A told-you-so cli­mate mo­ment?

Malta Independent - - FEATURE -

This sum­mer's weather was re­lent­less and hellish, crowded with the type of record-smash­ing ex­tremes that sci­en­tists have long warned about.

The sea­son ended yes­ter­day, and not a mo­ment too soon. Sum­mer fea­tured floods that killed hun­dreds of peo­ple and caused more than $50 bil­lion in losses around the globe, from Louisiana and West Vir­ginia to China, In­dia, Europe and the Su­dan. Mean­while, droughts parched cro­p­lands and wildfires burned from Cal­i­for­nia to Canada to China and In­dia. Toss in un­re­lent­ing record heat.

From June to Au­gust, there were at least 10 dif­fer­ent weather dis­as­ters that each caused more than $1 bil­lion in losses, ac­cord­ing to in­sur­ance in­dus­try tal­lies . With sum­mer weather now seem­ingly stretch­ing from May to Septem­ber, ex­treme weather in that span killed well more than 2,000 peo­ple. And that's with­out a ma­jor hur­ri­cane hit­ting a big US city, although the Pa­cific had its share of deadly and costly storms, among them Ty­phoon Nepar­tak, which killed 111 peo­ple in Asia.

"It is rep­re­sent­ing I think a notch up for the im­pacts we have had to deal with," US Na­tional Weather Ser­vice Di­rec­tor Louis Uc­cellini said. "We've ex­pe­ri­enced an in­creas­ing num­ber and a dis­turb­ing num­ber of weather ex­tremes this sum­mer."

While flood­ing made the news, the "sneaky" thing about the sum­mer was heat that did not even ease at night, said Deke Arndt, cli­mate mon­i­tor­ing chief at the fed­eral Na­tional Cen­ters for En­vi­ron­men­tal In­for­ma­tion in Asheville, North Carolina. When tem­per­a­tures drop to be­low 22 Cel­sius at night it al­lows the body to recharge, plants to grow and air con­di­tion­ers to be shut off. But this year that didn't hap­pen enough.

The US as a na­tion set a record for the hottest night-time tem­per­a­tures on av­er­age this sum­mer, Arndt said. Tallahassee, Florida, for ex­am­ple, went 74 con­sec­u­tive days where the night-time tem­per­a­ture didn't dip be­low 72.

From May 1 to Sept. 12, nearly 15,000 daily records for warm­est night-time lows were set in the United States, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion data .

"This is one of the clear­est sig­nals we ex­pect for cli­mate change," said Mark Bove, a New Jersey-based se­nior re­search me­te­o­rol­o­gist for re-in­sur­ance gi­ant Mu­nich RE, which tracks nat­u­ral dis­as­ters . "It keeps a blan­ket on you par­tic­u­larly at night. We can­not ra­di­ate the heat away at night as the planet used to."

While records were bro­ken, the sum­mer has "been more no­table for the con­sis­tency of the heat than in­di­vid­ual high-im­pact heat waves," said Blair Trewin of the Aus­tralian Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy and the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

For ex­am­ple, Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, had a record 69 days in a row of 32 Cel­sius or higher.

Twelve US cities had their warm­est sum­mers ever, in­clud­ing Las Ve­gas, New Orleans, Cleve­land and Detroit. The globe had its hottest month on record (July) and hottest sum­mer on record. Au­gust was the 16th con­sec­u­tive month Earth set a monthly heat record, ac­cord­ing to NOAA.

Tem­per­a­tures of 54 de­grees Cel­sius were recorded in Mitribah, Kuwait, and Basra, Iraq. If ver­i­fied, th­ese would be not only the hottest tem­per­a­tures recorded for Asia, but the hottest recorded out­side a much-de­bated record in Death Val­ley, ac­cord­ing to weather his­to­ri­ans.

The ex­tra heat — both in the air and oceans — puts sig­nif­i­cantly ex­tra mois­ture in the air, which then comes down as more ex­treme down­pours, said Kevin Tren­berth, a se­nior sci­en­tist at the Na­tional Cen­ter for At­mo­spheric Re­search. And when an area is al­ready dry, droughts worsen be­cause warmer air takes more water out of the ground, like "levy­ing a larger tax on the plants and soil mois­ture," Arndt said.

Ba­ton Rouge and South Bend had their wettest sum­mers, while Bos­ton and Jack­sonville had their dri­est sum­mers.

Cli­mate sci­en­tists say what's hap­pened pretty much fits with what they've been say­ing would oc­cur as the world warms. For most of the ex­treme events, they haven't done the pre­cise and de­tailed stud­ies that can show that man-made cli­mate change is to blame for cer­tain ex­treme weather events. But they did do that for the Louisiana flood­ing, which NOAA said had its chances boosted by 40 per­cent be­cause of heat-trap­ping gasses.

NASA chief cli­mate sci­en­tist Gavin Sch­midt said the records keep show­ing the planet warm­ing and "since we kind of pre­dicted th­ese things we know what we're talk­ing about."

Per­haps the most no­tice­able case of this be­ing pre­dicted was in a 1988 study by James Hansen, Sch­midt's pre­de­ces­sor as head of NASA's God­dard In­sti­tute for Space Stud­ies .

In that study, us­ing what sci­en­tists now call a crude com­puter model, Hansen fore­cast what would likely hap­pen to Earth's cli­mate. With one of his sce­nar­ios, Hansen not only got the global tem­per­a­ture rise about right, he fore­cast big changes in the num­ber of days when the overnight tem­per­a­tures would not go be­low 75 and the day­time highs would ex­ceed 95 in four cities by the 2010s.

He was right — or un­der­es­ti­mated how hot it would be — in six of eight cat­e­gories.

"The fact it's come out with more or less around what was pre­dicted is not sur­pris­ing," Hansen said. "The sum­mer is when things show up eas­i­est be­cause the nat­u­ral vari­abil­ity is the least in the sum­mer. You no­tice the change more read­ily in the warm sea­son."

Earth smashes yet an­other heat record; 16th month in a row

An­other month, an­other global heat record smashed.

The Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Tues­day said Au­gust's tem­per­a­ture of 16.52 Cel­sius was 0.05 Cel­sius warmer than the old Au­gust record set last year, and was the 16th con­sec­u­tive month of record-break­ing heat. NOAA mon­i­tor­ing chief Deke Arndt said it was also the hottest sum­mer, with 2016 on pace to smash last year's record for the hottest year.

Au­gust 2016 was also 0.92 Cel­sius warmer than the 20th-cen­tury av­er­age. It was the fifth hottest month of any kind recorded, go­ing back to 1880. Six of the 17 hottest months on record have been the sum­mer months of 2015 and 2016.

The June-through-Au­gust sum­mer was 1.21 Cel­sius warmer than the 20th-cen­tury av­er­age and beat the old sum­mer heat record, set last year, by 0.11 Cel­sius, NOAA said.

"The nee­dle has been shoved all the way over into the red by green­house gases," Arndt said.

NOAA's an­nounce­ment came on a day when 375 mem­bers of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, in­clud­ing Stephen Hawk­ing and 30 No­bel lau­re­ates, re­leased an open let­ter urg­ing Amer­i­can lead­ers not to pull out of an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment to curb global warm­ing.

Or­ga­nizer and MIT cli­mate sci­en­tist Kerry Emanuel said the sci­en­tists wrote the let­ter in re­sponse to the Repub­li­can party plat­form that re­jects the Paris cli­mate agree­ment reached last De­cem­ber. The let­ter said pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump's ad­vo­cacy of with­draw­ing from that agree­ment would "send a clear sig­nal to the rest of the world: The United States does not care about the global prob­lem of hu­man-caused cli­mate change."

Pulling out of the Paris ac­cord, Emanuel said, "will ac­cel­er­ate our head-long plunge into a riskier and riskier cli­mate."

"Ev­ery­where we look we see signs that the cli­mate re­ally is chang­ing," Emanuel said. "We're get­ting wakeup calls more fre­quently and we re­ally have to do some­thing about this."

Photo: AP

Fire-fighters bat­tle a wild­fire as it crosses Cajon Boule­vard in Keen­brook, Calif. This past sum­mer’s weather was re­lent­less and hellish, crowded with the type of record-smash­ing ex­tremes that sci­en­tists have long warned about. The sea­son ended yes­ter­day and not a mo­ment too soon. Sum­mer fea­tured floods that killed hun­dreds of peo­ple and caused more than $50 bil­lion in losses around the globe, from Louisiana and West Vir­ginia to China, In­dia, Europe and the Su­dan. Mean­while, droughts parched cro­p­lands and wildfires burned from Cal­i­for­nia to Canada to China and In­dia. Toss in un­re­lent­ing record heat.

Photo: AP

A Filipino girl is car­ried along a flooded road in sub­ur­ban Man­daluy­ong, east of Manila, Philip­pines, as mon­soon down­pours in­ten­sify while Ty­phoon Nepar­tak ex­its the coun­try.

Photo: AP

A Louisiana Army Na­tional Guard dump truck that drove off the road is sub­merged in flood wa­ters near Walker, La., af­ter heavy rains in­un­dated the re­gion.

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