Last updated on August 8, 2020
Most of us have been experiencing warm to hot temperatures. It doesn’t appear that the misery will go away any time soon. There is a lot of news lately on our warming planet. I shared a few articles on the subject, but they barely scratch the surface of what is barrelling towards us for this summer and beyond.
Marshall Shepard of Forbes Magazine sounds the alarm on the warmer than average temperatures in the Atlantic ocean.
Are you paying attention to the heat in Florida right now? According to the National Weather Service – Key West, July 1st marked the 46th daily warm minimum temperature record that was tied with or set during the first half of 2020. The same office also tweeted on July 2nd, “It also marks the 10th consecutive such record — with this morning's low (84°) on track to tie again.” On the same day, University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy tweeted, “And we now have an 11th consecutive day with a 103°+ heat index in #Miami. #heatwave #flwx.” Much of the country will get to experience extreme heat during 4th of July weekend so be careful. The temperature records are certainly jaw-dropping, but another Tweet by McNoldy caught my eye. He pointed out that the water temperature at Virginia Key, Florida on July 2nd was the hottest recorded at that site (92.5 degrees F). When I saw that statistic, my immediate thought was that the Atlantic hurricane season “fuel” is currently high octane.
Warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean so far in 2020 have set the stage for an active hurricane season and elevated the risk of fires in the southern Amazon, according to scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine.
Variations in ocean sea surface temperatures alter weather patterns around the world. In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, warmer surface waters near the equator draw moisture northward and away from the southern Amazon, favoring the development of hurricanes. As a result, the southern Amazon landscape becomes dry and flammable, making human-set fires used for agriculture and land clearing more prone to growing out of control and spreading.
“The fire season forecast is consistent with what we saw in 2005 and 2010, when warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures spawned a series of severe hurricanes and triggered record droughts across the southern Amazon that culminated in widespread Amazon forest fires,” said Doug Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Atlantic hurricane season has already shown signs of increased activity, with five named storms already in the books early in the season, Morton said. Nevertheless, a complex set of conditions influence the formation of tropical storms. For instance, in June, a large Saharan dust plume wafted across the Atlantic, temporarily suppressing storm formation. These circumstances highlight both the interconnectedness and complexity of the Earth system, as rapid changes in atmospheric conditions or sea surface temperatures will influence rainfall patterns in 2020 and the potential for synchronized impacts from hurricanes and fires.
The Northeastern United States is the fastest-warming region in the country. Abbie Weiss writes in Inside Climate News.
Connecticut is one of the fastest-warming states, in the fastest warming region, in the contiguous United States. An analysis last year by The Washington Post found that neighboring Rhode Island was the first state among the lower 48 whose average annual temperature had warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius since 1895. New Jersey was second, the Post found, followed by Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts.
The Post analysis also found that the New York City area, including Long Island and suburban counties in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, was among about half a dozen hot spots nationally where warming has already exceeded 2 degrees. The others are the greater Los Angeles area, the high desert in Oregon, the Western Rocky Mountains, an area from Montana to Minnesota along the Canadian border and the Northeast Shore of Lake Michigan.
Climate scientists don't fully understand why Connecticut and the other Northeast states have warmed so dramatically, but they offer an array of explanations, from warm winters that produce less snow and ice (and thus reflect less heat back into space) to warming ocean temperatures and changes in both the jet stream and the Gulf Stream.
Two degrees Celsius serves as a prominent threshold for international leaders, who in the 2015 Paris Agreement committed to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius…,recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
Sweltering summer days can put people’s health at risk. And in most parts of the U.S., hot days are increasingly common.
Kristina Dahl of the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed how global warming will affect the frequency of days with an extremely high heat index – a combined measure of temperature and humidity.
“We found that if we fail to reduce our heat-trapping emissions, there will be a staggering expansion of the frequency and the intensity of extreme heat in most parts of the country,” she says. “Between now and mid-century, on average in the U.S., we would see the number of days with a heat index above 105 quadruple.”
Roger Pielke is concerned.
— Roger A. Pielke Sr (@RogerAPielkeSr) July 6, 2020
ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes also warns of more intense heat waves bearing down on the planet, albeit there are some regional exceptions.
The first comprehensive worldwide assessment of heatwaves down to regional levels has revealed that in nearly every part of the world heatwaves have been increasing in frequency and duration since the 1950s.
The research published in Nature Communications has also produced a new metric, cumulative heat, which reveals exactly how much heat is packed into individual heatwaves and heatwave seasons. As expected, that number is also on the rise.
Not only have the heatwave trends accelerated but heatwaves are lasting longer. ARC continues.
In Australia's worst heatwave season, an additional 80°C of cumulative heat was experienced across the country. In Russia and the Mediterranean, their most extreme seasons baked in an additional 200°C or more.
“Not only have we seen more and longer heatwaves worldwide over the past 70 years, but this trend has markedly accelerated,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Perkins Kirkpatrick from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes.
“Cumulative heat shows a similar acceleration, increasing globally on average by 1°C-4.5°C each decade but in some places, like the Middle East, and parts of Africa and South America, the trend is up to 10°C a decade.”
The planet is on course to break the 1.5C warming barrier in the next few years, according to the World Meteorological Organisation, only five years after the limit was agreed at the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The deal, to which almost every country in the world signed up, was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to keep global temperatures this century “well below” 2C of warming and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C.
“In each of the coming five years (2020-2024) and there is a 20 per cent chance that it will exceed 1.5C in at least one year, according to new climate predictions,” the WMO has now said, adding that the 1.5C mark stood a 70 per cent chance of being exceeded during one or more months during the same time frame.
The last five-year period has been the warmest five years on record, and the global average temperature first surpassed 1C above what it was during the pre-industrial period in just 2015.
Temperatures around the world had been slowly falling for around 6,000 years before the impact of the industrial revolution reversed the trend in less than 150 years.
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