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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.

 


2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #31

Posted on 7 August 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, July 31, 2022 through Sat, August 6, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Reality is scary’: climate culture war heats up for UK meteorologists, French Heat,  and Greenwashing is driving our descent into climate catastrophe. But we can stop it
.

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1 comments


A Cranky Uncle Cartoon a day, keeps misinformation at bay!

Posted on 5 August 2022 by BaerbelW

From July 7 to 26 we tried something new on our Facebook page by sharing one Cranky Uncle cartoon each day for 20 days in a row. There were two reasons for doing this: firstly, we wanted to ensure that at least one post would get published each day while I was on vacation, so we needed something we could prepare and schedule well in advance. And secondly, these cartoons are meant to be shared, so this was as good an opportunity as any to do just that!

Each cartoon posting followed the same format which included the title, the fallacy depicted, the fallacy description and an example as shown for "Arsenic" which kicked things off on July 7:

Cartoon Arsenic

We didn't really know how this series would be received and we wouldn't have been surprised if it basically just sizzled. What then happened took us quite by surprise and we'll share some insights below.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #31 2022

Posted on 4 August 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

"CAGW." A thing?

With its provocative title and remarks grounded in respected published research, the perspective  Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has caused a few ripples reaching into popular media. "Endgame" and "catastrophic" lean hard in the direction of "pay attention," and are words not chosen lightly. Not least, it's a reputational risk to employ such language, but here we find multiple excellent reputations created by diverse careers of competent, judiicious research converging and agreeing on this terminology. Given our circumstances and the wellspring of advice at hand, we'd be stupid not to pay attention.

Veterans of the trenches of online climate discourse (such as it is) are well familar with the mostly-epithet "CAGW," short for "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming." Usually employed as a distracting insult and mental tripping point when the current of factual argument turns against climate change deniers and it's time to change the topic to unfalsifiables, the term is intended to portray folks having concerns about our effect on our planet's climate as being hysterical pearl clutchers.

Successful deployment of "CAGW" as a rhetorical bomb depends in part on us failing to use our imaginations. "What's a catastrophe?" means unpacking the meaning of "a." An extreme temperature event isn't a catastrophe. A drought isn't a catastrophe. Both together still are not catastrophic— even when they cause a single major "breadbasket" agricultural failure. But what about two breadbaskets failing simultaneously, precipitating thereby geopolitical strife and hence causing 1,000,000 "excess mortality" events over the next few years? 1,000,000 persons dying in a single day would certainly find us all in agreement: "it's a catastrophe!" Repeat this rough sequence a handful of times and we're undoubtedly deeply mired in catastrophe. Given the forces we've unleashed, it's a safe (but not nice) bet we'll be seeing collective "excess mortality" on a catastrophic scale, if our imaginations can encompass 100 years. 

Kemp et al. remind us that climate change presents us with profound risks of combinatorial collisions leading to catastrophic outcomes. Beyond the authors' words, we might observe In particular that what we know of climate impacts on agriculture and subsequent forced migration in the face of food supply failure suggests that we're certainly facing catastrophic outcomes, if we value 1,000,000 lives needlessly lost in over a 100-year timespan as we would the same lives lost over a week's time. 

Any given edition of New Research is littered with articles germane to "knock-on" effects of climate change leading to "cultural climate amplification," possible or looming systems failures. "Other notables" for this week features a few such items, fodder for reasoned imagination armed with facts.

Other notables:

Tropical cyclone-blackout-heatwave compound hazard resilience in a changing climate. Based on our historical as opposed to promised emissions trajectory, "The expected percentage of Harris [county of Texas, USA] residents experiencing at least one longer-than-5-day TC-blackout-heatwave compound hazard in a 20-year period could increase dramatically by a factor of 23 (from 0.8% to 18.2%) over the 21st century."

Future flooding increases unequal exposure risks to relic industrial pollution. "Merging property-level flood-risk projections from the First Street Foundation with historical data on former hazardous manufacturing facilities in 6 U.S. cities, we identify more than 6000 relic industrial sites with elevated flood risk over the next 30 years." Yes, just 6 (six) cities.

Influence and prediction value of Arctic sea ice for spring Eurasian extreme heat events. Missing ice finds its way "home"— far, far away.  

State of the UK Climate 2021. "This report provides a summary of the UK weather and climate through the calendar year 2021, alongside the historical context for a number of essential climate variables. This is the eighth in a series of annual “State of the UK Climate” publications and an update to the 2020 report (Kendon et al., 2021). It provides an accessible, authoritative and up-to-date assessment of UK climate trends, variations and extremes based on the most up-to-date observational datasets of climate quality."

All of the above open access and free to read.

128 articles in 58 journals by 816 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Greenhouse-gas forced changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and related worldwide sea-level change
Couldrey et al., Climate Dynamics, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s00382-022-06386-y

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How not to solve the climate change problem

Posted on 3 August 2022 by Guest Author

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

When politicians talk about reaching “net zero” emissions, they’re often counting on trees or technology that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air. What they don’t mention is just how much these proposals or geoengineering would cost to allow the world to continue burning fossil fuels.

There are many proposals for removing carbon dioxide, but most make differences only at the edges, and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to increase relentlessly, even through the pandemic.

I’ve been working on climate change for over four decades. Let’s take a minute to come to grips with some of the rhetoric around climate change and clear the air, so to speak.

What’s causing climate change?

As has been well established now for several decades, the global climate is changing, and that change is caused by human activities.

When fossil fuels are burned for energy or used in transportation, they release carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that is the main cause of global heating. Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries. As more carbon dioxide is added, its increasing concentration acts like a blanket, trapping energy near Earth’s surface that would otherwise escape into space.

When the amount of energy arriving from the Sun exceeds the amount of energy radiating back into space, the climate heats up. Some of that energy increases temperatures, and some increases evaporation and fuels storms and rains.

Illustration of energy in from the Sun vs energy out from Earth in greenhouse effect How the greenhouse effect works. EPA

Because of these changes in atmospheric composition, the planet has warmed by an estimated 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 F) since about 1880 and is well on the way to 1.5 C (2.7 F), which was highlighted as a goal not to be crossed if possible by the Paris Agreement. With the global heating and gradual increases in temperature have come increases in all kinds of weather and climate extremes, from flooding to drought and heat waves, that cause huge damage, disruption and loss of life.

Studies shows that global carbon dioxide emissions will need to reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury to have a chance of limiting warming to even 2 C (3.6 F).

Currently, the main source of carbon dioxide is China. But accumulated emissions matter most, and the United States leads, closely followed by Europe, China and others.

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How likely would Britain’s 40°C heatwave have been without climate change?

Posted on 2 August 2022 by Guest Author

By Ben Clarke, DPhil Candidate in Environmental Research, University of Oxford; Friederike Otto, Associate Director, Environmental Change Institute, Imperial College London, and Luke Harrington, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change, University of Waikato.  This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Every heatwave occurring today is made more likely and intense by human-caused climate change. Early estimates by the UK Met Office suggest that days over 40°C have become ten times more likely to happen in the UK as a result of the rising global temperature.

But even this may be a significant underestimate, as models have underrated increases in the occurrence of extreme heat events before. And we know that climate change has increased the likelihood of new high-temperature records more than any other extreme weather phenomenon.

July 2022 would have had a few hot days without climate change. But with it, those days were several degrees hotter, which brought 40°C within reach for England for the first time.

Not-so-great British bake off

The heatwave was caused by a low pressure system over the North Atlantic that produced a slingshot effect, firing a plume of hot, dry Saharan air northwards. With little moisture to evaporate and no clouds to block the sun’s rays, the land baked.

There is growing evidence to suggest that these hot weather-generating pressure systems are becoming more frequent for Europe. But even if they continued occurring at the same rate, the air itself is certainly getting hotter.

On a warming planet everywhere gets hotter, but not at the same rate. The land heats up faster than the ocean, especially the driest areas such as the Sahara. The approximately 1.2°C of global warming already experienced has added at least 2°C onto the average UK heatwave day, and even more on to night-time temperatures.

The UK is not prepared for these Mediterranean temperatures. Buildings are poorly insulated and lack air conditioning. Much of the infrastructure cannot cope: train lines are built from steel that is only stress-tested to 27°C. Beyond that, the lines are prone to buckling.

Extreme heat is a killer. Heatwaves in Europe in 2003 and in western Russia in 2010 killed around 70,000 and 55,000 people respectively – two of the deadliest weather disasters in history.

Extremely high temperatures are especially dangerous for the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, people in cities and pets. That’s partly because it takes a heavy toll on the heart and lungs, especially when a warm night offers little respite. And partly because hot, stagnant air concentrates dangerous pollution like ozone, especially in cities.

Nearly 2,000 excess deaths have already been reported from the beginning of the mid-July heatwave in Spain and Portugal, which also experienced this Saharan plume of hot air. For every person killed, several more require hospital treatment for heat-related illness.

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Record rain in St. Louis is what climate change looks like

Posted on 1 August 2022 by Guest Author

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

Torrents of rain that began before dawn on Tuesday, July 26, gave St. Louis, Missouri, its highest calendar-day total since records began in 1873. And the deadly event is just the latest example of a well-established trend of intensifying downpours in many places across the globe.

The official reporting site at Lambert International Airport received 8.6 inches of rain from midnight to 11 a.m. Central Standard Time on Tuesday. (Standard time is used year-round to separate calendar days for meteorological data purposes.) Another 0.46 inch had been recorded just before midnight CST on Monday, bringing the total for July 25-26 to 9.04 inches as of 11 a.m. CST Tuesday.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #30

Posted on 31 July 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, July 24, 2022 through Sat, July 30, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Cranky Uncle Cartoon 18/20 - Sinking ShipCranky Uncle Cartoon 20/20 - SurgerySkS Analogy 7 - Christmas Dinner and the Faux Paus, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 18/20 - Sinking Ship, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 19/20 - Smoking, and The FLICC-Poster - Downloads and Translations.

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #30 2022

Posted on 28 July 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

51% disgusted, 51% sad

From our government and NGO publication section, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication release an update on attitudes about climate change among US residents. Climate Change in the American Mind (PDF) extends a long term program of sampling and continues to reveal the shifting position of climate change in US public perceptions. Definitely visit for the executive summary, then stay to learn the methods. 

Other notables:

Bringing albedo to the GHG marketEasy, cheap, fast, available now. What could be better? It's good that researchers are available to calculate such things as "Taking Los Angeles, CA as a test site for urban global warming mitigation actions, a residential “cool roof” project offers approximately seven times as much radiative forcing benefit from albedo change as from GHG reduction of energy efficiency; and a citywide increase to commercial building roof albedo offers radiative forcing benefit equivalent to the first 6½ years of all commercial sector GHG emission reductions proposed in the City of Los Angeles climate action plan." 

Impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions due to the use of telemedicine. Similar to the above item, it turns out that by paying attention to details, we can perform significant GHG reductions by simple changes in habits. This study reveals effective reduction of some 4,698 net tons of CO2 emissions by a single medical provider in a single year. 

Volcanic hazard exacerbated by future global warming-driven increase in heavy rainfall. "Our results suggest that if global warming continues unchecked, the incidence of primary and secondary rainfall-related volcanic activity—such as dome explosions or flank collapse—will increase at more than 700 volcanoes around the globe."

US nuclear power: Status, prospects, and climate implications. "Dismal economics" and conspicuous failure in the evolving energy market "might dampen enthusiasm" as diplomatically expressed by author Amory Lovins. Yet nuclear power continues to be an important part of the energy transition conversation. How and why is this possible? Lovins explores. 

84 articles in 47 journals by 419 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Carbon emissions and radiative forcings from tundra wildfires in the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta, Alaska
Moubarak et al., [journal not provided], Open Access pdf 10.5194/bg-2022-144

Observations of climate change, effects

A global view of observed changes in fire weather extremes: uncertainties and attribution to climate change
Liu et al., Climatic Change, Open Access pdf 10.1007/s10584-022-03409-9

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Extreme heat makes pregnancy more dangerous

Posted on 27 July 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Samantha Harrington

Esther Sanchez’s pregnancy this summer has coincided with extreme heat in Madrid, Spain, where she lives. Overnight temperatures there have been particularly uncomfortable. One recent morning, her living room was still 88 degrees Fahrenheit [31 C] at 6 a.m.

“So it was impossible to sleep and to rest and have a normal day — a normal life,” she said.

For many pregnant people — a group that can include women, girls, transgender men, and nonbinary people — heat is more than just uncomfortable. It’s dangerous. 

Pregnant people are more likely to experience heat stroke and heat exhaustion, according to the CDC. High temperatures can increase risks of stillbirth and preterm birth. And experts worry that state officials may scrutinize such pregnancy outcomes more closely in the wake of the June 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion. 

Climate change raises these stakes even higher. Hot days are already more common. Heat waves are hotter and last longer than they were in the past, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses and death.

Also see: Heat waves and climate change: Is there a connection?

How heat affects pregnancy 

Pregnant people face an elevated risk of heat-related illnesses because their bodies are working overtime to keep themselves and the growing fetus cool. They are also more likely to be dehydrated and thus produce less sweat, which is dangerous because sweating is a key way the body cools itself. Additionally, people exposed to extreme heat during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a potentially fatal pregnancy complication. And heat exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of heart problems during labor and delivery.

Recent studies have also shown that exposure to heat is dangerous for the developing fetus and can cause stillbirth, preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, and infant death soon after birth.

Sandie Ha, an assistant professor in public health at the University of California, Merced, analyzed 70 studies on the influence of heat on pregnancy outcomes. In her review, she found that estimates suggest a 16% higher risk of preterm birth during heat wave days compared to non-heatwave days. About one in 10 U.S. infants is born prematurely.

Ha also found that the stillbirth risk was 46% higher during heat waves compared to non-heat wave days. About 1 in 160 U.S. births are stillbirths, according to the CDC.

The risk for preterm birth and stillbirth increases about 5% with each additional degree Fahrenheit, she found.

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The volcanic eruption in Alaska that rocked ancient Egypt

Posted on 26 July 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jennifer Marlon and Joseph Manning

Cleopatra wouldn’t have seen the clouds of ash darken the sky from her throne in Alexandria, but the effects of the eruption of an Alaskan volcano rippled through Egypt and the rest of the ancient world in 43 BCE.

We are part of an interdisciplinary research team that is detailing the fingerprints of that eruption, which set a series of global climate changes in motion during the first century BCE, one of the most critical political transition periods in the history of Western civilization.

Our work is revealing how a single event occurring at a specific location can trigger a powerful cascade of changes that can unravel across continents and seas – affecting not only plants and animals, but also the social, political, and economic dynamics of human societies.

An eruption 6,000 miles from Alexandria

In one of the most remote places on Earth, the Aleutian Island chain in the north Pacific Ocean, in the winter of 43 BCE, Mount Okmok erupted. It was the largest eruption in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 2,500 years. It produced a sudden and massive drop in global temperatures that persisted for a decade.

Tree ring records from the White Mountains of California mark the decade between 43 and 33 BCE as the second-coldest in the Northern Hemisphere in human history. Italy endured severe cold summers that disrupted agriculture and military campaigns.

And in Egypt, the Nile failed to flood for several years in a row.

When people in the region speak of the Nile today, they bring their fist to their heart, indicating the incalculable importance of its water for the existence of life in the desert.

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SkS Analogy 7 - Christmas Dinner and the Faux Pause

Posted on 25 July 2022 by Evan

This is a revised version of a previous analogy. The original version is here.

Tag Line

Saying “No warming” since the last El Nino is like
Saying “No weight gain” since the last Christmas dinner.

Elevator Statement

On Christmas eve you eat a big dinner, with lots of seconds, gravy, ooey gooey sweet potatoes with more sweet than potatoes. After the monster dinner, generous helping of pie, ice cream and lots more. You weigh yourself after the “dinner”. The next morning you find creative ways to get rid of the food you “ate” the night before, all of it (and more) ending up in the “waste” bin. You weigh yourself again, for comparison.

Hurrah, a new weight-loss technique. How to lose a couple lbs. in one delightful day. For the next month you note that you have not gained a single ounce since that gorging Christmas dinner. In fact, you’ve managed to keep your weight below the Christmas-eve measurement. Weight-loss is easy: just push your weight up momentarily to some unsustainably high weight, and then eat a more modest diet thereafter.

This tale would seem absurd, except this is exactly what educated, well-paid senators of the USA say on a regular basis. They substitute the year of a recent El-Niño for Christmas dinner, they substitute temperature for body weight, and then say “No warming in __ years”. This Zombie Myth keeps on walking, eating the brains of many, despite the fact that the long-term trend is continued warming at an alarming rate of about 0.2ºC/decade! This myth of a warming hiatus is so easily debunked, that one of the recent, well-known Climate contrarians, Pat Michaels, cautioned his viewers not to use this myth because it is so easily debunked (watch here for a video describing the warming-hiatus myth, and watch here for a segment in this video where Pat Michaels cautions his audience against repeating this myth).

Climate Science

Our bodies and the earth go through many cycles. We drink, we sweat. We eat, we burn calories. We eat a lot, we exercise a lot. Our bodies have cycles that last hours, days, weeks, months, and one of the longest cycles that lasts nine months. We have random cycles associated with illness. We know that the ups and downs of our weight due to these cycles has nothing to do with our average weight. In addition to all of these transient cycles, there may be an underlying, long-term weight gain or loss that requires long-term weight measurements to separate them from the “noise” of the other cycles.

The earth is the same, and there are many cycles that affect temperature. Daily cycles with the rising and setting of the sun, weekly cycles associated with weather, monthly cycles associated with seasons, yearly to decadal cycles associated with slowly changing ocean currents and the activity of the sun, etc. There are also random cycles that affect the temperature, such as volcanoes that periodically burp.

Some of the strongest cycles are associated with ocean currents, such as El Niño and La Niña cycles (watch here for an explanation). El Niño cycles bring warm water to the ocean surface, releasing large amounts of energy into the atmosphere, warming the air. La Niña cycles do the opposite, bringing cooler waters to the ocean surface, cooling the air. El Niño cycles can cause global average temperatures to “temporarily” spike by about 0.2ºC. When an El Niño cycle subsides, the air temperatures usually cool off by about the same amount they warmed. Typically neither the temperature increase during an El Niño cycle nor the temperature decrease after El Niño or during La Niña cycles are indicative of long-term trends, but simply represent a temporary increase or decrease of global average temperature.

The exception to this is that during extended periods between El Niño cycles ocean currents keep relatively cool water on the surface, allowing an increased amount of energy to enter the oceans. During subsequent El Niño cycles, much of the energy stored in the oceans during the cooler phases comes out, causing a sharp increase in global average temperature. El Niño cycles can therefore mark a sudden increase in temperature, but what they are doing is releasing energy from the oceans that has been stored continuously over many years. Therefore, the best way to look at long-term trends of atmospheric air temperatures is to plot data over many decades: looking at temperature data over time periods of 10 years or less can lead to erroneous conclusions, such as “global warming has stopped.” To see how this works, consider an annual plot of temperature anomalies, to show how embedded within a trend of rising temperature there are periods of apparent cooling.

Figure 1. Down the Up-Escalator. Illustration of how a long-term warming trend can be cherry-picked to show short-term cooling trends.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #29

Posted on 24 July 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, July 17, 2022 through Sat, July 23, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Cranky Uncle Cartoon 14/20 - Hitting the Ground, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 17/20 - Past Climate Change, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 15/20 - Lag, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 11/20 - Gravity, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 16/20 - Natural Death, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 12/20 - Healthy Calcium, and Cranky Uncle Cartoon 13/20 - Healthy Food. Apparently, the Cranky Uncle Cartoon series is still popular, leaving other articles like UK heatwave: people urged not to use trains fro m Monday behind.

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Taking the Temperature: a dispatch from the UK

Posted on 22 July 2022 by John Mason

Well, it has happened. Forty degrees Celsius. It was bound to happen eventually, given the lack of determined action to halt our rising temperatures worldwide. Those who insisted such a temperature was impossible here in the UK have been left with egg on their faces. It was not a case of if, but when.

The synoptic pattern, high pressure to our east and a cut-off low to our far south-west (and approaching us) is common enough in UK summers. What is less common is that a more-or-less direct pathway was made available to advect hot air up from North Africa, across Europe and on to the UK. This was an unusually well-preserved hot airmass; for example over southern England on 19th July, 850 hPa temperatures were as high as 24C. That morning, to the lee of the Cambrian Mountains of Wales, a low-level temperature inversion mixed-out in a turbulent SE breeze and at some weather-stations, temperatures climbed by 7C in the hour between 0500 and 0600 BST.

By the time that such phenomena were being observed, records had already fallen. On July 18th, Wales kicked things off to a flying start: the old record high temperature (35.2C, 1990) got blown out of the water with a reading of 37.1C. An unpleasantly hot night followed, both in Wales and England; in both cases the overnight highest minimum temperature record was shattered at 24.5C and 25.8C respectively. July 19th brought things to a grand finale with the UK temperature record (38.7C, 2019) falling across an extensive area from London up to Lincolnshire. RAF Coningsby clinched top marks in the end, with 40.3C. Scotland also got in on the action with its highest recorded temperature of 35.1C* and its highest overnight minimum of 23.9C.

* although the Wales and England record temperatures were verified by the UK Met Office, the 35.1C Scotland record failed that test: the second highest of 34.8C is however good and is still a record. JM 02:08:22

Wildfire accompanied the dry heat: the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, described the situation faced by fire-crews in London as the “busiest since the Second World War”. Homes, gardens, woods and heathland alike were consumed by the flames: the final count, according to Khan, was 41 houses gone.

Something of a wake-up call, yes? Probably, but for the continued efforts of the right-wing media. It's a strange beast, that. We have covered one of its tentacles, the Daily Express, on here before. The Express is fond of scaring its readers with headlines like, “100 days of Heavy Snow” every autumn; in fact you don't really need a calendar any more. You know October has arrived if the Express is running those snow-apocalypse stories. On this occasion, however, its tone was somewhat different:

Daily Express cover, July 2022 heatwave

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #29 2022

Posted on 21 July 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

How does the IPCC know?

With the passage of time our scientific understanding improves. Thanks to the fundamental purpose and scale of the effort, our arc of progress is especially swift and brightly visible in the shape of our (unfortunately) growing collection of IPCC Assessment Reports.  

With better vision comes more clarity, sometimes uncomfortably so.  As it has emerged (with a synthesis section still to be delivered), the IPCC's most recent assessment report AR6 has been notable for casting what popular media has described as notably bleaker picture of our future climate chances, with  language centered more on urgency than in the past. This may seem only a change in mood but the shift in coloration is not based on emotions but rather improved skill and technique. We can see this in an article just published in the EGU journal Climate of The Past:  Technical Note: Past and future warming – direct comparison on multi-century timescales, by Kaufman and McKay. The article abstract conveys the gist in preternaturally calm language, given the conclusions:

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that Northern Hemisphere temperatures had reached levels unprecedented in at least 1400 years. The 2021 report now sees global mean temperatures rising to levels unprecedented in over 100 000 years. This Technical Note briefly explains the reasons behind this major change. Namely, the new assessment reflects additional global warming that occurred between the two reports and improved paleotemperature reconstructions that extend further back in time. In addition to past and recent warming, the conclusion also considers multi-century future warming, which thereby enables a direct comparison with paleotemperature reconstructions on multi-century time scales.

Other notables:

A New Ocean State After Nuclear War. "Anthropogenic climate change" isn't just about GHGs. There are faster and arguably uglier ways to change the planet other than driving SUVs. 

Are We at Risk of Losing the Current Generation of Climate Researchers to Data Science? In this commentary Jain et al. argue that by its nature climate research leads to what might be termed a bottomless pit of computation, distracting and ultimately diverting new research talent. Plausible remedies are suggested.

Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2021In our gov/ngo section, by IRENA. Good news is appreciated: "The period 2010 to 2021 has witnessed a seismic improvement in the competitiveness of renewables. The global weighted average LCOE of newly commissioned utility-scale solar PV projects declined by 88% between 2010 and 2021, whereas onshore wind fell by 68%, CSP by 68%, and offshore wind by 60%." It gets even better.

Greenhouse gases modulate the strength of millennial-scale subtropical rainfall, consistent with future predictions. Paleoclimate research connects with modeling to help assess our skill with climate projections. 

All of the above open access and free to read.

209 articles in 64 journals by 1,230 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Baroclinic Blocking
Martineau et al., Geophysical Research Letters, Open Access 10.1029/2022gl097791

Diffuse radiation forcing constraints on gross primary productivity and global terrestrial evapotranspiration
Chakraborty et al., [journal not provided], Open Access 10.1002/essoar.10510543.1

Methane’s Solar Radiative Forcing
Byrom & Shine Shine, [journal not provided], Open Access 10.1002/essoar.10510618.1

The Arctic sea ice-cloud radiative negative feedback in the Barents and Kara Sea region
Fu et al., Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Open Access 10.1007/s00704-022-04137-x

Observations of climate change, effects

Assessment of climate variations in the growing period in Central Europe since the end of eighteenth century
Szyga-Pluta et al., Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 10.1007/s00704-022-04141-1

Barents-Kara sea-ice decline attributed to surface warming in the Gulf Stream
Yamagami et al., Nature Communications, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41467-022-31117-6

Changes in rainfall patterns in southern Brazil over 1961–2020 period detected by rain gauge data
Martini, International Journal of Climatology, 10.1002/joc.7804

Changes in the Length of the Season with Favorable Environmental Conditions for Tropical Cyclones in the North Atlantic Basin during the Last 40 Years
Wu & Korty, Journal of Climate, 10.1175/jcli-d-21-0767.1

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Recklessness defined: breaking 6 of 9 planetary boundaries of safety

Posted on 20 July 2022 by Guest Author

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

Picture this …

“If you’re driving on the highway and miss your exit, you don’t step on it and keep going all the way to the ocean. You slow down and take the next exit. We’ve passed some limits noted by scientists to avoid irreversible damage to the climate, but there is still time to slow down and limit how much we suffer.”

– Susan Joy Hassol, head of the nonprofit Climate Communication.org, addressing a Communications Network 2018 conference

… and now, setting the stage, imagine this …

The trouble started at mile marker 1985. That’s when the air conditioning on your Lamborghini model RCP 8.5 megabus crapped out and the master engine fault light blinked on, a virulent red exclamation mark blazing with the dire threat of serious engine harm. You told the passengers about the problem. Ignoring the protests of a few loud-mouthed first-class passengers, you did the responsible thing and took the next exit off the expressway and pulled into a service station.

The mechanic said it was a good thing that you stopped. Your engine had overheated and melted multiple hoses, including the one circulating coolant from your air conditioning system. Despite the protests of a few obnoxious and vocal first-class passengers complaining that it would be too expensive to fix and that you should just drive on, you went ahead and agreed to the repair. While you waited, the mechanic advised you to replace your balding tires, their threads starting to show, and get a brake job, the pads dangerously worn. The road conditions ahead are more dangerous, he advised, and with forecasts of big storms moving in. He then gave you the bill, which surprisingly turned out to be 10 times less than the panicked first-class passengers claimed it would be. Despite this, they raised a big ruckus about the cost of fixing the tires and brakes, so you agreed to do only the engine fix.

You hit the road again, feeling the need for speed. Soon you find yourself cruising at 60 mph down a mountain road with blind curves and dangerous drop-offs with no guard rail. But as you whiz past mile marker 1988, you’re feeling worn out after a late night and from all the stress of the drive.

Your eyes feel droopy, and you shut them, just for a second. Mistake! Awakened by your own snoring, you suddenly recall one of your favorite brief Homer Simpson skits. You come to and find two wheels on the shoulder of the road as you careen at 70 MPH dragging a section of garden fencing post behind you.

Yet, still too fast, you swerve and avoid multiple bunnies, beavers, dodos, and frogs, which blunder in the way of your churning tires. Dang. It doesn’t help that when you pump your brakes, you hear the grinding of metal on metal, since you neglected to get that brake job the mechanic told you to get. It’s probably just as well, though, since any sudden maneuver might lead to a wipeout because of your balding tires. But shoot, that guy that you overheard last year at the Buck Lake campground said that when you start seeing the threads on your tires, you’ve still got about 3,000 miles left on them, and you’re determined to get your full money’s worth.

It’s starting to get dark now, and you flick on the headlights so that you can see a steep curve ahead. Only one headlight comes on. You smack your head. That’s right! You meant to change the burned-out bulb, but the replacement bulb is still in the glove box. Oh well. There’s still enough light to see the road, even though you forgot your glasses, and the world looks pretty blurry. No matter. You’ve invincible. You look at your unfastened seat belt. Nah. Seat belts are for wimps. Passing mile marker 2000, you gas it some more, hitting 80 mph.

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104°F? A Continental heat wave heads for England

Posted on 18 July 2022 by Guest Author

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

Relentless heat that’s been plaguing much of Europe this summer is now making a run for the United Kingdom, which appears likely to experience the hottest temperatures in its long history of record keeping on or around Tuesday, July 19.

On Friday, July 15, the U.K. Met Office issued its first-ever “Red Extreme” heat warning, accompanied by the first forecast ever issued by the agency for any part of the United Kingdom of temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The nation’s all-time record high is 38.7°C (101.7°F), recorded on July 25, 2019, at the Cambridge Botanic Garden.

In London, Friday’s officially predicted high of 37°C (98.6°F) on Tuesday would approach the city’s all-time high of 38.1°C (100.6°F), set at Kew Gardens on August 10 during Europe’s catastrophic heat wave of 2003.

Meteorologist Simon Lee, co-editor of the Royal Meteorological Society’s magazine Weather, tweeted a compelling comparison of a hypothetical weathercast in 2050 and an actual one for next week.

“I don’t think you can interpret this as climate change occurring ‘faster than anticipated,’” Lee added. “Climate models have shown that 40 C is possible in the UK in the current climate, just very rare. My point is that what is coming on Tuesday gives an insight into the future. In the present climate, 40 C represents a new extreme, which is becoming more likely due to climate change.”

Perhaps even more shockingly, the official forecast for the overnight low in London on Monday night is 25°C (77°F). The warmest daily minimum ever reliably observed in the entire United Kingdom is 23.9°C (75.0°F), recorded in Brighton on August 3, 1990. If London does stay above 25°C early Tuesday, that could easily become the 24-hour minimum for the day, as no dramatic cooling is predicted before at least midnight Tuesday night. (Update: as of Friday evening, the predicted overnight low in London for Monday night is now an astounding 26°C, or 79°F.)

“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure,” warned Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gunderson in a press release.

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2022 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #28

Posted on 17 July 2022 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, July 10, 2022 through Sat, July 16, 2022.

The following articles sparked above average interest during the week (bolded articles are from SkS authors): Cranky Uncle Cartoon 5/20 - Dark NightCranky Uncle Cartoon 7/20 - Dinosaurs, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 4/20 - Cold Weather, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 6/20 - Debate, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 9/20 - Falling, Cranky Uncle Cartoon 10/20 - Flying Bird, and Cranky Uncle Cartoon 8/20 - Drunk Driving. Apparently, the Cranky Uncle Cartoon series is „somewhat“ popular!

Articles Linked to on Facebook

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Skeptical Science New Research for Week #28 2022

Posted on 14 July 2022 by Doug Bostrom, Marc Kodack

Innocent until...?

"Loss" in the dollars and cents sense of the insurance industry stemming from our accidental, too-rapid instigation of climate change is a feature of our present. We can look to multiple attribution studies of hydrometeorological anomalies (aka "destructve floods") to confirm this. Multiple projections conducted by a plethora of investigators working across a broad span of disciplines foretell a future of increasing costs due to climate change, in lives and money.  

What of climate change and "damages" in the legal, pecuniary context? Restitution of lives lost is impossible but columns in accounting books are within our power to change. If people won't act intuitively and fairly to compensate for accidental damage to others, we look to the law for help. What may shape the evolution of redress, in terms of "who restores whom," in the money department? Accurate accounting, of course. As it happens, accounting for impacts on Earth's climate and comcomitant dollar damages by our behavior is within our skill set.

It's customary, and also fair: innocent mistakes are seen differently in the eyes of law and justice than are conscious acts of negligence. It's safe to say that profligate extraction, marketing and consumption of fossil fuels largely fell into the category of "oops" until only perhaps three decades ago. It's also arguable that— given emerging ample scientific information about consequences of fossil fuel combustion— over the intervening period between then and now  "hmm" should have rapidly progressed to "uh-oh" and then to "sorry, we'll stop." Arguments to the effect of "you knew better" will in all probability find their way into the process of law given the titanic damages being caused by our accident. 

As with research findings that should have roused good conscience and crystallized action decades ago, factually grounded academic output is available for informing law and policy about our choices and their outcomes. National attribution of historical climate damages by Christopher Callahan & Justin Mankin shows us how this looks as a matter of practice.

Callahan & Mankin's publication is of course part of an inevitable, building wave. Fairness is in our nature, and we can quantify the basis of equitable treatment. We can be fairly sure that should justice find its way to imposing restitutional costs of climate damage responsibility at national scales, accounting will then "follow the money," especially to principal beneficiaries of "oops."

As accountabilty for the eyepopping expense of climate change damage pencil-scratches paths leading from amorphous "nations" to "these particular citizens," a spotlight will be thrown on any and all mechanisms that led to delay in dealing with our fossil fuel problem, and that glare will shine with special brilliance on those who knowingly, intentionally chose to exacerbate harm for personal gain. This harsh illumination will be tinged in the colors of compensatory and punitive damages— lots of money moving to rebalance a scale.  A rational person with an eye to posterity might conclude that now would be a great time to stop paying for campaigns of deceptions and quit while ahead. 

Other notables:

Performance Analysis of Regional Electric Aircraft. From our NGO/GOV section, a delightfully clear-eyed and digestible summary of our prospects for modernizing one segment of the aviation industry. Not least, we can entirely skip the stale trope of "EVs are powered by coal plants." Electrified aircraft afford all the  immediate and steadily increasing benefits as do ground EVs. 

Climate and disaster resilience measurement: Persistent gaps in multiple hazards, methods, and practicabilityWe may not be born able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but we can learn how. Training ourselves for compound disasters is more daunting, but comes in chunks. Laurien et al. describe.

‘We're going all out for shale:’ explaining shale gas energy policy failure in the United Kingdom.  Incoherent, conflicted, axiomatically fratricidal public policy creates mutual exclusivity, both failure and success.  Bradshaw et al. swim in the pool of confusion. 

Communication of solar geoengineering science: Forms, examples, and explanation of skewing. Geoengineering researchers: are they rosy-eyed optimists, or practicing precautionists? Jesse Reynolds presents some replies to this question. 

All of the above open access and free to read. 

133 articles in 52 journals by 756 contributing authors

Physical science of climate change, effects

Biophysical impacts of northern vegetation changes on seasonal warming patterns
Lian et al., Nature Communications, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41467-022-31671-z

General circulation and global heat transport in a quadrupling CO2 pulse experiment
An et al., Scientific Reports, Open Access pdf 10.1038/s41598-022-15905-0

Precipitation efficiency constraint on climate change
Li et al., Nature Climate Change, 10.1038/s41558-022-01400-x

The climate system and the second law of thermodynamics
Singh & O’Neill, Reviews of Modern Physics, Open Access pdf 10.1103/revmodphys.94.015001

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The nexus between the climate change and democracy crises

Posted on 13 July 2022 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Roger Karapin

The crises the U.S. is facing regarding global warming and representative democracy are similar in some ways. Both have been serious problems for several decades, but have taken on new urgency in the past five years. In both, the Republican Party is a key barrier to progress or the instigator of regress.

Both now place the U.S. increasingly at odds with our allies in Canada and Western Europe. Beyond those similarities, the two crises also are linked: To address climate change effectively requires addressing the democracy crisis.

The limits of bipartisanship

Over the past 50 years, Democratic and Republican administrations have not heeded findings of climate science and have failed to respond with adequate climate policies. But currently, the Democratic Party shows substantial interest in a rapid energy transition and other ambitious greenhouse gas mitigation policies, while the Republican Party does not. Recently, even the reinstatement of Obama-era methane regulations, which was supported by the major oil companies, attracted only scant Republican support on Capitol Hill.

And much stronger policies are needed to meet the United States’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement, which requires a 50% cut in emissions over the 2005-30 period. Republicans consistently and forcefully oppose ambitious policies or any form of carbon pricing, and Republican-nominated federal judges are hostile to the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of its administrative authority to regulate emissions. As the Republican Party has moved to the right on climate policy, climate change has become a defining issue separating the parties and their base voters.

Republican intransigence is damaging to the prospects for climate protection, but this obstacle would not necessarily block progress on the issue in a democracy for a simple reason: The need to compete for votes should eventually force the party back toward the center. That is what happened in the 1950s, when the Republicans under President Eisenhower accepted New Deal social programs, and again in the ’90s, when Democrats under President Clinton accepted limits on government spending, cuts to welfare, and harsher criminal sentences.

Let’s acknowledge the reality: This process is not smooth or fast. A party that loses elections can hope to get back into power in a subsequent election simply because its opponents are seen as having failed on important issues of economic management or national defense.  But over the long term, any party that keeps losing elections because of its unpopular positions on key issues will need to modify its approach to at least some of them.

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What’s next after Supreme Court’s climate ruling?

Posted on 12 July 2022 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

The Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in the West Virginia v. EPAas detailed by Lexi Smith on this site, substantially curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollutants.

Though the language of the decision itself appears to be narrow – limiting the extent of regulatory options for existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act – it also elevated the newly-conceived “major questions doctrine.” That principle holds that any “major” new federal agency rules must clearly be within the scope of Executive branch regulatory authority and specifically delegated by Congress in  laws written by Congress, like, in this case, the Clean Air Act.

The major questions doctrine could limit future climate regulations much more broadly than the seemingly limited scope of the West Virginia v. EPA ruling. Members of Congress generally lack the expertise, foresight, and time to describe in detail precisely what pollutants agencies like EPA will need to address in the future; or, for that matter, every parameter they may need to consider in developing the most efficient such regulations.

Given its polarized nature, Congress has proven itself incapable of updating decades-old environmental laws like the Clean Air Act that constrain climate rules, which were intentionally written broadly to give EPA wide leeway in establishing “the best system of emission reduction.” The major questions doctrine would require that any future revisions to legal language be much more specific, making Congress’ task even more difficult yet.

But despite the ruling, pathways to curb climate pollution still remain, both within and beyond federal agencies. Some of those options have relatively high prospects for success, with others more vulnerable to legal challenges in the wake of West Virginia v. EPA.

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