteorologists know that steeper waves are slower to shift westward.

The weather we experience at mid-latitudes is largely dictated by these waves in the jet stream. The slower the waves move, the longer the weather associated with them will persist. Essentially, “hot,” “dry,” “cold,” and “rainy” are all terms to describe very normal weather conditions. It’s only when those conditions persist in one area for too long that they are dubbed with the names of their extreme alter egos: heat waves, drought, cold spells, and floods. And these kinds of extreme events are precisely what we’ve seen more of in recent years.

Global warming now has a face and a fingerprint that directly touch each of our lives. Rather than just a gradual increase in temperature, we can recognize its influence in a shift toward more extreme weather events. A warmer atmosphere also means a moister atmosphere, so any given storm will have more moisture and energy to work with, increasing the chances of flooding or heavy snows. Arctic amplification adds another mechanism to the mix, making extreme weather more likely. The loss of ice and snow in the far north may load the dice for “stuck” weather patterns, compounding potential risks for our economy, our health, and our security.