EPA approves CO2 permit for Texas steel maker; anyone notice?

June 19, 2014

Here’s the press release from EPA’s Region 6 office:

EPA Finalizes Greenhouse Gas Permit for Voestalpine Iron Production Plant
$740M facility in San Patricio Co., TX, will bring 1,400 construction jobs and150 permanent jobs

DALLAS – (June 16, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Voestalpine for an iron production plant in San Patricio County, TX. The facility’s process for producing iron will use minimal natural gas and will be 40 percent more efficient than traditional methods. The permit is another in the series of permits drafted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and issued by EPA under a program to facilitate timely permitting for applicants in the State of Texas.

“Voestalpine shows energy efficiency is a common-sense strategy for success, not just in business but for the environment as well,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “The joint EPA and TCEQ permitting program is helping Texas business grow while building greener plants.”

The plant will reduce iron ore pellets, which will be used as raw material input at steel mills. The direct reduced iron process will use only clean-burning natural gas instead of solid fossil fuels. The estimated project cost is $740 million and will bring 1,400 construction jobs to the area. Once complete, the facility will create around 150 permanent jobs.

In June 2010, EPA finalized national GHG regulations, which specify that beginning on January 2, 2011, projects that increase GHG emissions substantially will require an air permit.

EPA believes states are best equipped to run GHG air permitting programs. Texas is working to replace a federal implementation plan with its own state program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA. This action will increase efficiency and allow for industry to continue to grow in Texas.

EPA has finalized 43 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional six permits, and currently has 21 additional GHG permit applications under review and permit development in Texas.

For all of the latest information on GHG permits in Texas please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r6/Apermit.nsf/AirP

Connect with EPA Region 6:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eparegion6
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/EPAregion6
Activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.htm

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria.  Architecture News Plus image

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria. Architecture News Plus image. Voestalpine plans to build a $740 million steel plant near Corpus Christi, Texas.

This is big news, really.  Texas constantly complains about regulations on greenhouse gases, and regularly and constantly sues EPA to stop regulation.  Texas and it’s wacky governor Rick Perry constantly complain that EPA regulation harms jobs, and that permits never really get issued.  So this announcement should be front page news in most Texas newspapers.

How was it covered?

That’s it for Texas media.  Where are the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express, the El Paso Times?  Big market TV and radio?

National coverage was limited to low-circulation newsletters.

Seems to me that these issues of actual action on climate change, are under-reported.

More:

Groundbreaking for Voestalpine facility near Corpus Christi, Texas

Caption from Voestalpine LLC: After about a year of preparation, Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, broke ground today for the construction of a direct reduction plant in Texas (USA). This EUR 550 million investment is the largest foreign investment in the history of the Austrian Group. The voestalpine Texas LLC plant is being constructed at the La Quinta Trade Gateway Terminal in close proximity to the City of Corpus Christi. Starting in 2016, the plant will produce two million tons of HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) and DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) annually and will supply Austrian locations, such as Linz and Donawitz, with “sponge iron” as a premium raw material. With the new facility, voestalpine can significantly reduce production costs in Europe. The highly automated plant will create 150 jobs.


Annals of Global Warming: Significant events for U.S. April 2014.

May 13, 2014

National Overview - April 2014, from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center

National Overview – April 2014, from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center

NOAA publishes these data monthly.  We tend to ignore them, as background noise.

But click over to NOAA’s site, look at the charts and click to follow links.  Ponder the story being told.

This is the snapshot for April 2014.

Major climate events NOAA is closely monitoring:

  • Drought in the West, Central and Southern Plains, and Midwest. Long- and short-term dryness will increase wildfire risk and continue to have impacts on water resources and agriculture.
  • El Niño development likely this summer or autumn. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a greater than 65 percent chance of El Niño conditions developing later this year, which could have significant impacts on temperature and precipitation patterns across the U.S. More information is available from the Climate Prediction Center.

Supplemental April 2014 Information


  • Climate Highlights — April
  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during April was 51.7°F, which was 0.7°F above the 20th century average. This was the 46th warmest April in the 120-year period of record.
  • Much of the contiguous U.S. had April temperatures near the 20th century average. Above-average temperatures were scattered along the West Coast and in the Southwest, the Southern Plains, and across parts of the Ohio Valley and the Southeast. Below-average temperatures were observed across parts of the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains. No state had April temperatures among their 10 warmest or coolest.
  • Alaska had the 12th warmest April of its 96-year period of record, with a temperature 3.8°F above the 1971-2000 average. This was the warmest April for Alaska since 2007. Much of the warmth was situated in western Alaska, where Nome had its fourth warmest April since local records began in 1907. The April precipitation total in Alaska was 23.3 percent below the 1971-2000 average, the 23rd driest April on record. Anchorage had its fifth driest April with only nine percent of normal monthly precipitation.
  • The April contiguous U.S. precipitation total of 2.83 inches was 0.31 inch above the 20th century average and the 30th wettest April on record.
  • Above-average precipitation in the Upper Midwest resulted in Wisconsin having its third wettest April and Minnesota its eighth wettest. Heavy precipitation across the Southeast, particularly near the end of the month, caused Alabama to have its fifth wettest April, Georgia its seventh wettest, and Florida its ninth wettest.
  • On April 29th and 30th, torrential rain fell across the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast causing significant flash flooding. The Gulf Coast of Alabama and the Florida panhandle bore the brunt of the heavy rains. At the Pensacola Regional Airport, in Florida, the two-day precipitation total was 20.47 inches, with 15.55 inches of the total falling on the 29th, breaking both one-day and two-day precipitation records; local records date back to 1879. On the 29th, Mobile, Alabama received 11.24 inches of rain, the third greatest calendar day rainfall total for the city since local records began in 1871. According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment released on May 6th, the amount of heavy precipitation falling in single events has increased by 27 percent across the Southeast since 1958. This event is consistent with projections of increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events across the U.S. as the world warms.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the West, the central Rockies, and the Central and Southern Plains. Oklahoma had its 12th driest April on record, with 50 percent of average precipitation. Parts of Texas were also particularly dry, where San Angelo observed just 30 percent of normal monthly precipitation.
  • According to the April 29thU.S. Drought Monitor report, 38.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, nearly the same as the beginning of April, with both improvement and degradation of drought conditions on regional scales. Beneficial rain improved drought conditions across the Upper Midwest and Southeast during the month, while drought conditions worsened in parts of the West and across portions of the Central and Southern Plains.
  • Drought conditions improved in Hawaii during April due in part to heavy rainfall at the end of March and the beginning of April. Only 0.7 percent of the state was experiencing drought conditions on April 29th, down from 14.4 percent at the beginning of the month. This was the smallest drought footprint for Hawaii since April 2008, and the first time since June 2008 that no part of the state was experiencing severe drought. Most of the drought improvement occurred across the Big Island, with central Molokai still experiencing moderate drought conditions.
  • A severe weather outbreak on April 27-29 spawned at least 38 tornadoes from Nebraska to North Carolina, according to preliminary estimates from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. At least 32 fatalities were blamed on the tornadoes, with Arkansas and Mississippi being the hardest hit. An EF-4 tornado in Pulaski and White counties in Arkansas resulted in 15 fatalities, while an EF-4 in Winston County, Mississippi resulted in nine fatalities.
  • Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during April was 28 percent below average and the 37th lowest in the 1895-2014 period of record.
  • During April, there were about 75 percent more cold daily temperature records (1,419 cold maximum temperature records, 1,380 cold minimum temperature records; 2,799 total) than warm daily temperature records (544 warm maximum temperature records, 1,039 warm minimum temperature records; 1,583 total).
  • Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January – April)
  • For the first four months of 2014, the contiguous U.S. temperature was 38.7°F, 0.4°F below the 20th century average, and the 46th coldest January-April on record. This was the coldest four-month start to a year since 1993.
  • Below-average temperatures were widespread across the eastern U.S. where 13 states had January-April temperatures among their 10 coldest on record. The coldest departures from average occurred across the Midwest. No state had its coldest January-April on record.
  • Warm conditions were observed across a large portion of the West. Arizona and California were both record warm, with four-month temperatures 4.5°F and 5.2°F above their 20th century average, respectively. Nevada, Oregon and Utah each had one of their five warmest January-April periods on record.
  • The year-to-date precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 8.79 inches, 0.68 inch above the 20th century average and the 33rd driest January-April on record.
  • Below-average four-month precipitation totals were widespread across the Southwest and the Central and Southern Plains. Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas each had January-April precipitation totals that ranked among their 10 driest on record. Oklahoma had its second driest January-April on record, with less than half of average precipitation; 1936 was the driest. The dry conditions across Oklahoma decimated much of the winter wheat crop in the state, with estimates of the lowest harvested yield since 1957. In west Texas, precipitation deficits that date back to 2010 have been unprecedented in the observational record, with nearly every major reservoir in the region at less than 40 percent of capacity.
  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was the 14th highest on record for the period at 145 percent of average. Elements that contributed to the above-average USCEI included the spatial extent of cold maximum and minimum temperatures, warm maximum temperatures and the spatial extent of drought. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation and drought across the contiguous U.S.
  • Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-April was 27 percent above average and the 29th highest in the 1895-2014 period of record.

Galileo may have put it like this:  Eppure, lei si scalda!


Insta-Millard: Department of Interior’s quick take on climate change report

May 9, 2014

Department of Interior’s video this week leads with climate change — and in fact, each segment deals with climate change in some way.

Published on May 9, 2014

This week: the White House releases the third annual National Climate Assessment, showing that climate change is already affecting Americans and the U.S. economy; USGS releases a Climate Change Viewer that can track water resource changes at the county, state, and watershed level; Secretary Jewell joins California leaders and first responders as the state braces for another tough wildfire season; the Secretary meets with community leaders and experts to talk about the balance between conservation and smart development; the Secretary announces the approval of a new solar energy project on tribal lands in Nevada, and attends the 69th Departmental Honor Awards Convocation in Washington, DC.


“Years of Living Dangerously” – April 13 premiere of climate change information series

April 11, 2014

Will it work this time?  Can it recharge the effort Al Gore started?

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city.

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city. “Act of God,” many local people say.

Here’s the trailer:

The avid promotional explanation:

Published on Mar 14, 2014

Don’t miss the documentary series premiere of Years of Living Dangerously, Sunday, April 13th at 10PM ET/PT.

Subscribe to the Years of Living Dangerously channel for more clips:
http://s.sho.com/YearsYouTube

Official site: http://www.sho.com/yearsoflivingdange…
The Years Project: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/
Follow: https://twitter.com/YEARSofLIVING
Like: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving
Watch on Showtime Anytime: http://s.sho.com/1hoirn4
Don’t Have Showtime? Order Now: http://s.sho.com/P0DCVU

It’s the biggest story of our time. Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists explore the issues of climate change and bring you intimate accounts of triumph and tragedy. YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY takes you directly to the heart of the matter in this awe-inspiring and cinematic documentary series event from Executive Producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More: 


Carbon dioxide(CO²) emissions since 1820, Rosling visualization

February 23, 2014

Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (CDIAC)

Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (CDIAC)

Gee, while we’re exploring Hans Rosling‘s and Gapminder’s videos at Vimeo, let’s take a look at the animated chart showing CO² emissions since 1820.

Anything we can learn there?

What did we learn?

  • CO² emissions from humans rose a lot after the start of the industrial revolution
  • When nations industrialize, CO² output rises dramatically (But, what’s with Brunei? Flaring of oil wells?)

What else?

More:

Use this quiz to introduce subjects such as global health, the effects of HIV, population growth and carbon dioxide emissions, or as starting point to discuss what development is. What do the indicators in these quizzes say about the world?

Gapminder quiz on global development: “About the Quiz/Teacher’s guide Use this quiz to introduce subjects such as global health, the effects of HIV, population growth and carbon dioxide emissions, or as starting point to discuss what development is. What do the indicators in these quizzes say about the world?”


Hans Rosling says “Don’t Panic!” Defusing the population bomb?

February 23, 2014

Yes, that famous Rosling guy with the bouncing bubble, animated charts from TEDS.

TEDS star Hans Rosling, not in over his head.

TEDS star Hans Rosling, not in over his head.

Why not panic?  Rosling’s group, Gapminder, explains:

The world might not be as bad as you might believe!

Don’t Panic – is a one-hour long documentary produced by Wingspan Productions and broadcasted on BBC on the 7th of November 2013.

The visualizations are based on original graphics and stories by Gapminder and the underlaying data-sources are listed here.
Hans’s — “All time favorite graph”, is an animating bubble chart which you can interact with online here and download offline here.

Hans presents some results from our UK Ignorance Survey described here.

Director & Producer; Dan Hillman, Executive Producer: Archie Baron. ©Wingspan Productions for BBC, 2013.    A DVD version of this film is available to order from Wingspan Productions.

Alas, we can’t embed the film.  You must view the video — for free — at the Gapminder site, here.


Annals of Global Warming: January 2014 ranks 4th warmest January since 1880

February 21, 2014

Wonk Blog at the Washington Post headlined,

Last month was one of the warmest Januaries ever. No, really

And so it was.

Caption from AGU Blog: This is why the global temperature is not taken in your backyard in January. When you average the entire globe for an entire year, a much different picture emerges. NASA Aqua satellite image of a cold and snowy Mid-Atlantic Wednesday morning.

Caption from AGU Blog: This is why the global temperature is not taken in your backyard in January. When you average the entire globe for an entire year, a much different picture emerges. NASA Aqua satellite image of a cold and snowy Mid-Atlantic Wednesday morning.

Information from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of NOAA:

Global Highlights:

  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for January was the warmest since 2007 and the fourth warmest on record at 12.7°C (54.8°F), or 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). The margin of error associated with this temperature is ± 0.08°C (± 0.14°F).
  • The global land temperature was the highest since 2007 and the fourth highest on record for January, at 1.17°C (2.11°F) above the 20th century average of 2.8°C (37.0°F). The margin of error is ± 0.18°C (± 0.32°F).
  • For the ocean, the January global sea surface temperature was 0.46°C (0.83°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.5°F), the highest since 2010 and seventh highest on record for January. The margin of error is ± 0.04°C (± 0.07°F).

Introduction:

Temperature anomalies and percentiles are shown on the gridded maps below. The anomaly map on the left is a product of a merged land surface temperature (Global Historical Climatology Network, GHCN) and sea surface temperature (ERSST.v3b) anomaly analysis developed by Smith et al. (2008). Temperature anomalies for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC’s Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page. The January 2014 Global State of the Climate report includes percentile maps that complement the information provided by the anomaly maps. These maps on the right provide additional information by placing the temperature anomaly observed for a specific place and time period into historical perspective, showing how the most current month, season, or year-to-date compares with the past.

Temperatures:

In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth’s surface. The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure—depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the January 2014 map—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.

January 2014 Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in degrees Celsius

January 2014 Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in degrees Celsius

January 2014 Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperature Percentiles

January 2014 Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperature Percentiles

The combined global land and ocean average temperature during January 2014 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average. This was the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth highest since records began in 1880. This marks the ninth consecutive month (since May 2013) with a global monthly temperature among the 10 highest for its respective month. The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean surface temperature during January 2014 was also the warmest since 2007 and the fourth warmest since records began in 1880 at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above average. The Southern Hemisphere January 2014 temperature departure of +0.55°C (+0.99°F) was the warmest since 2010 and the fourth warmest January on record.

During January 2014, most of the world’s land areas experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, with the most notable departures from the 1981–2010 average across Alaska, western Canada, Greenland, Mongolia, southern Russia, and northern China, where the departure from average was +3°C (+5.4°F) or greater. Meanwhile, parts of southeastern Brazil and central and southern Africa experienced record warmth with temperature departures between 0.5°C to 1.5°C above the 1981–2010 average, contributing to the highest January Southern Hemisphere land temperature departure on record at 1.13°C (2.03°F) above the 20th century average. This was also the warmest month for the Southern Hemisphere land since September 2013 when temperatures were 1.23°C (2.21°F) above the 20th century average. Some locations across the globe experienced departures that were below the 1981–2010 average. These areas include the eastern half of the contiguous U.S., central Canada, and most of Scandinavia and Russia. The most notable cold anomalies were in Russia, where in some areas the departure from average was 5°C (9°F) below average. Overall, the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was 1.17°C (2.11°F) above average—the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth warmest since records began in 1880.

Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):

  • France’s nationally-averaged January 2014 temperature was 2.7°C (4.9°F) above the 1981–2010 average, tying with 1988 and 1936 as the warmest January on record.
  • Spain experienced its warmest January since 1996 and the third warmest since national records began in 1961, with a temperature of 9°C (48.2°F) or 2°C (3.6°F) above the 1971–2000 average.
  • The January temperature in Switzerland was 2.4°C (4.3°F) above the 1981–2010 average—the fifth warmest January since national records began 150 years ago.
  • Austria experienced its fifth warmest January since national records began in 1768. The nationally-averaged temperature was 3.3°C (5.9°F) above the 1981–2010 average. However, in some regions across the southern parts of the country, the temperatures were the highest on record. In Klagenfurt, the temperature departure was 5°C (9°F)—the highest since January 1813.
  • China, as a whole, recorded an average temperature of -3.4°C (25.9°F) or 1.6°C (2.9°F) above average during January 2014. This was the second highest January value, behind 2002, since national records began in 1961.
  • In Argentina, persistence of extremely high temperatures across central and northern parts of the country resulted in several locations setting new maximum, minimum, and mean temperature records for the month of January.
  • Warm temperatures engulfed much of Australia during January 2014. Overall, the national average mean temperature was 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 1961–1990 average. This was the 12th highest January temperature since national records began in 1910. Regionally, the January 2014 temperature ranked among the top 10 warmest in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia.

Across the oceans, temperature departures tend to be smaller than across the land surfaces. According to the percentiles map, much-warmer-than-average conditions were present across parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the northeastern and western Pacific Ocean, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Record warmth was observed across parts of the northern Pacific Ocean (south of Alaska), parts of the western Pacific Ocean, south of South Africa, and across parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Overall, the global ocean surface temperature in January was +0.46°C (+0.83°F)—the warmest since 2010 and the seventh warmest on record.

More at the NCDC/NOAA site.

Warming denialists will scream about these data.

More:


Annals of Global Warming: Polar vortex, explained in two minutes

January 10, 2014

As captioned in the Boston Globe:   Reuters  Frozen breath formed ice around the face of a Minneapolis resident on Wednesday.

As captioned in the Boston Globe: Reuters photo.  Frozen breath formed ice around the face of a Minneapolis resident on Wednesday.

2013 will probably rank as one of the top 10 hottest years in human history, and 2014 is on track to join 2013.

You wouldn’t know that from the denialists and those in thrall to them, who claim freak snow storms and historic cold show warming has stopped — though the snow and cold are caused by a breakdown in the jetstream and a slipping of the polar vortex, probably caused by global warming.

A two-minute explanation, from White House Science Advisor John Holdren:

White House description:

Published on Jan 8, 2014

President Obama’s Science and Technology Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, explains the polar vortex in 2 minutes—and why climate change makes extreme weather more likely going forward. Learn more at http://wh.gov/climate-change. January 8, 2014.

More: 


Annals of global warming: Great Lakes need water

November 13, 2013

Does Lake Michigan's record low mark beginning of new era for Great Lakes? At least 150 years of rhythmic pulses in Lake Michigan's water levels appear to have shifted abruptly with loss of winter ice.   Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Photo and caption from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Does Lake Michigan’s record low mark beginning of new era for Great Lakes? At least 150 years of rhythmic pulses in Lake Michigan’s water levels appear to have shifted abruptly with loss of winter ice. Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Don’t get complacent, yet.  Has enough water fallen in the Great Lakes drainage area in the past six months to change this situation at all?  From the New York Times last June:

Drought and other factors have created historically low water marks for the Great Lakes, putting the $34 billion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry in peril, a situation that could send ominous ripples throughout the economy.

Water levels in the Great Lakes have been below their long-term averages during the past 14 years, and this winter the water in Lakes Michigan and Huron, the hardest-hit lakes, dropped to record lows, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Keith Kompoltowicz, the chief of watershed hydrology with the corps’s Detroit district, said that in January “the monthly mean was the lowest ever recorded, going back to 1918.”

While spring rains have helped so far this year, levels in all five Great Lakes are still low by historical standards, so getting through the shallow points in harbors and channels is a tense affair.

It’s not just storms, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers, you know.

The Great Lakes as seen from space. The Great ...

The Great Lakes from space. The Great Lakes are the largest glacial lakes in the world. NASA photo via Wikipedia

More:

Great Lakes in Sunglint (NASA, International S...

Great Lakes in Sunglint (NASA, International Space Station, 06/14/12) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)


Annals of global warming: 2012 hits top 10 hottest years

August 6, 2013

NOAA’s article on the State of the Climate released today:

2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally

The end of weak La Niña, unprecedented Arctic warmth influenced 2012 climate conditions

August 6, 2013

State of the Climate in 2012 - report cover.

The 2012 State of the Climate report is available online.
(Credit: NOAA)

Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries (highlights, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky.

“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment.”

Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest “summer minimum” extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average.

Temperature in 2012 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Credit: NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCDC data. See more.

The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.

Highlights:

  • Warm temperature trends continue near Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.
  • La Niña dissipates into neutral conditions:  A weak La Niña dissipated during spring 2012 and, for the first time in several years, neither El Niño nor La Niña, which can dominate regional weather and climate conditions around the globe, prevailed for the majority of the year.
  • The Arctic continues to warm; sea ice extent reaches record low: The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June each reached new record lows. Arctic sea ice minimum extent (1.32 million square miles, September 16) was the lowest of the satellite era. This is 18 percent lower than the previous record low extent of 1.61 million square miles that occurred in 2007 and 54 percent lower than the record high minimum ice extent of 2.90 million square miles that occurred in 1980. The temperature of permafrost, or permanently frozen land, reached record-high values in northernmost Alaska. A new melt extent record occurred July 11–12 on the Greenland ice sheet when 97 percent of the ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt this time of year.
  • Antarctica sea ice extent reaches record high: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles on September 26. This is 0.5 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.47 million square miles that occurred in 2006 and seven percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986.
  • Sea surface temperatures increase: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2012 was among the 11 warmest on record.  After a 30-year period from 1970 to 1999 of rising global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–2012 exhibited little trend. Part of this difference is linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century, which typically lead to lower global sea surface temperatures.
  • Ocean heat content remains near record levels: Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet, or a little less than one-half mile, of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Overall increases from 2011 to 2012 occurred between depths of 2,300 to 6,600 feet and even in the deep ocean.
  • Sea level reaches record high: Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach record highs in 2012. Globally, sea level has been increasing at an average rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the central tropical North Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the north central Indian Ocean, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

    Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012.

    Sea ice concentration reached a new record low in mid-September 2012. Credit: NOAA Climate.gov, based on NSIDC data. See more.

  • Tropical cyclones near average: Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms, compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity.
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2012. Following a slight decline in manmade emissions associated with the global economic downturn, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached a record high in 2011 of 9.5 ± 0.5 petagrams (1,000,000,000,000,000 grams) of carbon , and a new record of 9.7 ± 0.5 petagrams of carbon  is estimated for 2012. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.1 ppm in 2012, reaching a global average of 392.6 ppm for the year. In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO2concentration exceeded 400 ppm at several Arctic observational sites.
  • Cool temperature trends continue in Earth’s lower stratosphere: The average lower stratospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth’s surface, for 2012 was record to near-record cold, depending on the dataset. Increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet near-surface layers.

The 2012 State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making. The full report can be viewed online.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter and our other social media channels.

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Annals of global warming: Climate change hammers the Adelie penguins

July 22, 2013

Adelie penguins struggle to survive changes in their nesting and feeding sites caused by warming air and waters around Antarctica

Adelie penguins struggle to survive changes in their nesting and feeding sites caused by warming air and waters around Antarctica

New, very short film from the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation highlights threats to Adelie penguins from climate change, already.  Actor and conservation activist Harrison Ford narrated “Ghost Rookeries, Climate Change and the Adelie Penguin.”

Details from the Biodiversity Foundation at their YouTube site:

Published on Jun 26, 2013

“Ghost Rookeries,” narrated by actor, conservationist, and member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) Board of Advisors Harrison Ford, conveys the story of the Adelie Penguin, whose habitat—and thus the biodiversity of all of Antarctica—is being threatened by real-time environmental changes.

“The consequences of a loss of biodiversity could encompass everything from altering key Antarctic marine food chains to the loss of species that may hold cures to cancer,” writes Dr. James McClintock, whose recent book, ‘Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land’ (Palgrave/MacMilllan, 2012), forms the basis of “Ghost Rookeries.”

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will be embarking on an exciting new initiative beginning in the summer of 2013. Beginning with “Ghost Rookeries: Climate Change and the Adelie Penguin” (4 minutes, 2013), short videos produced by the EOWBF will be shown at select AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums located in the United States. With the vast reach of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, “Ghost Rookeries” and future videos will be seen by millions of visitors.

Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the EOWBF, calls “Ghost Rookeries” and the partnership with AZA “. . . a wonderful way to engage audiences about the importance of preserving our biological heritage through story. The Adelie Penguin is an iconic story, a symbol, of the real-time effect of climate change on biodiversity.”

“Ghost Rookeries” was produced by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the the Tennessee Aquarium.

This film looks at a small part of the Adelie penguin population, on Torgerson Island, near Palmer Station.  This population symbolizes the difficulties of dealing with climate change, or even knowing what the effects will be.  Critics of pollution control to stop climate change argue that populations of all animals and plants will adapt.  Indeed the last decade saw a rise in total numbers of Adelies across Antarctic waters, and Gentoo penguins have set up new colonies to avoid warming air and waters.

More careful watchers note problems, though.  Warming air, and decreasing hard ice, brings more snow — nominally good, if one assumes the snow turns to ice.  In this case, the snows are brief, and they melt quickly.  It’s the cold meltwater that kills the chicks, drowning them.  This may be counterintuitive, or even ironic,  that warming causes a cold water seabird to drown, or die of hypothermia.  Nature is stranger than we can imagine, and often strange enough that it defies the understanding of scientifically-dilettante politicians.

Generally the loss of ice is the biggest problem for penguins; specific populations face entirely different threats, however, depending on the local effects of climate change.

Dr. Jim McClintock, in Antarctica.  A professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham

Dr. Jim McClintock, in Antarctica. A professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he wrote Antarctica Lost, upon which the film about the Adelie penguins is based.

The film is a short project based off of the work of Dr. Jim McClintock, an almost-legendary Antarctic researcher based out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  McClintock published a book on his work last year that deals with many different aspects of climate change in the Southern Ocean and its continental land mass, Lost Antarctica, Adventures in a Disappearing Land.

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Again: Why do we worry about global warming? It ain’t the climate, it’s the people

July 15, 2013

This is almost entirely an encore post, repeated for the benefit of the millions who missed it the first time who make fools of themselves when they argue we don’t need to save trees.  It’s not about trees.

Kids hiking in a forest. These are the humans environmentalists worry about, these four, and a few billion like them.  Photo from American Forests.

Kids hiking in a forest. These are the humans environmentalists worry about, these four, and a few billion like them. Photo from American Forests.

Alun Salt gave great advice about not bothering to engage idiots, pigs, denialists or trolls (here, among other places).  He said I should avoid lengthy answers to blogs that have little audience.

This is probably one of those occasions.

But in a running attempt to stimulate serious thought at a denialist blog, I got a question that has been rather common, and a question which indicates the deep serious misunderstanding denialists and even some well-meaning, overly-skeptical sensible people have:

Why worry about  climate change, since the climate is changing all the time?  Especially, why are people like Al Gore urging that we stop climate change, when CO2 has no great direct effect on human health?  Shouldn’t environmentalists be cheering climate change on, since it’s a “natural process?”

The answer is lost on the other blog, as Mr. Salt predicted it would be.  But since I’ve gotten some version of the question repeatedly in the last month, I may as well repeat the answer here, for the record.

The short answer to why we worry about climate change is that, as with almost all environmental protection, we are worried first about the quality of life of humans, and ultimately about the ability of human life to survive at all.

Here’s the question put to me there:

Ed I’m a little confused. I thought we were talking about the effect of co2 on the climate not the effect of co2 on human health. Co2 is not a toxic gas and would have no effect on human health. The fact that humans weren’t around when co2 was 10-20 times higher has absolutely nothing to do with its effect on climate.
Ed there was no runaway greenhouse effect [link added here] or climate catastrophe. The planet was fine during the phanerazoic. There is actually a lack of co2 in the atmopshere comapred to that time.

Here’s my answer, with a few more links than their format would allow:

No, you’re not a little confused.  You’re a lot confused, greatly misinformed, and not thinking hard.

We worry about CO2’s effects on climate only because we worry about the future of humanity.  Many of us who have children and wish them the same blessings of having children and grandchildren, have thought through the truth of the matter that we don’t possess and rule the Earth for ourselves, but instead act only as stewards for future generations.

No Earth, no humans; but at the same time, no habitable Earth, no humans.  In the long run, Earth doesn’t care.  It’ll do fine — without humans.

We can’t damage the planet.  We can only damage its habitability for humans.

I don’t know what sort of dystopian Randian future you and other Do Nothings hope for, but it’s a future contrary to human life, American values, and all known religions.

We’re talking about the future of humans.  I tell “skeptics,” “If you don’t care, butt out.  You’ll be dead in the short run anyway, but that’s no reason to stand in the way of action not to ensure a livable planet for our grandchildren.”

You also fail to understand chemistry, pollution, and how the world works.  CO2 is indeed a toxic gas.  For about a century now we’ve had indoor air standards that require air circulation to keep CO2 down below concentrations of about 500 5000 ppm [see comments], because at that level it starts to have dramatic effects on humans working.  It clouds their thinking and causes drowsiness.  CO2 is a conundrum, in that it is also necessary to trigger mammalian breathing.  If CO2 drops too low, we don’t take in enough oxygen and may pass out.  Too much oxygen in place of CO2 is a problem in that regard.  A substance can be both essential and a  pollutant, at the same time. (This has vexed food safety experts for years, especially after the 1958 Delaney Clause; substances we know to be essential nutrients can be carcinogenic, in the same concentrations, or in the same concentrations with a slight twist in chemical formula — how do we regulate that stuff?)

English: Main symptoms of carbon dioxide toxic...

Main symptoms of carbon dioxide toxicity (See Wikipedia:Carbon_dioxide#Toxicity). References: Toxicity of Carbon Dioxide Gas Exposure, CO2 Poisoning Symptoms, Carbon Dioxide Exposure Limits, and Links to Toxic Gas Testing Procedures By Daniel Friedman – InspectAPedia Davidson, Clive. 7 February 2003. “Marine Notice: Carbon Dioxide: Health Hazard”. Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CO2 is toxic in much greater proportions — it was a CO2 cloud that killed thousands in Cameroon 30 years ago or so, if you know history.

Clearly you did not know that we’ve regulated indoor CO2 for decades.  Clearly you haven’t looked at the medical journals‘ discussion on CO2 — and I’ll wager you’d forgotten the Cameroon incident, if you ever knew about it.

CO2 is a toxic gas (the dose is the poison); CO2 has dramatic effects on human health — too little and we die, too much and we die.

The fact that humans were not around when CO2 was much higher is exactly the point.  That was presented here, as it is in most venues, as support for a claim that we don’t need to worry about CO2 pollution.  Well, that’s right — if we don’t care about a habitable Earth.  But when CO2 was higher, life for humans was impossible.

I think it’s reckless to run an experiment on what would happen with higher CO2 levels, using the entire planet as a testing place, and testing the hypotheses on just how much CO2 will kill us all off, and how.

How about a control group, at least?

In the past, massive CO2 created massive greenhouse effects that would devastate us today — not as a toxic gas, but as a result of the warming that greenhouse gases do.

Let us understand the physical conundrum of CO2 here:  Without the greenhouse effect from the human-historic levels of CO2, this would be an ice planet.  Our lives today depend on the greenhouse effects of CO2.

Consequently, anyone who claims there is no greenhouse effect fails to understand physics, chemistry, biology and history.  (Heck, throw in geology, too.)  Life would be impossible but for the greenhouse effect.  Life is impossible without water, too, but you can’t live totally surrounded by water.

Can it be true that there can never be too much of a good effect, with regard to greenhouse gases?  Ancient Greek ideas of “all things in moderation” applies here.  We need a Goldilocks amount of CO2 in our atmosphere — not to much, not too little; not too hot, not too cold.

To the extent that higher CO2 levels didn’t produce a total runaway greenhouse effect, as some hypothesize exists on Venus, we know that was due to other feedbacks.  Early on, for example, CO2 began to be reduced by photosynthesizing life.  Animal life today would be impossible but for that occurrence.  Few if any modern chordates could breathe the very-low oxygen atmosphere of the early Earth, and live.  Those feedbacks and limiting situations do not exist today.

Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouse Effect. Wikipedia image

So now we face a double or triple whammy.  The reduction in CO2 in the air was accomplished through a couple billion years of carbon sequestration through plants.  In fact, a lot of carbon was sequestered in carbon-rich fossils, stuff we now call coal and oil.  Oxygen replenishment was accomplished with massive forests, and healthy oceans, with a great deal of photosynthesis.  This created a rough CO2 equilibrium (with fluctuations, sure) that existed we know for at least the last 50,000 years, we’re pretty sure for the last 100,000 years (we know that from carbon-dating calibration exercises).

Today we have removed fully 30% of the forests that used to replenish oxygen and lock up a lot of CO2 (some estimates say 50% of the forests are gone); modern plant communities cannot pluck CO2 out fast enough.  Plus, we’re releasing a lot of that old, sequestered carbon in coal and oil — at rates unprecedented in human history.

Will more CO2 warm the planet?  We know from the fact that the planet is warm enough for life, that more CO2 will warm the planet more.  Anyone who says differently does not know physics and chemistry, nor history.

Is there anything that can stop that effect?  Sure — healthy, massive forests, and healthy oceans.  Reducing carbon emissions could help a lot, too.  But we’re committed for about a century.  CO2 in the atmosphere doesn’t fall to the ground like particulate pollution.  it drifts until it is incorporated into something else, either through photosynthesis or other chemical reactions.  It takes a mole of CO2 a couple of centuries to come out of the air.  We’re stuck with elevated and elevating CO2 regardless our actions, for a century or two, even if we are wildly successful in reining in emissions and creating sequestration paths.

What happens when CO2 levels get higher than 350 ppm?  History, physics and chemistry tells us glaciers will melt, rainfall patterns will alter dramatically, sea levels will rise, carbon will be absorbed by the seas in increasing amounts (causing acidification — simple chemistry).  [See the counter in the right column of this blog; by July 2013, CO2 temporarily climbed above 400 ppm in a spike, and rested dangerously close to 400 ppm constantly.]

It’s a very exciting experiment.  The entire human race is at stake. How much CO2 will it take to produce the effects that kill us all?  It’s likely that changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels will produce wars over resources, long before CO2 itself starts being physically toxic.  That’s what the Pentagon’s big thinkers say.  That’s what the Chinese big thinkers say, which is why they are working to reduce emissions even without an enforceable treaty.

As experiments go, I think it’s immoral to use humans in experimentation without getting their consent, and without passing the entire experiment through the Institutional Review Board to make sure the experiment is useful, necessary, and done ethically.

Do you have those consent statements?  All seven billion of them?  Have you got approval from the research overseers of the institution?

If you don’t have permission to proceed with this progeny-killing experiment, why do you propose to proceed?  Many people believe that, if the courts on Earth don’t get us, a higher court will.

How will you plead wherever the call to justice is delivered?

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Doubt climate change? Here, have a cigarette . . .

July 9, 2013

Colorado River runs dry, Peter McBried, Smithsonian

From Smithsonian Magazine: The Colorado River Runs Dry A boat casts a forlorn shadow in a dry river channel 25 miles from the river’s historical end at the Gulf of California. Photo by Peter McBride (Go see the entire slide show; spectacular and troubling images)

As John Mashey has been quietly but consistently warning us for some time . . .

From ClimateRealityProject.org:

Join us and stand up for reality. http://climaterealityproject.org – This film exposes the parallels between Big Tobacco‘s denial of smoking’s cancer-causing effects and the campaign against the science of climate change — showing that not only are the same strategies of denial at work, but often even the same strategists.

If you watched that all the way through, odds are high you’re not a denier.  If you can’t watch it, you really should think about it, hard.

More, and useful resources:


Annals of global warming: Arizona wildfires 2013 and “the new normal”

July 6, 2013

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters, via International Business Times

From a much longer story you should read by Felicity Barringer and Kenneth Chang  in The New York Times, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, page A13 of the National Edition:

Since 1970, Arizona has warmed at a rate 0.72 degrees per decade, the fastest among the 50 states, based on an analysis of temperature data by Climate Central, an independent organization that researches and reports on climate. Even as the temperatures have leveled off in many places around the world in the past decade, the Southwest has continued to get hotter.

“The decade of 2001 to 2010 in Arizona was the hottest in both spring and the summer,” said Gregg Garfin, a professor of climate, natural resources and policy at the University of Arizona and the executive editor of a study examining the impact of climate change on the Southwest.

Warmer winters mean less snowfall. More of the winter precipitation falls as rain, which quickly flows away in streams instead of seeping deep underground.

The soils then dry out earlier and more quickly in May and June. “It’s the most arid time of year,” Dr. Garfin said. “It’s windy as well.”

The growing season also starts earlier, so there is more to burn.

“The fire season has lengthened substantially, by two months, over the last 30 years,” said Craig D. Allen, a research ecologist at the United States Geological Survey station at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

The fire potential is exacerbated by the past policy, beginning around 1900, of putting out all fires. Fires are a natural way of clearing out the underbrush. With that natural rhythm disrupted, the flammable material piled up, so when it did catch fire, it ignited a giant fire that burned hotter and wider.

This total-suppression policy began to ease as early as the 1950s, when scientists began to see fire’s role in ecosystems. It was completely abandoned nearly two decades ago.

But in the 1970s, the Southwest entered a wet period, part of a climate cycle that repeats every 20 to 30 years. “That wet period helped keep a lid on fires,” Dr. Allen said. “And it also allowed the forests to fluff up.”

Since 1996, the climate pattern, known as the Pacific decadal oscillation, has swung to the dry end of the spectrum, and the region is caught in a long-term drought.

Stephen J. Pyne, one of the nation’s leading fire historians and a professor at Arizona State University, said, “How we live on the land, what we decide we put on public and private lands, how we do things and don’t do things on the land, changes its combustibility.”

In many landscapes, he added, “you’ve enhanced the natural combustibility” by building hundreds of thousands of homes in fire-prone areas, and for years suppressing natural fires, allowing a buildup of combustible materials like the “slash” debris left behind by logging.

The article explains how this is the dry phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation; so we can hope the wet phase will be wet enough to suppress fires.  However, the simple fact of additional effects brought on by PDO does not mean warming goes away when the PDO switches phases.  Note especially the lengthening fire season over three decades; incrementally, warming is making these well-known cycles, warmer, and too often, destructive or more destructive.

More: 

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona:

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona, with wildfire in the background: “Elevation 4,850 ft., ‘Where the desert breeze meets the mountain air.'” Sedonaeye.com image

 

English: Monthly values for the Pacific decada...

Monthly values for the Pacific decadal oscillation index, 1900 – 2010 Black line:121-month smooth Data source: http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One more time: Basic climate science with Bill Nye

July 4, 2013

What year is this? 2013?

Shouldn’t the Sputnik Revolution in science education have obviated the need for this video, like 30 years ago?

One more time, the basics of climate change/global warming, with Bill Nye the Science Guy explaining; from the ClimateRealityProject.org:

climate change, CO2, global warming, science, Bill Nye, environmental protection, Clean Air, Air Pollution

More:

Newsweek, March 4, 1957,

Cover of Newsweek Magazine, from March 4, 1957; notice this concern about U.S. science competency came seven months before Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union. Science deniers then delayed action until after the Soviets demonstrated clearly that the U.S. was behind. (Image from Computer History.org)


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