Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bad News For The Planet

I've discussed the El Nino on numerous occasions, here, here, here, and here, among others.  It is what is called an anomaly because it is not directly related to global warming, that is, it's warming effects are on top of the secular trend caused by the increasing concentration of CO2 in the biosphere. El Nino has a partner, La Nina, which is a cool side of the ENSO.  Together they raise and lower the global temperature on top of the secular trend.  That would all be ok, but it turns out that El Nino and La Nina are being affected by the global warming.  They are heating up so El Nino is adding more heat each time, and the La Nina is cooling less.

The World Meteorological Organization has came out with a new report, described here, showing this happening:

  • 2011-2015 “have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events – especially heatwaves – influenced by climate change.”
  • 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record by far, with the highest ocean surface temperatures ever monitored.
  • It’s “probable” that total global warming since the industrial revolution will cross the 1°C (1.8°F).
  • The 3-month average of Northern Hemisphere CO2 levels “crossed the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time.
      “This is all bad news for the planet,” noted WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. In particular, crossing the 1°C (1.8°F) means we are halfway to the 2°C (3.6°F) threshold that world’s top scientists and governments have identified as the defense line past which climate impacts become very dangerous and then catastrophic.
What is striking is that the anomalies, the El Nino and the La Nina, are getting stronger, pumped up by the global warming.  But this not all.  There are a lot of  weather "anomalies", weather events that aren't directly related to global warming but all of them appear to be affected.

Here is some of that:

El Niño:
The full effect of the strong 2015 El Niño on global temperature is likely to continue after El Niño peaks. However, other impacts are already being felt.  In early October, NOAA declared that record global ocean temperatures had led to a global coral bleaching event. This began in the North Pacific in the summer of 2014 and spread to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean in 2015.
Consistent with typical El Niño impacts, large areas of Central America and the Caribbean recorded below average rainfall. Brazil, which started the year in drought in southern and eastern areas, saw the focus of the drought shift north with scant rainfall during the dry season over the Amazon. India's monsoon rainfall was 86% of normal. In Indonesia, the low rainfall has likely contributed to the increased incidence of wildfires. Peru was affected by heavy rain and flooding, as was Argentina.

Ocean heat and sea level rise
The oceans have been absorbing more than 90% of the energy that has accumulated in the climate system from human emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting in higher temperatures and sea levels. In the first nine months of 2015, global ocean heat content through both the upper 700 meters and 2000 meters of the oceans reached record high levels. The latest estimates of global sea level indicate that the global average sea level in the first half of 2015 was the highest since satellite observations became available in 1993.
Significant warmth was recorded across large areas of the oceans. The Tropical Pacific was much warmer than average, exceeding 1°C over much of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, consistent with the signature of a strong El Niño. The northeast Pacific, much of the Indian Ocean and areas in the north and south Atlantic were significantly warmer than average.  Areas to the south of Greenland and in the far southwest Atlantic were significantly colder than average.

Regional temperatures
Significant warmer than average temperatures were recorded over the majority of observed land areas, especially western North America, large areas of South America, Africa and southern and eastern Eurasia. China had its warmest January-to-October period on record. For the continent of Africa, 2015 currently ranks as the second warmest year on record. Australia had its warmest October on record and a heatwave early in the month set new records for early season warmth.
One notably cold area was the Antarctic, where a strong anomaly in atmospheric patterns known as the Southern Annular Mode lasted for several months. Eastern areas of north America were colder than average during the year, but none were record cold. After a warm January to September, Argentina experienced its coldest October on record.

A major heatwave affected India in May and June, with average maximum temperatures exceeded 42°C widely and 45°C in some areas. In southern Pakistan temperatures exceeded 40 °C in June.
Heatwaves affected Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East through the late spring and summer, with many new temperature records set. In May, high temperatures affected Burkina Faso, Niger and Morocco. Spain and Portugal also saw unusually high temperatures. July brought heat waves to a large area from Denmark in the north, to Morocco in the south and Iran in the east. In early August, Jordan experienced a heatwave, whilst Wroclaw (Poland) experienced an all-time high temperature of 38.9°C on the 8th August. The heat continued into September, shifting further into Eastern Europe.
During the spring of 2015 in South Africa, record high temperatures were exceeded on a regular basis.

Rainfall and drought
Areas of high rainfall included: southern areas of the USA, Mexico, Bolivia, southern Brazil, southeast Europe, areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Heavy rain in January led to flooding in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and in February it affected Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. 2015 saw exceptional seasonal rainfall totals in several parts of Burkina Faso and Mali.
March in Chile saw unusually heavy rains which caused flooding and mudslides. In August, heavy rain in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina saw several monthly and daily rainfall records broken during the month. Mexico had its wettest March on record (since 1941). It was the wettest May on record for the contiguous USA and the wettest month overall in 121 years of record keeping. Between May and October, China experienced 35 heavy rain events. Subsequent flooding affected 75 million people with estimated economic losses of 25 billion dollars.
Long-term rainfall patterns can disguise great variability in short-term totals. There were many instances in 2015 of 24-hour totals exceeding the normal monthly mean. For instance, the Moroccan city of Marrakech received 35.9mm of rain in one hour in August, over 13 times the monthly normal. In Pakistan during the monsoon, one station recorded 540mm of rain in 24 hours; the annual normal is 336mm.

Dry areas included Central America and the Caribbean, northeast South America including Brazil, parts of central Europe and Russia, parts of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and southern Africa. In Western North America, long-term drought conditions continued. Basins across the west depend on snowpack as a water resource. On April 1, the snow water equivalent was 5% of normal.
The dry and warm conditions observed across much of the western USA during the year favoured the development of wildfires. In Alaska, over 400 fires burned 728,000 hectares in May, breaking the previous record of 216 fires and 445,000 hectares. Over 700 wildfires were reported in Alaska during July, burning nearly 2 million hectares during the summer. Large fires burned throughout the Northwest in August and Washington State suffered its largest fire on record.

Tropical Cyclones
Globally, a total of 84 tropical storms formed between the start of the year and 10 November, compared to the 1981-2010 annual average of 85. Hurricane Patricia which made landfall in Mexico on 24 October was the strongest hurricane on record in either the Atlantic or eastern North Pacific basins, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 320 km/hour. In the Northwest Pacific basin, 25 named storms were recorded. Six typhoons made landfall over China, with three leading to combined estimated economic losses of 8 billion dollars.

Four named storms formed in the Northern Indian Ocean. Rainfall associated with tropical storm Komen contributed to severe flooding and landslides in Myanmar. Bangladesh also suffered from flash floods and landslides. Yemen suffered from unprecedented back-to-back cyclones in early November, with Chapala becoming first tropical cyclone to make landfall, followed by Megh.
The South Pacific saw 9 named storms. Tropical cyclone Pam made landfall over Vanuatu as a category 5 cyclone on 13 March destroying many homes.

Arctic and Antarctic
Since consistent satellite records began in the late 1970s, there has been a general decline in Arctic sea ice extent throughout the seasonal cycle. In 2015, the daily maximum extent, which occurred on 25th February 2015, was the lowest on record at 14.54 million km2. The minimum sea ice extent was on 11th September when the extent was 4.41 million km2, the fourth lowest in the satellite record.
In the southern hemisphere, the daily maximum extent of 18.83 million km2 was recorded on 6th October in Antarctica. This is the 16th highest maximum extent in the satellite record. The minimum extent, recorded on 20 February, was 3.58 million km2, the 4th highest on record.