Here are two more weeks of daily climate change impacts stories, as part of my #365climateimpacts project. I didn’t have to go very far from home to find inspiration for this fornight of tweets. We had an incredibly unusual heat wave in the Midwest, and March came in like a lion with a 6 am tornado warning. Amidst all the heat, I did also sneak in some glaciers and polar bears and other climate change impacts. Read on for all of the stories…
February 16: Documenting Glaciers in the Dying Days of Ice. This piece follows the National Park Service photographer charged with capturing images that show how much Glacier National Park’s iconic glaciers have retreated in the last century. Click through to look at some incredible before and after photo pairs.
Dr. Warren Washington is global climate modeler who won the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the field. He’s one of many Black American scientists and engineers who have made contributions that we often fail to recognize and celebrate. Here’s one brief bio, and here’s another.
February 27 (Polar Bear Day): Here’s a great fact-filled 1 minute video about polar bears, those charismatic emblems of climate change. I know polar bears are the stereotypical mascots of climate change, but I’ve loved them since I was 4 & got to see them in Churchill, Canada. That’s why they work as the most recognizable mascot of climate change, because so many people (like me) fell in love with them as children. My 2 year old’s beloved teddy is a white bear. Wouldn’t it be great if weren’t extinct (or only in zoos) by the time he’s my age?
Today I was awoken by a tornado warning. Incredibly unusual at this time of year in Ohio. Effects of February hot spell. (I’ve not heard of any confirmed tornado touchdowns today in NE Ohio, but to even have storms capable of tornadogenesis is super-unusual.)
In January, I launched the #365climateimpacts project, in which I’ll spend a year tweeting stories of the many ways climate change is impacting people, ecosystems, and the earth; ideas for how to communicate about climate change more effectively; and analyses of technologies and policy proposals that show promise for combatting climate change. Here’s what I’ve shared in the last two weeks.
What does a graph like this mean? It means ocean is taking up heat that CO2 emissions would otherwise add to atmosphere.
I got a bit gif happy with today’s #365climateimpacts tweetstream, so you should really head over to twitter to enjoy the thread. I like snow. I like to sled, build snowmen, snowshoe, and how pretty snow is. Loss of snow is one reason I care about climate change. Today it is 57 F and raining steadily here in NE Ohio. I keep thinking about how we’d have a foot of snow if it were cold enough. Instead, I spent an hour in my class talking about the fun ways hydrologists have of measuring snow. With bare ground outside.
The average US snow season shortened by 2 weeks since 1972. Snow covered area is decreasing. The figure below is from the US EPA’s great Climate Change Indicators site, under the heading “Snow Cover.”
This figure shows the timing of each year’s snow cover season in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska, based on an average of all parts of the country that receive snow every year. The shaded band spans from the first date of snow cover until the last date of snow cover.
Climate normals say that my area averages 45″ of snow per winter, but I haven’t seen anywhere near that most of the 5 years I’ve lived here. Of course, 5 years isn’t long enough to identify any trend (I’m not arguing it is), but my experience fits in the pattern of less snowy winters that are being observed across the United States. Here’s some data stretching 60 years. The figure below is from the US EPA’s great Climate Change Indicators site, under the heading “Snowfall.” Red is less snow, more rain.
This figure shows the average rate of change in total snowfall from 1930 to 2007 at 419 weather stations in the contiguous 48 states. Blue circles represent increased snowfall; red circles represent a decrease.
February 8 (National Kite Flying Day):
Good morning, Twitter. It’s National Kite Flying Day! Do you think I can tie that to climate change?
President Obama has been appreciating kite flying, recently.
Back in the day, it wasn’t just surfboards powered by wind. It was big ships. Admittedly, with sails, not kites, but I’m doing the best I can to tie to #nationalkiteflyingday.
Modern shipping produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and wind is a renewable, carbon-free energy source. One idea is to attach big kites to ships to provide free & CO2-free energy.
It’s the middle of winter & something is seriously wrong with Arctic sea ice. Sea ice hit record low extents in November, December, and January. Nice reporting at Mashable by Andrew Freedman.
This figure shows the percentage of the land area of the contiguous 48 states where a much greater than normal portion of total annual precipitation has come from extreme single-day precipitation events. The bars represent individual years, while the line is a nine-year weighted average.
A “pineapple express” atmospheric river takes aim at California in December 2014. (NOAA/NASA GOES image)
Minnesota Public Radio ran a fantastic feature on how climate change is affecting ice cover on Lake Superior between Bayfield and Madeling Island, Wisconsin. For 250 year-round residents of the island, winter offers an ice road and the freedom to move back and forth without being tied to the ferry schedule. Except that, for two years running, the ice hasn’t been thick enough to drive on and the ferry has run all winter. This story is personal for me, because my family has owned land on Madeline Island for 4 generations, and I remember the thrill and terror of driving the ice road on winter visits.
The view from our family’s land on Madeline Island, February 3rd, 2017. Photo courtesy of J. Jarvis.
California is having a very wet winter, with multiple atmospheric rivers dumping feet of precipitation in the mountains. Oroville Dam on the Feather River, is the nation’s tallest dam, is facing serious engineering challenges. This Storify has some of the best links to a rapidly evolving situation.
Our changing climate is already affecting lives in a multitude of ways, and the impacts of climate change will only increase as the world continues to heat up. But because climate operates in the background, it’s easy to ignore the magnitude of the changes happening around us, as we are caught up in a daily news cycle and the rhythms of our own lives. 2017 seems fated to be an eventful – and exhausting – year and it would be all too easy to put climate change on the back burner, while facing seemingly more urgent crises. But, the longer we avoid tackling climate change head on, the more dramatic the impacts we are going to be facing.
I quietly launched a new personal project in January, and now that I’m a month in, I’m ready to tell you about it. I’m tweeting one climate change story per day for each day in 2017, with the tag #365climateimpacts. I’m aiming to tweet timely news stories or compelling visualizations across a wide range of climate change impacted arenas, from oceans to ice, from food to energy, from policy to theology, and more. While I’ve tagged the tweets with the word impacts, I’ll cover climate science and climate solutions as well as the impacts of past, present, and future climate change.
My goals for this project are three-fold:
For those of us who are climate concerned, my goal is to keep climate change on the front burner of our collective agenda with daily reminders of the pervasiveness and magnitude of climate change implications and the hope that individual choice and policy and technological solutions have to offer.
For those who are climate cautious or disengaged, I hope that the in the diversity of topics I tweet at least one will make it across your timeline and resonate with you and the things you care about. We know that just piling on facts doesn’t change people’s minds, but finding a genuine connection is a first step towards a real dialogue. As much as a one-to-many, 140-character limited platform lets me do, I hope I connect with you at some point this year.
The term “Climate Change” is now loaded with so much political baggage that it becomes almost impossible to hold a discussion across political lines. In stakeholder interviews, people generally understand and acknowledge the impacts of climate change on local and regional scales, as long as you don’t call it “Climate Change”. This has been my experience working in rural coastal communities, which tend to be strongly conservative and intimately connected to the changing ocean.
Which is why, when I talk about Climate Change, I don’t talk about science.
When I talk about Climate Change, I talk about Fishing.
A warmer atmosphere can hold more water, so it’s not too surprising that the hottest year on record also had the most precipitable water in the atmosphere. Still it’s nice to see the physics theory borne out in the data.
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You are reading one of my #ClimateResolutions right now.
Scientists like me study carbon emissions, deforestation, ocean acidification, desertification, sea-level rise, glacial melting, landscape degradation, groundwater salination, invasive species, global warming and more. There is very little good news to share. Today’s environmental problems are easily big enough to eclipse our inadequate solutions. When people tell me that climate change makes them feel hopeless, I breathe deep, and then I respond. I don’t answer them because I have a good response, but because we all deserve at least a bad response. Here is what I say.
The way I personally counter the despair that reading the latest climate change news can bring is by thinking about all of the technologies and solutions we already have in hand, and how the economics are steadily working ever more in their favor. President Obama makes a strong case for “The irreversible momentum of clean energy” in a policy forum article in Science magazine. I have a feeling Obama (2017) is going to be a highly cited paper over the next few years.
The mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.
Days before handing over power to a Republican administration, the EPA managed to complete a mid-term review of greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars – more than a year ahead of schedule. Wired has the story:
By 2025, cars would have to nearly double their average fuel efficiency (a kind of measure of emissions) and deliver, on average, more than 50 miles per gallon (which, for arcane reasons, equates to a real world figure of 36 mpg). The auto industry caved and agreed, with the caveat that by April 2018, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration do a thorough review of the rules, and adjust them if they proved unduly expensive or just plain unworkable.
By completing the review early – and finding the standards appropriate – the EPA just made it harder for the next administration to take a step backwards on car emissions.
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There’s some debate over whether we should really be lumping the Arctic and Antarctic onto the same plot, but there’s no denying that this is a pretty stunning departure from recorded history of sea ice.
We knew it was coming, but January 18th is when NOAA and NASA confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, beating out its immediate predecessor.
We show that over the past 50 years, the population of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Terre Adélie has declined by 50% because of a decrease in adult survival during the late 1970s. At this time there was a prolonged abnormally warm period with reduced sea-ice extent. Mortality rates increased when warm sea-surface temperatures occurred in the foraging area and when annual sea-ice extent was reduced, and were higher for males than for females. In contrast with survival, emperor penguins hatched fewer eggs when winter sea-ice was extended. These results indicate strong and contrasting effects of large-scale oceanographic processes and sea-ice extent on the demography of emperor penguins, and their potential high susceptibility to climate change.
A stunning visualization of the trends in global temperature over the last 150 years in this temperature spiral, posted by Climate Central.
Global temperature spiral, updated to include 2016 data. Created by Ed Hawkins.
Climate change is already affecting Ohio. Find out how climate change affects your state, on this fantastic climate impacts site (produced by the Federal Government): https://statesummaries.ncics.org/ (Note: If this site disappears, I have copies of the info for the states where I’ve lived: OH, NC, OR, MN).
One of three key messages on climate change impacts being experienced by Ohio. The others focus on increasing temperature (and risks for urban areas) and increasing drought risks. What are the key messages for your state?
Unsure how things like volcanic eruptions and air pollution play into the climate change we are experiencing? This data visualization from Bloomberg does a nice job showing how we can’t explain historical temperature trends without CO2 emissions, and what roles other factors have been playing in the temperature record.
Peatlands are natural storehouse of carbon from the atmosphere — unless they are destroyed. Then, all the carbon goes back up into the atmosphere. Scientists have recently mapped a huge peatland in the Congo basin. It’s estimated to store the equivalent of 20 years worth of fossil fuel emissions from the United States, over an area the size of New York state. Let’s work to make sure it stays protected and the carbon stays in the ground.
Are you watching Katherine Hayhoe’s Global Weirding series of videos yet? You should. One thing I love about Dr. Hayhoe is how clearly she explains why a “just the facts” approach won’t work to convince people skeptical of climate change’s reality. That’s the focus of the latest episode of her series.
Average change in population affected per country given 4?C global warming. Hatching indicates countries where the confidence level of the average change is less than 90%. Figure copyright EU, used in spirit of fair use.
In a month filled with signs that the new US administration will roll back federal comittments to combatting climate change, California is a beacon of light. The state of California, one of the world’s largest economies in it’s own right, is continuing forward with its efforts to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions. As California knows, once the groundwork for a low carbon future is laid, the economics of going backward don’t make sense.
“There’s a whole ecosystem built to reduce emissions,” said Jon Costantino, an environmental policy advisor who previously worked at the California Air Resources Board. “There’s investors, there’s businesses, there’s consultants.”
He added, “To pull the rug out from under that would have a dramatic impact.”
At around 9pm on the 26th January 1700, the Cascadia subduction zone – a shallowly dipping thrust fault that runs more than 1000 km north from Cape Mendocino in Northern California to the vicinity of Vancouver Island, ruptured in an estimated magnitude 9 earthquake. No Europeans were there to witness the shaking and the inundation that followed, as the Oregon and Washington coasts were engulfed by tsunami more than 10 m high. But indigenous people were, and some of their oral accounts, of this earthquake and similar ones before it, still survive. The tsunami crossed the Pacific basin to Japan, where it was recorded as an ‘orphan’ tsunami (one that was not preceded by a large local earthquake). The Japanese records are how we precisely know the day and rough time of the rupture.
More recent records from Japan – pictures and video of the tsunami generated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake – provide a sobering vision of what the Cascadia megathrust might do to the Pacific Northwest when it next wakes up. 317 years have passed, and we can’t know precisely how many more might pass before the next big earthquake. Records of giant submarine landslides triggered by large subduction zone ruptures, preserved in sediments off the Cascadia margin, show that on average, a big rupture like the 1700 event occurs every 500 years or so. But the Earth is not clockwork, and the gap between two individual earthquakes can vary significantly from the long-term average. All we know is that it will happen at some point in the next few hundred years, and we had best get prepared.
This is not exactly happy knowledge. Nonetheless, having that knowledge is still something to be thankful for, when we consider the all-too-common alternative: us going about our rapid human business, unaware that the slow geological workings of the planet beneath our feet are turning, building up to a disaster we never see coming until it is upon us. But for Cascadia, dogged and careful scientific detective work* over the past thirty years means that we are in the relatively happy position of comprehending the threat before it takes us by unpleasant surprise.
It could still be a tragedy – even the most recent assessments make it clear that there is still plenty of work to do to prepare the region for the day when the ‘years since last rupture’ counter flips back to zero. But knowledge is power, and in this case it is life-saving power.
*much of it, I feel compelled to point out in these interesting times, funded by the USGS and other US government agencies.