Every week, as Thursday approaches, I begin a bit of handwringing over how best to use this week’s blog to talk about climate change. Right now, as I sit at my computer looking out the window (performing said hand wringing), my neighbor’s American flag gently flips back and forth in the gray coastal breeze. A hummingbird pokes its needle thin beak into the lavender in rapid succession and somewhere off in the distance a chain saw disrupts the tranquility of my Santa Monica neighborhood, but for the most part, it’s another lovely day.
Or is it?
About a half hour drive north of me, the Powerhouse fires virtually exploded last Thursday, ravaging over 30,000 acres, forcing thousands to evacuate and destroying over 24 homes. It’s incredibly early to be kicking off fire season and everyone in Los Angeles county is concerned, rightly so, about what that means for July and August.
A couple days ago Daniel Woods published an article in the Christian Science Monitor – Powerhouse wildfire north of L.A. heralds a much longer fire season. He introduces us to Dominik Kulakowski, adjunct professor of biology at Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Mass., who testified before Congress last April on the impact climate and weather have on fires.
One good question is, “Is this the new normal?” The public, he says, should conclude not merely that this fire season is predicted to be longer, but that such longer seasons will continue for the foreseeable future.“A lot of the public seems to be saying, ‘oh, well, we’ll just have to keep planting forests [to replace burned areas] in more northern climes,’ that it will play out gradually and we’ll have time to adapt,” says Professor Kulakowski “But the overwhelming conclusion of research is that the [climate] change will be more dramatic and abrupt,” he says.
Eastern European Flooding
Not for 500 years have the flood waters been so high. The Associated Press described the disaster as “an inland ocean of flooding“. At least 16 people have died and thousands are homeless. From Korva Coleman on NPR:
Recovery is going to be costly. The Wall Street Journal suggests the cost of the European floods could surpass that of the devastating floods of 2002, which totaled nearly $20 billion (paywall protected). Reuters reports that the Czech Insurance Association estimates the damage in that country at more than $381 million so far.
Here’s a news report with the latest on what’s happening by Al Jazeera. The European press, unlike the US press, has not hesitated at looking at the link between the flooding and climate change and here the AFP checks in with a climate scientist about what could be happening:
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin, which says a low-pressure system that dumped the rain was locked into place by a disturbance with a global wind pattern. “We think it is linked to the current drought conditions in Russia as well,” Stefan Rahmstorf, PIK’s professor of ocean physics, told AFP. Normally, air moves around the mid-latitudes of the planet in the form of waves, oscillating irregularly between the tropics and the poles, Rahmstorf explained.
Rahmstorf goes on to explain how pressure systems locked into place, rather than oscillating, are linked to all that arctic sea melting, oh so far away.
Tropical Storm Andrea
As I write, and the birds chirp happily out my window, the home page of CNN just posted in large captions, “It’s Not Just Florida!” in reference to tropical storm Andrea that’s pounding the west coast of Florida. Apparently, the storm is heading up the east coast. It may or may not turn into anything of consequence, but what is remarkable is how early in the season that we’ve started with the named storms. CNN has done a great job laying out the facts, although with nary a word about climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts an active or extremely active hurricane season, predicting that there is a 70 percent chance of having 13 to 20 named storms, of which seven to 11 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes (categories 3-5).
I could go on and on with extreme weather events happening now… let’s not forget the tornadoes in Oklahoma, the flooding of the Mississippi, the ongoing drought here in the US as well as the one in Russia. It’s an extraordinary list of events to occur over a decade, but all of these things are happening virtually simultaneously.
Come to Jesus on Climate Change
Slowly, we’re seeing a shift in awareness and attitudes. Yesterday, Mother Jones published a profile article, One Meteorologist’s Come-to-Jesus Moment on Climate Change. Its’a good read…I highly recommend it.
Here’s my little rant:
No, CNN, “It’s Not Just Florida!” It’s not just the arctic sea ice. It’s not just the Polar Bears. It’s not just New Orleans, or Kilamanjo’s glaciers, or the Maasai’s ancient way of life, or the New Jersey/New York coastline, or any of the countless places, animals and things being dramatically impacted by climate change.
It’s me. It’s you. It’s your backyard and my backyard. It’s happening to all of us.
Title of this blog comes from a phrase Al Gore used many years ago.