As the election gets closer, we need to remember that climate change is real and will affect hundreds of millions of people in the next few decades—despite what one of the candidates seems to think. Here's an article from The New Yorker back in December that puts the issue in stark relief:
To cope with its recurrent flooding, Miami Beach has already spent something like a hundred million dollars. It is planning on spending several hundred million more. Such efforts are, in [University of Miami's Geological Sciences chair Hal] Wanless’s view, so much money down the drain. Sooner or later—and probably sooner—the city will have too much water to deal with. Even before that happens, Wanless believes, insurers will stop selling policies on the luxury condos that line Biscayne Bay. Banks will stop writing mortgages.
The latest data from the Arctic, gathered by a pair of exquisitely sensitive satellites, show that in the past decade Greenland has been losing more ice each year. In August, NASA announced that, to supplement the satellites, it was launching a new monitoring program called—provocatively—Oceans Melting Greenland, or O.M.G. In November, researchers reported that, owing to the loss of an ice shelf off northeastern Greenland, a new “floodgate” on the ice sheet had opened. All told, Greenland’s ice holds enough water to raise global sea levels by twenty feet.
Against this backdrop, South Florida still stands out. The region has been called “ground zero when it comes to sea-level rise.” It has also been described as “the poster child for the impacts of climate change,” the “epicenter for studying the effects of sea-level rise,” a “disaster scenario,” and “the New Atlantis.” Of all the world’s cities, Miami ranks second in terms of assets vulnerable to rising seas—No. 1 is Guangzhou—and in terms of population it ranks fourth, after Guangzhou, Mumbai, and Shanghai. A recent report on storm surges in the United States listed four Florida cities among the eight most at risk. (On that list, Tampa came in at No. 1.) For the past several years, the daily high-water mark in the Miami area has been racing up at the rate of almost an inch a year, nearly ten times the rate of average global sea-level rise. It’s unclear exactly why this is happening, but it’s been speculated that it has to do with changes in ocean currents which are causing water to pile up along the coast. Talking about climate change in the Everglades this past Earth Day, President Obama said, “Nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in South Florida.”
An interactive map the New York Times produced in 2012 should scare the bathing suits off Floridians, too.
The National Climate Prediction Center has released its outlooks for the next few months, and they look mixed for Chicago:
For the summer months of June, July, and August, the outlook for Illinois is [equal chances] for rainfall and an increased chance of being above-normal on temperatures. It is a rare combination in Illinois to have a warmer than normal summer without being drier than normal as well.
For September, October, November, southern Illinois has an increased chance of being drier than normal. This is part of a larger area of drier conditions in the South and Southwest. The rest of Illinois is EC. All of Illinois, and almost all of the US has an increased chance of being warmer than normal in the fall.
I haven't gone back to look at earlier predictions, but I think they've been pretty close this year.
I'm leaving Harold Washington in a few minutes, now that I've caught up on some reading:
- Clancy Martin attempted to explain the martyr-like appeal of Ted Cruz.
- Deeply Trivial, who writes survey questions as part of her job, explained why she doesn't take surveys.
- Via Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the University of Arizona outlined some new data linking sunspots, shipwrecks, tree trunks, and hurricanes.
- Suzy Khimm described the return of the pillory—via Internet, of course—as a tactic of some public prosecutors, most notably in the 2013 "Flush the Johns" operation in Nassau County, New York.
- Cranky Flier got interested in a robot that cleans airplanes. It's pretty cool.
- NPR media critic Adam Frank said I should watch SyFy's new series, "The Expanse."
- Engineer John Hayes wondered if we'll ever see a space elevator of the sort depicted in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves or Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.
- Spanish writer Cristina Pop thought living in London was the worst three years of her life. (It sounds like her experiences don't exactly line up with mine, starting with her not speaking a word of English when she got there.)
I also watched a time-lapse video of the Chicago River turning green last year. If you want to see this odd Chicago tradition, go downtown tomorrow at 9.
Yesterday's temperature at O'Hare got up to 21°C, which we last hit on November 5th, and is the normal temperature for May 15th. It was quite a lovely day, in fact. Tom Skilling pointed out that this was the earliest 21°C day in 16 years, and was 3 weeks earlier than the average date of its first occurrence based on 145 years of data.
I tried, I really tried, to hit 30,000 steps, but...well:
Crap. I missed 30,000 by 225 steps, and missed my record by only 721:
|2015 Apr 26
|2016 Mar 8
|2015 Jun 15
|2015 May 2
|2015 Sep 5
Note that on September 5th I also missed a goal by almost the same amount. Quite irritating. Still, yesterday's step count was fully 4.86 standard deviations above my mean daily count of 12,660, so it was a pretty good effort. (At this point today I'm already up to 9,534, so the week is looking pretty good.)
And Parker got over 90 minutes of walkies.
Yesterday's 17.2°C temperature at O'Hare was the warmest since it was 17.8°C on November 15th. It might not get warmer than that, but who cares, because it that's plenty warm for early March. 17.8°C is Chicago's normal temperature for April 29th; the normal for March 8th is 6.1°C.
That's the good news. The better news is that working from home means Parker is working napping from home as well. And we just got back from an 80-minute, 8.1-km walk, his longest in (no surprise) even more months.
Now the bad news. We were walking from the car dealership where they are figuring out how much I'm to pay them later this week. My car has a couple of "minor" symptoms including a damaged tire (thanks, Chicago!), but it's a 7-year-old BMW. So anything that would cost $100 to fix on a Corolla will cost me $200. Can't wait for the call...
I do have some work to do today—more on that this afternoon. But I'm already at 11,000 steps, with a goal of 30,000 for the day. I've only hit that number once, last April 26th. There's a lot of day ahead of me, and it's 9,000 steps back to the car dealership. Stay tuned.
Update, 11:26: The 11am temperature at O'Hare was 19°C, the highest reading since November 5th. If we hit 23°C we'll have the warmest day since October 21st.
From two years ago, and still relevant (and still NSFW funny):
The official temperature at O'Hare got up to 15°C this afternoon, which you'd expect in early April and not in mid-February. That's the good news. The bad news is the warm air mass is being driven by converging jet streams more or less directly over Chicago, giving us 67 km/h winds gusting to—I am not making this up—100 km/h. Buildings in the Loop are being evacuated because windows are popping out. Also, people are giving cranes wide berths.
Have I mentioned that anthropogenic climate change will (a) be pretty good for Chicago, for a few decades anyway, and (b) pump more energy into the atmosphere causing these kinds of wind events?
Even though the U.S. only had its second-hottest year on record, NASA and NOAA reported today that worldwide temperatures were the hottest since records began in 1880:
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
The Times analysis:
Politicians attempting to claim that greenhouse gases are not a problem seized on that slow period to argue that “global warming stopped in 1998” and similar statements, with these claims reappearing recently on the Republican presidential campaign trail.
Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.
“Is there any evidence for a pause in the long-term global warming rate?” said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s climate-science unit, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan. “The answer is no. That was true before last year, but it’s much more obvious now.”
How was the U.S. not hottest-ever last year? If you look at NASA's map, you can see why. Almost the entire world was significantly hotter than normal, except for the Antarctic Circle, bits of the North Atlantic, and the eastern U.S.:
They've even got a nifty video showing the progression over time:
Via the Illinois State Climatologist, NOAA reported this week that 2015 was extraordinarily warm:
The 2015 annual average U.S. temperature was 12.4°C, 1.3°C above the 20th century average, the second warmest year on record. Only 2012 was warmer for the U.S. with an average temperature of 12.9°C. This is the 19th consecutive year the annual average temperature exceeded the 20th century average.
Moreover, in 2015, every part of the lower 48 states had above-average temperatures:
Nineteen consecutive years of above-average temperatures. Yes, that does mean they'll change the averages soon. But they've already done once in the past 19 years, since normal temperatures are based on moving 30-year data sets. (Current normals are based on the period 1981-2010.)
The Earth has global cool periods periodically, the last one ending around 10,000 years ago, which gave us humans the push we needed to invent complex civilizations. Even though global temperatures were higher about 8,000 years ago than they are today, they were dropping gradually until about 200 years ago. (Any guesses why?)
In short, we're due for another glaciation. But it looks like that won't happen:
[S]cientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that the relation of insolation and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere explains the last eight glacial cycles in Earth history. At the same time, their results illustrate that even moderate human interference with the planet's natural carbon balance might postpone the next glacial inception by 100,000 years.
"Even without man-made climate change, we would expect the beginning of a new ice age no earlier than in 50,000 years from now—which makes the Holocene as the present geological epoch an unusually long period between ice ages," explains lead author Andrey Ganopolski. "However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50,000 years. The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented. It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it."
Yes, we've probably prevented another ice age, even as we've killed off more species than any other force in the last 66 million years.
And if anyone tells me that tomorrow night's -19°C low temperature somehow means we're not warming the planet on our own, I will become verbally violent.