Annals of Global Warming: Ozone hole shrinks; success shows what can happen when world cooperates to end pollution; what’s the bad news?

November 14, 2017

(NASA caption) Ozone depletion occurs in cold temperatures, so the ozone hole reaches its annual maximum in September or October, at the end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Credits: NASA/NASA Ozone Watch/Katy Mersmann

(NASA caption) Ozone depletion occurs in cold temperatures, so the ozone hole reaches its annual maximum in September or October, at the end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Credits: NASA/NASA Ozone Watch/Katy Mersmann

Good news from NASA and NOAA: The ozone hole over Antarctica is shrinking, because policy makers heeded warnings from scientists, and they acted in the 1980s to stop the pollution that made the ozone hole grow into hazard.

In other words, cleaning up air pollution works to reduce problems.

If we apply those same principles to global warming climate change, we can save the planet: Listen to scientists, band together internationally, take effective action to stop the pollution.

BUT, much of the shrinkage in the past two years was due to warming atmosphere, which reduces the cold weather period during which the ozone hole grows. In other words, effects of the anti-pollution action isn’t yet clear.

This NASA video explains:

NASA discussed the events in a press release.

“The Antarctic ozone hole was exceptionally weak this year,” said Paul A. Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is what we would expect to see given the weather conditions in the Antarctic stratosphere.”

The smaller ozone hole in 2017 was strongly influenced by an unstable and warmer Antarctic vortex – the stratospheric low pressure system that rotates clockwise in the atmosphere above Antarctica. This helped minimize polar stratospheric cloud formation in the lower stratosphere. The formation and persistence of these clouds are important first steps leading to the chlorine- and bromine-catalyzed reactions that destroy ozone, scientists said. These Antarctic conditions resemble those found in the Arctic, where ozone depletion is much less severe.

In 2016, warmer stratospheric temperatures also constrained the growth of the ozone hole. Last year, the ozone hole reached a maximum 8.9 million square miles, 2 million square miles less than in 2015. The average area of these daily ozone hole maximums observed since 1991 has been roughly 10 million square miles.

Although warmer-than-average stratospheric weather conditions have reduced ozone depletion during the past two years, the current ozone hole area is still large because levels of ozone-depleting substances like chlorine and bromine remain high enough to produce significant ozone loss.

Scientists said the smaller ozone hole extent in 2016 and 2017 is due to natural variability and not a signal of rapid healing.

First detected in 1985, the Antarctic ozone hole forms during the Southern Hemisphere’s late winter as the returning sun’s rays catalyze reactions involving man-made, chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine. These reactions destroy ozone molecules.

Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and began regulating ozone-depleting compounds. The ozone hole over Antarctica is expected to gradually become less severe as chlorofluorocarbons—chlorine-containing synthetic compounds once frequently used as refrigerants – continue to decline. Scientists expect the Antarctic ozone hole to recover back to 1980 levels around 2070.

Ozone is a molecule comprised of three oxygen atoms that occurs naturally in small amounts. In the stratosphere, roughly 7 to 25 miles above Earth’s surface, the ozone layer acts like sunscreen, shielding the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants. Closer to the ground, ozone can also be created by photochemical reactions between the sun and pollution from vehicle emissions and other sources, forming harmful smog.

Although warmer-than-average stratospheric weather conditions have reduced ozone depletion during the past two years, the current ozone hole area is still large compared to the 1980s, when the depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica was first detected. This is because levels of ozone-depleting substances like chlorine and bromine remain high enough to produce significant ozone loss.

More work to do; but at least the damage is not increasing dramatically. While it would be good to be able to report that human action to close the ozone hole had produced dramatic results, it is still useful to track the progress of this action, especially when global warming/climate change dissenters frequently argue falsely that the ozone hole never existed, and warming is a similar hoax.

NASA’s AURA satellite group said the ozone holes should be repaired and gone by 2040, 23 years from now.

We hope they’re right.

(NASA caption) At its peak on Sept. 11, 2017, the ozone hole extended across an area nearly two and a half times the size of the continental United States. The purple and blue colors are areas with the least ozone. Credits: NASA/NASA Ozone Watch/Katy Mersmann

(NASA caption) At its peak on Sept. 11, 2017, the ozone hole extended across an area nearly two and a half times the size of the continental United States. The purple and blue colors are areas with the least ozone. Credits: NASA/NASA Ozone Watch/Katy Mersmann

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Tip of Millard Fillmore’s old scrub brush to Sean Sublette at Climate Central

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Annals of Global Warming: Mexican plums blooming early in Dallas

February 17, 2017

Spring comes a few hours earlier every year as the planet warms; plants that used to blossom in March and April, now blossom in February. Mexican plum blossoms in Dallas, Texas, February 17, 2017. Photo by Ed Darrell, please share with attribution

Spring comes a few hours earlier every year as the planet warms; plants that used to blossom in March and April, now blossom in February. Mexican plum blossoms in Dallas, Texas, February 17, 2017. Photo by Ed Darrell, iPhone 6; please share with attribution.

Spring comes earlier every year in Dallas. Our Mexican plums used to blossom in March and April; for the past three years, we’ve had blossoms well before spring even comes. Last year we had a cold snap that took the young fruit out, after a premature blossoming.

It’s a sign of creeping global warming. Every year I marvel at Al Gore’s powers to convince our Mexican plum to blossom early, part of the “global warming conspiracy” so many fear.

That is, this is a symptom of global warming that cannot be faked, that is from observation, and not from models.

With flowers on fruit trees come hopes of a bountiful harvest. Dreading the underlying meaning of such an early blossom does not change our hopes, nor the birds’ hopes, for a good plum harvest.

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Annals of Global Warming: 2016 looks to be hottest year ever

November 19, 2016

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month's temperature and each month before it

Chart from Climate Central: The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years. Each month shows the average of that month’s temperature and each month before it

Earth is nearing the end of the the third record-breaking hot year in a row. 2014 was the hottest year ever, but was beaten by 2015. Now 2015’s heat takes second place to 2016’s heat.

2016’s record-breaking heat too fuel in part from an El Nino through the first nine months of the year; with a La Nina weather pattern developing now, there will be some cooling, but the cooling will not be enough to keep 2016 from being the warmest year ever recorded in human history.

Notes on this milestone can be found in several places; Climate Central’s explanation covers it succinctly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its temperature data through the end of October on Thursday and found that for the year-to-date, the global average temperature is 1.75°F above the 20th century average of 57.4°F. That puts the year 0.18°F ahead of last year, the current hottest year titleholder, with just two months to go.

“It’s likely that we will end up as record warmest,” Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said during a press teleconference.

October itself tied as the third warmest in 136 years of record-keeping, coming in at 1.31°F (0.73°C) above the 20th century average of 57.1°F, according to NOAA. (NASA, which uses a different baseline and slightly different methods, put October in second place.)

September was the first month of the year to not be record warm (it came in second place), as temperatures began to cool slightly with the demise of El Niño and the move toward La Niña. It ended a streak of 16 consecutive record-setting months, itself a record.

Maybe more shocking, it’s been 115 years since we had a record cold year, according to Climate Central.

In fact, global temperatures have been above-average for 382 months in a row by NOAA’s reckoning, going all the way back to the Reagan administration. To find a record cold month requires going all the way back to February 1929. The last record-cold year was even further back, in 1911.

382 months. Anyone under the age of 31 has never experienced a single month of temperatures as low as the 20th century average, in their lifetime. A generation has been raised with global warming climate change as the norm. How will that affect voting patterns and public opinion to change government policies?

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Caption from Discover Magazine's ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)

Caption from Discover Magazine’s ImaGeo blog: A map of temperature anomalies during October 2016 shows that the Arctic region was much warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. The United States and North Africa were also particularly warm. The largest area of cooler than average temperatures stretched across Russia. (Source: NASA GISS)


Global Warming is on the ballot; Bill Nye urges voting wisely

November 2, 2016

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

Bill Nye told Business Insider voters in 2016 can make a huge change, just voting for a president who will work on climate change.

No secret that Bill Nye wants governments to act to slow and stop global warming.

Nothing if not hopeful, Nye explained to Mother Jones earlier that electing a president dedicated to making change could push Congress off the dime:

Electing a climate-friendly president is key, Nye says, because it could inject new life into Congress’ long-stagnant climate debate. “There are…many very reasonable people in Congress who are playing the hand they are dealt with these gerrymandered congressional districts,” he adds. “They have to please an extraordinary minority.” With the right leadership and timing, he says, the politicians just might take action.

A candidate rational about science and climate change is likely to be rational on other issues, too.

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Annals of Global Warming: XKCD explains warming over the eons

September 13, 2016

XKCD often makes us think; the strip’s forays into science and social policy often rank near the top of my personal list of salient and clear educational devices on tough issues.

Here’s a timeline of Earth’s average atmospheric temperature, going back a few years before your mother was born (though she was born a long, long time ago!).

See where this is headed? No one else has done it much better.

I did wonder when I saw this earlier, on September 12: Did the creator of XKCD learn this stuff in Edward Tufte’s course?

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

Earth Temperature Timeline, From XKCD, September 2016

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40 years since the Big Thompson River disaster; do not forget

August 1, 2016

With 1000-year flooding having killed two in Ellicott City, Maryland, over the weekend, we should be reminded that delugic rains may increase with global warming.

And we should remember the Big Thompson River flood of July 31, 1976, and its victims.http://www.startribune.com/heating-up-this-week-raging-case-of-weather-amnesia/388762331/

Via the Paul Douglas on Weather blog at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (one of America’s great newspapers):

[Thunderhead that produced a slow-moving, and consquently more catastrophic deluge in the headwaters of the Big Thompson River, Colorado, on July 31, 1976.]

[Thunderhead that produced a slow-moving, and consquently more catastrophic deluge in the headwaters of the Big Thompson River, Colorado, on July 31, 1976.]

The Big Thompson Disaster: Reverberations of a Flash Flood, 40 Years Later. Dr. Jeff Masters has the post at WunderBlog: “What began as a celebratory Saturday in the mountains ended in tragedy 40 years ago this weekend, when a catastrophic flash flood ripped through the narrow Big Thompson Canyon of Colorado’s Front Range. A total of 144 people were killed on that Saturday evening, July 31, 1976–the eve of the 100th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood. On just about any summer weekend, the canyons northwest of Denver are packed with vacationers and day-trippers. With the state’s centennial falling on this particular weekend, the mood was especially festive, and the weather seemed no more threatening than on many other summer days. Forecasts through the day called for a 40% to 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, but there was no particular concern about flood risk. Only a few hours later, critical gaps in weather data, communication, and public awareness had teamed up with a slow-moving deluge to create a true disaster–one that’s had a noteworthy influence on how we deal with flash floods today….”

Image credit: NOAA.

Hiking in the area recently, in a different canyon, I reflected on the tremendous changes in weather forecasting in the past 40 years. A lot of warnings about flash floods, and paths to climb up the canyon in emergencies. Plus, we had constant weather updates. Big Thompson was just one of several flood disasters in the 1970s, Masters notes. It’s worth reading his full post.

139 bodies were recovered from the flood, but many other bodies were never recovered. People died from injuries of being tossed about by the flood, and colliding with rocks and trees. Few died of drowning.

How do we prepare to survive and avoid such disasters in the future?

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Global warming changes local bird populations, matching scientists’ predictions

April 3, 2016

Phys.org caption: The American robin, a familiar species across much of continental USA, has declined in some southern states such as Mississippi and Louisiana, but increased in north-central states, such as the Dakotas. Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Phys.org caption: The American robin, a familiar species across much of continental USA, has declined in some southern states such as Mississippi and Louisiana, but increased in north-central states, such as the Dakotas. Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-strong-effects-climate-common-bird.html#jCp

Most serious birdwatchers can tell you about global warming and climate change, just from watching the birds at their feeders, and when those birds migrate.

Now comes a study to confirm with data and controlled observation what the birders have been saying all along. Phys.org reported:

Scientists have shown for the first time that common bird populations are responding to climate change in a similar pronounced way in both Europe and the USA.

An international team of researchers led by Durham University, UK, found that populations of bird species expected to do well due to climate change had substantially outperformed those expected to do badly over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010.

The research, conducted in collaboration with the RSPB and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), is published in the journal Science.

It is the first real demonstration that climate is having a similar, large-scale influence on the abundance of common birds in widely separated parts of the world, the researchers said.

Among the species showing pronounced effects of climate change are common woodland and garden birds such as the wren, in Europe, and the American robin in the USA.

(Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-strong-effects-climate-common-bird.html#jCp)

Biologists especially work to predict effects of warming on plants and animals, both to help plan changes in activities such as farming and hunting, and to protect species that are endangered now, or are likely to become so due to changing climate factors.

This study shows scientists can predict with accuracy some of the wildlife effects.

These changes are consistent with changing climate suitability within those areas, the researchers said.

Other factors, such as the size of the birds, the habitats they live in and their migratory behaviour, all affect , but did not differ systematically between groups advantaged or disadvantaged by climate change.

Therefore, only climate change could explain the differences between average population trends in advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the researchers said.

The study’s lead authors, Dr Stephen Willis and Dr Philip Stephens, of Durham University’s School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, said the findings showed there was a large-scale, consistent response by bird populations to climate change on two continents.

The study was published in the April 1, 2016 issue of Science, “Consistent response of bird populations to climate change on two continents.

Science  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6281, pp. 84-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4858

Tip of the old scrub brush to Svein T veitdal:


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