The United States has warmed one half a degree F in the past decade and 1&1/2 degrees F in the past 3 decades according to the Climate Data Center which just released the new climate normals. It may not seem like much but greenhouse gases are warming the earth with over ten times as much heat as plate tectonics. Compared to geologic events such as ice ages and interglacials, which happen on time scales multiples of one thousand years the warming rate is a shocking 50 degrees per thousand years. And rising.
Rise in U.S.temperatures in new 30 year normals.
The rate heat is released from the earth – a measure of its natural “metabolic rate” – is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts, and reflects the average rate of energy transferred in moving all the continents, making all the mountains, the earthquakes and the volcanoes on our planet in a process we call plate tectonics.
By way of contrast, the International Energy Agency estimates our human “energy system” operates at a rate of some 16 trillion watts.
So we are already operating at one-third the rate of plate tectonics, and with our energy use doubling every 34 years we are on course to surpass plate tectonics by about 2060.
Climate scientists talk about the climate sensitivity in terms of a “radiative forcing” – an obscure term that accounts for the rate of heat energy gain or loss due to a change in a climate parameter.
The radiative forcing of a doubling of CO₂ is about 1300 trillion watts – or 28 times the energy released by plate tectonics.
And we are well on the way to doubling CO₂. In the past hundred years we have added almost 40%, and warming that can only plausibly be attributed to a greenhouse effect is not only heating the atmosphere, but is also pumping heat into the oceans and the crust at a phenomenal rate.
Stronger ocean currents beneath West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf are eroding the ice from below, speeding the melting of the glacier as a whole, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. A growing cavity beneath the ice shelf has allowed more warm water to melt the ice, the researchers say—a process that feeds back into the ongoing rise in global sea levels. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a clip of four kilometers (2.5 miles) a year, while its ice shelf is melting at about 80 cubic kilometers a year - 50 percent faster than it was in the early 1990s - the paper estimates.
One day, near the southern edge of Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf, the researchers directly observed the strength of the melting process as they watched frigid, seawater appear to boil on the surface like a kettle on the stove. To Jacobs, it suggested that deep water, buoyed by added fresh glacial melt, was rising to the surface in a process called upwelling. Jacobs had never witnessed upwelling first hand, but colleagues had described something similar in the fjords of Greenland, where summer runoff and melting glacier fronts can also drive buoyant plumes to the sea surface.
Arctic sea ice is melting this year at or above the record rates of 2007. Arctic sea ice volumes continue declining to levels well below 2007.
2010 was earth's hottest year in recorded history. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, 2010 was likely the most extreme year weatherwise since the year without a summer when Mt. Tambora erupted in 1816.
Every year extraordinary weather events rock the Earth. Records that have stood centuries are broken. Great floods, droughts, and storms affect millions of people, and truly exceptional weather events unprecedented in human history may occur. But the wild roller-coaster ride of incredible weather events during 2010, in my mind, makes that year the planet's most extraordinary year for extreme weather since reliable global upper-air data began in the late 1940s. Never in my 30 years as a meteorologist have I witnessed a year like 2010--the astonishing number of weather disasters and unprecedented wild swings in Earth's atmospheric circulation were like nothing I've seen. The pace of incredible extreme weather events in the U.S. over the past few months have kept me so busy that I've been unable to write-up a retrospective look at the weather events of 2010. But I've finally managed to finish, so fasten your seat belts for a tour through the top twenty most remarkable weather events of 2010. At the end, I'll reflect on what the wild weather events of 2010 and 2011 imply for our future.
Earth's hottest year on record
Unprecedented heat scorched the Earth's surface in 2010, tying 2005 for the warmest year since accurate records began in the late 1800s. Temperatures in Earth's lower atmosphere also tied for warmest year on record, according to independent satellite measurements. Earth's 2010 record warmth was unusual because it occurred during the deepest solar energy minimum since satellite measurements of the sun began in the 1970s. Unofficially, nineteen nations (plus the the U.K.'s Ascension Island) set all-time extreme heat records in 2010. This includes Asia's hottest reliably measured temperature of all-time, the remarkable 128.3°F (53.5°C) in Pakistan in May 2010. This measurement is also the hottest undisputed temperature anywhere on the planet except for in Death Valley, California (two hotter official records, at Al Azizia, Libya in 1922, and Tirat, Zvi Israel in 1942, have ample reasons to be disputed.) The countries that experienced all-time extreme highs in 2010 constituted over 20% of Earth's land surface area.
Please read the astounding detailed report on Jeff Master's blog. I'll skip to the conclusion here.
Where will Earth's climate go from here?
The pace of extreme weather events has remained remarkably high during 2011, giving rise to the question--is the "Global Weirding" of 2010 and 2011 the new normal? Has human-caused climate change destabilized the climate, bringing these extreme, unprecedented weather events? Any one of the extreme weather events of 2010 or 2011 could have occurred naturally sometime during the past 1,000 years. But it is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force.
Human-caused climate change has fundamentally altered the atmosphere by adding more heat and moisture. Observations confirm that global atmospheric water vapor has increased by about 4% since 1970, which is what theory says should have happened given the observed 0.5°C (0.9°F) warming of the planet's oceans during the same period. Shifts of this magnitude are capable of significantly affecting the path and strength of the jet stream, behavior of the planet's monsoons, and paths of rain and snow-bearing weather systems. For example, the average position of the jet stream retreated poleward 270 miles (435 km) during a 22-year period ending in 2001, in line with predictions from climate models. A naturally extreme year, when embedded in such a changed atmosphere, is capable of causing dramatic, unprecedented extremes like we observed during 2010 and 2011. That's the best theory I have to explain the extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011--natural extremes of El Niño, La Niña and other natural weather patterns combined with significant shifts in atmospheric circulation and the extra heat and atmospheric moisture due to human-caused climate change to create an extraordinary period of extreme weather. However, I don't believe that years like 2010 and 2011 will become the "new normal" in the coming decade. Many of the flood disasters in 2010 - 2011 were undoubtedly heavily influenced by the strong El Niño and La Niña events that occurred, and we're due for a few quiet years without a strong El Niño or La Niña. There's also the possibility that a major volcanic eruption in the tropics or a significant quiet period on the sun could help cool the climate for a few years, cutting down on heat and flooding extremes (though major eruptions tend to increase drought.) But the ever-increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases humans are emitting into the air puts tremendous pressure on the climate system to shift to a new, radically different, warmer state, and the extreme weather of 2010 - 2011 suggests that the transition is already well underway. A warmer planet has more energy to power stronger storms, hotter heat waves, more intense droughts, heavier flooding rains, and record glacier melt that will drive accelerating sea level rise. I expect that by 20 - 30 years from now, extreme weather years like we witnessed in 2010 will become the new normal.
Despite the devastating effects of climate change that have only just begun, U.S. politicians are blathering inanities about the budget deficit while they spend trillions on wars to secure access to supplies of fossil fuels. Report (PDF)
The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion, according to a former Pentagon official.
That's more than NASA's budget. It's more than BP has paid so far for damage from the Gulf oil spill. It's what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.
"When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we're talking over $20 billion," Steven Anderson tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin
But what are the politicians planning to do? They are preparing to slash the budgets on science and technology research needed to avert a climate catastrophe...while they continue to pay billions to air condition our troops fighting wars for oil and gas in Hell holes that are rapidly becoming too hot to support human life.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle continue to struggle to address the nation's economic and budgetary concerns, as deadlines for the debt ceiling quickly approach and budget debates rage. Results of these debates have the potential to be devastating, not just for AGU members and the scientific community at large, but also for the public they serve and the global competitiveness of the nation's economy.
While it is not yet clear how the proposed cuts would be applied to scientific research and development, it is highly likely that FY12 funding levels for federal investment will be below FY11 levels, and this trend may continue for a number of years. While the need to reduce the national debt is real, AGU believes budget cuts should not come at the cost of programs that keep Americans safe and build a foundation on which the nation's economy thrives.
AGU has been active in communicating with Congress and the Administration about the importance of science funding and the consequences of cutting such research programs. To ensure that this critical research—and the benefits it provides to the public and the nation's economy—is preserved, AGU is calling on all of its members to take action.
Our leaders are functionally insane. They are spending trillions on wars of choice against phantom threats while the conditions necessary to support the billions of people living on earth collapse in a wave of floods, droughts, fires and storms.