Connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:15 PM GMT on May 04, 2012

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Connecting the dots between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. One the one hand, the underlying physics is clear--the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather. But the weather has huge natural variations on its own, without climate change. So, communicators of the links between climate change and extreme weather need to emphasize how climate change shifts the odds. We've loaded the dice towards some types of extreme weather events, by heating the atmosphere to add more heat and moisture. This can bring more extreme weather events like heat waves, heavy downpours, and intense droughts. What's more, the added heat and moisture can change atmospheric circulation patterns, causing meanders in the jet stream capable of bringing longer-lasting periods of extreme weather. As I wrote in my post this January, Where is the climate headed?, "The natural weather rhythms I've grown to used to during my 30 years as a meteorologist have become significantly disrupted over the past few years. Many of Earth's major atmospheric circulation patterns have seen significant shifts and unprecedented behavior; new patterns that were unknown have emerged, and extreme weather events were incredibly intense and numerous during 2010 - 2011. It boggles my mind that in 2011, the U.S. saw 14 - 17 billion-dollar weather disasters, three of which matched or exceeded some of the most iconic and destructive weather events in U.S. history."


Figure 1. Women who work on a tea farm in Assam, India hold up a dot in honor of Climate Impacts Day (May 5, 2012), to urge people to connect the dots between climate change and the threat to their livelihood. Chai is one of the most consumed beverages in India, but a prolonged dry spell and extreme heat has affected tea plantations in Assam and Bengal with production dropping by 60% as compared to the same period in 2011. Image credit: 350.org.

May 5: Climate Impacts Day
On Saturday, May 5 (Cinco de Mayo!), the activist group 350.org, founded by Bill McKibben, is launching a new effort to "connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather." They've declared May 5 Climate Impacts Day, and have coordinated an impressive global effort of nearly 1,000 events in 100 countries to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather. Their new climatedots.org website aims to get people involved to "protest, educate, document and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world to support the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis." Some of the events planned for Saturday: firefighters in New Mexico will hold posters with dots in a forest ravaged by wildfires; divers in the Marshall Islands take a dot underwater to their dying coral reefs; climbers on glaciers in the Alps, Andes, and Sierras will unfurl dots on melting glaciers with the simple message: "Melting"; villagers in Northeastern Kenya will create dots to show how ongoing drought is killing their crops; in San Francisco, California, aerial artist Daniel Dancer and the Center for Biological Diversity will work with hundreds of people to form a giant, moving blue dot to represent the threat of sea level rise and ocean acidification; and city-dwellers in Rio de Janeiro hold dots where mudslides from unusually heavy rains wiped out part of their neighborhood. I think its a great way to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather, since the mainstream media coverage of climate change has been almost nil the past few years. A report by Media Matters for America found out that nightly news coverage about climate change on the major networks decreased 72% between 2009 and 2011. On the Sunday shows, 97% of the stories mentioning climate change were about politics in Washington D.C. or on the campaign trail, not about extreme weather or recent scientific reports. You can check out what Climate Impacts Day events may be happening in your area at the climatedots.org website.


Figure 2. Front Street Bridge on the Susquehanna River in Vestal, NY, immediately following the flood of September 8, 2011. Image credit: USGS, New York. In my post, Tropical Storm Lee's flood in Binghamton: was global warming the final straw? I argue that during September 8, 2011 flood, the Susquehanna River rose twenty feet in 24 hours and topped the flood walls in Binghamton by 8.5 inches, so just a 6% reduction in the flood height would have led to no overtopping of the flood walls and a huge decrease in damage. Extra moisture in the air due to global warming could have easily contributed this 6% of extra flood height.

Also of interest
Anti-coal activists, led by climate scientist Dr. James Hansen of NASA, are acting on Saturday to block Warren Buffett's coal trains in British Columbia from delivering coal to Pacific ports for shipment overseas. Dave Roberts of Grist explains how this may be an effective strategy to reduce coal use, in his post, "Fighting coal export terminals: It matters".

The creator of wunderground's new Climate Change Center, atmospheric scientist Angela Fritz, has a blog post on Friday's unveiling of the new Heartland Institute billboards linking mass murderers like Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden to belief in global warming. In Heartland's description of the billboard campaign, they say, "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen." The Heartland Institute neglected to mention that the Pope and the Dalai Lama are prominent advocates of addressing the dangers of human-caused climate change.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting ncstorm:


Hey Nigel..its quieted down now..we all good over here

Ok, good to hear
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7849
We should be tracking Aletta pretty soon...probably in the May 15-25 timeframe.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
Quoting sunlinepr:

Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7849
Quoting nigel20:

What's up ncstorm...is it raining in your area?


Hey Nigel..its quieted down now..we all good over here
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14451
Quoting bappit:
Seems that people and rainfall have some similarities.

"Put Away The Bell Curve: Most Of Us Aren't 'Average'"

"In 186 out of 198 groups ranging from physics professors and Grammy nominees to cricketers and swimming champions, researchers Ernest O'Boyle Jr., of Longwood University's College of Business and Economics, and Herman Aguinis at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business found that a sizable number in the group were superstars.

"These superstars, moreover, accounted for much of the success of the group as a whole. The vast majority of the others in the group, Aguinis said, were actually performing below the mathematical average."


Et vous Understanding the "Probability of Exceedance" Forecast Graphs for Temperature and Precipitation

"The average is not used to represent the normal for precipitation because, quite often, more cases are below the average than are above it. The average precipitation is higher than the typical amount because the wettest few cases are much farther above the average than the driest cases are below it."

But the average temperature is a good measure of normal temp.


For reasons unknown, average I.Q. improves by about 3 points per decade, so the tests are constantly re-normalized such that 100 is considered average.

It's possible it is an artifact of an increase in general knowledge and problem solving as knowledge and technology rose over the centuries, which is difficult to not affect any standardized test.


"Average" in reality is not very common. My buddy once told me "nobody is normal". How true.

One person can excel in a given area, seemingly effortlessly, while another struggles, and then for a second subject it is the exact opposite.


This is similar to the well known "80-20 rule".

About 20 percent of people are a heck of a lot better than the other 80 percent, for just about anything you can measure.


It's also a historical fact that most of science was discovered by a small handful of people relative to the population.

It's shocking how much was done by Mendelev, Newton and Groethe, and then along came Einstein, etc.

The point is, compared to them, everyone else was idiots.

Few people alive today are actually equally or more educated than any of those guys, and I'm definitely not one of them, even though I'm a lifetime learner.
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Anyone has an animated gif of that disturbance over texas?

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9695
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9695
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9695
WV everywhere from SA.... Wave patterns on the move.... Hope Africa stays quiet....

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9695
751 spathy: The term economic terrorism is strictly defined to indicate an attempt at economic destabilization by a group... ..."economic terrorism" would be undertaken by transnational or non-state actors. This could entail varied, coordinated and sophisticated or massive destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of a state, a group of states or a society (such as market oriented western societies) for ideological or religious motives.

So 'economic terrorist' can be used to describe pret' much every executive and major stockholder in the financial sector from WorldBank thru BainesCapital on down.
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Quoting ncstorm:

What's up ncstorm...is it raining in your area?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7849
Why only 500,000,000 Chinese? US pop is over 300,000,000, by the way, third behind India and China.
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Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14451
741 spathy: ...what happens if climate activists are able to block, slow, or at least raise the political and economic costs of coal exports?

~100,000 American coalminers would lose their jobs (the US job growth rate is ~200,000 per month),
and ~500,000,000 Chinese wouldn't have to breathe (*) US industrial waste.

* and otherwise deal with
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Power just flickered here.

Funnel Cloud on The Weather Channel.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
what's the deal with these?? I feel like it is too cold to really get tornadic, but they look crazy on radar...



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Seems that people and rainfall have some similarities.

"Put Away The Bell Curve: Most Of Us Aren't 'Average'"

"In 186 out of 198 groups ranging from physics professors and Grammy nominees to cricketers and swimming champions, researchers Ernest O'Boyle Jr., of Longwood University's College of Business and Economics, and Herman Aguinis at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business found that a sizable number in the group were superstars.

"These superstars, moreover, accounted for much of the success of the group as a whole. The vast majority of the others in the group, Aguinis said, were actually performing below the mathematical average."


Et vous Understanding the "Probability of Exceedance" Forecast Graphs for Temperature and Precipitation

"The average is not used to represent the normal for precipitation because, quite often, more cases are below the average than are above it. The average precipitation is higher than the typical amount because the wettest few cases are much farther above the average than the driest cases are below it."

But the average temperature is a good measure of normal temp.
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Quoting RTSplayer:
This is why I normally don't have private discussions with people.

Sorry, this is going to offend people, get over it.
Then don't post it. Have the common sense and decency to not post something people are going to be offended by. BTW I could care less. Only thing I care about is that it takes to much space up.
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Quoting bappit:
illuminating


Stop elucidating! :)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Hit it Frank,...

..Fly me to the Moon
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It's fascinating to watch someone be so full of their own truth but obviously not certain enough of it to walk the higher road.
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Quoting nigel20:

Good evening pedley. How's your weekend going?


Well I think I have a temperature problem. It is 74.9 right now but my high said 133.0 and we all know that is hooey. I changed the batteries yesterday and maybe it didn't get shaded properly (duh). I saw 79 or so earlier. Forecast was 85 MSDJUR which is a mile or so up the hill got 80.0 so I was close.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
only 13 small building i used to look after 24 story building


That is a so cool (the higher the better).
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


When i first saw the thunderstorm, i ran inside and checked the radar, and i was like WHAT!!!!
So i ran back outside, then back inside, and then i tried to figure out whether it was my eyes or my computer that was not working :)
Interesting. It doesn't look like there are any storm clouds around Athens. I wonder if it's a reflective "thing" like from the storms in South Carolina? I've heard of atmospheric conditions being right light can travel a long distance in the upper layers. Like, bouncing around in the haze and cirrus layers? (I hope I'm making sense.)

Edit: I was driving earlier and during sunset it looked like there were towering thunderheads out East (towards Athens) but looking at radar/sat there didn't seem to be anything there. The thunderheads had this odd flat quality that I usually associate with shadows or crep rays.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


When i first saw the thunderstorm, i ran inside and checked the radar, and i was like WHAT!!!!
So i ran back outside, then back inside, and then i tried to figure out whether it was my eyes or my computer that was not working :)
Same with me! I was looking at my radar date to make sure it was right and it was. It really confused me at first.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I wonder what is causing the dry thunderstorms. There very cool. Going to take pictures as if it get a bit closer.


When i first saw the thunderstorm, i ran inside and checked the radar, and i was like WHAT!!!!
So i ran back outside, then back inside, and then i tried to figure out whether it was my eyes or my computer that was not working :)
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9720
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


had at least a 20,000 ft thunderstorm with no rain to my west before sunset, and a bunch of rainless clouds to the east a when the moon was rising.
Strange.
I wonder what is causing the dry thunderstorms. There very cool. Going to take pictures as if it gets a bit closer.
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The storms may be initiating just west of the watch area, maybe.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9720
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
The moon is illuminating a large thunderhead with lighting. Seems to be a dry thunderstorm. Very rare for GA. I'm currently in Athens.


had at least a 20,000 ft thunderstorm with no rain to my west before sunset, and a bunch of rainless clouds to the east a when the moon was rising.
Strange.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9720
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

That's not normal.
Lol illuminating.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes, the southern part is headed directly towards me.



I just made it home before the sky fell open..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14451
608 bappit: Story about some bodacious storm waves in the North Atlantic whupping up on the shores of the Aran Islands ... and everybody was blaming tsunamis. Heck, the last tsunami there was in 1755.
"One block the team studied weighs an estimated 78 tons, yet was still cut free from its position 36 feet (10 meters) above sea level and shoved farther inland."


And the paper published in the Journal of Geology
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
The moon is eliminating a large thunderhead with lighting. Seems to be a dry thunderstorm. Very rare for GA. I'm currently in Athens.

That's not normal.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
illuminating
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The moon is illuminating a large thunderhead with lighting. Seems to be a dry thunderstorm. Very rare for GA. I'm currently in Athens.
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no surprises there, that cluster looks pretty beastly.




Quoting MAweatherboy1:
URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 253
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
820 PM CDT SAT MAY 5 2012

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF

WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA
NORTHEAST SOUTH DAKOTA

EFFECTIVE THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING FROM 820 PM
UNTIL 100 AM CDT.

HAIL TO 2 INCHES IN DIAMETER...THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS TO 70
MPH...AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 35
STATUTE MILES NORTH AND SOUTH OF A LINE FROM 30 MILES WEST
NORTHWEST OF WATERTOWN SOUTH DAKOTA TO 50 MILES EAST SOUTHEAST OF
ORTONVILLE MINNESOTA. FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE
THE ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU3).

REMEMBER...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE
FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH
AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR
THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS
AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OCCASIONALLY
DO PRODUCE TORNADOES.

OTHER WATCH INFORMATION...CONTINUE...WW 249...WW 250...WW
251...WW 252...

DISCUSSION...A CLUSTER OF ELEVATED THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTINUE TO
SPREAD NEWD INTO NE SD/W CENTRAL MN...ALONG THE NRN FRINGE OF A WAA
REGIME WITH MUCAPE NEAR 2000 J/KG...ROOTED NEAR 800 MB. THE
COMBINATION OF MODERATE BUOYANCY/STEEP MIDLEVEL LAPSE RATES AND
STRONG CLOUD-LAYER SHEAR WILL SUPPORT ORGANIZED STORMS CAPABLE OF
PRODUCING LARGE HAIL FOR THE NEXT FEW HOURS.

AVIATION...A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL SURFACE AND ALOFT
TO 2 INCHES. EXTREME TURBULENCE AND SURFACE WIND GUSTS TO 60
KNOTS. A FEW CUMULONIMBI WITH MAXIMUM TOPS TO 500. MEAN STORM
MOTION VECTOR 24030.


...THOMPSON
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Full Moon to the East, T-storm with High tops Flashing to the Nwest.

Schweeeeeeetttttt.......

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 253
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
820 PM CDT SAT MAY 5 2012

THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF

WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA
NORTHEAST SOUTH DAKOTA

EFFECTIVE THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING FROM 820 PM
UNTIL 100 AM CDT.

HAIL TO 2 INCHES IN DIAMETER...THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS TO 70
MPH...AND DANGEROUS LIGHTNING ARE POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 35
STATUTE MILES NORTH AND SOUTH OF A LINE FROM 30 MILES WEST
NORTHWEST OF WATERTOWN SOUTH DAKOTA TO 50 MILES EAST SOUTHEAST OF
ORTONVILLE MINNESOTA. FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE
THE ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU3).

REMEMBER...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE
FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH
AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR
THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS
AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OCCASIONALLY
DO PRODUCE TORNADOES.

OTHER WATCH INFORMATION...CONTINUE...WW 249...WW 250...WW
251...WW 252...

DISCUSSION...A CLUSTER OF ELEVATED THUNDERSTORMS WILL CONTINUE TO
SPREAD NEWD INTO NE SD/W CENTRAL MN...ALONG THE NRN FRINGE OF A WAA
REGIME WITH MUCAPE NEAR 2000 J/KG...ROOTED NEAR 800 MB. THE
COMBINATION OF MODERATE BUOYANCY/STEEP MIDLEVEL LAPSE RATES AND
STRONG CLOUD-LAYER SHEAR WILL SUPPORT ORGANIZED STORMS CAPABLE OF
PRODUCING LARGE HAIL FOR THE NEXT FEW HOURS.

AVIATION...A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL SURFACE AND ALOFT
TO 2 INCHES. EXTREME TURBULENCE AND SURFACE WIND GUSTS TO 60
KNOTS. A FEW CUMULONIMBI WITH MAXIMUM TOPS TO 500. MEAN STORM
MOTION VECTOR 24030.


...THOMPSON
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 82 Comments: 7613
There's a big new sunspot rotating in on the Sun... It just produced its 3rd M class flare today...

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 82 Comments: 7613
Quoting pottery:
Here in Trinidad the moon is a vague glow behind a thick overcast....
Vampires Unite!

I'm going to sleep, rest my weary bones..
i think that werewolves unite

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Quoting pottery:
Here in Trinidad the moon is a vague glow behind a thick overcast....
Vampires Unite!

I'm going to sleep, rest my weary bones..

Hey pottery. You guys have been pretty wet over the last couple of days
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 7849
Quoting PedleyCA:


How many Floors there?
only 13 small building i used to look after 24 story building
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Here in Trinidad the moon is a vague glow behind a thick overcast....
Vampires Unite!

I'm going to sleep, rest my weary bones..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.