Tag Archives: extreme-weather

Is climate change a “ratings killer,” or is something wrong with for-profit media?

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes retweeted Grist writer Eric Holthaus’ tweet about the deadly wildfires in Greece on Tuesday. After freelance writer Elon Green commented that news networks often fail to highlight the connection between climate change and extreme weather, Hayes wrote a reply that sent Twitter into a frenzy.

Climate change, he said, is a “palpable ratings killer” for news shows.

Environmental journalists came out in full force to set him straight. The reason that newsrooms are failing to bring up climate change has a lot to do with the way major news outlets are structured (profits first, content second), they said, and less to do with people’s interest in climate change.

Hayes has a pretty good track record when it comes to reporting on climate, compared to his competitors across other channels. He even did an “All In with Chris Hayes” special climate series in 2016.

But the point stands that the current for-profit media structure doesn’t jive well with compelling reporting on the environment. Take Holthaus’ response, for example.

Emily Atkin, staff writer at The New Republic, thinks it’s all about the way you present the piece.

Erin Biba, who writes for the likes of BBC and Wired, agrees with Atkin.

And Huffington Post’s Alexander Kaufman threw Hayes a bone for bringing the subject up in the first place.

It’s actually pretty unusual for a cable news host to go anywhere near the topic of climate change. An analysis from Media Matters for America shows that, of 127 TV broadcast segments on NBC, CBS, and ABC about the recent heat wave, only one mentioned climate change. It’s not like sweltering temperatures caused all those hosts to develop climate amnesia. The failure to link climate change to heat waves and downpours is a trend: Those same networks all but ignored the issue in their 2017 coverage of extreme weather events, another Media Matters report found.

Is 2018 the year that editors, producers, and talk show hosts finally figure out how to talk about climate change? For-profit newsrooms better start taking notes from environmental reporters soon; hurricane season is upon us once again.

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Is climate change a “ratings killer,” or is something wrong with for-profit media?

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A building El Niño in 2018 signals more extreme weather for 2019

In case you couldn’t get enough extreme weather, the next 12 months or so could bring even more scorching temps, punishing droughts, and unstoppable wildfires.

It’s still early, but odds are quickly rising that another El Niño — the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean — could be forming. The latest official outlook from NOAA and Columbia University gives better-than-even odds of El Niño materializing by the end of this year, which could lead to a cascade of dangerous weather around the globe in 2019.

That’s a troubling development, especially when people worldwide are still suffering from the last El Niño, which ended two years ago.

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These early warnings come with a caveat: Predictions of El Niño at this time of year are notoriously fickle. If one comes, it’s impossible to know how strong it would be.

When it’s active, El Niño is often a catch-all that’s blamed for all sorts of wild weather, so it’s worth a quick science-based refresher of what we’re talking about here:

El Niño has amazingly far-reaching effects, spurring droughts in Africa and typhoons swirling toward China and Japan. It’s a normal, natural ocean phenomenon, but there’s emerging evidence that climate change is spurring more extreme El Niño-related events.

On average though, El Niño boosts global temperatures and redistributes weather patterns worldwide in a pretty predictable way. In fact, the Red Cross is starting to use its predictability to prevent humanitarian weather catastrophes before they happen.

All told, the the U.N. estimates the 2016 El Niño directly affected nearly 100 million people worldwide, not to mention causing permanent damage to the world’s coral reefs, a surge in carbon dioxide emissions from a global outbreak of forest fires, and the warmest year in recorded history.

In Ethiopia, it spawned one of the worst droughts in decades. More than 8.5 million Ethiopians continue to rely on emergency assistance, according to the UN. That includes some 1.3 million people — a majority of whom are children — who have been forced to migrate from their homes.

Initial estimates show that, if the building El Niño actually arrives, 2019 would stand a good chance at knocking off 2016 as the warmest year on record. With a strong El Niño, next year might even tiptoe across the 1.5 degree-Celsius mark — the first major milestone that locks in at least some of global warming’s worst impacts.

Recently, the United Kingdom’s Met Office — the U.K’s version of the National Weather Service — placed a 10-percent chance of the world passing the 1.5 degree Celsius target before 2022. That target was a key goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement because a sharp upward spike in temperature that severe, if sustained, would be potentially catastrophic — causing, among other impacts, “fundamental changes in ocean chemistry” that could linger for millennia, according to a draft UN report due out later this year.

Another El Niño is bad news, but it has been inevitable that another one will happen eventually. Knowing exactly when the next one is coming will give those in harm’s way more time to prepare.

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A building El Niño in 2018 signals more extreme weather for 2019

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Crazy floods hit the Midwest when hardly anyone was looking

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Crazy floods hit the Midwest when hardly anyone was looking

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Mainstream media sucks at talking about climate change.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

Now that one of the strongest nor’easters on record has swirled off to Canada, it’s time to talk about what everyone was thinking during the storm: Is this just what happens now?

Short answer: yes. Get used to it. Wild storms like this week’s massive coastal cyclone will be part of winters in the Anthropocene.

This storm’s frightening name — the “bomb cyclone” — was derived from an obscure meteorological term and caught on after President Donald Trump’s terrifying tweet about nuclear weapons. The storm wasn’t as scary as all that, obviously, but it still spread havoc.

The storm ravaged a swath of the country from Florida to Maine. In South Carolina, rare snow blanketed downtown Charleston. In South Florida, stunned iguanas fell from the trees.

Boston also witnessed its largest coastal flood in history. Amid the usual scenes of buried cars and cute dogs playing in the snow, we also saw waves crashing through a seawall into homes and fire trucks plowing through flooded streets on their way to high-water rescues. At one point, the National Weather Service in Boston warned people not to ride the icebergs that were floating in on the high tide. That’s … unusual.

Storms like this one have always threatened to flood coasts. Seven of New York City’s 10 worst coastal floods on record have been from nor’easters. With rising seas and warming wintertime oceans juicing the power of cyclones, there’s good reason to expect that huge winter storms will pose an increasingly severe risk to coastal communities in the Northeast. In fact, it’s exactly what we expect will happen with climate change.

It’s normal for winter storms to gather strength in a hurry — dozens of them do so every year around the world. But the “bomb cyclone” intensified at a rate far exceeding any storm to come close to the East Coast since the advent of weather satellites in the 1970s. After a day of searching, the National Weather Service found a similar storm from 1989 about 600 miles off the coast that didn’t affect land.

Meteorologists and weather geeks spent the storm marveling at the view from space, but as with every big storm of our new era, this one felt like a harbinger.

Atlantic Ocean temperatures right offshore were as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal for early January, causing hurricane-force winds and snow squalls so intense they fired off lightning bolts over parts of New York and Rhode Island. Forecasters dispatched a Hurricane Hunter airplane to investigate the storm.

All this atmospheric drama overshadowed two other storms underway at the same time. A sprawling cyclone even stronger than the “bomb cyclone” plowed past Alaska, where the ocean should be covered in ice this time of year. In Europe, a powerful ocean storm made landfall in the British Isles. It arrived with a cold front whose strong winds fanned midwinter wildfires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and closed down ski slopes in the Alps for fear of avalanches.

For some, all this evidence of an overheating world is too much to accept.

In comments on the Senate floor this week, Senator James Inhofe of snowball fame, riffed on another recent presidential tweet in the context of the current cold snap. “Where is global warming when we need it?” he said. “We sure needed it this last week.”

Increasingly, it seems like the only time you hear a climate denier talk about climate change is when a snowstorm hits. Hey, look! It’s really cold outside. This snowball sure isn’t warm; therefore the world isn’t warming.

Winter may be the last refuge of climate deniers, so it makes sense that they’ll work harder to seize on cold-weather storms. It’s a window into their view of the world. Appearance is enough evidence. It’s all that really matters. Given what’s at stake in the oceans and on land, such views should be seen for what they are: a threat to our safety, just as real as any bomb.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Much of the eastern United States has been assaulted by brutally cold temperatures over the last week. New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City rang in 2018 in 9 degree weather — the coldest midnight temperature since 1907.

And the worst is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a “bomb cyclone” is expected to batter the East Coast later this week. A weather system only earns that name by dropping in pressure rapidly — at least 24 millibars over 24 hours — in a process called bombogenesis. Winds could kick up to 55 mph just off the coast of New England, a prospect that has prompted local weather stations to warn of hurricane-force winds.

In Boston, which is no stranger to cold weather and has suffered through brutally low temperatures this past week, the National Weather Service forecasts near-blizzard conditions, with just a quarter-mile of visibility.

But the snow won’t be limited to northern states. As far south as Georgia and Florida, forecasters are calling for potentially dangerous winter weather, with several inches of snow in some areas.

In late 2016, Mother Jones reported that climate change may be contributing to such weather events.

The theory — advanced by Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis and other scientists — is that the rapidly warming Arctic is affecting the jet stream in ways that can contribute to bone-chilling weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:

To understand how it works, it first helps to think of the jet stream as a river of air that flows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it much of our weather. Its motion — sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one — is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the North Pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere. “If you were sitting on top of a layer of atmosphere and you were in DC, looking northward, it would be like looking down a hill, because it’s warmer where you are,” explains Francis. The jet stream then flows “downhill,” so to speak, in a northward direction. But it’s also bent by the rotation of the Earth, leading to its continual wavy, eastward motion. As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep.

That shrinking temperature difference is what wreaks havoc on the jet stream. “When the jet stream gets weaker, it meanders more,” explained Francis in an interview this week. “It wanders north and south and when it gets into one of these wandering and wavy patterns, that’s when we see these pools of cold air pulled southward.” Those pools of cold air are what vast parts of the country are experiencing right now.

The bomb cyclone is expected to leave bone-chilling cold in its wake — even colder than the last few weeks. Temperatures will likely drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the Washington Post reports. That means sub-zero in nearly all of New England — and lows reaching down into the 20s, if you can believe it, in Florida.

Seasoned experts over at the National Weather Service have tips for avoiding hypothermia. President Donald Trump simply suggests we “bundle up.”


Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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Devastated Dominica aims to climate-proof the country.

President Trump visited the U.S. territory on Tuesday, two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Half of Puerto Ricans lack clean water and 95 percent are without power.

So, how did the president approach the unfolding humanitarian crisis? Let’s hear it:

Trump said that Hurricane Maria wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina at a briefing with local officials. He compared the certified death count of the disasters as evidence: “You can be very proud, only 16 instead of thousands in Katrina.” To point out a few problems: The official death toll in Puerto Rico is underreported, it will likely continue to climb, and maybe we shouldn’t frame death tolls as something to be proud of.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget out of whack,” Trump said at the briefing — apparently joking about the disaster aid pending in Congress.

“Have a good time,” Trump told a family after they showed him their storm-damaged home.

The president went mostly off-script from the White House’s Puerto Rico media coverage plan, but he did take the opportunity to tout the success of the relief effort. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s been taking place in Puerto Rico,” he said.

We can only hope he’s not talking about his own performance.

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Devastated Dominica aims to climate-proof the country.

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America’s nearing a record number of weather disasters, and it’s not even hurricane season yet.

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America’s nearing a record number of weather disasters, and it’s not even hurricane season yet.

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That ridiculous heatwave really was caused by climate change.

The order, which Trump will sign Wednesday, directs the Interior Department to review all national monument designations over 100,000 acres made from 1996 onwards.

That includes between 24 and 40 monuments — notably, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and Mojave Trails in California.

During the review, the Interior Department can suggest that monuments be resized, revoked, or left alone, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said at a briefing on Tuesday. We can expect a final report this summer that will tell us which monument designations, if any, will be changed.

Environmental groups are already voicing opposition. If designations are removed, it could make it easier to eliminate protections and open land to special interests like fossil fuels.

Zinke, a self-proclaimed conservationist, said, “We can protect areas of cultural and economic importance and even use federal lands for economic development when appropriate — just as Teddy Roosevelt envisioned.”

In between further adulations of his hero, Zinke said that he would undertake the “enormous responsibility” with care. “No one loves our public lands more than I,” he said. “You can love them as much — but you can’t love them more than I do.”

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That ridiculous heatwave really was caused by climate change.

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The future looks a lot hotter and wetter, says science

The future looks a lot hotter and wetter, says science

By on 28 Apr 2015commentsShare

Here’s something you don’t hear climate scientists say very often:

“The bottom line is that things are not that complicated.”

That’s Reto Knutti, head of the Climate Physics Group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, speaking with The New York Times. And that warm feeling inside of you is the satisfaction of knowing that you’re about to understand some science!

Take a moment to savor that feeling. Knutti is a climate scientist, after all, so we know that whatever he says next is going to be a huge downer:

“You make the world a degree or two warmer, and there will be more hot days. There will be more moisture in the atmosphere, so that must come down somewhere.”

Wow, dude — that’s not science, that’s poetry. (Except that it is science, and the subject of a new paper that Knutti and his colleague Erich M. Fischer published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change.)

Using global climate models to simulate past and future warming scenarios, the duo set out to understand how anthropogenic climate change has and will continue to increase extreme heat and precipitation events — the hotter days and wetter air that Knutti was talking about.

Here’s what they found: Compared to a world where the industrial revolution never happened, today’s warming of about 1.5 degree Fahrenheit is responsible for a 22 percent increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events and — more dramatically — a four- to five-fold increase in the frequency of 1-in-1,000 day extreme heat events.

Projecting forward, they found that with warming kept under 3 degrees Fahrenheit, heat extremes could be 14 times more frequent than they were in pre-industrial times — which sounds bad, but not as bad as the 62-fold increase we could see if warming surpasses 5 degrees. Precipitation extremes, meanwhile, won’t increase quite as much. With 3 to 4 degrees of warming, what were 1-in-30 year events could be happening more like once every 10 or 20 years by the end of the century.

If you’re having some deja vu, it’s probably because scientists already knew about this unfortunate tie between global warming and extreme weather — but this is one of the first global forecasts predicting how these extreme events will change by the end of the century, says the Times.

All that being said — we all know better than to attribute any single weather event to climate change, right? Climate change just increases the likelihood of an event. Here’s how the Knutti and Fischer put it:

In a broader context, the approach here is reminiscent of medical studies, where it is not possible to attribute a single fatality from lung cancer to smoking. Instead, a comparison of the lung-cancer-related mortality rate in smokers with the rate in non-smokers may allow attribution of the excess mortality to smoking. Likewise, no single weather event exclusively results from anthropogenic influence in a deterministic sense but arises from complex interactions of atmospheric dynamics, local boundary layer and land-surface interaction and potentially anomalous sea-ice and ocean conditions.

Damn. I guess it’s still pretty complicated.

New Study Links Weather Extremes to Global Warming

, The New York Times.



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The future looks a lot hotter and wetter, says science

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