Archive for the ‘ocean’ Category
Thanks for visiting. This blog is now dormant. Nearly everything here explaining climate science, causes of global warming, connection to extreme weather is current and unlikely to go out of date anytime soon. Hopefully that makes it a useful resource. Most of my new climate and environment articles are for the global news agency IPS and can be found here: Stephen Leahy, senior correspondent.
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Thanks for reading. — Stephen
As the last of my winds and rains ebb I wish you a complete and climate-wise recovery. Our planet is not as it once was. You have seen some of the changes in your lifetime: the superstorms, floods, drought, heat waves, and the melting of the Arctic.
Other changes are invisible such as the 30 percent increase in the acidity of the oceans. This rising acidity is harming coral reefs, fish and many other inhabitants of the oceans. One third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it makes them more acidic.
All of these changes and far more with only 0.8C (1F) rise in global temperature. You want to believe all of this is natural. It is true I am part of nature but I have felt and fed off the extra heat energy in the oceans and additional moisture in the air you have unintentionally put there. The air, oceans, landscape have changed. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.
This reality means humanity’s childhood is over. That means accepting that we are all part of nature. It means accepting that humans are no more important to the planet than any other form of life. And it means understanding that in order for humanity to flourish, nonhuman life must be able to flourish as well.
My winds destroyed tens of thousands of trees. You may kill as many to clear wires, homes and property. Some will want to kill many more trees in cities, towns and along roads to prevent future disruption and damage. I say move the wires, keep the trees. Trees cool the planet, slow winds, trap climate-heating CO2, filter air pollutants and provide you and many other creatures with life-giving oxygen. Where trees flourish, humans flourish.
And for humans to flourish end the wasting of invaluable reserves of oil, gas and coal by burning them. Fossil fuels are a one-time gift of the planet’s long history and made from plants and trees that flourished over 100 million years ago. Paints, plastics, fertilizers, asphalt, cosmetics, clothes, medicines, inks and thousands more products are made from fossil fuels. Potential and future uses stretch the imagination.
Goodbye and Kia orana. (May you live well)
I am saddened by the damage and loss of life but am truly surprised you are so shocked by the extent and severity.
Haven’t you noticed hurricanes, cyclones and other storms have become more powerful in recent years? And that extreme weather events like record flooding, droughts and heat waves are happening more frequently? In 2012 extreme weather records were broken all over the US. In 2011 there were 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters in the US including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.
Did you notice my relatives? They’ve been all over the planet. In the past 20 years extreme events have had major impacts on developing countries like Bangladesh, Burma and Honduras that have suffered most in terms of damages and lives lost.
Last year, we displaced 38 million people with climate-related disasters such as the flooding in Pakistan and China.
And all this is happening in part because the air and sea have become warmer over the past 50 years. The world has already warmed 0.8C and will rise to least 1.6 C even if emissions of the hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil, and natural gas ended today. (There is a time lag in the climate system. The current global warming is result of CO2 emissions from the 1950s-1970s)
You should bear that reality in mind. There is twice as much warming to come, guaranteed. I’m sorry to say it may be too late to do enough to prevent threefold (3X) or even fourfold (4X) increase in the current warming.
Canada is 1.3 C warmer today than 50 years ago. It will be 4C warmer in a few decades. Temperatures in the US will not be far behind.
You can dial down the thermostat if you really want to.
I was born just over a week ago and more than 100 people have died in the US and Caribbean region as a result. For the rest of today please take care as I will continue to bring strong winds, heavy rains and snowfall from North Carolina to well into Canada. Some of the worst flooding hit Haiti in the hours after I’d passed by.
You should also know there are more superstorms (more properly anthrostorms) like me coming. Not today or next week but in the near future. The climate is now supercharged with extra heat energy. I’ve called it like being on steroids. The climate is 0.8C (1F) warmer. That’s the average increase over the entire planet. Many places are much warmer such as the Arctic where it is 2 to 3C warmer on average now.
In a few decades the entire planet will be 2 to 3C warmer — a 300 percent increase over today. That means an incredible amount of additional heat will be trapped in the atmosphere in order to raise temperatures that much.
Storms and extreme weather are powered by heat energy. I don’t want to think what will be coming.
It doesn’t have to go that way.
Believe it or not, the reality is that humanity is in control of the global thermostat. The increase in temperatures in the air and oceans is mainly due to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Those emissions of CO2 come from burning coal, oil, and gas and cutting down most of the world’s forests (trees take CO2 from the air to grow).
The US could shift from energy sources emitting CO2 to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030 studies have shown.[Scientific American article] The entire planet could run on 100 percent renewable sources by 2050.
FORBES GREEN TECH | 10/30/2012 @ 3:39PM Copenhagen Shows How Cities Can Become Clean Tech Leaders
There are estimates that I might cause $20 billion in damages in the US in addition to the $2+ billion in costs in the Caribbean. That’s a lot of money — enough to give every human on the planet $3. But it is only a fraction of the $600 billion the oil and gas industry is spending this year alone [2012 Harvard study, pg 8] in exploration and new production. That $600 billion investment in fossil fuels will bring far greater storms than I.
It will bring extreme weather no human has ever witnessed. And it will be an “investment” in extreme weather lasting more than a hundred years
So don’t curse me if your home is flooded, your life disrupted or worse. Hurricanes and tropical storms are the nature’s pressure relief valves. It’s not our fault we’ve been amped up on fossil-fuel ‘steroids’ you’ve put into the atmosphere. Everyday millions more tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are added trapping ever more of the sun’s heat. A tonne of CO2 is about three barrels of oil.
Every tonne of CO2 ‘lives’ in the atmosphere for 100 years. That means every barrel of oil, tonne of coal or cubic foot of gas burned adds more CO2, trapping more and more of the sun’s heat for the next 100 years.
It’s curious you’d spend $600 billion on additional sources of fossil fuel when there is already more than enough production capacity to push CO2 levels from current the 390 parts per million (ppm) to far above 450 ppm. It’s a curious investment when your experts and leaders say they want to return to a safer level of 350 ppm.
Earlier I called myself a hybrid storm: part nature, part human. That’s not quite right. Humans and Hurricanes are part of nature. We both thrive on this planet thanks to sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hurricanes and tropical storms have been around for millions of years. In the last 50 years things have changed. The oceans are warmer. This week the waters off the US east coast were 3 degrees C warmer than normal.
The air is warmer at 0.8C (1F) and there is 4 to 6 percent more moisture. This is a fundamental change. The amount of extra heat-energy is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year. This is one of the reasons why I am such a large and powerful storm.
All this extra heat is result of human activity — burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. You call these changes human-induced climate change or global warming. I am, in part, a result of human-caused climate change. And so were my 19 brother and sister hurricanes and tropical storms this year.
So what to call us? We need new words. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.
We are the Anthrostorms of the 21st century.
Hard to believe I was born only a week ago south of Jamaica. I grew very quickly over the hot Carribbean sea and last Wednesday swept into Jamaica west of Kingston with winds of 130 kph. Damage was extensive cutting power to half the country. One person died.
Last Thursday I was in Cuba, another poor country that can least afford to be damaged. Cuba is well organized to cope with powerful hurricanes. Just 35 deaths through 16 hurricanes and tropical storms since 2001.The US has fared far worse with fewer storms.
But I was a Category 2 when I arrived over Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city. Eleven people died, 3000 buildings destroyed, 30,000 lost their roofs. A billion dollars in damages. It will be a long recovery. The power is still out today.
In the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic more people died and thousands of homes were damaged.
Worst off was the most vulnerable of all: Haiti.
More than 50 people died in the southern Haiti including the area around Port-au-Prince. This where most of the 370,000 Haitians who are still living in flimsy shelters because the 2010 earthquake destroyed their homes. My flooding and high-winds destroyed many of those shelters as well their crops.
I hope you will help them. They have no resources to recover. Please remember no matter what comes in the next two days they will still be worse off.
I’m sorry to say that I have so much wind energy from the warm ocean water I am pushing the sea into your living rooms along the mid-Atlantic coast. The ocean is like a bowl full of water, blow hard enough on an angle and it will readily spill over.
My winds are topping 150 kph (90 miles per hour). They will lessen as come closer to land but by then so much water will be piled up against the coast there still will be extensive flooding all night long.
Record storm surge flooding has already occurred in regions along the New Jersey coast this morning. At high tide this evening much of the New York and New Jersey coast will experience historic levels of flooding.
To be absolutely clear: I am not “targeting” New York City or anywhere else. I am pushed and pulled by temperature and pressure differences. My winds are powered by warm water and moisture. And there is enough heat and moisture for my winds to make 12-foot high waves over a 3 million sq km area – one third the size of the US.
I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause any damage. I am simply nature’s pressure-relief valve, a way of re-distributing heat energy across the planet. But I’m not entirely natural. For hundreds of thousands of years the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) averaged 270-280 parts per million (ppm) which trapped enough of the sun’s heat to keep the planet comfortably warm.
Today the CO2 concentration is measured at 390 ppm. That’s nearly 40 per cent more CO2 in the air to capture more heat from the sun. About 90 percent of this extra heat has gone into the oceans.
All this extra CO2 came from your burning coal, oil, and gas and cutting down most of the world’s forests (trees take CO2 from the air to grow). So it’s plain to see that I not entirely natural.
I am truly a hybrid storm: part nature; part human.
Sandy here again. Early this morning I turned north-northwest and am about 500 km (300 mi) southeast of New York City. I am probably the largest storm on record, spanning 3,200 km (2000 mi). I wanted to stay out at sea but a massive band of cold air and low pressure over the Great Lakes region has pulled me in this direction. The coming collision between very cold and moist, warm air will make me more powerful and dangerous: a historic SuperStorm.
It’s impossible to say for certain if the record melt of sea ice in the Arctic is responsible for this. I do know that most of the Arctic sea ice melted this year. Ice reflects the sun’s energy but the dark ocean absorbs it. In order for the Arctic ocean to freeze again the heat has to be released into the air. Right now there are record amounts of heat energy getting into atmosphere up there.
This has been happening every fall for the last few years. It is no surprise that all that extra heat being released has been disrupting weather patterns. The jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.
Another factor that’s pushed me into the US northeast is a massive dome of high pressure located southwest of Greenland. Without this high-pressure block I probably would have resisted the pull of the low pressure system and stayed out to sea. That high pressure system has been locked in place for weeks – weather geeks call it a ‘blocking event’. It delivered a record span of warm temperatures and a record melt of the Greenland ice sheet.
I’ve used the word ‘record’ a lot. That’s because the climate has shifted into uncharted territory because more heat and moisture is being trapped in the atmosphere by an ever thicker blanket of CO2. This summer’s record heat and drought in the US is just one example of this “uncharted territory”.
Things are going to keep changing. Storms like me may get bigger. We may come more often, or we may just show up in places where we don’t usually go. There is no way to know.
All you can be sure of is that the climate of the past 20 and more centuries is gone. I am part of the new normal.