Connecting the Dots…to Climate Change
It is becoming more apparent that warming of the climate is unequivocal…Posted May 26, 2011
The mainstream media seems infatuated with Harold Camping and his prediction that the world would end May 21. The Christian radio broadcaster received daily front-page coverage in the lead up to the big day. On May 22, waking to another day here on earth, Mr. Camping pronounced that his math was a bit off, and that actually the world will end this coming October 21st. And the major news outlets seem to have taken the bait once again, continuing their daily coverage of the false Doomsday prophet.
The readership seems to share in the fascination. In yesterday’s Washington Post, this article was “shared” by 8,184 people:
“Harold Camping says May 21 was ‘invisible judgment day’, world will end October 21, 2011“.
In the same edition, this article was “shared” by 1,237 people:
“A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!”
I couldn’t help but note that six times as much interest was generated by the antics of Harold Camping than the hard-hitting article by Bill McKibben about the real threat to our earthly existence – climate change.
Apparently, fantasy trumps reality. But every day we focus on distractions like Harold Camping, we further forestall the discussion on matters more relevant to our well-being. Climate change is real, it is impacted by human activities, and 95% of the global scientific community is urging us to take action to minimize its impact to ourselves and future generations. If we want to be fascinated by “doomsday” stories, our present-day environmental narrative is unmatched by the fantasies of the Harold Campings of the world.
Looking at a list of recent severe climate events reminds me of those “connect-the-dots” puzzles in children’s art books. Each climate event furthers the drawing, and the picture is starting to look like climate change in action to me. But you can read the list below and draw your own conclusions.
May 22, 2011: Tornado in Joplin, Missouri – A half-mile-wide tornado killed at least 118 people when it blasted much of this Missouri town off the map and slammed straight into its hospital. Rated as an EF-5, the most destructive designation, it was the nation’s deadliest single twister since modern record-keeping began more than 60 years ago, and the second major tornado disaster in less than a month.
April – May, 2011: Mississippi River basin flooding – A slow moving catastrophe which began across the Upper Midwest during April slowly made its way southward along the Mississippi through May. Numerous states in the region had record wet Aprils, causing the river to swell to near record levels. The Army Corps of Engineers opened spillways in eastern Louisiana, flooding some residential areas, to protect the highly populated areas of Baton Rouge and New Orleans and the infrastructure around the ports of the cities.
April, 2011: Red River flooding – Above-average winter snowfall across the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains brought near-record flooding to a wide area. The Red River, which flows northward between North Dakota and Minnesota into Canada, rose more than seven feet (2.1 m) in 48 hours. In Fargo, North Dakota, the river crested at 38.6 feet (11.8 m), which is just shy of the record which occurred in 2009 when the river crested at 40.8 feet (12.4 m). In Manitoba, Canada, snowmelt and heavy rains created incredible flooding along the Assiniboine River. The flood levels were determined to be at a 1 in 300 year flood level.
April – present, 2011: Texas wildfires – The amount of acreage burned in Texas in 2011 has surpassed the record level set in 2006, when nearly 2 million acres were burned by wildfires. So far this year, more than 2.6 million acres have burned. Texas State Climatologist John Nielson-Gammon said the fires are due to a historic drought gripping the state. March was the driest March ever recorded in Texas.
March 11, 2011: Japan earthquake and tsunami – Japans northeast coastal region was hit by a massive 9.0 earthquake, the largest in the country’s history, that triggered a deadly 23-foot tsunami. The giant waves deluged cities and rural areas alike, sweeping away cars, homes, buildings, a train, and boats, leaving a path of death and devastation in its wake. Damage from the quake triggered explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, resulting in partial meltdowns in several nuclear reactors.
Feb. 2011: “Snowpocalypse” blankets 30 states – One of the biggest winter storms since the 1950s walloped at least 30 U.S. states, according to NASA. Snow, sleet and freezing rain were part of a massive system that stretched from Texas, through the Rockies, and into New England. In particular, the storm brought blizzard conditions to the Midwest, severe ice buildup in the Mississippi River valley, and heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Deep South. Philadelphia and New York City experienced record snowfalls.
Feb. 27, 2011: Chile earthquake – A magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck central Chile, destroying over 500,000 homes. Reports indicate that a tsunami struck near the epicenter within 30 minutes of the quake, causing even more damage and loss of life.
Feb. 21, 2011: New Zealand earthquake – A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck southern New Zealand causing extensive damage in the city of Christchurch. The quake caused 30 million tons of ice to break off the Tasman glacier, the biggest glacier in New Zealand, about 200 km from Christchurch.
Feb. 2011: Tropical Cyclone Yasi – This Category 5 cyclone struck Queensland, Australia. Wind gusts were estimated to have reached 180 mph in some areas, causing extensive destruction.
Dec. 2010 – Jan. 2011: Record flooding, cyclones, flooding in Australia – Australia faced its worst flooding in about 50 years. The year 2010 was the third wettest year for Australia as a whole and the wettest on record for the state of Queensland, where the floods were the most devastating. Tropical rains began just before Christmas and poured down for days, flooding an area the size of France and Germany combined.
July – Aug. 2010: Pakistan flood – The summer of 2010 produced Pakistan’s worst flooding in 80 years. The flooding, which began with the arrival of the annual monsoons, eventually affected about one-fifth of the country — nearly 62,000 square miles — or an area larger than England.
May 2010: Nashville, Middle Tennessee flood – Over 13 inches of rain was recorded over a two day period, doubling the previous record.
January 12, 2010: Haiti earthquake – A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, destroying much of Port au Prince, and causing extensive damage throughout adjacent regions. Casualties resulting from the massive quake are still unknown, but the Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million people may have been affected.
Sept. 2009: Australian dust storm – The east coast of Australia experienced its biggest dust storm on record. The dust plume measured more than 500 kilometres (310 mi) in width and up to 3,450 km (2143 mi) in length. The concentration of dust broke records in many towns and cities.
Jan. – Feb. 2009: Australian heat wave – The early 2009 southeastern Australia heat wave brought record-breaking prolonged high temperatures to the region. The heat wave is considered one of the, if not the, most extreme in the region’s history. During the heat wave, fifty separate locations set various records for consecutive, highest daytime and overnight temperatures. The highest temperature recorded during the heat wave was 48.8 °C (119.8 °F).
May 2, 2008: Cyclone Nargis – The death toll from Cyclone Nargis remains uncertain but has been put at 140,000 or more. Caught with nowhere to run, residents of low-lying rice fields in Myanmar were simply swept away.
Oct. 8, 2005: Pakistan earthquake – A magnitude-7.6 earthquake in Pakistan, killing more than 40,000 people. The destruction was due in part to the quake’s shallow origin.
Aug. 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina – The costliest hurricane in US history, Katrina struck the Louisiana coast with 125 mph sustained winds, causing a storm surge that broke levees, leaving 80 percent of New Orleans under water. Katrina killed at least 1,836 people and inflicted damages estimated at around $125 billion.
Dec. 26, 2004: Indian Ocean earthquake – The magnitude-9.3 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting Sumatran tsunami is estimated to have killed more than 225,000 people. It affected a broader region and more people than any modern disaster.
Is the climate warming?
The years, 2010, 2005 and 1998 ranked as the warmest on record. The decade 2001–2010 was also the warmest ever recorded.
It is not fully understood how the incidence of earthquakes relates to climate change, but scientists have for the first time shown a link between intensifying climate events and tectonic plate movement.
An Australian-led team of researchers from France and Germany found that the strengthening Indian monsoon had accelerated movement of the Indian plate over the past 10 million years by a factor of about 20 percent.
“The closure or opening of new ocean basins or the build of large mountain bands like the Andes or Tibet itself, those are geological processes that affect the pattern of climate,” said Iaffaldano, an earth scientist with the Australian National University.
“We are showing for the first time that the opposite also is true, that the pattern of climate is then able to affect in a feedback mechanism the motion of tectonic plates.”
What the scientific community predicted is now happening
According to the IPCC Third Assessment Report: Climate Change 2001, it was “very likely” (90-99% probability) that there would be:
- Higher maximum temperatures, and more hot days over nearly all land areas;
- Higher minimum temperatures, and fewer cold days and frost days over nearly all land areas;
- More intense precipitation events over many areas.
It projected it was “likely” (67-90%) that there would be:
- Increased summer drying over most mid-latitude continental interiors and associated risk of drought;
- Increase in tropical cyclone peak wind intensities, mean and peak precipitation intensities
over some areas;
- Intensified droughts and floods associated with El Niño events in many different regions;
- Increased Asian summer monsoon precipitation variability.
In June, 2009, the U.S. Global Change Research Program reported that:
“Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with important contributions from the clearing of forests, agricultural practices, and other activities.”
We can still reduce the pace of warming
Climate change is underway, and our planet is being impacted by some degree of increased warming. The degree of impact is yet to be determined. However, by reducing greenhouse gases emissions we can reduce the pace of warming and the resulting increase in climate extremes.
It’s past time for us to disregard the antics of religious doomsday prophets and the shallow reasoning of climate-change deniers, and listen to our scientists. Denial may be the first reaction to crisis, but it is action that brings results.