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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #12B

Posted on 22 March 2014 by John Hartz

A cold U.S. winter for sure, but 8th warmest globally

Despite the frigid temperatures that kept those in the eastern United States shivering all winter, the period from December 2013 to February 2014 was the 8th warmest on record globally, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center reported Wednesday. That warmth early in the year could set the stage for another record or near-record warm year, one NCDC scientist said.

And February, which was the 21st warmest globally since record keeping began in 1880, was the 384th consecutive month where temperatures were higher than the global average; the last month with below-average temperatures was exactly 29 years ago, in February 1985, when Ronald Reagan was just beginning his second term as president.

While some years have averaged warmer than others, global temperatures have been inexorably rising over the past few decades as manmade carbon dioxide emissions have accumulated in the atmosphere, trapping heat.

A Cold U.S. Winter for Sure, but 8th Warmest Globally by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 18, 2014

Alternative media filling in the gaps of mainstream climate coverage

As climate change coverage has been suffering in mainstream media, alternative, web-based media sources are starting to give more attention to the issue of global warming.

On March 10, Upworthy released the findings of a poll of its readers on what topic they wanted more coverage of -- the number one answer was climate change and clean energy. This is the latest in a trend of new media sources actively working to provide more coverage of global warming, in contrast to traditional media that are providing "shockingly little" coverage to a "critically important issue."  Meanwhile, to receive their news content Americans are turning increasingly away from papers and TV, and towards web-based sources, a term collectively known as "new media."

A paper from the Yale Forum on Climate Change & Media found that web multimedia is "poised to reshape news coverage on science and climate," telling of a burgeoning opportunity for climate change stories -- that "the time for new media has come": 

Alternative Media Filling In The Gaps Of Mainstream Climate Coverage by Denise Robbins, Media Matters, Mar 18, 2014

A super El Niño on the way? Subtle signs emerging

Mashable’s Andrew Freedman has penned an intriguing and important piece suggesting the possible El Niño in the pipeline may be a doozy, comparable to the strongest ever recorded:

Since climate forecasters declared an “El Niño Watch” on March 6, the odds of such an event in the tropical Pacific Ocean have increased, and based on recent developments, some scientists think this event may even rival the record El Niño event of 1997-1998.

Recall an El Niño event is an episodic warming of the eastern tropical Pacific ocean, which often has worldwide weather implications. 

A super El Niño on the way? Subtle signs emerging by Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang, Washington Post, Mar 20, 2014

Australia's Senate rejects carbon tax repeal bill

The Australian government's efforts to scrap the country's carbon tax were defeated in a Senate vote on Thursday, though the bill is likely to return after July when more Liberal senators take their seats.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to repeal the tax, which forces companies to pay to emit carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for causing climate change.

But opposition Labor and Greens senators united to oppose the move because they say the government's alternative "direct action plan" is too weak.

Australia's Senate rejects carbon tax repeal bill, Reuters, Mar 20, 2014

California officials prepare for worst as historic drought deepens wildfire risk

California is facing wildfires "outside of any normal bounds" as a historic drought turns drying brush and trees into a perfect tinderbox, officials have warned. The state recorded 665 wildfires from 1 January, about three times the average of 225 for this time of year, according to figures compiled by Cal Fire, the state's department of forestry and fire protection.

Each day without heavy rain deepened the risks of a catastrophic fire season and made it hard to deal with more wildfires if and when they broke out, officials warned. John Laird, the secretary for natural resources, told the Guardian: "This is going to be a fire season outside any normal bounds. Anything could happen at any time."

Although the wildfire season does not officially start until May in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, locals are adjusting to life on a year-round frontline.

California officials prepare for worst as historic drought deepens wildfire risk by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Mar 20, 2014

Climate change fuelled storms, rising seas cost China $2.6 bln in 2013 

Climate change fuelled storm waves and rising sea levels cost China 16.3 billion yuan ($2.6 bln) and killed 121 people in 2013, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said.

China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases which scientists say is driving climate change.

Southern Guangdong province was hit hardest, recording 7.4 billion yuan worth of damage, the SOA said in a new report. Storm waves caused 94 percent of the destruction, it said.

Climate change fuelled storms, rising seas cost China $2.6 bln in 2013, Reuters, Mar 20, 2014 

Climate change is putting world at risk of irreversible changes

The world is at growing risk of “abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes” because of a warming climate, America’s premier scientific society warned on Tuesday.

In a rare intervention into a policy debate, the American Association for the Advancement of Science urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.

“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do,” the AAAS said in a new report, What we know.

“But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.”

Climate change is putting world at risk of irreversible changes, scientists warn by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guradian, Mar 18, 201

The puzzles involving sea ice at the Poles

In his recent book The Climate Casino, environmental economist William Nordhaus writes, “We are rolling the climate dice, the outcome will produce surprises, and some of them are likely to be perilous.” Surprises are already taking place in Earth’s Polar Regions, with human-caused climate change still in its infancy.

Arctic sea ice is melting faster than had been foreseen just a few decades ago. Antarctic sea ice is increasing as time goes by, though questions have recently been raised about the accuracy of the data and whether the trend is as large as generally thought.

These aren’t the only surprises happening in the climate system — indeed, the current “hiatus” in surface temperatures is one surprise few had foreseen, one that this time happens to be in humanity’s favor — but these three are among the most prominent. The immediate availability of the previous day’s measurements of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent is perhaps akin to a horse race, but the phenomena will be unfolding over decades and even centuries.

The Puzzles Involving Sea Ice at the Poles by David Appell, The Yale Project on Climate Change & the Media, Mar 20, 2014

Rent in a warming world

Rent isn’t just the monthly check that tenants write to landlords. Economists use the term “rent seeking” to mean “using political and economic power to get a larger share of the national pie, rather than to grow the national pie,” in the words of Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who maintains that such dysfunctional activity has metastasized in the United States alongside deepening inequality.

When rent inspires investment in useful things like housing, it’s productive. The economic pie grows, and the people who pay rent get something in return. When rent leads to investment in unproductive activities, like lobbying to capture wealth without creating it, it’s parasitic. Those who pay get nothing in return.

Rent in a Warming World, Op-ed by James K Boyce, Truthout, Mar 21, 2014

U.S. Congress just undid the 1 good thing it's done on climate change

Congress approved changes to the federal flood insurance program in June 2012 that lawmakers said then would fix the program's problems and make it more financially stable. The bipartisan reforms phased out subsidies for high-risk coastal properties, which onlookers concerned about climate change said was key to discouraging unsustainable coastal development. It was perhaps the only good thing on climate that Congress had done in a really long time.

Last week, Congress decided to undo it.

U.S. Congress Just Undid The 1 Good Thing It's Done On Climate Change by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Mar 17, 2014

We can't just geoengineer our way out of climate change

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then -- toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

We can't just geoengineer our way out of climate change by David Suzuki,, Mar 18, 2014

White House unveils climate data website

The White House is set to unveil a new Climate Data Initiative on Wednesday to make government-held data more available to researchers and businesses, and improve climate change preparedness across the country.

President Barack Obama had already mentioned the data initiative in a list of new programs announced in his big climate speech at Georgetown University last June. Wednesday is its official unveiling.

One part of the data initiative is a new climate-focused section within the website -- called -- which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will run. The climate data site will also offer infrastructure and geographic mapping data sets -- showing bridges, roads, canals, etc. -- from such agencies as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Homeland Security.

White House Unveils Climate Data Website To 'Empower America's Communities To Prepare' by Kate Shepard, the Huffington Post, Mar 19, 2014

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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. No news on the big event this week: the IPCC WGII meeting in Yokohama JP?

    According to the current schedule, the Core Writing Team are already there and should be approving their AR5 as soon as Tuesday.
    Is there any pre-release/summary available or do we need to wait until the official release at the end of week?

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  2. chriskoz @1, the ABC has a story on WG2's report.  I assume there was a press release or something to go with it, but no links unfortunately. 

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  3. chriskoz: Her's an article about the leaked draft report to be finalized this week in Yokahama, Japan.

    Global warming to hit Asia hardest, warns new report on climate change by Robin McKie, The Observer, Mar 22, 2014

    I will, of course, include this article and others like it in this week's edition of the Weekly News Roundup.

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