Tag Archives: climate change

How old is Arctic sea ice?

From the NYT: In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing

The NYT article In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing by Jeremy White and kendra Pierre-Louis (5/14/2018) notes

In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the region hit a record low for ice older than five years.

In fact, in March of 1984 5+ year old ice made up about 30% of all ice and now it makes up only a few percent. There is also less ice overall.

If you really want to explore changes in the age of  Arctic ice go to the NSIDC Satellite Observations of Arctic Change interactive graph.  You can choose a year from 1985 through 2916, see a map of the ice, a bar chart of ice by month by age, and have the graph animate through the months of the year. The differences over the years is extreme. You can get related data from the EASE-Grid Sea Ice Age, Version 3 page, although you will have to register.

How many Billion dollar weather/climate disasters occur in the U.S. each year?

NOAA has your answer on their Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Time Series page. The page includes an interactive version of the graph here that allows you to select disaster types and adjust for CPI.  The data is available to download.

Determining the cost of disasters is not simple and they note:

In May 2012, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information — then known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) — hosted a workshop including academic, federal, and private sector experts to discuss best practices in evaluating disaster costs.

A research article “U.S. Billion-dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Data Sources, Trends, Accuracy and Biases” (Smith and Katz, 2013) regarding the loss data we use, our methods and any potential bias was published in 2013. This research article found the net effect of all biases appears to be an underestimation of average loss. In particular, it is shown that the factor approach can result in an underestimation of average loss of roughly 10–15%. This bias was corrected during a reanalysis of the loss data to reflect new loss totals.

A climate.gov post by Deke Arndt (4/13/18) , The all things being equal edition, discusses the connection between weather and climate:

Relative sea level in and around Boston has risen about half a foot in the last 50 years. So, all else being equal, the same storm 50 years ago would have six inches less water to push inland. That’s a big, big difference, and one that has developed on the climate scale.

That’s how climate comes in, even in these weather events. Many times, in the discussion of weather and climate, we mistakenly consider these two words, and the concepts they define, to be mutually exclusive frames.

How much has growing season/allergy season increased in your town?

Climate Central has your answer with their post, Here’s How Frost-Free Season Affects Allergy Season (4/4/18). You will find a drop down menu to produce graphs like this one for Grand Rapids, which has seen as average increase of about 25 frost free days. On the downside,

 A study sampling 10 locations from Texas to Saskatoon, Canada indicated that pollen seasons lengthened between two to four weeks from 1995 to 2009, with the largest increases in the northernmost areas.

In addition, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide enhances photosynthesis in plants, meaning that they produce more pollen.

They don’t provide the data, unfortunately, but they do provide a clear methodology so that you can create the data set for your city. You can get weather data from NOAA Climate Data Online. There is great potential here for student projects in statistics courses.

How is climate change impacting Easter Island?

A New York Times article,  Easter Island Is Eroding, (3/15/18 by  Casey and Haner) has the answer.

Tourists usually begin their days in Tongariki, where they gather to watch the sunrise from behind a line of monoliths facing inland. Groups split off to Anakena, the island’s one sandy beach, or to the ancient platforms at Akahanga, a sprawling site of former villages on the shore where, tradition holds, the island’s mythical founder, Hotu Matu’a, is buried in a stone grave.

Yet all three sites now stand to be eroded by rising waters, scientists say.

“We don’t want people seeing these places through old photos,” Mr. Rapu said.

A beach is already lost:

The damage has been swift on Ovahe Beach, near where Mr. Huke came across bones in the sun. For generations, there had been a sandy beach here that was popular with tourists and locals. Nearby, a number of unmarked burial sites were covered with stones.

Now the waves have carried off almost all of the sand, leaving jagged volcanic stone. The burial sites have been damaged and it’s not clear how long they will survive the waves.

Walls collapsing:

At a site called Ura Uranga Te Mahina on the island’s southern coast, park officials were alarmed last year when blocks of a stone wall perched about 10 feet above a rocky coast collapsed after being battered by waves.

There is more and the article has fantastic photos.

Where can we find basic climate information?

The answer is Climate Kids by NASA.  Climate kids is aimed at, well, kids, but it serves as a fantastic primer of basic climate science.  For example, under Big Questions and then How do we know the climate is changing? we find short explanations of the following questions (with links to  further resources):  So what if Earth gets a tiny bit warmer? Why is Earth getting warmer? (includes the CO2 graph copied here) How do we know what Earth was like long ago? How can so little warming cause so much melting? Doesn’t rising sea level just bring us closer to the beach? How does climate change affect other species?

The main menu of pages has Big Question. Weather and Climate. Atmosphere. Water. Energy. Plants & Animals. No matter how much you know about climate change, you’ll find something interesting on Climate Kids. You can also do a quick check of what you know with their Climate Trivia game.

What is the state of Arctic Sea Ice?

We are within about a month of the peak of Arctic sea ice in its yearly cycle of freezing and thawing. At the moment, sea ice is at a record low (see chart) tracking close to 2017 and 2016, where as 2012 holds the record for the lowest extent of ice. NSID has an interactive real time chart (the last data point here is Feb 25) where you can select any and all years from 1979 to the present and download the graph. The data can be downloaded in an Excel spreadsheet from their Sea Ice Data and Analysis Tools page where they also have links to animations.  There are materials in both the Calculus Projects and Statistics Projects pages using this data.

What is the state and future of snowpack out west?

Climate.gov has your answer with the article Winter so far has people out west asking, Where’s the snow?   (Feb 15, 2018) by Tom DiLiberto.

Farther south in Arizona, snows across the Rockies and in the Upper Colorado River Basin have been extremely low so far this year. Snow water equivalents—the amount of liquid water that would result  if  the snow melted in an instant—are between 0 and 30% of the median for this time of year for a broad region.  In fact, the “best” areas for snow this season lie along the Front Range in Colorado and are only just around normal.

Why does this matter?

For areas in the Upper Colorado River Water Basin along the southern Rockies which rely on snow melt for water resources later in the year, snow amounts this low bring fears. Particularly, is there going to be enough snowmelt to fill  Lakes Mead and Powell, which provide water to major cities like Tucson and Phoenix?

What is the cause? A second La Nina year in a row is part of the explanation, but (as their graph here shows)

As we continue to warm the planet due to emissions of greenhouse gases, mountain snowpack out west will likely continue to dwindle. Assuming we continue to increase global emissions of greenhouse gases (A2 scenario), the snow water equivalent of the snowpack in California by the end of the century will be 43% of what it was from 1971-2000. In Colorado, the snow water equivalent will be 26% less than that observed from 1971-2010.

A smaller and earlier-melting snowpack means less water to runoff into streams and tributaries in lower elevations. For places in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Upper Colorado, and Upper Rio Grande River basins that rely heavily on a melting snowpack to provide the bulk of their annual runoff, climate change will have profound impacts on reservoir levels, water storage, and the people and ecosystems who rely on them.

There is enough quantitative information to use this article in a QL based course.

How does a small increase in average temperature increase the chance of extremes?

The Climate Central post, Small Change in Average -Big Change in Extremes, summarizes the idea well with the graph. As the mean shifts to the right, there is a significant increase in the chance of extreme temperature. The animated gif on the site is perfect in expressing the idea.

That’s what we are seeing across much of the country. Average summer temperature have risen a few degrees across the West and Southern Plains, leading to more days above 100°F in Austin, Dallas and El Paso all the way up to Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, and Boise.  It’s worth noting that this trend has been recorded across the entire Northern Hemisphere, as shown in this WXshift animation.

You should check out the WXshift page they link to. This material is perfect for a stats course. It is also worth pointing out that the pictures here assumes the standard deviation stays the same, but there is evidence that it may be increasing. The effect is a flatter more stretched out density, with even greeter likelihood of extremes.

How hot was the U.S. in 2017?

According to NOAA’s article, Assessing the U.S. Climate in 2017, it was the third hottest year on record for the U.S. It also wasn’t an El Nino year. In summary,

This was the third warmest year since record keeping began in 1895, behind 2012 (55.3°F) and 2016 (54.9°F), and the 21st consecutive warmer-than-average year for the U.S. (1997 through 2017). The five warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S. have all occurred since 2006.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska had an above-average annual temperature. Despite cold seasons in various regions throughout the year, above-average temperatures, often record breaking, during other parts of the year more than offset any seasonal cool conditions.

The article has other useful graphs and information, including a summary for December.  Related data is linked to their Climatological Rankings page.