Monday, July 16, 2012

Heat wave and climate change news for the week of Bastille Day

In last week's post about the heat wave, drought, and other weather and climate stories, I noted the following about commercial news sources.
Over at Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Higgs boson and heat wave edition), I took the week off from compiling stories from campuses on the campaign trail to trawl from one of my favorite commerical sources, Discovery News. Since they're an outfit that wants to draw eyeballs, they'll write on what they think will do exactly that. Last week, it was the heat wave. Here are the stories they wrote about the phenomenon.
In Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Bastille Day edition) on Daily Kos, I included some more stories from Discovery News which were about both the heat wave and climate change, but I also found out that some of the colleges on the campaign trail, in particular University of North Carolina, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, were also following the current climate very closely. It's not just the commercial sources that pay attention to what people want to know.

I'll kick off this week's weather and climate stories with an article from Discovery News, which follows up on what I wrote in article on warmest spring in Detroit history a month ago.

2012 Hottest Half-Year Ever
By Tim Wall
July 10, 2012
2012 is staying on track as a year of extreme weather events. NOAA reports that June was two degrees F hotter than the 20th-century average, which contributed to making the first half of 2012 the warmest ever in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895.

The period from June 2011 to June 2012 was also the hottest 12-month period in the nation's history, with an average national temperature of 52.9 degrees F (11.61 degrees C), 4.5 degrees F above average.

Hidden within the average is a great degree of variety across the United States. While some areas were scorched and parched, others were chilly, drowned in deluges or lashed by freak storms.
The NOAA infographic that accompanied that article shows the weather events for the June just finished.

And the year's only half done.

Follow over the jump for more weather and climate news.

One of the great long-term threats from climate change is sea level rise. The latest issue of Science News includes an article that indicates that it may be worse than we thought.

Science News: East Coast faces faster sea level rise
Cities from North Carolina to Massachusetts see waters rising more rapidly
By Devin Powell
July 28th, 2012; Vol.182 #2 (p. 17)
Property values aren’t all that’s been rising in Manhattan. The height of the water lapping up against the Big Apple and many East Coast cities has been creeping up faster in recent decades.

“We have direct evidence of a hot spot stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to just above Boston,” says Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the U.S. Geological Survey’s St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in Florida. “The area has an unusual sea level rise acceleration compared to the rest of the United States.”

Global warming could be driving the acceleration, researchers report online June 24 in Nature Climate Change. With temperatures still climbing, further ocean rises could increase the risk of flooding, encroach on wetlands and give hurricane storm surges extra punch.
The largest sources of the rising sea water will be from Antarctica and Greenland. Right on cue, there are articles on both ice-capped land masses.

Texas A&M: Antarctica At Risk
July 12, 2012
The continent of Antarctica is at risk from human activities and other forces, and environmental management is needed to protect the planet’s last great wilderness area, says an international team of researchers, including a Texas A&M University oceanographer, in a paper published in the current issue of Science magazine.

Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt II, professor of oceanography who has conducted research in the area for more than 25 years, says Antarctica faces growing threats from global warming, loss of sea ice and landed ice, increased tourism, over-fishing in the region, pollution and invasive species creeping into the area. One of the longer-term concerns that may present the greatest threat overall is the potential for oil, gas and mineral exploitation on the continent and in the surrounding ocean, the authors note.Antarctic ice sheets

Kennicutt says the Antarctic Treaty System that governs the continent has worked well since it was established in 1962 and that 50 countries currently adhere to the treaty, but it is under pressure today from global climate changes and the ever-present interest in the area’s natural resources, from fish to krill to oil to gas to minerals.
Discovery News: Greenland Ice Motion Mapped: Big Pic
By Sarah Simpson
July 10, 2012 -- This digital map of ice motion across Greenland is the first of its kind. Assembled from carefully calibrated satellite measurements gathered during the recent International Polar Year (2008–2009), the new map reveals that half of the ice sheet is drained by the top 68 fastest glaciers, which all flow at least 1.3 kilometers per year (red). Only small portions of the interior show no motion at all (brown).
In addition to a map of ice flow in Greenland's glaciers, the article notes how much sea level would rise if all the ice melted (23 feet).

One of the other issues that is becoming apparent with climate change is drought. That's covered this week, too.

Texas A&M: Geosciences Professor Develops System To Better Predict Droughts
July 9, 2012
A Texas A&M geography professor is developing a drought-prediction system that benefits everyone from a rancher in South Texas to a weekend gardener in Kansas. Steven Quiring has received a $486,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop the first soil-moisture dataset for the Great Plains, one of the country’s most fertile but fickle climate regions.

In the United States, the Great Plains stretch from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border. Its annual agricultural production yields than $40 billion a year, a number that can be decimated in just one season. The 1988 drought, for instance, resulted in a $30 billion loss, so the ability to pinpoint the moisture in the soil at any given time and place will help scientists better predict drought conditions and take steps to lessen its effects.

The content of moisture in the soil plays a critical role, Quiring says, in the global carbon cycle, and in weather and climate patterns. Drier soil means less moisture escapes into the atmosphere, triggering more radiant heat returned to the soil and exacerbating already dry conditions. “In other words, drought begets drought.”
Then there are the effects of a warmer world on living things. Both UNC and Texas Tech complied by posting research on corals and mosquitoes.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: UNC research: Corals on ocean-side of reef are most susceptible to recent warming
July 09, 2012
Marine scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have linked the decline in growth of Caribbean forereef corals - due to recent warming - to long-term trends in seawater temperature experienced by these corals located on the ocean-side of the reef. The research was conducted on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in southern Belize.

The results were revealed online in the July 8 issue of Nature Climate Change, a journal that publishes research on the impacts of global climate change and its implications for the economy, policy and the world at large.
Texas Tech on YouTube: Dengue Fever: The Intricate Relationship between Disease and Climate Change

Texas Tech: Climate Change Likely Will Allow Tropical Disease to Thrive in United States
Researchers Katharine Hayhoe and Richard Erickson discuss the possible impact of dengue fever.
July 5, 2012
Dengue fever most likely will become a disease the United States must learn to live with as climate change creates opportunities for the disease to gain a foothold.

But after careful study of the disease’s characteristics, the mosquitoes that carry it and future climate change, two researchers at Texas Tech University said the impact on areas likely to experience dengue won’t necessarily play out along the lines of conventional wisdom.

Their findings were published July 5 in Environmental Research Letters.
I just lectured on insect-borne diseases on Wednesday. I might just start off Monday's lecture with this video.

Finally, people want to know how to beat the heat. Where might one travel to stay cool?

Texas A&M: Cool U.S. Places In A Hot Summer
July 11, 2012
Q: What’s the coolest location in the U.S. during the summer?

A: The place with the lowest daily temperature is Mount Washington, N.H., which has an average July temperature of only 54 degrees, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “But the problem is that no one lives on Mount Washington,” he explains. “If you’re talking about places where people live, San Francisco has to be rated near the top with an average July temperature of 66 degrees, which is tied with Whidbey Island, Wash., also at 66. San Francisco has one of the most stable climates in the country – the average high temperature in January is only 56 degrees, only 10 degrees difference from its July high.”
Mark Twain was right to complain about how cold San Francisco was in the summer. However, July is not the warmest month in the city. October is.

What if you can't travel, and you're stuck in Texas? Texas Tech on YouTube has the answer in Beat the Heat Texas Tech Style.

With summer temperatures in Lubbock pushing 100 degrees, there are several ways to beat the heat at Texas Tech; including ice cream shops, laser light shows, and of course swimming at the leisure pool.
Stay cool, everyone!