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This Summer is What Global Warming Looks Like

2012/07/04

A few months ago, as the La Nina event was drawing to a close, I commented on a friend’s blog that maybe 2012 would be the year that the weather got so bad that North Americans would have to admit that our climate was changing. (Not that 2011 was all that wonderful.)  Of course, I would never wish horrible weather on anyone, but, I figured that at some point, it would get so bad in North America that “we” would no longer be able to ignore what scientists had been telling us for decades.

Well, it seems that I may have been right.

It all started during the “winter that wasn’t really a winter.  In the US, winter 2011-2012 was the fourth warmest and the third least snowy since records began.  Canada’s winter was even more spectacular being the third warmest (see image below) and second driest in our recorded history.  That’s according to Environment Canada. (Hey, people still work at Environment Canada?!?)  And just in case you thought this past winter was simply a “freak accident”, according to the graph below, Canadian winters have warmed 3,2 degrees Celsius (!) over the past 65 years.

Temperature departures from normal - Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) 2011/2012.  Image: Environment Canada.

Temperature departures from normal – Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) 2011/2012. Image: Environment Canada.

Departure from 1961-1990 average winter temperatures.  Image: Environment Canada.

Departure from 1961-1990 average winter temperatures. Image: Environment Canada.

Then came the incredible heat wave in March, when a great big chunk of North America saw temperatures in the high twenties and thousands of temperatures records where broken – some by double digits.

The winter and spring alone would have been enough to get people asking questions, but then summer reared its head.  While early June saw massive flooding in Minnesota and Florida, late June and early July have brought record heat to both coasts of the US.  Here is a quote from Climate Progress:

The U.S. is getting hit by a range of powerful extreme weather events this summer. Record droughts in the West and Midwest are fuelling historic wildfires, putting pressure on farmers, and driving up crop prices. Extreme “hurricane-like” storms took eastern states by surprise over the weekend, knocking out power to millions of people and leaving them sweltering in an ongoing heat wave. Across the country in June, more than 3,000 heat records were broken.

Record forest fires in Colorado.  Image: survivalistboards.com

Record forest fires in Colorado. Image: survivalistboards.com

Eastern Canada (more specifically southern Ontario and Québec) were also hit by a heat wave in mid June  when temperatures where reaching the low 30’s, with humidex readings in the low 40’s!  And that’s in June…

Luckily, news organizations are connecting the dots between climate change and this incredible weather we are experiencing.  Here are a couple headlines that I have come across on the web:

– From the Associated Press: This US summer is ‘what global warming looks like’.

– From CBC: Climate change linked to recent weather extremes.

And take a look at this NBC meteorologist making the connection to global warming on the air:

If a silver lining is to be found among the disastrous weather of the past two years, it is that public understanding of climate change is increasing.  Maybe now there can be enough pressure on the “powers that be” to do something about it.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Lack permalink
    2012/07/06 11:04 am

    I have clicked on the Like button but, in reality, no-one could possibly like what is happening.

    That temperature anomaly map of Canada is very telling – you will never see that on WUWT? – they are much more keen on lying to themselves that the temperature anomaly is less than half of one degree Celsius (which it is if you measure the temperature of the lower atmosphere above the Great Southern Ocean).

    In the meantime, Denver CO and Washington DC continue to suffer from temperatures over 100F/38C and – following on from the wettest June on record – a full 80mm of rain (over 3 inches) is expected today over
    parts of the UK.

    What disappoints me most is the BBC’s refusal to mention climate change in their reporting of this highly unusual weather – it is all just due to the Jet Stream being over France rather than Iceland. Very true but – why is it in the wrong place?

    • 2012/07/06 12:06 pm

      “it is all just due to the Jet Stream being over France rather than Iceland. Very true but – why is it in the wrong place?”

      Answer: Vacation?

      Seriously though, that is probably the most frustrating part – news organizations not pointing out that what is happening is not normal… and it isn’t just “normal variability”. They have a responsibility to notice the changing patterns in our weather and speaking to climatologists on the air in order to connect the dots for their audience.

      • Martin Lack permalink
        2012/07/06 1:13 pm

        Thanks JP, My laptop is messing me about today. The BBC seem to admit that what is happening is not normal – they just seem to be avoiding suggesting any reason for the abnormality!

  2. 2012/07/07 8:28 am

    Hi JP,
    thanks for sharing. The map looks really shocking.
    I totally agree that it is necessary to raise awareness of climate change in the general public, but I don’t think that the weather forecast is the right place to communicate that. Why?
    Well, it’s all about statistics and empirical evidence. If you present a white swan to the general public once, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all swans are white. But if you present a different white swan to the general public every day – one might conclude that there could be a lot of white swans out there. But in the end there still might be a black swan somewhere.
    Weather is not climate. And meteorologists are no climate scientists.
    Hence, it wouldn’t be scientifically correct, if they would derive climate change the one extreme weather event. So, they have to confine themselves to stating the abnormality, and leave it to the scientific community, the journalists, the polititicians and the general public to draw the right conclusions.
    For obvious reasons this is a pity, but it is statistically correct to do that.

    • 2012/07/07 9:33 am

      Very good point. I guess what I would like to see is anyone making those connections in the media. Why not have a meteorologist invite a climatologist on his show to discuss the trends or discuss for example what is happening throughout North America.

      I’m afraid that the average person focuses on the “here and now” and so does not make the weird weather-climate change connection. As a result, when they here stories like “climate gate”, they can more easily be swayed. Or when they hear about climate change conferences, they do not see the importance.

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