5 August 2009
Climate Change in Your Backyard
Posted by Dan Satterfield
I’m involved on a conference call tomorrow with NOAA. It’s about the U.S. Global Change Report released earlier in the Summer. The call is to brief meteorologists in TV, and other weathercasters, about the contents of the report and to allow for questions about it.
Tom Karl, the head of the National Climate Data Center (and President of the AMS) will lead the call. Also on the call, is Michael Savonis of the Federal Highway Administration. (Read the report linked below, and you will know why he is an important contributor.)
My small part is to talk about how to bring this information to the public on air, and online. (Yeah, I’m doing it now!) If you are an AMS Seal holder, or a weathercaster, who is a member of the American Meteorological Society in the Southeast USA, you probably have been contacted about it already.
Yes, I know most of my readers here are not! (Much less in the Southeast USA) I will, however, put up the link here afterward, so you can listen to a recoding of the call. Most will likely hear it that way.
So, I thought I would share a couple of graphics from it here. This report marks one of the first instances where output from the global climate models has been down-scaled to estimate the actual changes, that will be seen in the next 80-90 years, if greenhouse gases continue to rise at the “business as usual” rate.
It’s a “here is what is likely to happen if we do not make major changes” report. This report is the result of years of hard work by some very bright scientists. They had to invent a new way of modeling the long term climate over a smaller region.
Global Climate Models (GCM’s) are run for hundreds of years of model time, and unlike models I use everyday to predict the weather for the next few days, they have a very course resolution. If you made the GCM the same resolution as the weather models, it would take years to get a forecast out to 100 years!
This does not mean the GCM’s are no good. They actually present a stunningly accurate recreation of the past, but until now, we could not answer questions from viewers on the specific impacts in say Huntsville, Alabama, or New Orleans.
What the scientists did, was take the overall data from the GCM’s, and then apply those conditions to regional areas. They then ran the numbers using methods we already use with the higher resolution weather models.
One of these methods is called Model Output Statistics. (Wx geeks call it the MOS as in “on a rock”) Simply put it looks at the model data, and predicts the high and low temperature. It does an amazingly good job most of the time.
So what does the future look like in climate terms. It’s NOT pretty. Here are two graphics from the report that speak for themselves. One shows how things have already changed. The second is what is to come.
The average number of days each year over 90 in Huntsville is expected to double. The number of days with very heavy rainfall has already increased by 20%.
When you get rid of the political propaganda all over the internet these days, and just look at the Science, it’s a bit alarming isn’t it?
“When you get rid of the political propaganda all over the internet these days, and just look at the Science, it’s a bit alarming isn’t it?”
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I enjoy your blog. It makes some of the complicated science a little more accessible to me. I’ve been reading the final version of this report today and it’s making my head hurt.
I thought you might be interested in the following letter I have sent to various researchers. It’s quite difficult to get anyone interested in pursuing the problems I describe. Here goes:
I am not a scientist and so it is impossible for me to understand the complicated chemistry of volatile organic compounds. However, I would like to share my observations from a lay person’s perspective.
I live in New Jersey and for the past year have become more and more alarmed at the condition of vegetation here, as well and up and down the Eastern Seaboard where I have had occasion to visit.
The deterioration first of deciduous and then coniferous trees last fall has been followed by damage to shrubs and even annuals. This summer, completely dead trees of all ages and species have become commonplace. From reading up on the topic I have become convinced that the composition of the atmosphere is poisoning plants, and with a spectacularly terrifying rapidity.
This report describes symptoms from the toxicity of ozone, which matches precisely what has become ubiquitous in wild forests, planted landscapes, nursery stock and even ponds.
There is however an important difference between the conclusions of that report and what is currently occurring.
This regards the categories of trees most at risk and those with higher tolerence. I can assure you that every single species of tree is being visibly impacted with what looks to be irreversible decline. There are none whatsoever that are tolerant of whatever it is they are being exposed to. Some that are on the tolerant list, such as maples and ginko, are actually the most scorched and thin.
The report also mentions that peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) is more toxic to plants than ozone but less plentiful, and therefore less significant.
However I would be very grateful if you would consider this evidence – ozone has been around for decades and was at times even worse in years past. It should have decreased this past year or so, from a slowdown in driving activity due to the economy, and a locally cool cloudy summer. Yet, the fact is that the damage to vegetation is exponentially worse, starting at the end of last summer and continuing this summer to the point where it is literally impossible to find a tree, shrub, vine or any plants at all that don’t display the symptoms as described, in abundance. On clear sunny days this summer, virtually every leaf that remains attached curls up.
A possible explanation for this anamoly that best fits the empirical evidence, is that the primary agent could be the recently mandated addition of ethanol to gasoline, which creates acedaldehyde, the precursor to peroxyacetyl nitrate.
I would like to direct you to this story, http://desdemonadespair.blogspot.com/2009/09/fall-colors-fade-in-us-west-as-aspen.html and note a couple of interesting things.
One is, that the bark beetle which is generally blamed for the death of aspens, is here depicted as not the only agent; drought and climate change are mentioned as causes for SAD, sudden aspen death. This echoes the sudden death I see here on the East Coast, where the bark beetle does not exist (although we have our own bugs and diseases).
Secondly is, the Virginia report stated that trees afflicted with ozone are more vulnerable to insect damage.
It occurred to me that perhaps ethanol-based pollution floating eastward from California freeways is piling up in the Rockies and is actually the underlying cause of bark beetle infestation (in addition of course to warmer winters) and SAD.
I started a blog on the topic of trees impacted by climate change if you care to visit, where I post links to published scientific research, and photos, muddled up with some personal more lighthearted events. http://www.witsendnj.blogspot.com
I hope you will consider the possibility that ethanol is wreaking havoc on trees, which are the foundation of life on earth, and all other flora, such as annual crops, as well. It is a horrific prospect but actually, if true, rather encouraging, because all we have to do is stop adding it to gasoline to halt such extreme botanical carnage. If it is mainly ozone, that is critical to know because it will take a much greater effort requiring we shift quickly to much cleaner energy.
Of course I realize there are other possible causitive agents – differences in the types of coal being burned, perhaps, or more prevalent UV radiation from the thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer, and others of which I am not cognizant or capable of determining.
Whatever the cause, the empirical evidence is irrefutable. This is quite frankly an environmental and existential emergency. If policy makers – many of whom live on the East Coast and spend at least part of the year in Washington DC – understand what is at stake, perhaps they will stop dithering about taking action.
Thank you so much for reading and please feel free to respond in any way. If you feel that you might include a story please let me know, or if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer to the best of my ability.
I was looking for momentous information on this topic. The information was important as I am about to launch my own portal. Thanks for providing a missing link in my business.