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. The latest findings aren't heartening.
- NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that temperatures in August, as well as the June-August summer months, were the second-warmest ever recorded
- A University of Bremen institute research team found that Arctic sea ice levels have reached a record low
- US CO2 emissions increased more in 2010 than they have in 22 years and faster than the economy grew for the first time in more than 20 years, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced
- To round out the troubling news, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center announced that La Nina conditions have returned in the equatorial Pacific this year for the second year running
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.”
- Extreme Wildfires & Drought Strike Extreme Global Warming Denying State, Texas (planetsave.com)
- 2011 a Historic New Arctic Sea Ice Minimum (planetsave.com)
- Another La Nina Is On The Way (naturalhistorywanderings.com)