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Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Global warming is real and human-caused. It is leading to large-scale climate change. Under the guise of climate "skepticism", the public is bombarded with misinformation that casts doubt on the reality of human-caused global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming "skepticism".

Our mission is simple: debunk climate misinformation by presenting peer-reviewed science and explaining the techniques of science denial.

 


“Fighting for Inches” in the Southeast’s Struggle With Salt

Posted on 28 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Circle of Blue by Hannah Richter

  • Saltwater intrusion threatens coastal agriculture on the Delmarva Peninsula and in the Carolinas. Thousands of acres are already unable to be farmed.
  • Conservation easements can facilitate a transition of cropland to salt marsh, providing numerous ecosystem services and up to 90% of the market value for farms.
  • Despite promising adaptation strategies, sea level rise is projected to drown tens of thousands of acres of farmland within the century.

At age 61, wading through swampy rows of submerged plants and trying not to step on any cottonmouth snakes, Rollen Chalmers farms his family’s legacy in rice. He makes his living on the Turnbridge Plantation in his hometown of Hardeeville, South Carolina, 30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. For 16 years he’s grown Carolina Gold Rice, a sweet species brought in the slave trade from West Africa’s “Rice Coast.” Today, Carolina Gold is cultivated by only a handful of small-scale farmers. 

Chalmers, a Gullah Geechee farmer with 30 acres, is among the largest of them. How much longer he’s able to farm remains a question. Saltwater intrusion on Chalmers’ rice paddies is forcing him to look for land elsewhere.

All along the southeastern Atlantic coast, similar stories are playing out for farmers. 

Storm events are getting steadily more intense. Atlantic sea levels are rising three to four times faster than the global ocean average. Land is subsiding at rates greater than 1 millimeter per year. All of it converges around a leading threat to coastal farmers: salt water is ruining their land. 

A salinizing coastal rice paddy in South Carolina. Photo: © Dr. Raghupathy Karthikeyan / Clemson University

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Studying hurricanes at sea to save lives on shore

Posted on 27 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Kristen Pope

NOAA oceanographer Greg Foltz knew it was going to be a long night last fall when he saw Hurricane Sam‘s trajectory. Glued to the National Hurricane Center data, Foltz, who works in NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, examined the storm’s tracking and intensity and conducted an analysis of the satellite images and data.

He needed to estimate the hurricane’s trajectory over the next 12-24 hours so he could position his instruments. He wasn’t trying to pull his costly equipment away from the hurricane’s path, though. In fact, he was doing the opposite. He wanted to position an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) called a Saildrone right in the path of the storm. A direct hit by the ferocious Category 4 storm was just what he was looking for.

As he closely monitored the storm, Foltz sent messages to Saildrone’s “mission control” when he wanted to change the vehicle’s path. For example, if he thought the storm would veer a little further to the west, he would send the team a new waypoint to adjust it.

“It was a constant back and forth adjusting the location that we wanted the Saildrone to be in to go through the strongest part of the storm,” Foltz says. “I was directing in real time where to take the Saildrone to get it in the best spot to go through the strongest part of the hurricane, and that was exciting. I didn’t really sleep at all the night before as I was trying to get it into the right position.”

Equipped with a “hurricane wing,” the Saildrone could be remotely controlled, with scientists adjusting the sail from afar in order to steer the craft. The hurricane Saildrones differ from some of the company’s other products, which are used for projects like ocean mapping, ocean data collection, and maritime domain awareness,

“It’s that difference of a smaller, stubbier, hardier wing that we use with the hurricane drones to help improve their endurance and capability to survive during some of the very rough weather they may find themselves in during hurricane season,” says Matt Womble, Director of Ocean Data Programs for Saildrone, Inc.

As Hurricane Sam’s powerful Category 4 winds and monster waves battered the USV, the team waited and watched. Live data and video footage rolled in, allowing them a peek into the storm’s fury. After the weather calmed, they were able to steer it to Bermuda to retrieve it, mostly unscathed.

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Warming climate makes extreme hurricane rains more likely for Puerto Rico

Posted on 26 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the southeast coast of Puerto Rico as a category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, making it the strongest hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1928. Maria dumped up to 37.90 inches (962.7 mm) of rain, resulting in unprecedented flooding and mudslides. One study estimated the excess death toll at close to 5,000 (Kishore et al., 2018), whereas an independent assessment produced by George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico calculated what would become the official excess death toll as 2,975. Both studies had large uncertainty ranges.

A 2019 study by Keellings and Ayala, Extreme Rainfall Associated With Hurricane Maria Over Puerto Rico and Its Connections to Climate Variability and Change, concluded that Hurricane Maria brought the largest maximum rainfall event of any of the 129 tropical cyclones to pass within 500 km of the island between 1956 and 2017 (Figure 1), and also the greatest island-averaged rainfall event (not shown).

Maximum tropical cyclone rainfall in Puerto Rico, 1956-2017Figure 1. Maximum single-location rainfall (mm) in Puerto Rico for 129 tropical cyclones to pass within 500 km, 1956-2017. These numbers, which are estimated from an interpolated analysis, differ from the actual observed local maxima shown in the NOAA list below. Note that what NOAA considers the wettest tropical cyclone in the island’s history, Tropical Depression 19 of 1970, is not highlighted in the figure above, but was used in the analysis, which used only a 4-day accumulation period compared to NOAA’s 9-day period. (Image credit: Keellings and Ayala, 2019, Extreme Rainfall Associated With Hurricane Maria Over Puerto Rico and Its Connections to Climate Variability and Change, Geophysical Research Letters, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL082077)

Tropical cyclones (and precursors) with the largest single-location storm-total rainfall amounts observed in Puerto Rico history (according to NOAA):

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #38

Posted on 24 September 2022 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Sep 18, 2022  thu Sat,  Sep 24, 2022. 

Story of the Week

Tipping points: How could they shape the world’s response to climate change?

Larsen C Ice Shelve in Antarctica

The Larsen Ice Shelf is situated along the northeastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest-warming places on the planet. In the past three decades, two large sections of the ice shelf (Larsen A and B) have collapsed. A third section (Larsen C) seems like it may be on a similar trajectory, with a new iceberg poised to break away soon.

The mosaic above, centered on the northern part of Larsen Ice Shelf, is comprised of four natural-color satellite images captured by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 on Jan. 6 and 8, 2016. It shows the remnant of Larsen B, along with the Larsen A and smaller embayments to the north covered by a much thinner layer of sea ice. The remaining shelf appears white with some deep rifts within it.

Areas with sea ice anchored to the coastline or ice shelf—fast ice—are light blue where covered with melt water and white where covered by wind-blown snow. The ocean is dark, nearly black, where it is not covered by sea ice. The white areas near where glaciers meet the sea have multitudes of small icebergs called bergy bits that broke off from land ice.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Caption: Adam Voiland

Source of the above: Antarctica’s Changing Larsen Ice Shelf, NASA

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #38 2022

Posted on 22 September 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

 "Was it something I did?" 

Not so long ago Skeptical Science received email from a reader, subject: "Myth: increased deaths,  harm to health and and destruction of property cannot be attributed to global warming."  As a matter of intuition and the evidence in front of us, this certainly seems a puzzling myth. All of us see headlines these days alluding to our damaged climate damaging us, after all.

But how do we know we're hearing straight reporting on that? Our answer lies in scientifically conducted researchOur correspondent hoped that we would compose an article addressing the "physics has no impact on the physical world including us" myth, and we're working on that. Highlighted today is an article illustrating part of the complexity in creating this rebuttal.

In the meanwhile, over the course of a few editions of New Research we can see reports of climate change impacts on human well-being happening today, mostly of a hydrological or agricultural nature and— crucially— mostly in places with high vulnerability, what engineers would call "low-margin designs."  These events often happen in locales and to people most of us in the "developed world" don't think about. They're not dramatic enough to warrant headlines, but they do add up and of course real people are being harmed.

When vulnerable people are harmed as an easily identifable and conspicuously large group, attention spreads beyond that of specialist researchers and into the mind of the general public. Pakistan of course has gained focus over the past few week as the full effects of statistical increases and changes in heat and rainfall combine to put 1/3rd of the country underwater thereby collapsing the country's agriculture and producing an instant public health crisis for a nation unable to buy its way out of trouble. Climate change deniers would like us to think of "climate catastrophe" as some kind of joke but here no other word than "catastrophe" is adequate to describe the situation. 

But is this a "climate catastrophe?" What's the role of climate change in Pakistan's partial destruction? Their report listed in this edition's government/NGO section anticipates traditional peer-reviewed academic analysis, but the practiitioners at World Weather Attribution (WWA) are drawn from academia and work to academic standards. Climate change likely increased extreme monsoon rainfall, flooding highly vulnerable communities in Pakistan doesn't offer a hard answer. As with the organization's other products the authors dispassonionately follow "here's the best the we know." The anthropogenic part, as summarized in the report:

  • First, looking just at the trends in the observations, we found that the 5-day maximum rainfall over the provinces Sindh and Balochistan is now about 75% more intense than it would have been had the climate not warmed by 1.2C, whereas the 60-day rain across the basin is now about 50% more intense, meaning rainfall this heavy is now more likely to happen. There are large uncertainties in these estimates due to the high variability in rainfall in the region, and observed changes can have a variety of drivers, including, but not limited to, climate change.
  • Secondly, to determine the role of human-induced climate change in these observed changes we looked at the trends in climate models with and without the human-induced increases in greenhouse gases. The regions involved are at the western extreme end of the monsoon region, with large differences in rainfall characteristics between dry western and wet eastern areas.
  • Many of the available state-of-the-art climate models struggle to simulate these rainfall characteristics. Those that pass our evaluation test generally show a much smaller change in likelihood and intensity of extreme rainfall than the trend we found in the observations. This discrepancy suggests that long-term variability, or processes that our evaluation may not capture, can play an important role, rendering it infeasible to quantify the overall role of human-induced climate change.
  • However, for the 5-day rainfall extreme, the majority of models and observations we have analysed show that intense rainfall has become heavier as Pakistan has warmed. Some of these models suggest climate change could have increased the rainfall intensity up to 50% for the 5-day event definition.

So in Pakistan it's "probably." We can't quite say "it was climate change." Elsewhere the situation is different. Earlier this year South Africa experienced devastating floods and in that case our ability to form conclusions was better informed, with WWA offering a crisp concludison in their summary Climate change-exacerbated rainfall causing devastating flooding in Eastern South Africa. Both of these WWA articles are founded on and draw from a solid lineage of scientific research, and are only the tip of an iceberg of similar attribution work. We can certainly see a path to a rebuttal dealing with the myth that "increased deaths,  harm to health and and destruction of property cannot be attributed to global warming."

Other notables: 

Investigating Benefits and Challenges of Converting Retiring Coal Plants into Nuclear Plants. With relatively fragile populations such as Pakistan's and others having small carbon footprints being crushed under the clumsy XXL carbon boots of more fortunately circumstanced nations, it seems as though an interesting discussion could be had about how preciously self-concerned the beneficiaries of huge fleets of coal plants should be with regard to coal-nuke conversion.

A library of polytypic copper-based quaternary sulfide nanocrystals enables efficient solar-to-hydrogen conversion. One of these days a research paper to change our energy world will come along— as they do from time to time— and it'll probably have an innocuous and humble title like this one. Meanwhile, Wu et al. may not immediately be turning our world upside down but they do show how to  employ a handful of common elements to more reliably produce photocatalysts easily tuned to harness sunlight so as to crack hydrogen from water. 

Undone science in climate interventions: Contrasting and contesting anticipatory assessments by expert networks. A deeply founded article exploring how carbon removal and solar geonengineering collide with systems modeling underpinning our understanding of climate change impacts and mitigation, and ultimately assessments driving important decisions. This paper is not a review but its citations offer a mini-education the emergence, travails and progress of both carbon removal and solar geoengineering.

Estimating the likelihood of GHG concentration scenarios from probabilistic Integrated Assessment Model simulationsSpeaking of  integrated assessments, they in turn are driven by scenarios, possibilities of how our future emerges. Huard et al. point out: "climate scenarios that form the basis for current climate risk assessments have no assigned probabilities," then begin to fill the gap. SSP5-8.5 seems an unlikely feature of the 21st century but after that things become hazy. The authors identify paths toward refining results. 

162 articles in 60 journals by 1,020 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Moist Static Energy Transport Trends in Four Global Reanalyses: Are They Downgradient?
Clark et al., Geophysical Research Letters, 10.1029/2022gl098822

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Why Eco Products aren't Climate Friendly

Posted on 21 September 2022 by Guest Author

Wherever we go we're being advertised stuff. Whether it's fast fashion or the latest eco product, buying things is meant to be the solution to everything. But even the product with the best eco qualifications is nowhere near as good as the product that we don't buy at all. So if you want to save money and the planet, stop buying (new) stuff!

Support ClimateAdam on patreon: http://patreon.com/climateadam

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Lithium: Storing more clean power with less pollution

Posted on 20 September 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

The renewable energy revolution will require the world to ratchet-up lithium production to make batteries for electric cars and devices. As with all mining, there are concerns about lithium mines, but some experts overstate the potential environmental cost while neglecting to mention a big advantage: mining for lithium is much cleaner than mining for coal.

Lithium is also much more efficient. Jim Krane, PhD, who teaches energy policy and geopolitics at Rice University, has crunched the numbers. “Over 20 years,” he said, “the same amount of mining would give you five times as much power if you did the mining for wind rather than coal.” Not to mention that using lithium to store renewable energy will slash or possibly eliminate the need to mine coal.

This video by independent videographer and Yale Climate Connections regular contributor Pete Sinclair explores how some lithium is already being obtained without any mining at all.  At the Salton Sea in California, geothermal power plants tap the brine and produce lithium as a byproduct. Estimates show that the Salton Sea holds enough lithium to provide all projected future U.S. needs for the battery metal, and 40 percent of the world’s future needs, according to experts cited in the video.

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2022’s supercharged summer of climate extremes: How global warming and La Niña fueled disasters on top of disasters

Posted on 19 September 2022 by Guest Author

This article by Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Scholar, NCAR; Affiliated Faculty, University of Aucklandis republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

There’s an old joke about the fellow who has his left foot in a bucket of ice water and the right in a bucket of hot water, so that his overall temperature is average. That seemed to apply to the climate during 2022’s northern summer of extremes.

Global warming is undoubtedly a factor, but just how the increasing extremes – heat waves, droughts and floods, sometimes one on top of the other – are related can be bewildering to the public and policymakers.

As a climate scientist, I’ve been working on these issues for more than four decades, and my new book, “The changing flow of energy through the climate system,” details the causes, feedbacks and impacts. Let’s take a closer look at how climate change and natural weather patterns like La Niña influence what we’re seeing around the world today.

Map showing temperature anomalies, with extremes in Europe, Asia and North America. The June-August 2022 global land and ocean surface temperature was 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.89 Celsius) above the 20th-century average of 60.1 F (15.6 C). It tied with 2015 and 2017 as the fifth-warmest in the 143-year temperature record. NOAA

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #37

Posted on 17 September 2022 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Sep 11, 2022 thru Sat, Sep 17, 2022. 

Story of the Week

United in Science: We are heading in the wrong direction

 

Report focuses on greenhouse gases, global temperatures, climate predictions and tipping points, urban climate change, extreme weather impacts and early warnings,

Geneva, 13 September 2022 (WMO) - Climate science is clear: we are heading in the wrong direction, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which highlights the huge gap between aspirations and reality. Without much more ambitious action, the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating, it warns.

The report, United in Science, shows that greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to record highs. Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns. The ambition of emissions reduction pledges for 2030 needs to be seven times higher to be in line with the 1.5 °C goal of the Paris Agreement

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #37 2022

Posted on 15 September 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Mutual  assured stupefaction

plethora of investigations have found that come the clutch, ideology often wins over facts when it comes to uncomfortable truths. If the outcomes of facts disagree with ideological objectives, facts frequently lose. Why? If we look at the sharpest divergences of facts from wishful ideology, we find a common element: truth as best we know it, information showing the need for regulation, checks on behavior.  Meanwhile, many people have an abiding faith that "things will work out for the best" if everybody is left with maximum freedom of action. This is despite ample evidence to the contrary. We end up heading straight to denial. 

If everybody were free to deny whatever they wanted purely wiithin the space between their ears, each of us could live in our own fantasy world without harming anybody else. Unfortunately the real world doesn't work this way. In the real world we need "public policy," agreed cooperation on matters of mutual interests.

Public policy puts us at cross purposes with libertarian thinking. Because the collection of behaviors bundled in the term "human nature" results in a tiny fraction of our population creating huge problems, we end up with a need for enforcement of minimum standards of behavior. "I shouldn't dump my untreated sewage onto my neighbor's property" seems an instinctually easy matter for most of us to understand, yet a small fraction of our fellows will for various reasons find themselves unwilling to understand or comply with such community standards. Thus we end up in a world including laws and regulations, enforcement, coercion. By the small minority of the unwilling we're forced to go places we'd rather not.  We shouldn't blame "government" for regulations— laws and regulations are the handiwork of a tiny fraction of our population— but misattribution of regulations is a common confusion, muddled thinking that has an outsized impact.

Policy is the foundation of law, and law is what regulations are built upon. In a representative democracy public policy is made by politicians, legislators elected to create law. Often, politicians with our collective consent play the role of "adults in the room," appointed by us to say "no" to the worst of our nature. And it's here where things become tricky, where "get elected" is the first hurdle for "be able to do good." 

To be elected, politicians must please a lot of people— a distinct moral hazard. After all, if one isn't elected, one can't influence policy at all. So maybe it's okay to sugarcoat the truth a bit? That's exactly what we find happening, as described by Hai & Perlman in Extreme weather events and the politics of climate change attribution, just published in AAAS Science Advances. In their public rhetoric, politicians who clearly know better shy away from "connecting the dots" between current events and climate change, because substantial portions of their constituencies have what looks like an ideological disinclination to acknowledge a small but dark side our human nature. 

We've reached a point in our tampering with geophysics where we can see our own effects on Earth's climate systems. Honest leadership is key to dealing with this. Regardless of purpose, crafting communications so as to omit salient and urgent facts is to lie, and expediently emulate stupidity.

Aside from moral and ethical problems, lying makes us effectively more stupid. Here, smart people are pretending to be stupid in deference to ideological wishful thinking, and rather than being offered help they're having their bad habit reinforced by leaders joining in their pretense by also pretending to be stupid.

We're left to wonder: are there enough real world cases to investigate whether constituents might respond positively to an honestly delivered, earned slap in the face by a politician fully occupying the space of appointed adult in the room? Hai & Perlman identify candidates for such a test. Perhaps we'll find out. 

Other notables:

Global tourism, climate change and energy sustainability: assessing carbon reduction mitigating measures from the aviation industry. The authors find a lot of confounding variables at play. Another way of looking at it: "I may not have time before drowning to figure how to swim while carrying a stack of bricks." Is Jet-A tourism something we can afford to coddle, how much grace time do we give it, and who's going to pay for the results? One way or another we're certaiinly going to find out.

The existential risk space of climate change. The better to live, let's formalize our thinking about "this could kill us." Who's "us" for starters, and what does "dead" imply? The authors make a sound case for their suggestion: "a clearer and more precise definition and framing of existential risks of climate change such as we offer here facilitates scientific analysis as well societal and political discourse and action."

Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition"Most energy-economy models have produced energy transition scenarios that overestimate costs due to underestimating renewable energy cost improvements and deployment rates." Rupert Way et al. explain and demonstrate.

United in Science 2022. A multi-organization high-level compilation of the most recent science related to climate change, impacts and responses. Consilience on climate, as presented by the World Meteorological Organization. From our government/NGO section.

All of the above open access and free to read.  

126 articles in 49 journals by 698 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Spatial patterns and possible mechanisms of precipitation changes in recent decades over and around the Tibetan Plateau in the context of intense warming and weakening winds
Guo & Tian, Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06197-1

The Vertical Profile of Radiative Cooling and Lapse Rate in a Warming Climate
Hartmann et al., Journal of Climate, Open Access pdf 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0861.1

Observations of climate change, effects

Arctic shrub expansion revealed by Landsat-derived multitemporal vegetation cover fractions in the Western Canadian Arctic
Nill et al., Remote Sensing of Environment, Open Access 10.1016/j.rse.2022.113228

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Ag’s challenging future in a changing climate

Posted on 14 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

Increased drought and extreme heat adversely affecting agriculture likely pose the highest threat to civilization over the next 40 years. The greatest danger: extreme droughts supercharged by climate change, affecting multiple grain-growing areas simultaneously, causing “food shock” events that could trigger food prices spikes leading to mass starvation, war, and a severe global economic recession. And the odds of such a globe-shaking food shock event are steadily increasing as humans burn fossil fuels and pump more heat-trapping climate pollutants into the air, increasing the duration, areal coverage, and intensity of droughts.

In this second part of a two-part series on climate change and agriculture, we look at climate change’s likely impacts on the future of agriculture. Part one, Food supply and security concerns mount as impacts stress agriculture, examined observations of how climate change has already affected crops. Here, in part two, we’ll look at such issues as increasing food demand and food insecurity, land degradation, the short- and long-term risks of food system shock, a droughtier world ahead, how corn and wheat will respond in different ways to climate change, and the impact of biofuels. After these admittedly daunting concerns, we’ll also discuss some reasons for hope.

Food demand is steadily growing

A growing population and an increase in demand for meat is expected to cause a 50% increase in the food needed to feed Earth’s people between 2010 and 2050. Demand for meat, dairy, and fish is on track to grow by 70% or more, and food prices for billions of low-income people are expected to rise 20%.

However, a 2019 report by the Global Commission on Adaptation said that without adaptation, climate change may depress growth in global agriculture yields by 5-30% by 2050, with the 500 million small farms around the world most affected. At the same time, yields from fishing and aquaculture are expected to decline because of climate change-induced shifts in temperature, chlorophyll, and ocean acidification.

Number and percentage of undernourished people globally, 2005-2020Figure 1. The number of undernourished people globally fell significantly from the 1970s to around 2010, leveled out in the 2010s, and increased dramatically over the past two years, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and war. In 2021, the number of undernourished people had risen to over 800 million, and the percentage of those undernourished, to 10.2%, according to the UN. (Image credit: FAO)

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Food supply and security concerns mount as impacts stress agriculture

Posted on 13 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters

Crops don’t like drought, extreme heat, extreme cold, flooding, and air pollution. While reducing the ill effects of extreme cold on agriculture in recent decades, the warming climate is increasing impacts of drought, extreme heat, and air pollution. These increased impacts are greatly concerning as the world envisions feeding an additional two billion people by 2050. Of particular concern are changes in the atmospheric circulation – which may have both natural and human-caused components – that have led to an increase in concurrent heat waves and droughts, such as occurred in the summer of 2022.

2019 report by the Global Commission on Adaptation indicates that without adaptation, climate change may depress global agriculture yields by 5 to 30% by 2050, at the same time that an expanding population and increased meat consumption causes a 50% increase in global food demand. This first part of a two-part series examines observations of how climate change has already affected crops. Part two is, The future of agriculture: Increased drought and heat from climate change pose huge challenges.

An observed concerning increase in drought

Drought is the great enemy of human civilization, depriving people of the two essentials of life – food and water. When the rains stop and the soil dries up, cities can die and civilizations collapse, as people abandon lands no longer able to sustain them. Drought has been identified as the primary or significant contributing factor in the collapse of a surprising number of great civilizations in the past. So no reasons for complacency about threats drought poses to modern civilization: particularly since a hotter planet is producing longer-lasting and more intense droughts, and “stuck” jet stream patterns producing intense droughts globally, as reported below, are on the increase.

List of deadliest disastersFigure 1. Deadliest disasters since 1970, from the international global disaster database, EM-DAT. (Image credit: WMO)

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New study more than triples estimated costs of climate change damages

Posted on 12 September 2022 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

A peer-reviewed analysis by two dozen experts more than triples – from $51 per ton of carbon dioxide to $185 per ton – the federal government’s estimate of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC).

The climate science, economics, and statistics experts’ paper in the prestigious journal Nature updates the best estimate of how much each ton of carbon dioxide costs society as a result of climate change damages. Their conservative best estimate is 3.6 times higher than the $51 value currently used by the federal government, and roughly 30 times more than the value previously adopted by the Trump administration.

It’s a critically important number because federal agencies by law are to consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations. For climate pollutant regulations, the benefits of future climate damages avoided are estimated via the SCC. A higher value would result in larger benefit-to-cost ratios, justifying more aggressive federal climate regulations.

“It suggests there are many more actions we can take to curb carbon emissions that are going to be on the table that were not on the table before,” Stanford University economist Marshall Burke, not involved in the study, told the Associated Press.

Choosing the right discount rate is critical

The single largest factor contributing to the increase in the estimated SCC is the “discount rate.” This concept is premised on the premise that wages, the economy, and wealth grow over time – a trend that is expected to continue. Having an extra dollar today that can accumulate interest over time may thus be considered more valuable than a dollar received in the future. But in the case of an intergenerational problem like climate change, a high discount rate can also effectively discount the welfare of people born in the future.

Previous best estimates of the SCC – including the current federal value of $51, originally set by the Obama administration – have tended to use a discount rate of 3%. In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences published a report recommending how estimates of the SCC should be improved, including revisiting the question of discount rates.

As three of the new Nature study’s co-authors wrote in 2021, the prior 3% choice was based on the average interest rates of U.S. treasury bonds from 1973 to 2003, and is thus outdated. A 2017 brief from the White House Council of Economic Advisors found that based on lower interest rates in recent decades, the discount rate should be revised to about 2%. A 2018 study also found “a surprising degree of consensus” for a 2% discount rate in a survey of more than 200 publishing academics.

This one change – revising the discount rate from 3% to 2% – by itself more than doubles the estimated SCC. How so? Because the bulk of climate damages occur decades in the future, and so discounting the value of future climate damages can significantly suppress estimates of the SCC. Using a 2% discount rate, the study finds with 90% confidence that the SCC is between $44 and $413, with the best estimate pegged at $185 per ton.

The Trump administration had moved in the opposite direction, using discount rates of 3% and a whopping 7% in its efforts to dramatically lower the estimated SCC to near-zero.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #36

Posted on 11 September 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, September 4, 2022 through Sat, September 10, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): CNN Exclusive: Scientists make major breakthrough in race to save Caribbean coral, Elon Musk might have it backwards when he talks about the big threat to civilization, More Australians worried about climate change than ever before, but conservatives less so, Brutal heat wave shatters all-time records, threatens power outages across California. And a hurricane could prolong it, and Skeptical Science New Research for Week #36 2022.

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Reasons to avoid false balance and fake debates

Posted on 9 September 2022 by BaerbelW , John Cook

The following text is an adapted version of pages 8 and 9 of The Consensus Handbook published in 2018 by John Cook, Sander van der Linden, Ed Maibach and Stephan Lewandowsky. The excerpt is published to make it easy to share this important information about false balance and fake debates and why both should be avoided when it comes to scientific topics where an expert consensus has already been established.

False balance media reporting

One of the most insidious, albeit often inadvertent forms of climate misinformation is false-balance media  coverage, where contrarian voices are given equal coverage with climate scientists. This stems from the journalistic norm assuming there are always two sides to an issue, thus giving mainstream and contrarian voices equal representation. As a result, a few dissenting scientists are given similar attention to the 97% of scientists who are convinced that humans are causing global warming.

debate

Analysis of media coverage from 1988 to 2002 showed that newspapers often presented false balance media coverage of climate change [18]. While the situation has improved in prestige-press coverage [19], the tabloid press has shown no signs of improvement [20]. Similarly, 70% of U.S. TV coverage of climate change presents a false balance [21]. In short, much of what people learn about climate change from the media involves well-established scientific truth presented alongside groundless assertions.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #36 2022

Posted on 8 September 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

A need for speed: Thwaites Glacier

Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier is a major subject of preoccupation for people who study the polar portions of our cryosphere with an eye toward glacier dynamics. The glacier and particularly the portion lying below sea level are cause for concern due to a combination of poor stability and a huge, easily mobilized volume of ice upstream, volume which if/when melted will translate into sea level rise we'll have serious trouble handling. The ice in the ocean and its dependability as a check on what's above depends on details of its grounding line on the sea bottom, how that line behaves. 

In general, the slower Thwaites fails, the better for us. There is a good deal of uncertainty about how we might expect Thwaites to behave in the near future, precisely how the grounding line "works" in real life. We can model how Thwaite's evolution might unfold, but for many reasons models are far better with constraints derived from empirical data. 

Thus, research revealing precise past behavior of Thwaites during the recent past (unaffected by global deglaciation and other masking factors) is very welcome.  Rapid retreat of Thwaites Glacier in the pre-satellite era by Graham et al. and just published in Nature Geoscience is exactly this. Unfortunately, the authors' findings are not very comforting. In the satellite era we've seen some remarkable surges of speed of retreat by the Thwaites ice shelf but as it turns out, this paper's scrupulously assembled investigation suggests we shouldn't be surprised to see much higher rates. This latest news comes on the heels of numerous studies hinting at a general speedup of the ice shelf's retreat and decay. 

Other notables:

Cirrus cloud thinning using a more physically based ice microphysics scheme in the ECHAM-HAM general circulation model. A recently imagined geoengineering technique showed promise— until improved physics in models reveals it as likely to exert a powerful, opposite effect to that desired. An object lesson more cheaply purchased than for the price of a big mistake. 

Changes in coastal farming systems in a changing climate in Bangladesh. Because of its geography Bangladesh is among the most climate-vulnerable countries on our planet. This makes present-day changes due to our rapidly changing climate easier to observe and measure. It's neither fair nor by choice but the coastal agriculture of Bangladesh also serves as a laboratory of sorts to help us learn about and understand adaptation as it unfolds in the real world— now.

A weakened AMOC may prolong greenhouse gas–induced Mediterranean drying even with significant and rapid climate change mitigation. Even if we begin to reduce CO2 content in the atmosphere back to more normal levels, winter precipitation in this region may not recover. As the authors remark: "a potential 'surprise' in the climate system, whereby changes in one component (Atlantic Ocean circulation) alter how another component (Mediterranean rainfall) responds to greenhouse gas reductions. Such surprises could complicate climate change mitigation efforts."

The Carbon Capture CruxA report via our government/NGO section, from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. "Carbon capture" as it exists today is essentially a tool for helping us to liberate and monetize more fossil fuels. Areas of failure are rife, counterproductivity looms. A single main area of promise is in the manufacture of cement. 

108 articles in 43 journals by 613 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Drivers and distribution of global ocean heat uptake over the last half century
Huguenin et al., [journal not provided], 10.5194/egusphere-egu22-2076

Has Arctic sea ice loss contributed to weakening winter and strengthening summer polar front jets over the Eastern Hemisphere?
Kang et al., Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-022-06444-5

Observations of climate change, effects

Australian wildfire smoke in the stratosphere: the decay phase in 2020/2021 and impact on ozone depletion
Ohneiser et al., Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Open Access pdf 10.5194/acp-22-7417-2022

Climate related trends in US hazardous material releases caused by natural hazards
Santella, Natural Hazards, Open Access 10.1007/s11069-022-05572-9

Earlier ice loss accelerates lake warming in the Northern Hemisphere
Li et al., Nature Communications, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41467-022-32830-y

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How Drought led to UK's Flash Floods

Posted on 7 September 2022 by Guest Author

Climate change amplifies disasters - whether that's heatwaves or downpours or droughts. But we forget that these extreme weather events interact with each other, amplifying each other when they arrive. And so we end up being surprised when unusually hot, dry weather can lead to devastating flash floods, like we've seen recently in the UK.

Support ClimateAdam on patreon: http://patreon.com/climateadam

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Methane emissions from Siberian sinkholes

Posted on 6 September 2022 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Scientists are exploring the whats and what-ifs involving natural methane releases from newly discovered unusual sink holes in remote areas of the Siberian arctic.

They’re unclear, in part, about whether the sink holes are in fact “new” or merely newly discovered. They’re trying to come to grips also with the potential range of high- and low-end impacts on global climate change given the strength of methane as a climate pollutant. And they point to remaining uncertainties about the frequency and intensity of the sinkholes going forward in a warming climate.

Independent videographer Peter Sinclair, in his current exclusive video for Yale Climate Connections, interviews several of the scientists engaged in this research to try to develop a more thorough understanding of these mysterious sinkholes.

Katey Walter Anthony, of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF), sheds light on the sinkholes, saying the long-buried methane “has found a conduit or a chimney for escape” from beneath the permafrost. Scientist Vladimir Romanovsky, also with UAF, says the permafrost long has served as something of a “lid … now not so strong as it was in the past.”

Walter Anthony says the “methane megaseeps are a wildcard,” and Scott Dallimore of the Geological Society of Canada cautions that “the pace of escape is likely to accelerate” as a result of the warming of the climate. Walter Anthony emphasizes that not all permafrost needs to melt before concerns rise, and she cautions of permafrost’s being “like Swiss cheese, with a lot of holes going through it.”

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How climate change spurs megadroughts

Posted on 5 September 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Shannon Osaka

On an afternoon in late June, the San Luis Reservoir – a nine-mile lake about an hour southeast of San Jose, California – shimmered in 102-degree heat. A dusty, winding trail led down into flatlands newly created by the shrinking waterline. Seven deer, including a pair of fawns, grazed on tall grasses that, in wetter times, would have been at least partially underwater. On a distant ridge, wind turbines turned languidly. 

That day, the reservoir, California’s sixth-largest and a source of water for millions of people, was just 40% full. Minerals deposited by the receding waters had turned the reservoir’s lower banks white, like the rings on a bathtub. Discarded clothing, empty bottles, and a lone shoe sat scattered across the newly exposed, parched ground. An interactive graphic in the visitor’s center reported that this year’s snowpack – which provides the water that travels from the Sacramento River Delta into the reservoir itself – was zero percent of the yearly average. 

Depending on how you look at it, California – and most of the American West – has either entered its third catastrophic drought of the past 10 years, or has been in a constant, unyielding “megadrought” since 2000. Reservoirs are emptying; lawns are turning brown; swaths of farmland that have coaxed lettuce, almonds, and alfalfa out of the dry ground for decades are going fallow. The Colorado River, which originates in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and provides water to some 40 million people in the Southwest, has slowed to a trickle. That waterway also feeds the largest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, 40 miles east of Las Vegas, which in recent months has seen water levels so low that bodies have emerged from its shrinking, normally crystalline waters. The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency responsible for many supersized water projects, has asked states to cut their use of water from the Colorado River by 2 to 4 million acre-feet, an amount close to all the water that California receives from the Colorado in a single year.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #35

Posted on 4 September 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, August 28, 2022 through Sat, September 03, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Science: What it is, how it works, and why it matters, Why air turbulence could be about to get a whole lot worse, Guest post: The 50th anniversary of a remarkable global-warming prediction, and Greenland ice sheet set to raise sea levels by nearly a foot, study finds.

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