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Extreme weather events around the globe: manifestations of runaway climate change

Extreme weather events around the globe: manifestations of runaway climate change
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and paleo-climate science

2010 is shaping up as the warmest in the instrumental record, as recorded by the National Climate Data Centre (NCDC – the world’s largest active archive of weather data), NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science (GISS), Hadley-Met/Climate Research Unit, Remote Sensing Satellite survey (RSS) and Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU), and as shown by the plot below.

(RSS) and Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU).

According to NOAA on July 15, 2010:

June, April to June, and Year-to-Date Global Temperatures are Warmest on Record Last month’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made it the warmest June on record and the warmest on record averaged for any April-June and January-June periods … Worldwide average land surface temperature was the warmest on record for June and the April-June period, and the second warmest on record for the year-to-date (January-June) period, behind 2007.

The monthly analysis from NOAA is based on records going back to 1880.

But you will not read about it in much of the media.

A string of extreme weather events monitored by NASA tells the story, including:

1. Last month saw the hottest temperature on record for Asia, with 53C in Pakistan. The mega-floods in this part of the world are the result of the increased capacity of the warming atmosphere to hold moisture, precipitated when the humid air masses rise above the Himalaya.

2. Moscow has also been recording temperatures of 37.4 degrees C, the monthly anomaly will be a record of around +7.5 degrees C, with a death toll reaching 2000 people. Extreme temperatures, reaching 40 degrees C in Moscow, have set large parts of Russian forests and wheat belts on fire *

3. Beijing had it hottest day on record earlier in the month, 40.6C.

4. Japan scored a 39.4C on 22nd July.

5. Hundreds of maximum and minimum temperature records have been broken across the U.S. and Canada in the last two months.

6. Raging wildfires broke out July 29 just south of Los Angeles, CA, forcing mandatory evacuations and major firefighting response.

Meanwhile, it has been very warm across northern, north-western and some inland parts of Australia over recent weeks. We broke quite a few minimum temperature records- including Darwin, which broke its July minimum record by 1.5 degrees C.

Though most of what you would read about in the media is the manufactured CRU E-mail story, which tries to obfuscate climate science and cast doubt on the integrity of climate scientists. This is despite recent investigations showing climate scientists right, as stated:

On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt. … 'We did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.'

The newspapers that gave greatest play to the allegations tended to give less attention to these findings. The columnists who gave greatest vent to their indignation have not made any revisions or corrections, let alone apologised to the scientists whose integrity they so sweepingly impugned.

Those who would like to see themselves as “sceptics”, but commonly present climate plots which inexplicably depart in essential detail from original datasets measured by the world’s premier climate research organizations, as well as ignore the basic physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, would suggest the current extreme weather events are “natural” and not to do with human Carbon emissions.

By contrast, consistent with the Stefan-Boltzmann and Krichhoff laws of infrared radiation, these events manifest the increase in energy (temperature) levels of the atmosphere and oceans, consequent on the emissions of about 370 billion tons of carbon since 1750, currently at a rate of about 2 ppm per year, reaching 391 ppm, namely near 40 percent higher that during the last 10,000 years, when agricultural cultivation became possible thanks to stabilization of the Holocene climate.


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Activists call on Gillard to stop expansion of coal industry.

Environmental activists have broken into coal terminals in Newcastle, strapping themselves to industrial loaders to protest against the coal industry's impact on climate change.

Members of the group, Rising Tide Newcastle, say they are protesting against the expansion of the coal industry in Australia.

More than 40 people broke into the three coal terminals, with 10 of them climbing onto machinery and unfurling banners.

Rising Tide spokeswoman Annika Dean says the protesters have successfully stopped production at the plant

No wonder people are being forced into extreme actions.

"I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree warmer Arctic," Serreze said.

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world's permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere – 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That's three times more carbon than all of the worlds' forests contain.

"Permafrost thawing has been observed consistently across the entire region since the 1980s," Romanovsky said in an interview.

Rising Tide Newcastle have issued this Media Release.

8:30am: Thirty six people have just walked on to a coal storage area in Newcastle, Australia, joining eight other protesters who shut down the world's biggest coal port at dawn this morning. Forty four people are now occupying coal export facilities in Newcastle Harbour.

Police and port authorities have shut down all shipping operations, and all coal loading activities have been forced to cease due to the protest activity.

Annika Dean, spokesperson for the protest organisers, Rising Tide Newcastle, explained the group's motivations: “We are staging an emergency intervention into Australia's number one cause of global warming.”

“Around the world, the early impacts of unabated global warming are beginning to emerge. 2010 has been a year of tragic weather disasters.”

“Thousands of people have died this year due to flash floods in Pakistan and China, and fires in Siberia. Millions of people are facing starvation due to a devastating drought in west Africa. These are the impacts of global warming that scientists have been warning us about for decades. Global warming is happening now, and it is killing people.”

“Australia is a major contributor to this crisis, due to the massive volumes of coal we export. We are exporting global warming to the world. With the support of both Labor and the Coalition, Australia's coal exports are booming. Here in Newcastle, already the world's biggest coal port, multinational mining corporations are planning to triple exports over the next decade. It's a similar story at all coal ports in the country.”

“Urgent action against global warming is needed. We have been forced to make our dramatic protest today because the Federal government is failing to take any action.”

“We call on Prime Minister Gillard to step up to the challenge of global warming, put an immediate moratorium on the expansion of the coal industry, and begin to replace this outdated industry with the renewable industries of the future,” concluded Ms Dean

Climate change a JOKE or JOBS?

“There is really no debate about climate change in China,” said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China. “China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientists, so they don’t waste time questioning scientific data.” The push for green in China, she added, “is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.”

And because runaway pollution in China means wasted lives, air, water, ecosystems and money — and wasted money means fewer jobs and more political instability — China’s leaders would never go a year (like we will) without energy legislation mandating new ways to do more with less. It’s a three-for-one shot for them. By becoming more energy efficient per unit of G.D.P., China saves money, takes the lead in the next great global industry and earns credit with the world for mitigating climate change.

So while America’s Republicans turned “climate change” into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

As the two superpowers fight for the economic lead in the 21st century, it is starting to become clear that democracy may be failing us.

Who would be best at decision-making - a scientist or a politician?

BHP boss calls for carbon tax

Mr Kloppers insists that, despite the failure of last December's Copenhagen summit, a global climate deal eventually will be reached. Australia would lose competitiveness if it did not act ahead of such a deal by reducing its reliance on cheap coal-fired electricity.

While there is no one silver bullet, Mr Kloppers says this must include a "clear price signal" that reaches consumers and skews investment choices away from coal-fired power.

He favours a "simple and effective" carbon tax rather than a "difficult to implement" ETS. Emissions trading would be limited to power generation

Liberal and Labor are lagging behind, big business is now pushing for action.

What are we going to do about our trade in coal?

The Australian coal mining boom isn't just happening here in Australia. Australian companies are doing a roaring trade in the developing world, where low emissions targets mean they dodge their responsibilities to reduce carbon.

Our coal miners are not  happy digging up black death in Oz. They are now developing huge mines in the developing world.

It is time we looked at taxpayers' money that we spend on subsidies and infrastructure to support the coal industry.

BHP Billiton boss urges action on climate change.

THE world's biggest mining company has urged Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to act on climate change ahead of other countries, warning that Australia's economy will suffer unless it looks to a future beyond coal.

Big business urges urgent action on climate change. No longer can the Liberal or Labor party dither on this the most important policy of our generation. Failure to act will cost far more than taking early action.


This report came as a shock to me - I didn't expect the head of a major corporation to be saying this. Who is he speaking on behalf of?

1. In the interest of BHP?

2. In the interest of Australian industry?

3. In his own interest as a private citizen? of which country?

Unfortunately, he doesn't provide a detalied reasoning for his conclusion.

On the face of it, it is not in BHP's interest to be taxed. If the tax is coming, it is better for BHP if, instead of paying the tax immediately, it uses the money wisely to prepare for the time it will have to pay for pollution. I wish he had backed his speech with a document with sound policy analysis. There is so much rhetoric and so little one can sink one's teeth into on this topic.


Come off it, Jay - what else did you expect someone in his position to say?

Obviously it is in his and his corporation's best interest to be at the "negotiating" table in order to get the best deal that he can get for himself, the corporation, and - definitely third - the shareholders.

Just as he (and his ilk) did when negotiating their special treatment with respect to the CPRS.

Ah, the scent of naivety in the evening...

Black Labor, the Greens and the future of coal.

Mr Combet said his background as a former coal engineer, union official and MP with coal workers in his NSW electorate meant he did not believe his job was to shut down the coal industry.

"I don't agree with that. That's not part of my job at all," he said.

"I am acutely aware of the challenges that this policy presents. But people jump to these absolute positions, and I just don't think that's appropriate.

"I've got a responsibility to support those people's jobs. The coal industry is a very vibrant industry with a strong future. What you've got to do is look to how we can achieve in the longer term things like carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power stations."

Greens leader Bob Brown has described Australia as being like a heroin addict "feeding the habit" of the world's reliance on coal. The party's stated policy is to oppose development of any new coalmines or the expansion of existing coalmines and to phase out all existing coal subsidies. It wants to work towards stopping the development and granting of export licences for all new coalmines.

The shift to the Greens from the ALP was 3.97%. The Greens got over 1,450,000 votes. The future of coal is surely in doubt.

How can Combet promise to keep coal mining jobs at the same time reduce our carbon emissions?

It is about time the ALP decided black or green.

The longer it puts off the inevitable it will only end up black and blue.

The new norm

The Northeast Passage opened for the first time in recorded history in 2005, and the Northwest Passage in 2007. It now appears that the opening of one or both of these northern passages is the new norm, and business interests are taking note--commercial shipping in the Arctic is on the increase, and there is increasing interest in oil drilling. The great polar explorers of past centuries would be astounded at how the Arctic has changed in the 21st century.........

This year, Canada experienced its warmest winter in history, and record warm temperatures were observed during spring over the Western Canadian Arctic. Spring 2010 was the warmest in the region since 1948; some regions of the Western Canadian Arctic were more than 6°C (11°F) above average.

It is hard to ignore evidence like this. The planet is warming, we are the cause and we need to get off our bums and do something about it.

Otherwise the  floods, fires and droughts we have witnessed so far will just be the tip of the iceberg. They will become the new norm.

New Orleans would vanish

Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University

"Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive," Alley told a briefing in Congress, adding that a rise in the range of 2C to 7C would mean the obliteration of Greenland's ice sheet.

The fall-out would be felt thousands of miles away from the Arctic, unleashing a global sea level rise of 23ft (7 metres), Alley warned. Low-lying cities such as New Orleans would vanish.

"What is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that nature has ever done," he said.

This piece from today's Guardian shows once again the consequences that will happen if we continue to pump C02 into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, our politicians talk about  the waste of a few million dollars here or there or worry about a few hundred refugees arriving in boats.

How much will it cost us if we do not act quickly to ban our coal exports?

How much would a 7 metre sea level rise cost us?

How much would the price of food rise if we continue to have global drought and floods?

How many refugees would Australia have on its door step fleeing from a 7 metre sea level rise?

Putting a ban on coal exports would make a big difference to the global price of coal, allowing alternative energies to become more competitive.

Australia has the ability to force up the price of coal. This would push the world towards calling an end of coal fired power stations.

We have always put limits on our exports of uranium. Now we need to ban coal exports.

Go Green

John Pratt quotes:  "Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive"

Presumably meaning temperatures warmer than the Greenland ice sheet can survive.

The other side of the global warming story is that Greenland may become the bread basket of the world.

Time to buy land there.

Incidentally, notice the time scale: next decade.   Can this ship be turned around in a decade, or is it too late?

Running away now

What is scary is the fires in Russia, particularly the peat fires. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to the injection of a huge amount of new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

It comes from the burning of biospheric solid carbon that had been locked down for tens of thousands of years by the frigidity of the climate in much of Russia. The total amount of carbon in Russian and Siberian peat deposits is stupendous.

Runaway. Here today.

I hope that several million well-equipped firefighters and several  thousand water-crane helicopters are on stand-by in Siberia.  But of course I know it ain't so.

The survival of the known plant and animal species of the planet is at stake but we may already be a long way past the point of no return.  And even now we, the animal species that caused the situation and one of those that may disappear from the face of the Earth in the next decade, or be worse than decimated, are doing nothing.

When it's far, far too late our well-paid political classes may reach agreement on doing something about it.  But they should have done so twenty years ago.

Subject, of course, to the imperative of not placing limitations on economic growth.

Like everyone else I haven't been bothering much about this trifling matter, but I'd be interested to see the models.  If all the peat and young and shallow coal in the world went up in smoke tomorrow, what would the climate be like?

Pakistan, US, Russia, China; the list goes on.

And the right wing media and press STILL refuse to acknowledge the data, preferring a perpetual carp over the so called "scandal" involving a couple of misplaced words, as to British climate scientists, last year.

Glikson observes the phenomenal climatic conditions in Pakistan this year are related to alterations in the atmosphere since the eighteenth century.

It can be remembered that the first wave of alarums was sounded in the late 'eighties- every so often some new climate related disaster occurs and fresh scientific data is presented, then ignored.

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