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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Climate Hustle

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #21

Posted on 26 May 2018 by John Hartz

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

Editor's Pick

Climate change may lead to bigger atmospheric rivers

Atmospheric River 2017 NASA/JPL-Caltech

In early 2017, the Western United States experienced rain and flooding from a series of storms flowing to America on multiple streams of moist air, each individually known as an atmospheric river. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

A new NASA-led study shows that climate change is likely to intensify extreme weather events known as atmospheric rivers across most of the globe by the end of this century, while slightly reducing their number.

The new study projects atmospheric rivers will be significantly longer and wider than the ones we observe today, leading to more frequent atmospheric river conditions in affected areas.

"The results project that in a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, there will be about 10 percent fewer atmospheric rivers globally by the end of the 21st century," said the study's lead author, Duane Waliser, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "However, because the findings project that the atmospheric rivers will be, on average, about 25 percent wider and longer, the global frequency of atmospheric river conditions — like heavy rain and strong winds — will actually increase by about 50 percent."

The results also show that the frequency of the most intense atmospheric river storms is projected to nearly double.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow jets of air that carry huge amounts of water vapor from the tropics to Earth's continents and polar regions. These "rivers in the sky" typically range from 250 to 375 miles (400 to 600 kilometers) wide and carry as much water — in the form of water vapor — as about 25 Mississippi Rivers. When an atmospheric river makes landfall, particularly against mountainous terrain (such as the Sierra Nevada and the Andes), it releases much of that water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

These storm systems are common — on average, there are about 11 present on Earth at any time. In many areas of the globe, they bring much-needed precipitation and are an important contribution to annual freshwater supplies. However, stronger atmospheric rivers — especially those that stall at landfall or that produce rain on top of snowpack — can cause disastrous flooding.

Atmospheric rivers show up on satellite imagery, including in data from a series of actual atmospheric river storms that drenched the U.S. West Coast and caused severe flooding in early 2017.

Climate change may lead to bigger atmospheric rivers by Esprit Smith, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, May 24, 2018


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  1. It seems mysterious why tar sand oil is minded in the first place, given its such a low quality, high extraction cost, environmentally devastating resource. I found some brief background on Canadas tar sands and environmental impacts here, and a history of extraction, export strategies, and pipelines controversies here.

    It appears the primary reasons for mining tar sands are that Canada has huge reserves of tar sands, so is influenced by this , and has close ties with the American market, and oil and fuel products comprise approximately 20 % of Canadas exports, so there's already a large inbuilt dependency .

    But it seems to me like Canada has taken a huge long term gamble that demand will continue be sufficient to pay for the high capital costs, and this goes against climate policies in its export countries to reduce oil consumption that are likely to increase, and cheap oil resulting  from fracking in the USA.

    This tar sand oil is only truly economic at $100 barrel, and this figure fluctuates wildly. The boom and bust oil cycle leads to swings in the Canadian curreny value that hurt their substantial manufacturing sector. Canada also gives the oil industry three billion dollars each year in subsidies here so its artificially propped up.

    The environmental impacts are huge, off the scale.

    Its like Canada has made a deal with the devil.

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