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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #28

Posted on 15 July 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Today’s Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade

When 2015 blew the record for hottest year out of the water, it made headlines around the world. But a heat record that was so remarkable only two years ago will be just another year by 2040 at the latest, and possibly as early as 2020, regardless of whether the greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet are curtailed.

That is the conclusion of a new study that uses climate models to project when today’s climate extremes will become commonplace — or the “new normal” as they are often called in both media reports and scientific analyses. 

Global Temp Anomaly Record Years NASA

Weather stations in the U.S. that are having a warmer than normal, colder than normal and record hot year.

Just how soon that record heat will become the norm surprised even its researchers, but the information could be useful to officials around the world trying to plan for the changes global warming will bring to their cities and countries. It will help show when notable heat waves, downpours, or other extremes may become run-of-the-mill, and would allow planners to develop the infrastructure and policies to withstand those extremes.

“At the moment, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal when we have record-hot summers or years,” study leader Sophie Lewis, a climate researcher at Australian National University, said in an email. “But this study really shows the nasty side of our current records becoming more frequent in the near future.”

While the phrase new normal has been used in different ways, it was rarely explicitly defined, so Lewis and her colleagues wanted to come up with a definition that could be used on all kinds of climate extremes.

The team used the climate models developed for the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to see when a global temperature like that of 2015, or higher, becomes normal. When such temperatures happened at least half the time in a 20-year period, they defined that normal as having been reached in the first year of the period.

Today’s Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 14, 2017 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun July 9 2017

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Comments 1 to 25:

  1. The reason Scott Pruitt wants a televised red team/blue team debate on Climate Change is because the blue team will be composed of actual climate scientists, uncomfortable in the spotlight and unpracticed at debate.  They will be right but will look wrong: and television is all about appearances.

    Meanwhile, the fossil-funded red team will be composed of good-looking lawyers trained in winning debates, and having memorized their talking points.  They also will have a distinct advantage: to win the debate they only have to spread doubt.  They don't have to provide climate answers, just paint the answers the other side gives with cynicism.  Keep in mind: these will be trained experts in planting doubt and cynicism in the public's mind.  

    A few years ago, Bill Nye (the Science guy) debated climate change with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn on 'Meet the Press'.  She easily held her own, because she's trained in debate and had memorized her talking points, and because Nye is a 'science communicator' who, as scientists rarely do, doesn't react well to hearing someone speak with a forked tongue with such apparent ease.  It's difficult but instructive to watch Blackburn toss off climate myths one after another with such cheery authority.  No wonder Scott Pruitt wants to 'go there'.

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  2. The "Ten Hottest Years" graph in the first article shows a bit of an ominous looking curve / acceleration. Quite a few of those years look like el nino years, so does this mean el ninos are becoming more powerful over time, possibly due to agw influences?  

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  3. nigelj@2,

    SInce the baseline global average is warming due to increasing GHG (primarily CO2) and strong El Nino events are typically the most significant temporary warming bumps above the average it is to be expected that many of the "warmest" years are the "Warmer than average" El Nino years.

    Jan Nul's Webpage of ENSO events is a helpful presentation of the magnitude of the NOAA ENSO evaluations. The big El Nino events do appear to be getting bigger in that presentation.

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  4. Read about Coral Reef expert Charlie Veron dire-environmental-prognosis unnecessary gloom but a good description how earth scientists do feel when faced with silly denial.

    He's probably the best living marine expert (he changed his first name from John because he's perceived to be contemporary Darwin), author of reticulate evolution, among other works. I find it  interesting to learn Charlie's personality quite resembles mine. I too, hate stupidity and hypocrysy. Although I don't share Charlie's opinion that we are "f..d" because of climate change I'm as angry as he's at politicians who do everything to delay mitigation action when alarm bells are already ringing loud. The final funniest thing is that I'm not a biologist, but a computer scientist - one of those people Charlie hates.

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  5. Chief denier in Congress has visited Arctic to experiance global warming:


    Interestingly, it was almost s "top sercet" visit in May, and we're learning about it now, about 2 months later. What do you think of that?

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  6. Thank you John for posting Brian Kahn's article from Climate Central about GHG latest evolution. It's worth noting that in 2016, human forcing since 1750 exceeded 3W/sqm. IPCC AR5 not so long ago put that number at 2.2

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  7. chriskoz:

    Read about Coral Reef expert Charlie Veron dire-environmental-prognosis unnecessary gloom but a good description how earth scientists do feel when faced with silly denial.

    Aldo Leopold famously said:

    One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

    Ecology can be said to be a synthesis of the earth and biological sciences.  Ecologists can see wounds that even other trained scientists can't 8^(.  Regardless, in these times as none before, scientists who study the Earth and its life must feel their shells inexorably hardening, when the only apparent alternative is to surrender to grief.

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  8. Thanks for including the M. Mann piece about the NYMagazine article. J. Mitchell takes it pretty thoroughly apart here:,2101.msg121078.html#msg121078

    (Lots of other good discussion there from various non-denialist perspectives, too.)

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  9. And see the more evenhanded treatment of the back and forth here:

    "Facing Down Climate Doom — Wallace-Wells’ Appropriate Alarm Earns Michael Mann’s Necessary Critiques"

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  10. I find this easy to believe based on recent summers here. I live in southern BC with family just across the border in Washington state.

    In 2015 my relatives in Washington were on evacution notice for two months as there were massive wildfires surrounding the town where they lived. The largest just to the south of them was over 200,000 acres. The smoke from those fires blew up into Canada and was so dense at times it was like fog. It made life very difficult and most people spent as little time outdoors as possible.

    I spent most of my youth in central BC and now watch as much of that territory is on fire. I can go on the BC Forest Service wildfire maps and check homes where I used to live which may not be there much longer. My brother and his family along with 17,000 other people in BC have been evacuated and may not have a home to go back to.

    This is the new "normal" and the very scary thing is that it will keep getting worse as we continue to burn even more fossil fuels and force the climate into an even more hostile state.

    At the same time all this is happening the federal Trudeau government has approved the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Burrard inlet in Vancouver which will be able to carry 800,000 barrels of dilbit a day. Allowing almost 300,000,000 barrels a year of tar sands crude to be sent to market and burned by this one route alone. This being allowed by a national leader who claims to understand the science and risk of climate change and agrees that we need mitigation.

    The power of carbon dioxide to alter a planets surface conditions is incredible, our twin planet just a few tens of millions of miles closer to the Sun has the hottest planetary surface in the solar system almost certainly due to its 97% CO2 atmosphere.

    But we don't need to get anywhere close to that to make the Earth unihabitable for most of the life here. Just change the climate faster than most species can adapt or migrate and trigger the kind of changes in the oceans that have led to massive dieoffs both in the sea and on land.

    Massive forest fires on land will be the least of our worries if in the future the oceans go anoxic and begin producing the kind of poison gases that likely occurred during the Permian and possibly other extinction level events.

    For an existential emergency, so many appear to be incredibly complacent.

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  11. "see the more evenhanded treatment of the back and forth here"

    Given the Scribbler-of-Fiction's own propensity towards methane doomporn, that's hardly a credible source.

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  12. Danial Bailey @ 11

    Do you know something we don't because trillions of tons of methane in unstable frozen deposits in a rapidly warming world seems like the definition of catastrophic to me.

    Just a small fraction of that has to be released into the atmosphere to have a significant impact on the current positive forcings, which would in turn create further positive feedbacks.

    It would seem any critical analysis would indicate we are in fact creating a situation that at some point will rapidly run away from the current conditions.

    Leaving us in a true doomsday scenario where few species will be left due to conditions so hostile that only the most robust species with the lowest nutrional and oxygen requirements survive.

    Keep in mind that climate change is just one of a host of impacts that are rapidly alterning the entire planet in a way that leaves fewer and fewer species in habitats that are being designed to meet short term economic needs not long term biological imperatives.

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  13. Consensus appears to be that methane risks are being overstated by some commentators. See here and perhaps look at recent cites for more context; and also the FAQ 6.1 of latest IPCC WG1 report.

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  14. @Doug_C:

    I have responded to you on this post.  Please read the post in full, and the comments underneath it, before then proceeding to my updated material on it.  If you have any questions, please place them there, and not here.  Thanks!

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  15. DB, in your links you write: "...the bad news is that the already difficult task of keeping warming under 2°C becomes much harder once we face up to the consequences of Arctic permafrost feedbacks."

    I think we can all agree on that, and I will point out, contrary to what some might have concluded if they only read reviews of it and not the article itself, that Wells-Wallace, whatever else his faults may be, never uses the words 'bomb' or 'sudden' with regards to permafrost or methane.

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  16. My understanding is the research says arctic and siberian methane is a problem, but not massive or catastrophic. However this research appears to be based on theory and projections.

    However over the last couple of years various holes have appeared in siberia and northern regions, belching methane, as the permafrost melts and things collapse. Question: Does this mean the research is too conservative?

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  17. nigel wrote: "not massive or catastrophic"

    well...pretty massive, at least in terms of actual carbon, equivalent to more than all the carbon in all of life on earth. But we don't know how much of that will emerge as methane. And yes, most recent studies conclude it won't come out suddenly (which word Wells-Wallace never actually used).

    But here's a somewhat troubling development: High methane emissions from thermokarst lakes in subarctic peatlands

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  18. Wili @17, yes fair enough. To  add to your research link, here's an interesting very recent article and photo on holes and mounds in the sub arctic releasing methane etc.

    However I was really wondering the following if anyone knows. We have these very recent lake issues, sinkholes and methane bubbles in the subarctic releasing methane, and is this more than the slow / limited release the research done over the last ten years was predicting? 

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  19. I would just add the lakes issue, and other permafrost issues, sinkholes, etc all do definitely look like troubling developments.

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  20. Here's what a realy hot summer can look like where I live.

    BC Wildfires Map

    The town of 11,000 where I grew up has been evacuated and there are major fires all around it. That is just one small area of central BC which is covered in fires.

    I stopped thinking that climate change was an academic issues years ago, watching this happen is like being in a disaster movie as a participant not a spectator. Talking on the phone with my elderly mother, she suddenly began weeping for all that is being lost.

    It's insane that we're all basically sitting back and watching this happen... and keep in mind this is the opening stages in a process that will become increasingly catastrophic taking out entire ecosystems. Coral reefs are already well on their way to being mostly gone, likely by mid century.

    How is it more people don't get that at some point this wave will wash right over them. In Florida it was an unspoken rule created by the governor that public employees not mention climate change because of the implications of a rising sea level for a state much of which is barely above sea level now.

    Warmer summers is just the tip of this "iceberg"...

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  21. Doug_C @20, numbers of forest fires certainly have increased in recent decades, in America and Canada as below:

    So your suspicions  are not just anecdotal or locally based. Somehow I doubt numbers of arsons have inceased, and anyway there are also changes in area and intensity. Looks mostly like global warming.

    I'm not sure if this has happened in NZ, but we have seen increased levels of rainfall, in recent decades, according to our climate minotoring agency NIWA, and  this has been mostly on the west coast, which is already very wet. It's not happening where it would be useful to agriculture or hydo power.

    You ask why people can't see all this or are complacent? It's  probably hard for people to get their heads around the full scale, or even keep up with it. I'm semi retired, so have a bit of time to read.

    Maybe people also feel overwhelmed. I feel torn in two directions, one direction that we should actually be a bit alarmist about it, the other that too much alarmism, catastrophising, and despondency won't help.

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  22. nigelj

    I know Australia has been hit hard by wildfires in recent years with mass evacuations and loss of life as well as property. We haven't seen the loss of life yet, just hundreds of homes burned and many more to come.

    Some of the fires have been caused by people, but the majority have been lightening strikes on very dry forests. An eyewitness account from someone driving south through the Cariboo District where most of these fires are said it a surreal experience as he saw lightening strike after strike that was followed by an immediate fire.

    I'm just frustrated, I'm also semi-retired and have spent the last decade informing myself of the true dimensions of this subject learning as much as I could in a bunch of different subject including some quantum mechanics, atmospheric circulation, lots of biology, ocean currents and more. There's no question I find what is going on deeply distrubing, reading up on the Permian and other climate change related extinction events is sobering, now we're starting to connect them to what we doing on both scale and timeline is frightening.

    I'm all for making changes in a way that doesn't turn society and the economy on its head creating its own form of disaster, the thing that really concerns me as a Canadian is that we're not even making any real attempt. Our PM went to the Paris climate conference - which James Hansen has called a fraud because it doesn't create the conditions to make all fossil fuels uneconomical - and because we were part of a political agreement to deal with issue acts as if the problem is solved. While having exactly the same emissions as the last federal government here which openly denied climate change, refused to be part of any international agreement, censored science and even went as far as to burn scientific libraries with data that went back over a century and were priceless in scientific terms.

    Meanwhile much of this province burns and we're already being told here this is the new normal. Which is only going to get worse, James Hansen has stated explicitly that if the billions of barrels of tar sands crude is sent to market and burned then climate change will be unmanagable. But that is still the central policy of the Canadian government, the Alberta government and until the last election here this spring the BC government was in full compliance with allowing pipelines and tanker trains to carry over 1,000,000 barrels of bitumen through BC a day.

    I don't know what the answer is, I've been coming to this site for years and truly believing that if people were presenting the science in such a clear and effective manner not just here but many other places then it must take effect soon.

    But that isn't happening and now I'm watching much of what I've grown up calling home being burned up, climate change is very real here at this moment, it's not something abstract that will happen in a couple of decades.

    BC is also highly dependent on the water provided by major rivers that originate with glacial melt in the Rookies. Not only will massive wildfires become a frequent summer event, in coming years we have water scarcity to look forward to as those too disappear.

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  23. Doug_C @22, interesting points.

    Australia appears to be at particularly high risk from climate change, particularly forest fires. As you probably know they have a hot, dry, drought prone climate that can also be quite windy. They have many houses among forests of gum trees which appear particularly susceptible to fire, however they are also big coal producers, and this lobby is powerful. Their response to climate change has been mixed at best, although they have made some decent progress with wind power. It all seems to depend on who is in government.

    I live in New Zealand, and we are affected quite differently, but almost as badly. We are an island nation in the path of a system of frequent low and high pressure systems, and tend to have a rather wet, mild, cooler, windy climate, actually rather more like British Columbia. Climate change has made droughts slightly worse, but the most obvious impacts are more rainfall, all in exactly the wrong places. It's predicted we will get more stormy weather possibly quite severe cyclones from the north, serious sea level rise, more droughts and forest fires. However given our wet, slightly cooler climate forest fires are not quite the major concern Australia has.

    But it shows how the same warming climate can effect different geographies, and still in negative ways.

    I try to read something on the climate issue. I find it a very interesting issue, because it reflects a whole range of personal interests of mine including earth sciences, politics, economics, human psychology.

    I haven't done any advanced physics, however I did several papers in physical geography at university, and they covered an introduction to the theory of weather and climate. I also did some basic maths, and chemistry and psychology.  

    I think websites like this are good because they promote the science in a authoritative logical way and without catastrophising. They also deal with denialist myths very well. I actaully think the majority do understand broadly whats happening, confirmed by polls in my country showing over 70% acceptance of the science (although it fluctuates weirdly), but its important to get that number higher.

    The real sticking point is poor leadership to politicians, who look to be captive to various industry lobby groups, and wealthy donors sceptical of climate science. It would be great to get this money out of politics, and at the very least voters need to put pressure on politicians.

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  24. It is amazing how these changes are playing out across the globe, I'm still trying to get my head around how heat is both trapped within the atmosphere, how that is mostly downloaded into the oceans and how that is affecting circulation patterns and things like ocean-atmosphere coupled systems like El Nino/La Nina which influences climate around the globe.

    My niece married an Auzzie and they both live in Texas so I get first hand accounts of what it was like living on that continent and how chaotic weather can become in some areas like Texas. They have been through both tornadoes and hurricanes. There does seem to be a much higher frequency of the super-cell systems that spawn tornadoes in the US south and midwest.

    My sense is that climate science and scientists have slowly been chipping away at the artificially created roadblocks erected by the fossil fuel sector in its interests alone to deny the science of climate change and delay mitigation for as long as possible. The level of genuine doubt for most people is disappearing and when it goes I think the changes will come quite suddenly compaired to how long it had taken to get effective action.

    Here in BC there was a lot of denial and the main economic initiative of the last government which was just defeated in election was a massive fracking program in the BC NE with LNG plants and terminals all along our coast. I think that will change.

    I've also spent a lot of time learning about the alternative technology to replace fossil fuels and with abundant power from things like thorium power molten salt reactors, there's no question in my mind at all that we could build within decades completely viable, dynamic, innovative and most importantly sustainble economies and societies. We don't even have to do away with internal combustion powered transportation as we can make diesel, octane and other fuels directly from air with electricity and the addition of carbon and other readily available materials. Technology like thermal depolymerization allows us to turn any long chain carbon molecules to short chain organic material very similar to light crude in a matter of hours. Add in all the other alternatives like solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc... and there is simply no reason at all to keep investing billions of dollars on a fossil fuel powered future that by all indications ends in catastrophe.

    When the turn comes - and I'm confident it will, even if I have down moments like right now when climate change is in the face of thousands of us here - it will be because of people like the ones who have created and populated this site with facts presented in a professional and endlessly patient manner that I do think is in fact wearing down the denial movement.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "how that is mostly downloaded into the oceans"

    Your answer is here (in short, the energy goes directly into the oceans from the sun, but its exit path back to space is slowed by rising levels of CO2).

  25. It's amazing the difference just a slight rise in temperature has in the wildfire situation here. The last few days have been a bit cooler with less winds and the wildfire threat has stabilized in many places. There are still over 37,000 people who have been evacuated and are waiting for conditions to improve greatly before they can return home... or rebuild for those who have lost their homes.

    BC has been pushed to the limit and is asking for international support, 50 fire fighters have arrived from Australia which is greatly appreciated. They give some of our crews a chance to rest and regroup.

    As this becomes the norm in the coming years there are going to have to be new measures taken in regions like western North America and many other places to deal with the new risks. Australia is another place that faces this challenge. International cooperation and sharing of resoures may be one method, I'm sure there are BC crews who would be willing to return the favour.

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