California Climate Change Report

David Perlman, the long time San Francisco Chronicle science writer, has a sobering front-page article about climate change in California.  The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a 240 page “Indicators of Climate Change in California” report detailing 36 of them.  OMG!  The press release for the report captures the danger:

Key findings of the report include:
  • Temperatures:  The state’s high, low and average temperatures are all rising, and extreme heat events also have increased in duration and frequency. The rate of warming has accelerated since the mid1970s, and night time (minimum) temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as maximum (daytime) temperatures.
  • Wildfires:  The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950.The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period.
  • Water: Spring snow melt runoff has decreased, indicating warmer winter temperatures and more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. Earlier and decreased run off can reduce water supplies, even when overall rainfall remains the same. This trend could mean less water available for agriculture, the environment and a growing population.
  • Coast and Ocean: A number of indicators reflect physical and biological changes in the ocean, impacting a range of marine species, including sea lions, seabirds and salmon. And data for Monterey Bay shows increased carbon dioxide levels in coastal waters, which can harm shell-forming organisms and have impacts throughout the marine food chain.
  • Species Migration: Certain plants and animals have responded to habitat changes influenced by warming. For example, conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada have been moving upslope and certain small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared to the early 1900s.
The Springs fire continues to grow on May 3, 2013 near Camarillo, California.

The Springs fire continues to grow on May 3, 2013 near Camarillo, California.

For the full report see here.  A summary is here.  For a May Scientific Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century, see here.

 

 

It’s the Heat, Stupid!

We’ve just returned from a three week road-trip though parts of the Southwest.  Friends who met us at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona had had to detour because of the Yarnell fire NW of Phoenix which had already killed 19 firefighters. It was 106º in Winslow where we stopped for the night.  On the way home, in Brawley, CA it was 109º at 8:30 at night and 92º at 7:30 in the morning.  Along the way we saw smoke rising from the Dean Peak fire, SE of Kingman, AZ — still not out. And all over the west the bad news keeps burning:

Wildfires are chewing through twice as many acres per year on average in the United States compared with 40 years ago, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told a Senate hearing last month. Since Jan. 1, 2000, about 145,000 square miles have burned, roughly the size of New York, New England, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland combined, according to federal records.

and

Rising temperatures all over the West, for one, have created dangerous, dry conditions.

Over the past 35 years, Arizona has seen dramatic warming, with the state’s 10-year average temperature jumping from 59.1 degrees Fahrenheit in 1977 to 61.4 degrees last year – an increase of 2.3 degrees. By comparison, the entire continental U.S.’ 10-year average temperature jumped only 1.6 degrees during the same period. Experts say every little spike in temperature makes a big difference.

“Even a degree or so warmer, day in day out, evaporates water faster and that desiccates the system more,” said fire ecologist Steve Running of the University of Montana.

In Arizona, where a drought has persisted for nearly two decades, the manzanita, evergreen, mount mahogany and oak in the Yarnell area were so crispy Sunday that a nearby state fire-monitoring station recorded a near-maximum level of potential fuel in area vegetation.

yarnell-fires-3_r640x453

And it’s not just Arizona, of course.  At the Remote Sensing Applications Center, 40 “Current Large Incidents” are being monitored.

 

Most Destructive Fire In Colorado History

The blaze in the Black Forest area northeast of Colorado Springs is now the most destructive in Colorado history, surpassing last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, which burned 347 homes, killed two people and led to $353 million in insurance claims.

“I never in my wildest dreams imagined we’d be dealing a year later with very similar circumstances,” said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. “Maybe we just had 20 to 30 years of luck.”

HuffPost AP

No, Sheriff, but 20-30 years of climate change might have something to do with it.

Climate Change Shows its Teeth: Australia

Ready to jump as fire closes in

Ready to jump as fire closes in

Tim Holmes said he and his wife and their five grandchildren sought shelter in the water under a jetty for three hours.

“We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us and the next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere all around us,” he said.

Later on, he managed to make his way to shore and fetch a dinghy to transport his wife and the children.

Guardian

*

More than 100 separate fires are burning in New South Wales. Some 3,000 sq km of land has been razed.

One of the fires is encroaching on a disused army range littered with unexploded bombs, though fire crews are confident they can tackle the blaze.

Dozens of homes have been destroyed, but no-one is believed to have died.

Wildfires plague Australia most years during the hot, dry summers.

The worst fires in recent memory killed more than 170 people in early 2009.

This year, a spell of record-breaking hot weather across the south-east has helped fan the fires.

BBC

 

The Fires This Time

The Waldo Canyon wildfire in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 26, 2012.

No better way to start out with a photo like the above, and then to follow it up with a fine opening line:

Nature makes a mockery of our vanity.

Timothy Egan has a very strong piece in the New York Times, we hope will add some pile-on to more and more commentary about climate change that might change at last some denying minds.

In Colorado Springs, where even municipal officials have taken the mindless Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes, it cost at least $12 million in tax money — most of it from the rest of us — to contain the fire. Not everybody thinks like Norquist. …

Summer is barely two weeks old and two-thirds of the country is in the grip of a severe drought. More crops will die. More forests will burn. More power brokers will become familiar with the consequences of a derecho. It sounds biblical, but smart scientists have been predicting this very cycle.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a special report of “unprecedented extreme weather and climate events” to come. The events are here, though the skeptics now running the Republican Party deny the obvious, in large part because they are paid to deny the obvious.

This is What Global Warming Looks Like

Climate Progress has a mini celebration that major media outlets are finally beginning to connect the wildfire-windstorm-drought dots and call it climate change. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, talks with Judy Woodruff on The News Hour.

Even the Drudge Report featured this AP article by Seth Borenstein:

So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

“What we’re seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer. “It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters.”

Oppenheimer said that on Thursday. That was before the East Coast was hit with triple-digit temperatures and before a derecho — an unusually strong, long-lived and large straight-line wind storm — blew through Chicago to Washington. The storm and its aftermath killed more than 20 people and left millions without electricity. Experts say it had energy readings five times that of normal thunderstorms.

Then there’s this:

 

AND, Colorado has been burning up, which we have all been watching with suspended breath,  while Russia, terrorized in 2010 by raging fires, is battling some 600 fires this month, which have already burned more acres in the east than those in the west two years ago.

Drought, Heat, Fire: Call it Anything but Don’t Call it Climate Change

“Hundreds of firefighters have joined efforts to tackle two of the biggest wildfires ever seen in the US states of Colorado and New Mexico.

The Colorado blaze shrouded the state capital, Denver, 60 miles (100km) away, in smoke, hampering rescue efforts.

…Smaller fires also burnt in nine drought-stricken western states, including Utah, California and Arizona.”

BBC

But you got to go to Jeff Masters at his Wunderground blog to get a whiff of the word “climate change”

 

Figure 3. The Whitewater Baldy Complex fire seen on our wundermap with the fire layer turned on. The red region outlined in yellow is the active fire perimeter.


Western U.S. wildfires expected to increase due to climate change

Expect a large increase in fires over much of the globe late this century due to climate change, says research published this month in the Journal Ecosphere. Using fire models driven by output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report, the researchers, led by Max Moritz of UC Berkeley, found that 38% of the planet should see increases in fire activity over the next 30 years. This figure increases to 62% by the end of the century. However, in many regions where precipitation is expected to increase–particularly in the tropics–there should be decreased fire activity. The scientists predicted that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability over the next 30 years, and 20% will see decreases by the end of the century.

Is your city doing, or dithering on climate change? See Climate Dithering.

The Great Russian Heat Wave Continues

The mid-term and long-term effects of climate change are looking like they’ve become short-term this summer. Burning in Russia. Drowning in Pakistan. The alarms are being rung around the world but those whose response would matter most are not able to budge themselves to yawn.

* * *

“One of the most remarkable weather events of my lifetime is unfolding this summer in Russia, where an unprecedented heat wave has brought another day of 102°F heat to the nation’s capital. At 3:30 pm local time today, the mercury hit 39°C (102.2°F) at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Moscow had never recorded a temperature exceeding 100°F prior to this year, and today marks the second time the city has beaten the 100°F mark. The first time was on July 29, when the Moscow observatory recorded 100.8°C and Baltschug, another official downtown Moscow weather site, hit an astonishing 102.2°F (39.0°C). Prior to this year, the hottest temperature in Moscow’s history was 37.2°C (99°F), set in August 1920. The Moscow Observatory has now matched or exceeded this 1920 all-time record five times in the past eleven days, including today. The 2010 average July temperature in Moscow was 7.8°C (14°F) above normal, smashing the previous record for hottest July, set in 1938 (5.3°C above normal.) July 2010 also set the record for most July days in excess of 30°C–twenty-two. The previous record was 13 such days, set in July 1972. The past 24 days in a row have exceeded 30°C in Moscow, and there is no relief in sight–the latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures near 100°F (37.8°C) for the next seven days. It is stunning to me that the country whose famous winters stopped the armies of Napoleon and Hitler is experiencing day after day of heat near 100°F, with no end in sight. [bold by wbk]

Thousands of deaths, severe fires, and the threat of radioactive contamination Read more of this post

The Devil's Holiday: Fire and Record Heat

Update below

End of July and southern California becomes the devil’s holiday resort. Fires near Tehachipi; fires near Palmdale

“The flames spread to backyard fences at the edge of Palmdale and plumes of smoke streamed across the city of 139,000. About 2,300 structures were threatened.

Fire officials expect low humidity and high temperatures again today with winds gusts of up to 50 mph in the foothills in the evening.

The blaze is reported to be 20 percent contained.

But the main concern is for major power lines carrying electricity to the region”  [CBS]

More Photos

But California is first in our concern only because it is closest.  Just north, Read more of this post

Fire Season Continues

siberianforestfire Of course September/October in California are the most feared fire months — at the end of the long, hot dry summer but as today’s fire in Santa Barbara, and fires in Arizona, Texas and Florida remind us the fire season is nearly year round.

Year to date comparisons have 2009 in second place to 2006 for the last 9 years for numbers of wild fires, at 32, 351 and in third place for numbers of acres burned: 1,085, 007.

Center for American Progress picks up on a paper published in Science, April 24 saying that fires and the CO2 they emit are grossly under appreciated as contributors to climate change — and a product of it also.

“It’s very clear that fire is a primary catalyst of global climate change,” co-author Thomas W. Swetnam told ScienceDaily. “Fires are obviously one of the major responses to climate change, but fires are not only a response—they feed back to warming, which feeds more fires… The scary bit is that, because of the feedbacks and other uncertainties, we could be way underestimating the role of fire in driving future climate change.”

And it’s not just wild fires. Deliberately set fires to clear forests for planting are an enormous problem from Borneo to Brazil.