One of the best ways to engage students in sustainability discussions is to use local information. NOAA has you covered with The Climate Explorer. You can type in your zip code and get historical and projected climate data. Today we highlight temperature. For example, the associated graph is the average annual maximum temperature for Tompkins County (home of this blog). The dark gray boxes are historical data. The blue and red lines are projections based on low and high emission scenarios. You can download the graph (just like we did here) and the data. There are numerous choices including average annual minimum temperatures, days above 95 degrees and days below 32 degrees. You can also select monthly or seasonal data. The site is phenomenal and there must be numerous courses that can take advantage of the graph and data.
This blog focuses on data, but we pause periodically to put the data into perspective. When educating about sustainability we want stories along with the data. The BBC provides such a story: The island people with a climate change escape plan. The Guna people live on small islands off Panama.
Most Guna communities live on the archipelago, and have done for centuries, after they were driven offshore by disease and venomous snakes. But now many believe that only a move back to the mainland can secure their future.
They have a plan, but completing the plan isn’t simple.
However, today work on the school and hospital has halted, as a result of a litany of contractual hiccups – and crucially, a failure to plan for adequate supplies of water and electricity. Work never began on the 300 houses.
Along with rising water there are other environmental issues.
“Coral reefs stop wave action. So when you remove the coral, even down to 3m in depth, you have no protection. This has created chaos for people,” says Dr Hector Guzman, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Institute in Panama City.
This is an excellent story with great photos. Take the time to read it.
NOAA’s Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content page provides a summary of the role the Ocean plays in Climate Change.
Heat absorbed by the ocean is moved from one place to another, but it doesn’t disappear. The heat energy eventually re-enters the rest of the Earth system by melting ice shelves, evaporating water, or directly reheating the atmosphere. Thus, heat energy in the ocean can warm the planet for decades after it was absorbed. If the ocean absorbs more heat than it releases, its heat content increases. Knowing how much heat energy the ocean absorbs and releases is essential for understanding and modeling global climate.
The page is dated July 2015, but the interactive graph and the data, used to create the graph here, is up to date. Connected to this is NOAA’s Hurricanes form over tropical oceans, where warm water and air interact to create these storms.
Recent studies have shown a link between ocean surface temperatures and tropical storm intensity – warmer waters fuel more energetic storms.
Are you interested in historical temperature trends for your state? NOAA’s State Annual and Seasonal Time Series page has it for you. You can create graphs of annual average min and max temperatures as well as the annual mean temperature, for almost all states (Alaska and Hawaii aren’t listed) . This can be done for annual data or for each of the four seasons. The graphs are from 1805 to 2015. The graph hear is the annual mean temperature for New York State.
These charts present three color-coded time series. The gray line represents the annual (or seasonal) temperature value. The blue line shows the overall trend in a fashion that smoothes out the year-to-year variability in temperature. The light blue shaded area represents the 95% confidence interval for the trend. The smoothed temperature is constructed using a locally estimated scatterplot methodology known as LOESS.
There does not appear to be easy access to the data, but if you contact them (Contact link on the top bar) they may send it to you. Either way, the graphs include confident intervals, useful in stats, and can be used in QL courses. There is also an interactive U.S. temperature map.
The headline from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies says almost all you need to know, July 2017 equaled record July 2016.
July 2017 was statistically tied with July 2016 as the warmest July in the 137 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
Last month (July) was about 0.83 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean July temperature of the 1951-1980 period. Only July 2016 showed a similarly high temperature (0.82 °C), all previous months of July were more than a tenth of a degree cooler.
But, the subtitle of NASA shocker: Last month was hottest July, and hottest month, on record says more
It’s the first time we’ve seen such a record month in the absence of an El Niño boost.
In other words, we are setting records without the help of El Niño. The map here, which you can create here, is interesting because the distribution of temperature anomalies is rather uniform (use in a stats class). You can get the data for the graph below from NOAA’s Climate at a Glance.
GlobalChange.gov has a helpful resource page for educators, although it is useful for anyone who wants to learn more about global change. In particular, their 18 page (really only about 9 pages of text given the pictures) climate literacy guide will be valuable in helping educators understand key climate ideas so they are comfortable incorporating climate assignment into the classroom.
Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science is an interagency guide that provides a framework and essential principles for formal and informal education about climate change. It presents important information for individuals and communities to understand Earth’s climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches for adapting and mitigating change. Principles in the guide can serve as discussion starters or launching points for scientific inquiry. The guide can also serve educators who teach climate science as part of their science curricula.
The page contains links to other resources such as an energy literacy guide, a wildlife and wetlands toolkit, and climate change educational videos.
From NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet feature, Arctic winter warming events becoming more frequent, longer-lasting, we learn
Arctic winter warming events – winter days where temperatures peak above 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius) – are a normal part of the climate over the ice-covered Arctic Ocean. But new research by an international team that includes NASA scientists finds these events are becoming more frequent and lasting longer than they did three decades ago.
and why does this matter?
Storms that bring warm air to the Arctic not only prevent new ice from forming, but can also break up ice cover that is already present, Graham said. He added that the snowfall from storms also insulates current ice from the cold atmosphere that returns to the Arctic after the cyclones, which can further reduce ice growth.
We know that reduced ice changes albedo, creating a feedback loop (see the Arctic Ice and Global Warming post). The NASA article is from the paper Increasing frequency and duration of Arctic winter warming events where the graph here originates (see supporting information pdf). The data is hard to track down but if you email the authors they may provide you the data used to create these graphs, especially if you mention you want to use it for a linear regression project in a class.
The BBC reports: Sea Level Fears as Greenland Darkens. The article discusses a possible feedback loop where as temperatures warm algae growth may flourish, which darkens the surface and changes the albedo to increase melting.
One concern now is that rising temperatures will allow algae to flourish not only on the slopes of the narrow margins of the ice-sheet but also on the flat areas in the far larger interior where melting could happen on a much bigger scale.
We joined the latest phase of research in which scientists set up camp on the ice-sheet to gather accurate measurements of the “albedo” or the amount of solar radiation reflected by the surface.
White snow reflects up to 90% of solar radiation while dark patches of algae will only reflect about 35% or even as little as 1% in the blackest spots.
Other highlights from the article include:
Currently the Greenland ice sheet is adding up to 1mm a year to the rise in the global average level of the oceans.
It is the largest mass of ice in the northern hemisphere covering an area about seven times the size of the United Kingdom and reaching up to 3km (2 miles) in thickness.
This means that the average sea level would rise around the world by about seven metres, more than 20ft, if it all melted.
You can get Greenland Ice Data from NASA’s Vital Signs of the Planet page as noted in a past post.
Climate Central reports, At Midway Point 2017 Is 2nd-Hottest Year on Record, and notes in the first line that this is a surprise given it is not an El Nino year (graph here is by and links to NASA).
“Personally, I wasn’t expecting it to be as warm as it has been,” Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist, said in an email. “After the decline of the strong El Niño I was expecting the values to drop a bit and rank among the top five warmest years. This year has been extremely remarkable.”
According to NOAA we just had the second hottest June with the hottest three Junes occurring in the last three years. You can get the data for June since 1880 from NOAA here and details about June from their Global Climate Report – June 2017.
Where do carbon emissions go seems like an obvious question. Into the air of course. If so, then one would expect a near perfect linear relationship between emissions and atmospheric CO2. The graph here has yearly carbon emissions in million tonnes per year (as reported by the Global Carbon Project) vs atmospheric CO2 in ppm from Mauna Loa (see data in the calculus project page). The graph may not be as linear as expected and, while maybe some of it is explained by issues of mixing in the atmosphere or the need for a lag, part of the answer is based on where the carbon goes after it has been emitted. A recent NYT article, Carbon in the Atmosphere is Rising – Even as Emissions Stabilize, sheds some light on the issue:
Scientists have spent decades measuring what was happening to all of the carbon dioxide that was produced when people burned coal, oil and natural gas. They established that less than half of the gas was remaining in the atmosphere and warming the planet. The rest was being absorbed by the ocean and the land surface, in roughly equal amounts.
In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste. But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up.
In fact, much of the carbon is absorbed in the ocean and land surface, and that will add variability to the relationship. The Global Carbon Project has this data available and it can be used by teachers. Go to their page and click on the global budget link for the data, which includes ocean and land sinks of carbon. If you want the data that created the graph on this page go here.