NASA: Hotter Summers Since 1980 Caused by Global Warming
August 7, 2012 1:21 PM
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The past 30 years has seen more "hot" (orange), "very hot" (red) and "extremely hot" (brown) summers, compared to a base period defined in this study from 1951 to 1980
(Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)
Hotter summers have become the norm from 1980 to present compared to 1951 to 1980 (the base period)
NASA researchers have claimed to find new evidence for everyone's favorite topic:
James Hansen, study leader from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), as well as GISS researchers Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, have concluded that summer heat waves (mainly in the U.S. Midwest) have become the norm over the last 30 years compared to a base period 30 years before 1980 -- and it's because of global warming.
Their study works like this: the team collected mean summer temperatures from 1951 to 1980. This was considered the base period for the study. They then looked at the surface temperature data from the last 30 years (1980 until now) to determine whether
extreme heat events
From there, the team wanted to see how much heating and cooling occurred in both time periods. To do this, they used a bell curve, which is a common tool that places the middle ground at the top of the bell (for instance, if this were a grading curve, a "C" would be at the top while the next tier down on each side would be a "B" and a "D," and the bottom of the bell would be an "A" and an "F). In this case, the top of the bell would be mean temperature, the next tier down would be "cold" on one side and "hot" on the other, then "very cold" and "extremely cold" on one side moving down while "very hot" and "extremely hot" are moving down the bell on the other side.
Researchers then applied mean temperatures from 1980 until present, and found that 1980s, 1990s and 2000s fell more to the hot side than cold. The curve widened and flattened as well, which means there was a broader range of variability. This is important because Hansen once predicted that global warming's connection to extreme events would become more apparent in the decades from 1980 to present, but natural variability can play a role too and actually mask the trend. It was important to distinguish the two.
This wider curve created the new "extremely hot" category, which was barely there in the base period. However, hot has become considered normal in the last 30 years. To be more specific, 75 percent of land area on Earth had "hot" summers in the last decade alone, where only 33 percent had "hot" summers from 1951 to 1980 total.
According to the researchers, an "extremely hot" summer is considered a mean summer temperature that is experienced by less than one percent of Earth's land area during the base period. But since 2006 alone, approximately 10 percent of land area across the Northern Hemisphere had a summer like this.
"This summer, people are seeing extreme heat and agricultural impacts," said Hansen. "We're asserting that this is casually
connected to global warming
, and in this paper, we present the scientific evidence for that."
The study noted "extremely hot" summers in other areas besides just the U.S. Midwest, like Texas, Mexico and Oklahoma in 2011 and Eastern Europe, Western Asia and the Middle East in 2010.
This study was published in the journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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RE: Another short-sighted study
8/9/2012 3:09:22 PM
Yes, there have been warmer periods in the planet's history, and the climate scientists are very busy studying these periods to understand what we can expect in the future. James Hansen has written a number of articles about these periods (see his book, The Storms of My Grandchildren). The reason why Hansen argued that we should limit emissions to 350ppm, instead of 450ppm like the rest of the scientific community, is his study of past warm periods.
If you look at the 4.6 billion history of Earth, the majority of the Earth's history has been in warm periods, rather than cool periods like we have now (see Robert Strom's Hot House). The Earth is currently in a 10000 year period of stable cool weather, which has permitted the rise of modern agriculture and civilizations. If the Earth slips into a warmer climate, it is very likely that human civilization will collapse.
The Earth has experienced 5 major die-offs in its history which were caused by climate change. It is very likely that we will provoke the destruction of the majority of species on this planet if we change the climate.
Even if we don't kill off most of the species, we will make it very hard for our grains like corn and wheat to grow, so we will likely experience mass starvation. One study studied the effect of adding extra CO2 and ground-level ozone (caused by burning fossil fuels) to crops and found that that these gasses cause weeds to grow faster, but retard the growth of grains. The study predicts that we will have 20% lower yields per hectare by mid-century and 30% lower yields in China. (See chapter 2 of George Monbiot's Heat for reference to this study.)
Considering the fact that we will have 9 billion people on the planet to feed by mid-century and vast swathes of land in Northern China, Australia, the US Southwest and Subsaharan Africa are turning into infertile desert, it is highly likely that we will have massive food shortages.
At the same time, the extra CO2 in the atmosphere is entering the oceans, creating carbonic acid which eats away the microscopic shells on phytoplankton, destroying the ocean's food chain. Most of the fish will be gone by mid-century, meaning that humanity has to search for another source of protein.
Finally, the glaciers will be mostly gone by mid-century, meaning that the fresh water sources for most Asian rivers (Ganges, Mekong, Yellow, Yang-tse, Indus, etc) will dry up, ending the wet-rice cultivation that currently feeds 2 billion Asians. Likewise, the Andean glaciers and the entire Amazonian basin will dry up, converting into a desert or dry plain.
All of these things will probably happen due to climate change and it isn't something to flippantly joke about if you care about the future of humanity.
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