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Global Warming: This Summer is What it Looks Like

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This US summer is 'what global warming looks like'

WASHINGTON — If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, scientists suggest taking a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.

Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.

These are the kinds of extremes climate scientists have predicted will come with climate change, although it's far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.

Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time. Sometimes it isn't caused by global warming. Weather is always variable; freak things happen.

And this weather has been local. Europe, Asia and Africa aren't having similar disasters now, although they've had their own extreme events in recent years.

But since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now.

So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.

"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level," said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. "The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about."

Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in fire-charred Colorado, said these are the very record-breaking conditions he has said would happen, but many people wouldn't listen. So it's I told-you-so time, he said.

As recently as March, a special report an extreme events and disasters by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of "unprecedented extreme weather and climate events." Its lead author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University, said Monday, "It's really dramatic how many of the patterns that we've talked about as the expression of the extremes are hitting the U.S. right now."

"What we're seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like," said Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer. "It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters."

Oppenheimer said that on Thursday. That was before the East Coast was hit with triple-digit temperatures and before a derecho — an unusually strong, long-lived and large straight-line wind storm — blew through Chicago to Washington. The storm and its aftermath killed more than 20 people and left millions without electricity. Experts say it had energy readings five times that of normal thunderstorms.

Fueled by the record high heat, this was one of the most powerful of this type of storm in the region in recent history, said research meteorologist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storm Laboratory in Norman, Okla. Scientists expect "non-tornadic wind events" like this one and other thunderstorms to increase with climate change because of the heat and instability, he said.

Such patterns haven't happened only in the past week or two. The spring and winter in the U.S. were the warmest on record and among the least snowy, setting the stage for the weather extremes to come, scientists say.

Since Jan. 1, the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records, but fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through most of last century, the U.S. used to set cold and hot records evenly, but in the first decade of this century America set two hot records for every cold one, said Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This year the ratio is about 7 hot to 1 cold. Some computer models say that ratio will hit 20-to-1 by midcentury, Meehl said.

"In the future you would expect larger, longer more intense heat waves and we've seen that in the last few summers," NOAA Climate Monitoring chief Derek Arndt said.

The 100-degree heat, drought, early snowpack melt and beetles waking from hibernation early to strip trees all combined to set the stage for the current unusual spread of wildfires in the West, said University of Montana ecosystems professor Steven Running, an expert on wildfires.

While at least 15 climate scientists told The Associated Press that this long hot U.S. summer is consistent with what is to be expected in global warming, history is full of such extremes, said John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He's a global warming skeptic who says, "The guilty party in my view is Mother Nature."

But the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists, such as Meehl, disagree: "This is what global warming is like, and we'll see more of this as we go into the future."

by on Jul. 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM
Replies (11-17):
sweettigeress
by on Jul. 8, 2012 at 12:22 AM

You would have to be pretty stupid and blind not to believe in global warming. Just look around, feel the temps. 

Clairwil
by Silver Member on Jul. 8, 2012 at 2:52 AM
Quoting gsprofval:

I don't think it's global warming, it's God's Warning!

Man goes to the Moon?  God's warning!

Atomic Bombs?  God's warning!

Mustard gas during World War I?  God's warning!

Krakatoa?  God's warning!

Steam trains?  God's warning!

The Black Death?  God's warning!

Vesuvius?  God's warning!


Can you name any event in the past 2000 years that someone has not taken as either a sign of humanity's hubris, god's wrath or an impending start of the End of Days ?


I think people had a greater success rate when they were trying to predict omens based upon the shape of clouds.

GertieK
by Silver Member on Jul. 8, 2012 at 2:36 PM
1 mom liked this

What a crock of s--t.  Things fluctuate constantly.  Just another "crisis" that is being used to scare people.  This heat is nothing new.  it is dad-gum hot, but no hotter than it has been in the past.  Amazing... when winter is extra cold, it is global warming.  when summer is hot, it is global warming.  when there are lots of tornados, it is global warming.  when there are lots of hurricanes, it is global warming.  It's weather, and it will go from one extreme to another just as it always has.  Hmmm... maybe it's Bush's fault.  he's been blamed for everything anyway.

Clairwil
by Silver Member on Jul. 8, 2012 at 8:18 PM
1 mom liked this
Quoting GertieK:

What a crock of s--t.  Things fluctuate constantly.  Just another "crisis" that is being used to scare people.  This heat is nothing new.  it is dad-gum hot, but no hotter than it has been in the past.  Amazing... when winter is extra cold, it is global warming.  when summer is hot, it is global warming.  when there are lots of tornados, it is global warming.  when there are lots of hurricanes, it is global warming.  It's weather, and it will go from one extreme to another just as it always has.

I agree that weather fluctuates, and that there have always been occasional extremes.   So you can't reason from a single example of an extreme to there being a change in climate.

HOWEVER

If they predict that this particular change in climate will increase the frequency and severity of the extremes of weather (which they do), then a pattern of more frequent and extreme weather than chance would dictate is supporting (though not conclusive by itself) evidence.

Do you understand the distinction?

GertieK
by Silver Member on Jul. 8, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Absolutely, but claiming it is due to man-made stuff.... that's another story.  This a "theory" pushed by the same guy who claimed he invented the internet.  I also seem to recall that the scientistss who supposedly "proved" we are creating our own demise had to fake their statistics because they couldn't come up with the numbers to support their own theory.

Clairwil
by Silver Member on Jul. 9, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Off-topic, and F.Y.I.

Quoting GertieK:

 the same guy who claimed he invented the internet

 snopes says you are wrong

Not that you care whether you are right or wrong, as long as the slander sounds good.



Clairwil
by Silver Member on Jul. 9, 2012 at 9:46 AM
Quoting GertieK:

 I also seem to recall that the scientistss who supposedly "proved" we are creating our own demise had to fake their statistics because they couldn't come up with the numbers to support their own theory.

What a fascinating phrase.

That fuzzy feeling you have... that's the feeling you get when you've been well and truly spun.  When someone has implanted in your head the impression that you decided something when you never actually were given a complete argument chain, just all the framework surrounding one (eg  people nodding in agreement, talking heads expressing outrage and just assuming the decision, etc)

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