Record Breaking Fire Season

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

Fire Statistics. Note Acres Burned

We’ve posted often this summer about the fires sweeping the west, and especially Alaska. Note the number of acres burned so far this year — well above any year of the last ten.

Sea Ice Hunting Gone Walrus Refugees Haul Out On Beaches

Like human refugees fleeing bad conditions around the world north Pacific walrus are going anywhere they can get, over crowded, over stressed and under fed.

Climate WalrusHaulOut

“With the sea ice they depend on for hunting and habitat disappearing at the end of the Arctic melt season, thousands of walruses have once again hauled out onto the northwestern Alaskan shoreline near Point Lay, Alaska.”  from Mashable

Seven out of the last nine years, this has happened.  In 2014 some 35,000 were estimated.

President Obama is due to make an historic visit to Alaska and the Arctic on August 31, with hopes by some that visuals from the great melt will finally end the ginned up debate and get action plans in place.

“The Arctic is unraveling,” said Rafe Pomerance, a member of the Polar Research Board and chair of Arctic 21, a coalition of groups lobbying for action on climate change and other Arctic matters.

… On land, melting permafrost is allowing more planet-warming greenhouse gases to seep into the atmosphere. At sea, there is increased access for shipping, natural resource drilling and military activities.

In the Fairbanks area there is a phenomenon known as “drunken forests” and “drunken homes”, where trees and buildings are leaning at odd angles because the previously frozen soil they rested in is softening up as average temperatures climb.

Thousands of Miles of Toxic Algae Bloom

Climate NOAAView_chloro_july2015_610

“A record-breaking algal bloom continues to expand across the North Pacific reaching as far north as the Aleutian Islands and as far south as southern California.  Coinciding with well above average sea surface temperatures across the North Pacific and West Coast of North America, the bloom is laced with some toxic species that have had far-reaching consequences for sea life and regional and local economies.

  • At least 9 Fin whales were found dead near Kodiak Island, AK, in June, potentially related to the algal bloom…
  • In July, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association received reports of dead and dying whales, gulls, and forage fish in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands…
  • Eextremely high levels of an algal toxin called domoic acid have led to closures of recreational razor clam harvests in Oregon and Washington, as well as closing of large portions of the Washington state Dungeness crab fishery and some of the sardine and anchovy fisheries in California.

NOAA Climate dot gov

From Scientific American, earlier in August:

Although domoic acid, produced by marine diatoms of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, is a naturally occurring toxin, during a toxic algal bloom, it accumulates at dangerous levels in shellfish and small fish like sardines and anchovies, which are then eaten by larger marine creatures and humans. Contaminated seafood can cause nausea and vomiting in people. At high levels, the toxin can cause brain damage, memory loss and even death.

Fires In the West

Sky News reports:

A massive wildfire raging in north-central Washington has become the largest is the state’s history.

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

Western States Wildfires (click for interactive)

The blaze measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, Okanogan County Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said on Monday.

He called the record unfortunate, particularly due to it coming so early in the wildfire season.

“It’s only August 24,” Mr Isaacson said. “In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November.”

And it’s worse in Alaska.  Click here for interactive map of all US fires, and here for an article at EcoWatch, a good site to keep track of.

Hot, Hotter, Not Yet Hottest

CNN reports on NOAA measurments:

July saw the highest average temperatures since record-keeping began — globally, not just in the United States — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday.

Globally, the first seven months of the year also had all-time highs. The latest global temperature data make it likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, the agency said.

NOAA’s findings follow reports by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency, which reached the same conclusion using their own data.


At the same time as CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, so are methane emissions, as long submerged biological matter on seafloors begins to change.

Climate Change Gulf Stream

Methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean appear to be primarily caused by rising ocean heat that is carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean.

AND, methane leaks in human built natural pipelines are now known to be higher than formerly thought.

A little-noted portion of the chain of pipelines and equipment that brings natural gas from the field into power plants and homes is responsible for a surprising amount of methane emissions, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Natural-gas gathering facilities, which collect from multiple wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, about eight times as much as estimates used

For a couple of short, scary videos on methane, try these.


The same warming seas have driven lobster populations further north along the Atlantic seaboard, changing the economics and livelihoods in its wake.

The lobster population has crashed to the lowest levels on record in southern New England while climbing to heights never before seen in the cold waters off Maine and other northern reaches — a geographic shift that scientists attribute in large part to the warming of the ocean.

In drought stricken California, the massive unmonitored extraction of ground water has led to land surfaces changing form, buckling and collapsing.

Last year, areas around the Kings County town of Corcoran between Fresno and Bakersfield dropped 13 inches in eight months, according to the data released Wednesday. Arbuckle, in Colusa County north of Sacramento, sank 5 inches in six months, and points along the California Aqueduct, which carries water beside Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley, fell 8 inches in four months.

Irrigation canals have begun to buckle, wells have fractured and even streets are cracking. State and federal officials fear that railroad lines and home foundations may be next. [SFC]


In the Middle East severe weather is trumping fear of jihadists as Thomas Friedman points out.

On July 31, USA Today reported that in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, a city adjacent to the Persian Gulf, the heat index soared to 163 degrees “as a heat wave continued to bake the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth. ‘That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,’ AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement.

The temperatures are so high in Baghdad, and the electricity for cooling off so irregular that major demonstrations are taking place.


A large group of Muslim scholars recently joined Pope Francis and other religious leaders (and here) in calling for faster action in dealing with the rising temperatures, increasing extreme weather events and the human cost.

The Islamic community became the latest to reaffirm a duty of stewardship on Tuesday, when prominent Muslims from 20 countries urged all 1.6 billion followers of the Prophet Muhammad to “set in motion a new model of well-being.”

In the 8-page declaration, signed at a gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Lebanon and Uganda issued an urgent message to madrasses and mosques worldwide.

To avoid “ending life as we know it,” they called for “a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels,” which scientists blame for global warming. They also urged a swift transition to “100% renewable energy” by mid-century.

The World Will Not Be Your Oyster for Long

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the latest to realize that its famed oyster and clam harvests are increasingly at risk from risinc ocean acidity.

An August 15 front page above the fold article in the SF Chronicle laid out the ugly findings.

About 10 years ago, baby oysters, or spat, began to die at an alarming rate. Farms along the West Coast lost more than half of their bivalves before they reached maturity, creating a shortage of seed. That deficit hit Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall especially hard

… That culprit, ocean acidification, is the caustic cousin of climate change, and it shifts the chemistry of ocean water, making it harder for oysters to grow. That’s because about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, causing pH levels to plummet and making the water more acidic. The more pollution in the air, the more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs.

climate change clams-hi

Back in February, regional newspapers from the Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans picked up on the new study from Nature Climate Change that ocean acidification was going to have major economic impact on their bi-valve farms and the communities that depended on them.

Climate Change Bi Valve Vulnerability


In 2012 a meeting of scientists in Monterey, California took up the issue.

In 2010, Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had a long scholarly article which, despite its academic restraint, was terrifying.

The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystem. 

Just for starters:

Recent studies indicate that rapidly rising greenhouse gas concentrations are driving ocean systems toward conditions not seen for millions of years, with an associated risk of fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation. The impacts of anthropogenic climate change so far include decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distributions, and a greater incidence of disease… [link]

Climate Change Deniers: Follow the Money

Books Merchants_of_DOUBTIn 2010, after 5 years of research, science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, published Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.  In it they located a small group of cold-warrior physicists who, once the Soviet Union fell, looked for other threats to free market capitalism.  They found it in government regulation and began working with the major tobacco companies to provide “scientific” argument that tobacco could not be shown to be damaging to health and should not be regulated.  That fight lost, they moved on to do similar work for the fossil fuel corporations.  The book was well documented and widely praised except, of course, by those who came under its scrutinity.

In 2014  Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner released a 96 minute documentary film, also called Merchants of Doubt, based on the book. [Available NetFlix DVD and Amazon streaming]

Books climate-deception-dossiersYou’d think that would be enough to open a few, necessary eyes — those which have believed the denials of the past decade or so.  Maybe a few, but not enough.  Now comes another broadside.  The Union of Concerned Scientists along with the Climate Investigations Center has published a 340 page report based of Freedom of Information Act obtained documents presenting the efforts to sow doubt and confusion.  The report is called The Climate Deception Dossiers.  It gathers letters, e-mail showing,

“…that the world’s largest fossil fuel companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, coal giant Peabody Energy, and Shellwere fully aware of the reality of climate change but continued to spend tens of millions of dollars to sow doubt and promote contrarian arguments they knew to be wrong. Taken together, the documents show that these six companies, in conjunction with the American Petroleum Institute (API)—the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association—and a host of front groups, have colluded to intentionally deceive the public; their corporate officials have known for at least two decades that their products are harmful; and their disinformation campaign continues today—despite the fact that most of the companies now publicly acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change. [UCS article ]

Among the organizations fighting tooth and nail to disabuse the public of the facts was the infamous ALEC which as long ago as 1998 had workshops at its annual meeting about the dangers of climate science. As recently as 2014 this was in the program.

See page 17 on

See page 17 on

In the section “Holding fossil fuel companies accountable” UCS has suggestions for what should be required of the companies which have helped delay urgent action.

The full report is a PDF here.

Heat Records Climbing Around the World

Recent headlines at Jeff Masters Wunderblog have announced regularly:

Hong Kong Sets All-Time Heat Record

All-Time Record Heat Returns to Germany

All-time July National Heat Records Fall on Three Continents

Tokyo Heat Wave Lasted Eight Days, Doubling All-Time Record

June 2015: Earth’s Warmest June on Record

And the map says it all: the deeper red are all all-time records.

Climate Heat Records


Here, in the Bay Area, the Rocky Fire near Clear Lake is finally under control, after burning through 70,000 acres, but this morning a sibling was born, the Jerusalem fire, already through some 3,000 acres.  Evacuations proceed apace.

And in Europe?  Try Spain for starters.  1,400 evacuated in the southwest, some 15,000 acres burned.


Meanwhile, not ONE of the GOP candidates for president believes any action is necessary.  Why? Because nothing out of the ordinary is happening….

2015 Setting New Heat Records

My seat of the pants (literally) judgment of heat is that even fog shrouded July southern Marin country is hotter than I’ve known it in twenty some years.  Folks with far better measurement than my seat agree.

Climate NOAA-JUNE2015

NOAA’s latest monthly climate report confirms that 2015 will crush previous global temperature records.

That’s especially true up here in the northern hemisphere, where the first half of 2015 is a remarkable 0.36°F warmer than the first half of any year since records started being kept 135 years ago.


Climate Progress

Seabird Populations Diving

They’re not canaries but their deaths may be signalling high danger.

Climate Diving Birds

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers from the University of British Columbia say that there has been a 70 percent drop in the populations of seabirds around the world over the past 60 years, equivalent to the loss of about 230 million birds.pollution.  Climate change, entanglement in fishing gear and the overfishing of species the birds rely on to eat are among the most important factors behind the sharp decline.

See Earthweek and PLOS One for more….