Climate Change Hitting Home

June 26, 2017

For most people, the words “climate change” conjure an image of melting glaciers, or the lonely polar bear on an ice flow. Due to lazy, inconsistent, and scarce reporting from the media, it’s easy for most folks to believe that climate change is a problem for another place, another time.

I recently completed a summary video for the 5 year “Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost” update of the Arctic Council – and the primary message I heard from scientists over two years of interviews, was that, although the Arctic is indeed changing more rapidly than just about anywhere on earth – what happens there does not stay there.

Now a teachable moment in my own neighborhood. In the past week here in central Michigan, we’ve experienced a “500 year” rain event, that looks an awful lot like the last “500 year” event, which happened only 30 years ago. And that’s with in increasing number of ever-more-severe smaller events in between.

Large precipitation events are one of the most basic, first-order-physics predictions of climate science, and some of the earliest and best measured changes that we see.


Top of page, I took the opportunity to practice up with the small drone I’m taking to Greenland next month, to document the flooding we’ve seen in the last few days.
Much thanks to those who pitched in and helped us purchase this equipment – I promise to put it to good use.

Popular Science:

According to a recent Yale survey, 7 in 10 Americans believe global warming is real and ­happening. And 6 in 10 believe it is affecting U.S. weather. But only 1 in 3 say they’ve personally felt its effects. That disconnect stuck with Heidi Cullen. “You’re never going to think of it as an issue that’s urgent unless you recognize the fact that you’re already being impacted,” says Cullen, chief scientist for the nonprofit Climate Central. Now in its ninth year, Climate Central is part research hub and part journalism outfit—an unusual hybrid that tries to connect climate change to people’s lives.

The organization’s latest project, World Weather ­Attribution, identifies direct links between extreme weather events and global warming. Cullen and her team created the program after realizing that while the tools for attributing such events have evolved, the results were coming out too late to influence the conversation. ­Cullen also worried that media covering extreme weather operated off outdated information: They would say you couldn’t tie any specific event to climate change. “Now the techniques exist,” Cullen says. So she set out to provide objective answers, swiftly. Researchers from Climate Central and other institutions around the world combine information from climate models, on-the-ground observations, and a range of peer-reviewed research to supply evidence for their reports. Recently, her team determined that global warming made 2017’s exceptionally warm February in the U.S. at least three times more likely.

If you have not seen,  and you need yet another reminder about rapid polar change, the Arctic video is below.

4 Responses to “Climate Change Hitting Home”

  1. Tom Bates Says:

    What most Americans believe is what the news tells them or does not tell them. That has zero to do with reality. What is real is the world is warmer than in 1625 the depths of the little ice age and colder than in 1000 AD the height of the medieval warm period. None of those changes had anything to do with CO2 released by man.

    Models like MODTRAN can predict CO2 warming effects with a large number of uncertainties. If you run MODTRAN the warming when CO2 doubles in a minimum of 133 years in the future will be 0.67F warmer. At that point if will be slightly less warm than it was in 1000 AD.

    • webej Says:

      The change in the radiative balance alone for a doubling of CO² is about 1.2°C (or 2°F). That would be the instantaneous response on average (not necessarily on each type of surface) if there were no feedbacks or other greenhouse gases. The momentum of ocean heat (among other things, such as melting ice) forms a tremendous delay for this reponse, which is why there are estimates of the transient climate response. Water vapour amplification, changing albedo, vegetation, ocean absorption of CO² and other aspects of the carbon cycle, and many other factors form feedbacks that make the total warming at various time scales complex. Nobody except you comes up with 0.67°F (with very little explanation and argument). Since average warming already exceeds your prediction, extraordinary argumentation is required.
      You also seem ignorant of the fact that temperatures during the little ice age and the medieval warm period do not represent global average temperatures.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      Provide your reference to the scientific paper(s) estimating global mean surface temperature for 900-1200 AD or some such period thereabouts. Stop being always shy, go for it.

  2. webej Says:

    The fact that 1 in 3 say they haven’t personally experienced climate change can be interpreted more generously as meaning that most people do not follow climate attribution studies and are smart enough not to claim that any single weather occurrence they have personally experienced proves that climate change is real, even though they know that climate change is already affecting current conditions. People know that single instances of weather are not trends, and defer to people who study trends and know that in fact worrisome trends do exist.

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