Climate Change News Round-Up: 2nd Hottest US Summer, Record Low Arctic Sea Ice, US CO2 Emissions Record, La Nina Returns

There's certainly no shortage of news, events, discussion and controversy to do with climate change and global warming these days, and this past week has been no exception. Several significant reports based on actual scientific data and analysis were released. Unfortunately, they don't bode well for the near or longer term future.

 There's certainly no shortage of news, events, discussion and controversy to do with climate change and global warming these days, and this past week has been no exception.

Photo credit: NOAA
Photo credit: NOAA

Several significant reports based on actual scientific data and analysis were released. The latest findings aren't heartening.

Record August & Summer Heat, Drought

The summer heat records won't come as a surprise to farmers, ranchers and all the others in the US central and southwest who have been suffering through searing heat and record-breaking drought this summer.

August temperatures nationwide averaged 75.7 degrees Fahrenheit -- 3.0 degrees higher than the long-term, 1901-2000 average and just shy of the warmest August on record for the lower 48, 1983's 75.8 degrees F. The average summertime temperature was 74.5 degrees F, 2.4 degrees above average, again just shy of the warmest summer on record, 74.6 degrees in 1936.

Record-high August average temperatures were hit in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming experienced average August temperatures that ranked in their respective top ten's. Regionally, the Southwest and South also experienced their warmest Augusts on record.Arctic Sea Ice at New Record Minimum

Global warming is melting the Arctic ice cap at a much higher speed than scientists have predicted, according to the IB Times report of research conducted by a team of climate scientists at Germany's University of Bremen.

The level of Arctic sea ice reached a new low of 4.24 million square kilometers on September 8, surpassing the previous low set in 2007, according to the University of Bremen's team's findings.

Last year's record will be broken this year, as sea ice volume "is plunging faster than it did at the same time last year when the record was set," research team member Axel Schweiger said.

"The sea ice retreat can no more be explained with the natural variability from one year to the next, caused by weather influence," Georg Heygster, head of Bremen University Institute's Physical Analysis of Remote Sensing Images unit. "Climate models show, rather, that the reduction is related to the man-made global warming which, due to the albedo effect, is particularly pronounced in the Arctic."

US CO2 Emissions Set New Records

As the ice caps melt, US emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide increased by 3.9%, or 213 million metric tons, in 2010, the largest jump in 22 years, the US EIA reported. US CO2 emissions also increased at a faster annual rate than national GDP -- up 3% in 2010 -- for the first time in more than 20 years.

Historically, GDP growth has far exceeded CO2 emissions growth. That's changed in recent years, however.

According to the EIA's,"U.S. Energy-Related CO2 Emissions, 2010," report, the 2010 data "shows a change in a 20-year trend in which CO2 emissions have increased by about 12%, while GDP has grown by 63%. If this change in direction continues, it could signal a new rise in CO2 emissions."

Indicating greater difficulties ahead, the report notes that CO2 emissions only grew at levels approaching those of 2010 in two years -- 1996 and 2000 -- though GDP growth was greater than CO2 emissions growth in those years.

An economic recovery and increased industrial output, along with population growth and greater energy use, led to the record growth of CO2 emissions in 2010, the report authors concluded.

EIA economist and report co-author Perry Lindstrom sees last year's emissions data as an outlier, however. In 2010, US industrial output bounced back from a sharp drop during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, while the US economy continued its long-term shift away from heavy industrial production and manufacturing, he noted.

La Nina Returns

Wrapping this up, forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center reported that La Nina has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean, upgrading its status from a La Nina Watch to a La Nina Advisory while forecasting that La Nina conditions will "gradually strengthen and continue into winter."

That's likely to be bad news for drought and flood-stricken areas of the US. La Nina contributed to "extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011," the CPC forecasters noted.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

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