Here’s my take-away on the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was released today:
Regardless of what you may hear on radio and television shout-fests masquerading as journalism, the best science leads to one simple conclusion: If we want to reduce the risks of significant climate change that would challenge our ability to adapt, we need to act now. Time is running out.
According to the IPCC Working Group II report, climate change is already having substantial impacts “on all continents and across the oceans” — and the worst is still to come.
The graphic above, which is from the report, shows that no region has been spared. It contains a lot of information (too much, really), so here’s a little help in interpreting what you’re looking at:
The rectangles across the top show broad climate change impacts that have been documented across nine regions. In North America, for example, changes have been observed in glaciers, snow and ice, as well as in ecosystems on land. The bars next to each of the symbols show the degree of confidence that scientists have in attributing the impacts to climate change.
Within the land areas on the map, regional-scale impacts where climate change has played a major role are shown by symbols that are colored in. For impacts in which climate change has played a minor role, the symbols are only outlined.
Here in the Western United States where I live, we’re already familiar with two significant climate change impacts: a decreasing amount of water in spring snowpack, and earlier peak flows in our rivers as warming occurs sooner in the spring than it used too. These impacts pose significant challenges in a region prone to drought to begin with, and which is projected to experience further drying as temperatures warm further.
Overall, the litany of changes that have now been observed and attributed to climate change with medium to high confidence is sobering. Among them are these: Read More
Could floating objects seen in satellite images of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia be wreckage from the missing Malaysian Airlines jet that disappeared on March 8?
The Australian government thought the satellite images above, and another pair lower down in this post, warranted a search by aircraft. But the first try has turned up nothing — because of limited visibility due to clouds and rain, as this Tweet from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority states:
RAAF P3 crew unable to locate debris. Cloud & rain limited visbility. Further aircraft to continue search for #MH370
— AMSA News (@AMSA_News) March 20, 2014
Here’s a map of the area in the Indian Ocean that was searched by the Australians today: Read More
A day after a major scientific organization released an embarrassingly ineffective report aimed at communicating the realities of climate change, the White House has launched something entirely different — and better.
For now, it is a web portal that serves as a kind of clearinghouse for all manner of information on how sea level rise is remaking our coasts and posing risks to those who live and work along them.
The screenshot above shows one of the interactive tools available on the site, data.gov/climate. In stunning graphic detail, it shows areas in the New York metro area that would become inundated in the future based on different projections of sea level rise. It’s one of just dozens of such tools available right now on the site.
And according to the White House, it is just the start of a major effort at climate change communication. The effort is designed to enable citizens to see how climate change is affecting them where they live and work, and what they might expect in the future, through interactive, graphics-based digital tools. Read More
Just a week ago, I posted some imagery of an intense dust storm sweeping south through the High Plains. Well, here we go again…
Today, high winds triggered two dust storms, one in Colorado stretching into Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, and the other in the Texas Panhandle — the same region as last week’s storm. They were so big that they are clearly visible in a mosaic of images from NASA’s Terra satellite showing almost all of the United States. (See above.)
Here’s an animation of two close-up images of the Colorado dust storm, the first taken by Terra and the second taken later in the day by the spacecraft’s sister satellite, Aqua: Read More
The “What We Know” report about climate change issued today by the august American Association for the Advancement of Science is intended to persuade ordinary people that our climate really is changing, we’re largely responsible, and we need to do something about it. Soon.
The report features clear, straight-forward language without overly complex and opaque scientific jargon.
And as the black non-image at the top of this ImaGeo post symbolizes, there is another thing that the report lacks as well: imagery.
In fact, there is not a single image in the report — not one visualization to help us understand what’s happening to our world, not a single photograph to dramatize the impact of climate change on people, not even one little graphic to show a trend in, oh, I don’t know, temperature maybe.
Okay, I exaggerate just a little. The title page does have one ambiguous photograph of someone using a surveying instrument on some ice sheet somewhere, for what reason God only knows.
And true, the “What We Know” web site includes, in addition to the report, a number of videos. One is actually mildly entertaining and effective. It features a mountain biker racing down a trail to symbolize the perilous path ahead and the need to slow down. (Our carbon emissions, of course.)
But the rest consist of talking heads (scientists telling us what they know) intercut with what broadcast journalists call “B-roll” — time lapse video of cars, smoke pouring out of stacks, a little snippet of water pouring into the New York City subway system during Hurricane Sandy — you get the idea.
So here’s some unsolicited advice to the creators of “What We Know” from someone who thinks visual communication is actually an incredibly powerful way to communicate complex information and also connect with the heart as well as the mind: Read More
As a cold front blew across parts of the High Plains on Tuesday, winds kicked up a huge and intense dust storm. You can see it in the image above, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite.
The dust is streaming south out of Colorado and Kansas into Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. (Look for the streamers of pale, sand-colored stuff south of the big cloud bank.)
With winds gusting to nearly 60 miles per hour, visibility in southwestern Kansas was reduced to zero, according to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. CIMSS also describes a pilot report of severe turbulence at 45,000 feet in the region, possibly the result of the passing cold front.
On the ground, a towering wall of dust known as a haboob rushed across a vast swath of the High Plains, enveloping towns and cities in a brown pall. Read More
Something seems to be stirring in the western Pacific — a quickening that may herald the birth of El Niño.
Should it actually happen, weather conditions in many places around the globe could be affected starting in the fall, including the possibility of wetter conditions for drought-plagued California, as well as a warmer globe overall.
I put together the video above to help show in visual terms what’s going on — and why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday issued an El Niño watch, saying there is a 50 percent chance that one will develop this summer or fall.
El Niño, meaning “the Little Boy” or “Christ Child” in Spanish, is one half of what’s known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle. It is characterized by a periodic warming of the sea surface across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
For the past year and a half, near-neutral conditions have prevailed in the Pacific, meaning that neither an El Niño nor it’s opposite, a La Niña, has been present. But as the video above shows, westerly winds have been picking up in parts of the western Pacific Ocean region, something that could signal the birth of El Niño.
When neutral conditions are present in the Pacific, trade winds blow from east to west in the equatorial region. This tends to enhance upwelling of cold, deep water off the coast South America. These chilly waters spread toward the west, moderating sea surface temperatures. Meanwhile, strong trade winds corral warm surface waters on the western side of the ocean.
But when anomalous westerly winds start to kick up north of New Guinea, things can begin to change by helping to weaken the trade winds and thereby set the stage for warm water to spread toward the South American side of the Pacific. Starting in January, and continuing into February and March, westerly winds have indeed begun to kick up. And earlier this month, a tropical storm helped enhance this pattern.
And something else seems to be happening too. Read More
It’s not every day that astronomers get to witness an asteroid crumbling into a bunch of glowing chunks hurtling through space.
In fact, it has never been wintessed before — until now.
Scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency announced today that the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the fragmentation of an asteroid, designated P/2013 R2, into 10 separate chunks, each with its own glowing comet-like dust tail. The four largest chunks are about 400 meters in diameter, which is more than four football fields wide.
“This is a really bizarre thing to observe — we’ve never seen anything like it before, ”said co-author Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany, quoted in a NASA/ESA press release about the discovery.
The video above shows a sequence of Hubble observations of the asteroid over a little more than two months in late 2013 into January. (The sequence plays several times.) The fragments move around with respect to each other, and new chunks seem to break off.
How did it happen? Read More
The satellite image above shows the powerful storm that brought gale force winds and 36 hours of heavy rainfall to New Zealand, triggering what has been described as a 100-year flood in the city of Christchurch.
The city has been beset by flooding before, as well as a devastating magnitude 6.3 earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people.
— Lacey Wilson (@Lacey_Wilson) March 4, 2014
As Russian forces have taken complete control of the Crimean Peninsula, little action to counter this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty seems forthcoming from the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At least for now.
As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:
European heavyweights like Germany and France appeared to rule out any moves that might lead to a widening confrontation with Russia, such as military action or even economic sanctions.
Even a boycott of the upcoming Group of Eight summit in Sochi, site of the recent Olympics, doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Why the reticence to take even mild steps to counter Vladimir Putin’s invasion of a sovereign nation? Several factors are at work, including Russia’s integration with Western economies.
And if you want to understand that particular fact on the ground, you should follow the carbon.
Start with the image above. Captured by the Suomi NPP satellite, it shows Eurasia at night. In addition to city lights, you can see the bright glow generated by flaring natural gas in the vast Siberian oil and gas fields. (In the circled areas.)
Here’s a close up view of Russian energy development in Siberia acquired during the day by the Landsat satellite: Read More