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Man-Made Climate Change Was Factor in 2012 Extreme Weather, Study Finds

Environment  (tags: animals, climate-change, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, endangered, environment, globalwarming, greenhousegases, habitatdestruction, healthconditions, nature, oceans, politics, pollution, science, Sustainabililty, world )

- 1737 days ago -
Scientists say atmospheric pollution contributed to half of the extreme weather-related events of last year

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Kit B (276)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 8:58 am
Photo Credit: Darren McCollester 2012

Man-made climate change may have contributed to half of the extreme weather events of 2012, scientists said in a new report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

The report (PDF), published Friday by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is based on studies of about a dozen extreme weather events from around the world in 2012 -- from northern Europe’s unusually wet summer to Hurricane Sandy.

The scientists were aiming to answer the question from which their field of study, known as “climate attribution science,” was born: How many of these events were caused by man-made climate change as opposed to natural variability?

Their conclusion, based on factors such as sea-surface temperatures, changes in incoming solar radiation and many others, is that human influence varies from one event to another. But in about half of the extreme events studied, they found that man-made climate change was a contributing factor.

Attempting to decipher whether or not climate change is the dominant factor in these events is a complex process.

Using an analogy, the AMS report explained: “Adding just a little bit of speed to your highway commute each month can substantially raise the odds that you’ll get hurt some day. But if an accident does occur, the primary cause may not be your speed itself: it could be a wet road or a texting driver.”

Likewise, while climate models indicate that compounded human effects increase the frequency of extreme-weather events -- “much like speeding increases the chances of having an accident” -- natural variability may still be the primary factor in any individual event.

Hurricane Sandy's intensity, for example, was reportedly compounded by both human effects and natural variability.

Global warming caused by human atmospheric pollution makes storms more frequent and intense, the report said. Hurricane Sandy happened to hit the East Coast at peak storm-tide levels and close to local high tide -- what researchers behind the report call natural variability. Further aggravating the intensity of the storm was Sea Level Rise (SLR), which has been shown to make flooding events worse.

'Century scale events'

In 2012 the United States experienced its most severe drought in decades, with more than half of all counties in the country listed as natural-disaster areas by the Department of Agriculture.

“For much of the central U.S., such conditions of combined scarcity of precipitation and elevated temperature had not been experienced since the Dust Bowl years of 1934 and 1936,” the report said.

The drought resulted in low or even zero crop yields, reduced livestock inventory, increases in food prices and at least 123 direct human deaths, according to the report, which called it a “century scale event.”

The report attributed the drought to a combination of factors, including increased surface heating due to human pollution -- more specifically, greenhouse-gas emissions.

A recently convened Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) examining extreme weather events said it was confident that the central United States would experience an increase in duration and intensity of droughts in the coming years.

The report seemingly supports IPCC’s claim, finding that such large-scale droughts are four times as likely amid current temperatures than at pre-industrial levels. A model scenario developed by the NOAA scientists found that increases in temperature resulted in decreases of overall precipitation.

Higher temperatures have also been blamed for extensive ice loss in the Arctic, but the report found that it is not that simple. Melting ice, the report says, cannot be wholly attributed to human effects, but to a natural, gradual warming of Earth.

Yet global warming from man-made atmospheric pollution did contribute to a large storm which transited over the Arctic, breaking up the ice and sending a significant amount to warmer waters.

Some climate models project that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within a decade -- spelling disaster for low-lying countries such as Bangladesh and Pacific Island nations already feeling the effects of SLR.

Future of climate change

NOAA scientists behind the report say they hope to help provide “information that governments, organizations, and individuals can use to manage climate risks and opportunities.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), global average temperatures have already increased more than 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. Scientists project the Earth’s average temperatures to rise between 2 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Increasing the average global temperature by a degree or two can have serious global consequences.

For every 2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, the EPA says it expects a 5 to 15 percent reduction in crop yields; a 3 to 10 percent increase in rain during heavy precipitation events which can lead to flooding; a 5 to 10 percent decrease in stream flow and some river basins; and a 200 to 400 percent increase in the area burned by wildfire in parts of the western United States.

The magnitude and frequency of future climate change depends on the rate at which levels of greenhouse gas emissions increase in the atmosphere, and how strongly temperature, precipitation and sea levels respond to expected increases in emissions, the report said.

By: Renee Lewis | Al Jazeera America |

Elle B (84)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 10:35 am
Ty Kit ... we can expect much more climate change and intense weather conditions in the very near future including NOW. . .as the constant "weather modification" and "geo-engineering" efforts and activities increase across the globe. Once again, acting in haste rather than employing thoughtful reflection and restraint prior to engaging.

"The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, ..." ―Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, États et empires de la lune, 1656

"Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work." ―Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, A.D. 77

" ...recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, mankind, water, air, and land. Most importantly there must always be awareness of the actions by people that can disturb this precious balance." ― Margaret Mead

"Understanding the laws of nature does not mean that we are immune to their operations." —David Gerrold

"Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth." —Albert Schweitzer

"It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity. I hope that someday, our humanity might yet surpass our technology." —Albert Einstein


JL A (281)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 11:44 am
great analagous situations to help people understand why human contributions must be addressed and cannot be dismissed with any merit by scientists

Carrie B (306)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 11:50 am
And these weather changes are continuing and will continue in the future. Thanks Kit.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 12:41 pm

Kathy Javens (104)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 2:46 pm
Thank you very much Kit for this very important post. I do agree that humans are part of the problem and that those in denial need to take their heads out of the sand and help find a solution...NOW!

Craig Pittman (52)
Sunday September 15, 2013, 4:58 pm
Until weather change considerations are factored in ahead of economic ones we will continue to be forced to react and adapt as best we can. Our priorities continue to be skewed.
Thanks for the story Kit.

Frances Darcy (133)
Monday September 16, 2013, 1:26 am
Man to blame for most problems..

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 4:08 am
Thanks for the article.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 4:13 am

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 5:56 am

Connie O (44)
Monday September 16, 2013, 7:20 am
Thanks for the article. The naysayers will continue unfortunately.

Connie O (44)
Monday September 16, 2013, 7:21 am
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Wim Zunnebeld (144)
Monday September 16, 2013, 7:38 am
Noted, thx for the info and the comments

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Monday September 16, 2013, 9:01 am
Thank you for the interesting article!

. (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 9:10 am
I've thought about the Deep Water Horizon disaster and when it happened I speculated that there was something like an oil curtain created from the Gulf to the upper Eastern Seaboard. After all we all know from Science 101 that wind picks up moisture as it travels. That was a lot of oil spilled and it lay on the upper surface for quite a while. Even a doctor in Florida was reporting an increase in respiratory illnesses among the children two weeks after the rig accident.
Factor in the increased methane and other noxious gasses from Fracking and bitumen drilling and all the contamination through seepage; leakage; transportation accidents and other cross contamination factors and you do have a recipe for disaster; of which we are only beginning to experience the results of our idiocy.
Decreased wetlands; depleted coral reefs and disappearing forests are all major contributors to extreme climate change of which we are the authors. We can cut out fertilizers and pesticides; reduce the runoff by shutting down factory farms but I think it is a question of too little too late. Still, each of us must do what we can.

Gene J (290)
Monday September 16, 2013, 12:41 pm
"Man-made climate change may have contributed to half of the extreme weather events of 2012, scientists said in a new report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (AMS)."

2013 is going to be every bit as bad - just ask Coloradans with this once in a thousand years storm they have just endured. Or any number of other places where absolutely ridiculous weather, heat, cold, enormous storms have wreaked havoc this year and we're not done yet.

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 2:18 pm
No matter how bad the weather is this year, we should enjoy 2013 as best we can. Compared to what's coming, these are the "good ol' days" that we will remember much more kindly in the climate-ravaged decades to come.

SuSanne P (193)
Monday September 16, 2013, 5:20 pm
Thank you Kit. I couldn't agree more with Brian's post right above me...
"Compared to what's coming, these are the "good ol' days..."

SuSanne P (193)
Monday September 16, 2013, 5:22 pm
Unfortunately I cannot STAR you again Brian... and those already STARED!


Sheila D (194)
Monday September 16, 2013, 6:00 pm
Michael is right, the worst is yet to come and all we can do is ride it out. It's time to batten down the hatches...
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