After President Trump disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment in August 2017, the group got back together on its own:
The panel is now known as the Science to Climate Action Network (Scan) and has now completed work it would have finished for the federal government, releasing a report on Thursday warning that Americans are being put at risk from the impacts of a warming planet due to a muddled response to climate science.
“We were concerned that the federal government is missing an opportunity to get better information into the hands of those who prepare for what we have already unleashed,” said Richard Moss, a member of Scan and a visiting scientist at Columbia University, who previously chaired the federal panel.
“We’re only just starting to see the effects of climate change, it’s only going to get much worse. But we haven’t yet rearranged our daily affairs to adapt to science we have,” he added.
The fourth National Climate Assessment, released on the day after Thanksgiving last year, detailed how climate change is already harming Americans, with sobering findings on future impacts. At the time, Trump said he didn’t believe the report.
Columbia University and the American Meteorological Association are funding the reconstituted panel.
Wherever a landmass had several kilometers of ice on top, it deformed. Glaciers covered much of North America only 10,000 years ago. Since they retreated (incidentally forming the Great Lakes and creating just about all the topography in Northern Illinois), the Earth's crust has popped back like a waterbed.
Not quickly, however.
But in the last century, Chicago has dropped about 10 cm while areas of Canada have popped up about the same amount:
In the northern United States and Canada, areas that once were depressed under the tremendous weight of a massive ice sheet are springing back up while others are sinking. The Chicago area and parts of southern Lake Michigan, where glaciers disappeared 10,000 years ago, are sinking about 10 to 20 cm each century.
One or 2 millimeters a year might not seem like a lot, but “over a decade that’s a centimeter. Over 50 years, now, you’re talking several inches,” said Daniel Roman, chief geodesist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s a slow process, but it’s a persistent one.”
While Chicago’s dipping is gradual, this dynamic could eventually redefine flood plains and work against household sewer pipes that slope downward to the sewer main.
The same phenomenon has affected the UK as well. Scotland is popping up and England is sinking, as are other pairs of regions similarly glaciated. (Sterling, however, has a long way to go...)
Andrew Sullivan points to an energy source we already know how to build that can completely eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions wherever it comes online:
Here’s a suggestion: Focus on a non-carbon energy source that is already proven to be technologically feasible, can be quickly scaled up, and can potentially meet all our energy demands. What we need, given how little time we have, is a massive nuclear energy program. Sure, we can keep innovating and investing in renewables, and use as much as we can. But they are not going to save us or the planet in time. We know nuclear works and does so quickly. As argued in Scientific American:
The speediest drop in greenhouse gas pollution on record occurred in France in the 1970s and ‘80s, when that country transitioned from burning fossil fuels to nuclear fission for electricity, lowering its greenhouse emissions by roughly 2 percent per year. The world needs to drop its global warming pollution by 6 percent annually to avoid “dangerous” climate change in the estimation of [respected climate scientist James] Hansen and his co-authors in a recent paper in PLoS One.
What’s the catch? It’s superexpensive. While the price of renewables keeps falling, nuclear remains very costly. The plants take a long time to build, and they’re difficult to site. One estimate is that it would cost $7 trillion to build a thousand nuclear plants, which would allow us to get a quarter of our energy from this non-carbon source. For the U.S. to get half its energy from nuclear would cost around $14 trillion. But if we committed to a huge nuclear investment, and the innovation that comes with it, that cost would come down. Compared with one estimate of $93 trillion for the Green New Deal, it’s a bargain.
Illinois used to have a lot more nuclear power. Vermont, at one point, got 100% of its electricity from the Yankee One plant. Maybe we can get back there, and cut greenhouse gas emissions in the balance?
The UK Met has kept temperature records since 1910, and in all that time, London has never experienced a warmer day in winter than yesterday:
Temperatures in Kew Gardens, south-west London, reached 21.2°C, breaking the record for the warmest February day. The Met Office defines winter from the beginning of December to the end of February, so Tuesday’s sunny spell is also a winter record.
The record had already been broken on Monday, when temperatures exceeded 20°C during winter for the very first time. This week’s unseasonably warm weather differs dramatically from the beginning of the month, when sub-zero temperatures were recorded across the country.
The previous winter record had been 19.7°C in Greenwich, south-east London, in 1998.
“The average temperature for this time of year is 9°C in London and 9°C in north Wales, so what we’re seeing is Δ9°C degrees above average,” said Martin Bowles, a Met Office meteorologist.
Bowles said: “We can’t blame climate change directly because we’re talking about weather, not the climate. But it is a sign of climate change. There’s been a gradual increase of temperatures over the last 30 years so the extreme weather has also been increasing.”
Parts of Britain on Tuesday were hotter than Malibu, Athens, Crete and Barcelona.
The warmest day I ever experienced in London was in August, 2009, when the temperature hit 31°C. Yesterday was almost that warm, and August is still six months out.
Can't wait to see what the summer is like.
I had these lined up to read at lunchtime:
Meanwhile, for only the second time in four weeks, we can see sun outside the office windows:
A week ago at this hour, it was -17°C outside and we had 230 mm of snow on the ground. Then the Polar Vortex hit, followed quickly by the biggest warm-up in Chicago history:
From 17:37 CST Tuesday the 29th until 23:51 Thursday the 31st, the temperature hung out below 0°F. But it had already started rising, from the near-record-low -30.6°C Wednesday morning until yesterday afternoon's near-record-high 10.6°C—a record-smashing total rise of Δ41°C.
This was the view from my office Friday evening, when the temperature hadn't been above freezing for a week and the lake was 44% frozen over:
This is half an hour ago:
The forecast calls for even weirder weather the next few days. Tonight we will get a once-a-decade ice storm, then gradually warming temperatures through Thursday and another winter blast Saturday.
Hey. This all builds character, right?
Writing for Medium, Scott Lucas paints a dismal picture of Tinseltown after 50 more years of climate change:
“With the exception of the highest elevations and a narrow swath very near the coast, where the increases are confined to a few days, land locations see 60–90 additional extremely hot days per year by the end of century,” one study concluded. Downtown Los Angeles could experience up to 54 days measuring 95 degrees or higher by 2100, a ninefold jump. By then, temperatures in Riverside could reach over 95 degrees for half the year.
“By the end of century,” the authors of the study found, “a distinctly new regional climate state emerges.” This climate includes a new, fifth season: a super summer, driving people indoors for weeks at a time, stressing the power grid with heavy demand for air conditioning, and wreaking havoc on agriculture and, by extension, the food supply.
Meanwhile, beaches in Los Angeles will be facing their own threats. Rising sea levels will attack the coast in at least two ways: inundating beaches and eroding cliffs. “Our beaches are compromised. Not just from overall sea level rise, but also coastal storm events,” says Lauren O’Connor Faber, the city’s chief sustainability officer.
In 2017, scientists modeled the effects of sea level rise on 500 kilometers of shoreline in Southern California. A sea level rise of 0.93 to two meters, they predicted, would result in the loss of 31 to 67 percent of beaches in Southern California, including some of its most well-known. A separate USC study concluded, “In Malibu, both low and high sea level rise scenarios suggest that long segments of beach will essentially disappear by 2030.”
So this could be a thing of the past during my lifetime:
The temperature started rising Thursday morning and, except for a little blip last night, keeps going up:
The official temperature right now at O'Hare is 5°C—Δ36°C warmer than the low temperature Thursday morning. And wow, is it a slushy mess out there.
Just 72 hours ago, the official temperature in Chicago was -31°C. Right now, it's 0°C at O'Hare, the first time it's been above freezing since 11am Monday. Our 54-hour stretch of below-0°F temperatures was the 4th-longest such stretch. This has been an extraordinary few days, and it's just going to get weirder.
Bonus: The Tribune has a collection of satellite photos from the European Space Agency of our polar vortex.