Hell and High Water hits hard as Time asks: Will Russia’s deadly heat wave change its stance on climate change?
“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate.”
That’s Dmitri Medvedev, President of a country that has been mired in even more disinformation about global warming than ours, as Time notes. On Friday, Medvedev said that in 14 regions of Russia, “practically everything is burning”:
And so we have Hell and High Water, with Pakistan’s record flooding displacing millions: “The disaster has killed 1,200 people and there are fears that the death toll will rise steeply. There are reports of cholera outbreaks among some victims as doctors treat a number of waterborne diseases”:
As NYT blogger Andy Revkin put it in a post, “Fire and Water on a Hot, Turbulent Planet“:
Today’s images show the scope of two unfolding disasters “” involving excessive fire and water “” related to extreme climate conditions that are projected to become more frequent in a heating world.
That is a clever way of making the connection between the record-smashing uber-extreme weather we’ve been seeing and human-caused global warming. You can find how leading climate experts and meteorologists talk about the connection here: “We’re having a heat wave. New daily high temperature records beat new cold records by nearly 5 to 1 in June.”
Records are breaking everywhere. After the hottest decade on record, it’s the hottest year on record, and we may be at record low Arctic sea ice volume.” Now we see that the RSS satellite dataset shows last month just beating 1998 for hottest July on record.
Note: I no longer think that the UAH satellite dataset should be relied on for monthly comparisons. Roy Spencer et al. are simply rejiggering and adjusting the data too much — so much so that the plot of July temperatures I graphed last week (see “After the hottest decade on record, it’s the hottest year on record, hottest week of all time in satellite record* and we may be at record low Arctic sea ice volume),” cannot be reproduced if you try to graph it now (here). This might all be legit, but if NASA or NOAA tried something like this, Watts and McIntyre and Spencer would be trashing them daily. And Spencer and Christy simply have not earned anybody’s trust about this sort of thing (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?“).
Large parts of United States continued to swelter through record smashing temperatures. To put the heat waves into a national context, I use the statistical aggregation from Steve Scolnik of Capital Climate:
Total number of daily high and low temperature records set in the U.S., data from NOAA National Climatic Data Center, background image © Kevin Ambrose. Includes historical daily observations archived in NCDC’s Cooperative Summary of the Day data set and preliminary reports from Cooperative Observers and First Order National Weather Service stations. All stations have a Period of Record of at least 30 years.
The ratio of daily highs to daily lows in the last two months is 3.9 to 1, nearly double the ratio of the last decade.
Globally, it has been equally remarkable, as meteorologist Jeff Masters reports:
Ukraine ties its record for hottest temperature in history
On August 1, Ukraine tied its record for hottest temperature in its history when the mercury hit 41.3°C (106.3°F) at Lukhansk. The Ukraine also reached 41.3°C on July 20 and 21, 2007, at Voznesensk. Sixteen of 225 nations on Earth have set extreme highest temperature in history records this year, the most of any year. The year 2007 is in second place, with fifteen such records.
Five major U.S. cities record their warmest month in history during July
July 2010 was the warmest month in history for five U.S. cities:
Las Vegas, NV: 96.2°F (old record: 95.3°F, July 2005).
Atlantic City, NJ: 79.8°F (old record: 78.7°F, July 1983)
Washington, D.C.: 83.1°F (tied with July 1993)
Baltimore, MD: 81.5°F (tied with July 1995)
Trenton, NJ: 80.5°F (tied with July 1955)
Also, in June, Miami, FL recorded its warmest month in history: 85.6°F (old record: 85.4°F in June 1998.)
Masters has a good discussion of whether or not the urban heat island effects impact these records.
I just listened to NBC news spend several minutes on the extreme weather in the United States, Russia and Pakistan with no mention at all of the record global temperatures or long-term global trend caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Pathetic.
I guess things are going to have to get as bad here as they are in Russia to wake up this country, since both countries have been equally mired in disinformation. As Time explains:
Two months before Copenhagen, state-owned Channel One television aired a documentary called The History of a Deception: Global Warming, which argued that the notion of man-made climate change was the result of an international media conspiracy. A month later, hackers sparked the so-called Climategate scandal by stealing e-mails from European climate researchers. The hacked e-mails, which were then used to support the arguments of global-warming skeptics, appeared to have been distributed through a server in the Siberian oil town of Tomsk, raising suspicion among some environmental activists of Russia’s involvement in the leak.
But now things may be changing in the world’s largest country:
“Broadly speaking, the Russian position has always been that climate change is an invention of the West to try to bring Russia to its knees,” says Vladimir Chuprov, director of the Greenpeace energy department in Moscow. Case in point: when Medvedev visited Tomsk last winter, he called the global-warming debate “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.” That was two months after the Copenhagen talks. But Medvedev’s climate-sensitive comments on Friday, Chuprov says, could finally mark the start of a policy shift. “You don’t just throw comments like that around when you are the leader of the nation, and if you look at what is happening with this heat wave, it’s horrible. It’s clearly enough to shake people out of their delusions about global warming.”
The heat wave first started alarming authorities in June, when local officials recorded abnormally high fatalities on Russia’s beaches. At the same time, a devastating drought was withering Russia’s crops. As of July 30, some 25 million acres (about 10 million hectares) of grain had been lost, an area roughly the size of Kentucky “” and growing. Then last week, fires that had been ignored for days by local officials began spreading out of control. By Aug. 2, they had scorched more than 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) and destroyed 1,500 homes in more than a dozen regions, some of which declared a state of emergency. Scores of people have been killed in the fires, and in the outskirts of Moscow, burning fields of peat, a kind of fuel made of decayed vegetation, periodically covered the city in a cloud of noxious smoke, making it painful to breathe in parts of the Russian capital.
Medvedev has not been the only person in Russia to link the ongoing heat wave to climate change. Alexei Lyakhov, head of Moscow’s meteorological center, tells TIME it is “clearly part of a global phenomenon” that is hitting Russia. “We have to start taking systemic measures of adaptation. It’s obvious now. Just like human beings at one point took steps to adapt to the Ice Age, we now have to adapt to this,” he says, citing cuts to carbon emissions as one of the necessary adaptations.
Still, change in Russia will require Medvedev to show the kind of leadership that president Obama has so far eschewed:
Russia’s largest circulation newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, ran a headline on July 31 that asked, “Is the Russian heat wave the result of the USA testing its climate weapon?” The daily’s answer was “Yes, probably.”
But if Medvedev stands by his pronouncements, there may turn out to be a bright side to Russia’s devastating weather: one of the nations most responsible for driving climate change may finally start trying to do something about it.
Yes. I admit it. The USA has a climate weapon: The greatest cumulative emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases of any country in the world with no political backbone to do anything about that for the foreseeable future. It may prove to be the most devastating weapon ever devised by the mind of man. Sadly, though, it ain’t a test.
Seriously, let’s hope this extreme weather not only ends Russia’s doubts about global warming — but also the myth that warming might actually be good for that country or any other. The fact is, with the kind of warming we face on our current path of unrestricted emissions, global warming will be a global disaster — see “An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.”