Posting in Energy
Sweltering heat waves could become the new normal, according to new research that estimated the start of permanently hotter summers in parts of the world within two decades.
Sweltering heat waves could become the new normal, according to new research out of Stanford University that estimated the start of permanently hotter summers in parts of the world within two decades.
Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor in Stanford's Department of Environmental Earth System Science and co-author of a forthcoming paper on the topic, recently spoke with me about the phenomenon. Below are excerpts from our interview.
On how this research came to be:
There's been a lot of emphasis on understanding global warming and what global warming does to other aspects of the climate system, such as temperature extremes. When I talk to the public about that work, I often get asked: 'Are you saying we're going to have heat waves all the time? Are the hottest conditions in an area going to become the new normal?' I find myself in a situation where I'm saying, 'That's not the study we did. We can't make that conclusion based on what we did.'
The interaction with the public inspired us to ask that question scientifically. There was so much interest in whether global warming caused what used to be the hottest conditions to become the normal conditions. We took it a step further and asked, 'Does global warming cause what was the hottest summer that ever occurred to become so common that there's never a summer that's cooler?' That was the impetus.
On how the research was conducted:
We used a combination of historical observation from direct measurements from weather stations around the globe and climate model experiments. We face a challenge in understanding global warming and climate change. We can't take the climate system and stick it in a lab and run controlled experiments on it. We have to use mathematical models based on the fundamentals of physics. We use these models to run experiments. We can proscribe as an experiment the known evolution of greenhouse gases over the 20th century and the climate models will calculate the temperatures of given areas across the globe in response. When we look at simulations of the historical period and compare them with observational records, we find that the climate models capture what's seen in the observations very well. With the climate models, we can proscribe changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations that could occur in the future and run experiments.
On the potential impact in different parts of the world:
The tropics show the most rapid and robust emergence of this extreme heat regime. We see that in the observational records. When we look forward with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, we also see that the tropics are the earliest to show this emergence. This is a little bit counter to a lot of the narrative we're used to hearing. A lot of people say, 'I thought the poles were warming up fastest.' That's also true. In this case, we're not just looking at the magnitude of warming. We're looking at how quickly an area moves entirely to a warmer regime. That's a function of the magnitude of warming, but also how variable that old regime was.
Even though the tropics show the most robust emergence, we also see the emergence of extreme heat outside the tropics. In the northern hemisphere, we find that large areas of the United States and Europe and China all show this emergence over the next half century. There's a likelihood that many tropical areas will move into this new permanent heat regime within the next two decades. The western U.S. and the eastern seaboard show large areas that have a chance of moving into this extreme heat regime within the next four to five decades.
On the potential consequences of these temperature shifts:
We are acutely aware of the stress that comes from extreme heat: people dead from extreme heat, brownouts. We know from our day-to-day and historical experience that extreme heat can affect agriculture, energy supply and demand, human health and mortality. For any area, you can imagine what the impact might be based on that area's experience with extreme heat in the recent past. We can expect that if this does occur, people will have to deal with much more frequent stress from extreme heat.
On what can be done about this trend:
What the climate models project for the future is a product of the changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. Depending on where one looks globally, the projected permanent emergence of extreme seasonal heat could be avoided with a reduction in the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. It's interesting that the most immediate intensification is in the tropics. We're looking at an emergence over the next two decades. It's very difficult to imagine slowing that pace of global warming over that time scale. It's mostly within the two degrees target that is agreed upon in the Copenhagen Accord.
On the next step in this research:
We have some more detailed simulations of the U.S. that we're moving forward with. There is certainly the potential for more detailed analysis on other parts of the world as well. This is one of the ongoing research avenues we're moving forward with.
This is something that hasn't been tackled before. It's a complex scientific challenge. It's important to keep in mind that while scientists will continue to debate issues such as are addressed in this paper, issues like this are out on the edges. The debate about whether or not this paper is correct doesn't mean that scientists don't agree on the basic physics of how greenhouse gases affect global mean temperature, for example.
Watch a video about the research.
Photo: Noah Diffenbaugh
Jun 27, 2011
Hmm... just four years ago, in 2007, we had our Coldest July Ever in Austin, Texas. The hottest recorded temperature in Texas was in 1936. Our Hottest Year ever was 1921. Our Coldest Year ever was 1976.
"The debate about whether or not this paper is correct doesn???t mean that scientists don???t agree on the basic physics of how greenhouse gases affect global mean temperature, for example." What a stupid statement. The fact that there is a debate, by definition, means that scientists "don't agree". As many as 30,000 scientists in the U.S. alone totally disagree with all of this man-made global warming hoax! Obviously, they have lowered the admission standards at Stanford!
Mathematical models predicting global warming. Haven't we heard all this before somewhere. Oh yea, the University of East Anglia! Tell the guy from Stanford that I can save him a lot of his government research bucks by taking the measurements right here at home. Just look at the outside thermometer, wet your finger and stick it in the air and measure the wind. Then make it all say whatever you want on that computer program-thingy you got. Then you just tell the government grant-writers whatever it is they want to hear and we'll split the cash. Cha-ching$!
How old is the earth? If you're young earth, it's about 10,000 years. If you're old earth, it's 4+ Billion years. Here's a great idea. Let's base all our decisions on 150 years of data... or even better, let's base our decisions on 30 years of data... or even better, let's base our decisions on select data from the years 1980-2000.... now that's real science. @llandau "were it not for global warming - we would still be living in the ice age" Correct. @riverat1 If the earth does warm, remember that it will open up more northern latitude farmland, and we'll have more food to eat. Remember, most of your current northern latitude farmland was covered by glaciers not too long ago... under global warming brought us out of the last ice age.
All the conversation about warming or cooling sadly diverts attention from the real issue: we are not living a sustainable lifestyle, regardless of what it does or does not do to the environment. That we can exist at all is only because one natural process uses the waste of another in a circular way. As time goes on, one process figures out how to use the waste of another. And eventually that evolution of things made us into what we are. If all outputs can be consumed by some other process in approximately the same timeframes, then everything chugs along just fine. But that is not happening at the moment and will not in the foreseeable future if we don't change how we live. The evidence? The rate at which CO2 and other gasses are accumulating in the atmosphere indicates that no current natural process can use them as fast as we produce them. Yes, all those gasses naturally occur (like the cows mentioned above), but not at the extremely high levels we produce. Unless something finds a way to digest it soon, it will either accumulate beyond our ability to tolerate the effects, whatever they may wind up being, or be corrected by a sudden, massive upheaval (like an ice age or something that big). This happens in all cycles: physics, biology, economy, weather - nothing is exempt from this basic principle.
were it not for global warming - we would still be living in the ice age. While I think it good that we study the earth and its climate - I think it arrogance state such a problem as global warming and then say that Humans are the only ones who can stop it! How many ice ages have come and gone before Humans ever appeared on the planet!?!?!?! TO say that we must change the way cars use energy - will that really fix things? Better yet - lets get rid of all the cows since they put out as much if not more methane gas (and other) than all the cars on earth. The earth is an aging planet same as all others. Its not like we can give her a botox shot or plastic surgery -- and even then - we are simply covering up a "problem" in ourselves that keeps on going. Lets say its true what AL Gore and the rest of them spout out with Global warming. Wouldn't our time and dollars be better spent researching how man can survive in a warming climate instead of looking for some planetary fountain of youth or -- or worse yet -- taking it upon ourselves to fix something that may not even be a problem - just a planetary way of life.
riverat says: Jun 28, 2011 @ 10:35 AM (PDT) cosserat, we've gone over this before. Your graph is simply a numerical model and your extrapolation has no basis in the physical reality unlike climate models that are based on actual physics. What will you say when temperatures continue to rise over the next 25 years rather fall as you predict? riverat, not for the first time, your philosophical stance is dead wrong. A climate model simply reflects a scientific hypothesis. It must be checked against real data. If the two dont agree, the hypothesis is thereby falsifed. So in hypothesis making, you have no right to claim the moral high ground over me, nor I over you. Only time will tell which if us is right. In the meanwhile, other readers can make up their own minds which hypothesis looks the most plausible to them. I am skeptical about the IPCC climate models developed before 2000 because they have lamentably failed to predict the flat-lining of the temperature curve in the last decade to 2010. Just take a look at: http://www.thetruthaboutclimatechange.org/IPCCScenarios.html The blue, green and red lines represent increasingly pessimistic IPCC assumptions made prior to 2000 about future carbon emissions from 2000 to 2100. The blue, green and red plots show increasingly alarming temperature levels at 2100. The black plot to 2000 is the actual historical temperature record. Since 2000 to 2010 the actual temperature plot has been HORIZONTAL! I suggest that any reasonably balanced intelligent person looking at this data would have to conclude that, as a minimum, the IPCC climate models failed to predict that particular outcome. Of course you may be of the view that this is just a short term downward swing - a natural climate "blip". Whereas I propose that this looks suspiciously like the beginning of the downward half of the ~67 year up-and-down historic natural cycle. Neither of us knows for sure. But we will all know the answer in 10 to 15 years time.
As Dr. Diffenbaugh said, we have to use models instead of running actual experiments on the climate. And models can be quite useful and accurate, as witness the models we use to predict the weather every day. However, unlike the weather, which essentially gives us an actual new experiment every day to test the weather models, we've only got one climate history. Most of the climate data is spotty at best. We are reduced to using things like tree rings to estimate temperature when what we really need are actual temperature measurement over the surface of the earth, deep in the oceans, and up in the atmosphere. And these models contain all kinds of parameters. If you don't like the answer, just twiddle the dials until you get the answer you like. Since you only have one climate history to duplicate in your model, that's not hard. As scientific proof, it's of limited value. People forget that the Ptolemaic (earth-centered) model of the solar system was actually quite accurate in predicting the movement of the planets as seen from the earth. Over the centuries, its "wheels-within-wheels" model had been tweaked to the point that it worked. Long before we could send satellites into space, the Copernican model was eventually accepted only because it was conceptually simpler and was nicely explained later by Newtonian physics. The point is that just having a model that predicts observations is not the same as having an explanation.
. . .was the emails sent that included warnings to other scientists who did not agree with the mainstream. Science should be open to all opinions and only be served by facts. If a theory is based on foolishness it will show it's face soon enough. No scientists should be threatened with cut off of funds or publishing or anything else. Let the truth shine. Otherwise you are no better that the tobacco companies and their research. Now you have half of the Americans believing that global warming or climate change is just an attempt to control all the research dollars. Very tragic.
"As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. "Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7?? F. "When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. "Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin's Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth. "Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years." Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914,00.html#ixzz1QbEj1Uc5
The latest word is that cooling will result from the lack of sunspots. But the warnings about cooling do not have the hype, smoke, and mirrors of the warming crowd.
I am sure the Stanford Department of Environmental Earth System Science is of course being entirely objective and scientific and not at all influenced by the large tranches of money it receives annually from the US Government, enabling Assistant Professors to spout complete garbage - all based on futuristic climate models rather than on real data. In most other walks of life this is called "crystal ball gazing", aka charlatanism. Sadly, in climate science it appears to be the norm. Over the past 160 years of reasonably reliable temperature instrumentation, the Earth on average has warmed at the gentle and completely unalarming rate of about 0.4degC per century. Most sane scientists recognise this to be due to the upward swing of a very long term natural ~1000 year temperature cycle whose last high point occurred around 1000AD and whose last low point occurred around 1500AD. Climate alarmism has risen to a crescendo because between 1970 and 2000 there was an additional temperature effect, caused by the upswing half of a medium term and also entirely natural ~67 year temperature oscillation. This added another 0.25degC which, added to the historic upward trend, did look a bit alarming - at least to those who wished for it to be so. But unfortunately for the alarmists, that additional temperature excursion is now well over its peak and into its downswing phase. Over the next 25 years it will subtract about 0.25degC, thus balancing the previous 0.25degC rise and ensuring that the very long term average rise of around 0.4degC per century will carry on unalarmingly exactly as before. I have not made this up. It is based on the official HadCRUT3 world temperature data series. Just take a look at: http://www.thetruthaboutclimatechange.org/tempsworld.html Do you see the red line rising and falling over the ~67 cycle, looking alarming (to some) during its steep rise between 1970 and 2000? And then do you see the long term blue trend line, carrying on at the unalarming rate of 0.4degC per century, as it always has done. Come on Smart Planet. You can surely do better than allow rubbish like this into your otherwise fascinating publication.
That people are more concerned with limiting Chinas CO2 output over a theoretical increase in temperature while the amount of lead and mercury dumped into the atmosphere grows every year by their increasing numbers of coal plants. These proven pollutants are causing very real and highly predictable health issues within China and spreading known poisons on a global scale. Poison the planet while we waste time trying to stop the evil CO2 and you will see any possible global climate change hit a planet full of corpses who will care less how warm or cold it gets.
Actually, we still are in an Ice Age, the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation which started about 2.5 million years ago. Historically, the normal state of the earth is not to be in an Ice Age, and has no ice at the poles. We are in a relatively warm period, but it's thought that whatever caused the current Ice Age is still going on with periods of 40,000 and 100,000 years between major glaciation (the last glaciation was 10,000 years ago). I haven't heard any climatologist, even those who accept man-made global warming, claim that what we're doing now or in the near future will overcome this natural process. I suppose that if we burned every last bit of carbon we have, it could overwhelm this cycle but we're actually no where near doing that.
Nice quote from the 1970's. The problem is, despite what those scientists you quoted were saying, that from the late 1960s to 1979 peer reviewed papers supporting global warming outnumbered those supporting global cooling by over 4 to 1. You're argument only works on people who aren't paying attention.
The latest word from actual climate scientists is that despite lower solar activity the warming will continue. I guess the truth of their assertions will be obvious in 10-20 years if the warming continues.
"Most sane scientists recognize this to be due to the upward swing of a very long term natural ~1000 year temperature cycle whose last high point occurred around 1000AD and whose last low point occurred around 1500AD." Medieval Warm Period = 950 AD to 1250 AD Little Ice Age = 1550 AD to 1850 AD Come on cosserat, it is not fair to bring both science and historical facts into a global warming discussion.
cosserat, we've gone over this before. Your graph is simply a numerical model and your extrapolation has no basis in the physical reality unlike climate models that are based on actual physics. What will you say when temperatures continue to rise over the next 25 years rather fall as you predict?
Maybe he/she meant describe. Or maybe they were going back to the roots of the word to publish. I agree, under the dictionary definition, it is not what was intended.
The Earth is not billions and billions of years old there is no absolute proof of that anymore than there is that it is only around 10000 years old. Just as there is no absolute proof of evolution, because when you take away your billions and billions then there can be no evolution. As for the new global warming (now climate change--which could cover cooling as well), I believe in an almight God who will not let his creation be destroyed by the likes of us, He will cause a volcano to erupt or some other thing to happen to cool the planet if necessary or He will just say "times up!" and call us to our reward or punishment as we have asked for. With what is happening in the Middle East it might not be that far into the future. In which case we won't have to worry about it. The fact that there are billions more people than there were just a century ago has to have some effect on the climate as well. the researcher didn't mention that item.
Agreed, Hates Idiots. We live in a closed loop, so whatever bi-products we create must go somewhere productive. When they can't, they poison us. Again, arguing over weather and climate is a smoke screen. What we really need to do is clear the smoke to work on balancing what we give with what we take.
At the big global warming summit in Cancun in December 2010, which saw Mexico having unusually cold weather, a group of leading global warming scientists stated that ending all man made CO2 emissions would not stop global warming. The only way to stop global warming was to pump millions of tons of sulfur aerosols into the upper atmosphere to reverse global warming. http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/uba-info-presse-e/2011/pe11-032_large_scale_engineering_in_global_environmental_processes_an_alternative_in_climate_protection.htm
That is 'your' not 'you're'! Usually it is misused the other way around. All it takes is one long volcanic eruption or several, to cool everything down.
@riverat1 I guess you're not paying attention, becaused you missed the point. Forty years ago, leading scientists were saying one thing. Today, leading scientist, who hide and manipulate data, are saying the opposite. What did leading scientist say before, and what will they say 20 years from now. The global climate change movement is a political movement, using selective scientific data. Hotter summers may become the norm? Heck, it's hot this summer in Austin, but it's almost always hot here in the summer.. except in 2008 when we didn't even have a summer, and it's still cooler than 2009. Then there are all those ski slopes open for Independence Day weekend.
@riverat1 how many scientist were reveered by their peers when stating the sun revolved around the earth? Or that the earth was flat? It only takes one person to get it right. sometimes the large groups are the ones not paying attention and YES science does support THAT!
...when their argument mainly consists of "heads, we're right; tails you're wrong" reasoning? In the future there could be an ice sheet 1000 feet thick over most of North America, and if they are still around they'll argue that "Well, it would be 2000 feet thick if it weren't for anthropogenic global warming!"
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/14/ice_age/ Will diminishing solar activity outpace the supposed warming due to CO2 emissions? And if so, in 10 years will the Progressives be suggesting that we burn more fossil fuels so people won't freeze to death? Stay tuned!
You mean the ones funded by the Oil Companies? So who is the one source funding the worlds univeristies, the Illuminati? Yep, their 60 years of falsified reseach is finally paying off.
Yes, when "nearly all scientists" say; just not the ones in one particular field who are almost exclusively funded from the same source.
Wish I had time to stay in this conversation but I'm headed out for a weeks vacation in 10 minutes. If in 10 years the Earth has cooled I'll be willing to change my mind. Will you be willing to change yours if it continues to warm as nearly all scientists say?