Tag Archives: climate change

Climate change

It isn’t definitive, yet, whether our carbon rich activities are to blame for record high temperatures and rapid glacial retreat or whether these changes are part of a natural larger planetary cycle, but one thing is sure…our climate is changing.

In my small corner of the planet, I witness dramatic erosion along the shoreline beyond the usual annual events.  I am awestruck by the amount of mature trees and ~20+ year old structures that are now naked and sun-bathing alongside people on the beach.  It brings climate change home for me in a way that is much more personal than just reading about severe weather events and watching videos of glaciers sloughing off into the ocean.

Stranded tree

The horizontal tree in the far, far background stood upright maybe five years ago, perched on a stable outcropping of rock.  It was a magical spot where one naturally wants to linger, like one of those far off imagined fairy tale places deep in the woods next to a pristine pool of water and a glowing tree of life.  The tree in the foreground wasn’t there before.  I’m guessing it was on higher ground away from the beach until an erosion event swept it and part of a wall onto the sand.

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Here’s another tree that’s lost its ground and is slipping, sliding into the ocean.

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This fence used to actually enclose something not too long ago.  And now it just looks wrong.

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These are the underparts of a coconut tree that has been around a while.  Its seems embarrassingly exposed now and I feel a little bad for looking.

The top of the tree still stands tall and dignified.

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Increased severity of droughts

August 21, 2014

One thing I remember from chemistry class at the University of Washington is balancing the equation on both sides (the other thing would be cute pre-med students).  And so much to my professors credit, 15 years later it makes sense to me that along with increased intensity in rainfall in some parts of the world is increasing intensity of droughts in other parts of the world.  The globe is one equation and it will, it must naturally balance.

Unusually low lake water levels in California (Lake Mead, Getty Images)

Unusually low lake water levels in California (Lake Mead, Getty Images)

At the beginning of the year California’s governor, Jerry Brown, declared  a drought emergency for the state as it perhaps faces its worst drought in over a hundred years.  California’s drought isn’t just this season;  below average rainfall three years in a row sustains this prolonged and severe drought.  It’s now August and the affliction still hasn’t cured itself, but seems to have settled in as the new norm.  Click here to see a photo gallery.

Where has all the water gone?  Perhaps some of it rained down on places like Hiroshima, Japan, which experienced record-breaking rainfall on Wednesday.

 

Increased rainfall and landslide events

August 20, 2014

Most proponents of climate change say climate change is already here and the record-breaking temperatures and rainfall data we see in the news is the new norm.  Earlier this year for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global consortium of scientists assessing climate change, released their fifth assessment report, stating with confidence that the world will experience higher risks due to extreme weather events.  

Hiroshima’s devastating landslides today gives weight to the scientists’ claim in a more real and emotional way.  The landslides struck without warning at about 330 am Japan time killing 39 people.  One victim was a firefighter who had just rescued five people from a collapsed residential building.

The culprit was an underestimated slow-moving thunderstorm that dumped a record-breaking 8.5 inches of rain in three hours.  The last record wasn’t even half that amount.  According to scientists these kind of record-shattering weather events are the new norm and predict worse is yet to come.   Per the Weather Channel, landslides in Japan have increased to nearly 1200 per year in the last decade compared to 770 per year in the decade before.  That is an alarming 156% increase.

And yet its just another day for the world at large.  Some accuse climate change scientists as alarmists (some probably are), but I think on the whole most of us are in denial.   The numbers speak for themselves;  like the beginnings of an illness, we ignore the symptoms hoping it miraculously cures itself.  One day I suspect, perhaps twenty years from now in 2035 barring a miracle cure, we may finally accept that our climate is not well and do something as drastic as live underground to escape the extremes of parched lands and torrential rains.  For now, aside from the 400,000 people nearest the landslides in Japan who know something is amiss, we carry on business as usual.

I won’t start constructing my hobbit-like home set into the hillside yet.  But you can bet during the next rainstorm in the middle of the night, I will be up and Adam and peer outside to check on the ground.

Earth’s chemical imbalance

Et tu, Earth? Yes, Earth too. There is large debate about the reason for climate change with all sorts of data thrown about like the significant CO2 output of human activity. I, for one say yes, human activity is the culprit and the current weather imbalance is a reflection of our own off-kilter lives. In short, we consume more than we need and we definitely take more than we replenish.

If earth was my patient, my diagnosis would be this: Stage 3 human cancer isolated to earth’s outermost crust. The cancer can be successfully treated and removed with severe weather. Earth’s long-term prognosis is good. In the meantime…

Broomfield / Lafayette border, Colo. (AP Photo / Cliff Grassmick)

Broomfield / Lafayette border, Colo. (AP Photo / Cliff Grassmick)

In severe weather news this week we have flooding in Colorado. Parts of Colorado saw heavier rainfall in one day than it has in all other days in the last 95 years. Just another record-breaker? Yes and no. Yes, it’s another record, but the pattern suggests this kind of record-breaking is a new norm that started only in the last decade.  This new norm coincides with warmer temperatures also this past decade, as mentioned in a previous post.

For instance, last St. Patrick’s day was the warmest St. Patty’s day recorded in Chicago since 1872. And last year’s hurricane Sandy holds a few record-breaking facts: its central pressure at landfall was the lowest recorded pressure of all storms on the Atlantic coast since 1938 (lower central pressure is generally equated with stronger storms) and the ensuing storm surge surpassed the previous 1960 record of 10-feet by nearly a whopping 4 feet causing New York City to essentially shutdown, including the subway and the stock exchange.

As for this week’s record, if you were a resident of Boulder for the last 95 years you would say “Heavy summer rains are normal here, but this…I have never seen rain like this before…ever.”

Coal Creek, Golden Colorado Sept 12, 2013 (AP photo/Reuters/Rick Wilking)

The reality of such record-breaking weather is sweeping forces of destruction. So far there are four reported deaths due to Colorado’s flooding. 

Perhaps nature is decidedly the ultimate healer of healers, knowing best how to treat its own ailments–treating earth’s higher temperatures with droughts and deluge, which wreaks temporary havoc on its surface, but effectively disrupts large-scale human activity. One day we just might be disrupted enough to change the way we do things.

Hotter days: does our planet have a fever?

Solar flare composite image by NASA / JAXA

The world did not end in 2012. There was no magnetic pole reversal or solar flare catastrophe. But for one country at least, 2012 was a marked year of solar intensity and extreme weather. The United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) experienced its warmest year, by far, in 2012 since records began 118 years ago says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). NOAA scientists also say the new record significantly sets itself apart from the rest of the data, breaking the last record set in 1998 by a full degree versus the much more typical fractions of a degree. Higher temperatures translate to extreme weather as both record years are also tagged as the United States’ two most extreme weather years. Continue reading

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter and summer too

…at the same time in the same country, when it is actually the beginning of spring.

A late severe winter storm buried northern Arizona up to 3 feet in snow the day before the start of spring, while most of the eastern U.S.basks in summer temperatures. This unusual weather reminds me of…well last week’s unusual weather that brought deluge in Louisiana and unseasonably warm temperatures to Chicago. Whatever the arguments surrounding climate change are it certainly looks and feels like a changing climate. Continue reading

Severe floods in Louisana, record warm temps in Chicago

It’s a little late in the season for winter floods and a little early in the season for spring/summer temperatures. And yet, here we are in mid-March of 2012 experiencing both. Chicago is at sunny, near record-high temperatures in the upper 70s, while parts of Louisiana is dealing with the aftermath of a 15 to 20 inch deluge of rain.

(c) Louisiana State Police

Together, the occurrences speak of a new balance, albeit a more disruptive one. Like the more disruptive highs and lows of mood swings, this unusual weather is hard to live with. And it signifies that something is amiss. Continue reading

Climate change or armageddon?

Or maybe both. It is written that we will sense the coming end of ages the same way we can see the subtle signs of summer.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Fujimoto, Garden Island Newspaper

This past week was full of freaky weather in paradise. Starting with Sunday and continuing through Tuesday, record-breaking rainfall battered Kauai and Oahu causing flooding, collapsed roads, landslides, and a declaration of disaster by the Governor of Hawaii (not to mention nightmarish traffic).

Photo courtesy Cameron Brooks

Thunder and lightning added to the awesomeness of it all.

On Wednesday, the storm passed over the islands heading out to open ocean, only to re-energize and reverse course for round two, back across the islands!

Continue reading