Tag Archives: climate change

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.

How are beavers creating a climate feedback loop?

Credit Jay Frandsen/Parks Canada

The New York Times article, Beavers Emerge as Agents of Arctic Destruction, explains:

… as climate change warms the Arctic and thaws the permafrost, the growing season extends. What was once tundra gives way to brush.

This may allow beavers to move north.

But in the tundra, the vast treeless region in the Far North, beaver behavior creates new water channels that can thaw the permanently frozen ground, or permafrost.

What remains is a pitted landscape, with boggy depressions, that directs warmer water onto the permafrost, leading to further thawing. As permafrost thaws it releases carbon dioxide and methane, which in turn contributes to global warming and helps increase the speed that the Arctic, which is already warming faster than the rest of the planet, defrosts.

This is an interesting article with satellite photos showing how beavers have changed the landscape.

In which city has winter warmed the most?

Find out by going to Climate Central’s post, See How Much Winters Have Been Warming in Your City.  The winner is Burlington, Vermont, with about 7 degrees F of warming since 1970 (graph here from the post). There is a drop down menu where you can select from most major cities in the U.S. 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.

What is the connection between Greenland and the East Coast of the U.S.?

In NASA’s post, Greenland melt speeds East Coast sea level rise, they explain:

The recent work reveals a substantial acceleration in sea level rise, roughly from Philadelphia south, starting in the late 20th century. And it is likely a strong confirmation of sea-level “fingerprints,” one of the most counter-intuitive effects of large-scale melting: As ice vanishes, the loss of its gravitational pull lowers sea level nearby, even as sea level rises farther away.

Their analysis shows that the Greenland and Antarctic influence alone would account for an increase in the rate of sea level rise on the East Coast of 0.0016 to 0.0059 inches (0.04 to 0.15 millimeters) each year, varying by location. That’s equivalent to 7.8 inches (0.2 meters) of sea-level rise on the northern East Coast over the next century, and 2.5 feet (0.75 meters) in the south, though the estimates are quantitative and not an attempt at an actual projection.

Emphasis here in increase as this is in addition to the increases based on the meted water and thermal expansion of the water. Connected to this article, is the graph here, change in Greenland ice in Gt, which is from NASA’s Greenland page where you can also get the data.

How are king tides changing?

King tides occur when the sun is closest to the earth and aligned with the moon. For the northern hemisphere this happens in the fall. The picture here from the climate.gov post, King tides cause flooding in Florida in fall 2017, is from October,17 2016 at Brickell Bay Drive and 12th Street in downtown Miami.

While the celestial mechanisms that cause these king tides are not changing anytime soon, the water levels of the oceans are. This means that as the sun and moon tug away at the ocean, they are tugging at an ever-larger amount of water, dragging more of it on-shore than they did during previous decades’ king tides.

The article includes the graph here of  maximum daily water levels during king tides near Miami, with a regression line. The trend shows a water level increase of almost 10 inches since 1994.  To get the data go to the Tides and Current page from NOAA, click on the pin by Miami, and then click on the station home page. Under the tides/water level tab go to water level. There is some work involved in the settings to get the data, but there is really interesting data available.

How much later are frosts occurring?

Climate Central has your answer with its post The First Frost is Coming Later. They provide graphs, like the one here for NYC (about 20 days later since 1970), for most major cities in the U.S.  They don’t provide the data, but you can try and send them an email and they may send it to you. Alternatively, this could be a great stats project where students get the data themselves for a city of their choice and create the chart. You can get weather data from NOAA Climate Data Online.

Do you know what is in the recent Climate Science Special Report?

There is a lot of information in the Climate Science Special Report, but you can read the Executive Summary, or this shorter summary from the Wunderground post Blockbuster Assessment: Humans Likely Responsible For Virtually All Global Warming Since 1950s. Posted here is a graph about global mean sea level (GMSL) rise from the executive summary. Yes, 8ft of sea level rise is a possibility by 2100.

Emerging science regarding Antarctic ice sheet stability suggests that, for higher scenarios, a GMSL rise exceeding 8 feet (2.4 m) by 2100 is physically possible, although the probability of such an extreme outcome cannot currently be assessed. Regardless of emission pathway, it is extremely likely that GMSL rise will continue beyond 2100 (high confidence). (Ch. 12)

Relative sea level rise in this century will vary along U.S. coastlines due, in part, to changes in Earth’s gravitational field and rotation from melting of land ice, changes in ocean circulation, and vertical land motion (very high confidence). For almost all future GMSL rise scenarios, relative sea level rise is likely to be greater than the global average in the U.S. Northeast and the western Gulf of Mexico. In intermediate and low GMSL rise scenarios, relative sea level rise is likely to be less than the global average in much of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. For high GMSL rise scenarios, relative sea level rise is likely to be higher than the global average along all U.S. coastlines outside Alaska. Almost all U.S. coastlines experience more than global mean sea level rise in response to Antarctic ice loss, and thus would be particularly affected under extreme GMSL rise scenarios involving substantial Antarctic mass loss (high confidence). (Ch. 12)

Plenty of graphs in the executive summary and the Wundergraound post of any QL course and much of the data is available.

People Impacted by Climate Change – The Nenets

The Nenets are reindeer herders in Russia’s Arctic that migrate 800 miles each year. The National Geographic Article, They Migrate 800 Miles a Year. Now It’s Getting Tougher, tells their story.

The Nenets have undertaken this annual migration for centuries, and at 800 miles round-trip, it’s one of the longest in the world. Yuri’s group, called Brigade 4, is a relic of a Soviet collective—under Soviet rule the Nenets endured decades of forced collectivization and religious persecution. They survived centuries of Russian rule before that. Through it all, they’ve managed to sustain their language, their animist worldview, and their nomadic traditions.

The Nenets are facing challenges.

As I talk to Yuri, the region is suffering another record-hot summer; the thermometer has already hit 94°F. It hasn’t rained for weeks, and it’s hard for reindeer to pull the loaded sleighs across the dry tundra. Before the summer is out, a boy and more than 2,300 reindeer will die from anthrax on southern Yamal, and dozens of people will get sick—a direct result of thawing permafrost, which allowed animal carcasses buried during an outbreak in the 1940s to reemerge, still bearing infectious microbes.

And it isn’t just climate related challenges.

Yet climate change isn’t even the greatest threat to the Nenets. Development is. Russia’s quest for new sources of hydrocarbons has encroached on pastures that were already tight for the estimated 255,000 reindeer and the 6,000 nomadic herders that live on Yamal.

Read the article, which includes a video and a number of great photos and maps: They Migrate 800 Miles a Year. Now It’s Getting Tougher.

Related permafrost articles from this blog: Climate Change, Melting Permafrost, and Disease, Melting Permafrost and a Feedback Loop, Climate Change – Impacts on People, and Methane Bubbles – A Feedback Loop.