The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”

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"The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”"

Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”

A year of deadly record-smashing weather extremes from Nashville to Moscow, from the Amazon to Pakistan, ended with staggering deluges from California — “Rainfall records weren’t just broken, they were obliterated” — to Australia:

More than a year’s rain fell in Carnarvon in just 24 hours this week.  A monsoonal low hovering over the Gascoyne dumped a 24-hour record 204.8mm, smashing the previous record of 119.4mm set on March 24, 1923.

NASA reported that it was the hottest ‘meteorological year’ [December to November] on record and likely to be the hottest calendar year.

Uber-meteorologist and former NOAA Hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground reported, “The year 2010 now has the most national extreme heat records for a single year–nineteen. These nations comprise 20% of the total land area of Earth. This is the largest area of Earth’s surface to experience all-time record high temperatures in any single year in the historical record.”

This was a year that the scientific literature became clearer that global warming is driving more extreme weather, hell and high water (see Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse) — and it is likely to get much, much worse if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path (see “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice” and “Must-read NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path“).

But this was also very much a year of living dangerously right now for people around the globe:

As Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, put it last week, “The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”  Tamino calculates (at length) that global warming made the Moscow heat wave roughly eight times more likely:  “Without global warming, this once-in-a-century-or-two event would have been closer to a once-in-a-millenium event.”  On our current emissions path, Russia’s grain-export-ending heat wave and drought could be a once every decade event — or even more frequent.

I queried both Masters and Dr. Peter Hoeppe, Head of the Geo Risks Research Department at Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, about this astonishing year.  Here’s what Masters wrote me:

In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events–many of them extremely destructive–to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning.

You can hear an extended interview of Masters and meteorologist Heidi Cullen and Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on last week’s Living on Earth, “The Wild Weather of 2010.”  Trenberth, head of NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section, said on that show, “Some [weather events] we’ve had this year it’s clear– even though the research has not been done in detail yet –that the odds have changed, and we can probably say some of these would not have happened without global warming, without the human influence on climate.”

In an Exclusive interview with ClimateProgress earlier this year, Trenberth explained a key connection between human-caused global warming and superstorms:

“I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

Back in August, Trenberth told the NY Times, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

The nation’s top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen has also recently written on the subject:  Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not”:

“Given the association of extreme weather and climate events with rising global temperature, the expectation of new record high temperatures in 2012 also suggests that the frequency and magnitude of extreme events could reach a high level in 2012. Extreme events include not only high temperatures, but also indirect effects of a warming atmosphere including the impact of higher temperature on extreme rainfall and droughts. The greater water vapor content of a warmer atmosphere allows larger rainfall anomalies and provides the fuel for stronger storms driven by latent heat.”

Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, issued a news release in late September, “large number of weather extremes as strong indication of climate change,” which noted:

Floods in central Europe, wildfires in Russia, widespread flooding in Pakistan. The number and scale of weather-related natural catastrophe losses in the first nine months of 2010 was exceptionally high….  Munich Re emphasises the probability of a link between the increasing number of weather extremes and climate change.

Globally, 2010 has been the warmest year since records began over 130 years ago, the ten warmest during that period all falling within the last 12 years. The warmer atmosphere and higher sea temperatures are having significant effects. Prof. Peter H¶ppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Centre: “It’s as if the weather machine had changed up a gear. Unless binding carbon reduction targets stay on the agenda, future generations will bear the consequences.”

Munich Re recorded a total of 725 weather-related natural hazard events with significant losses from January to September 2010, the second-highest figure recorded for the first nine months of the year since 1980. Some 21,000 people lost their lives, 1,760 in Pakistan alone, up to one-fifth of which was flooded for several weeks. Overall losses due to weather-related natural catastrophes from January to September came to more than US$ 65bn and insured losses to US$ 18bn. Despite producing 13 named storms, the hurricane season has been relatively benign to date, the hurricanes having pursued favourable courses.

Munich Re’s natural catastrophe database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes.

The rise in natural catastrophe losses is primarily due to socio-economic factors. In many countries, populations are rising, and more and more people moving into exposed areas. At the same time, greater prosperity is leading to higher property values. Nevertheless, it would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge as set out in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report.

There are at present insufficient data on many weather risks and regions to permit statistically backed assertions regarding the link with climate change. However, there is evidence that, as a result of warming, events associated with severe windstorms, such as thunderstorms, hail and cloudbursts, have become more frequent in parts of the USA, southwest Germany and other regions. The number of very severe tropical cyclones is also increasing. One direct result of warming is an increase in heatwaves such as that experienced in Russia this summer. There are also indications of a higher incidence of atmospheric conditions causing air mass formation on the north side of the Alps and low-lying mountain ranges, a phenomenon which can result in floods. Heavy rain and flash floods are affecting not only people living close to rivers but also those who live well away from traditionally flood-prone areas. Although climate change can no longer be halted, even with the help of very ambitious schemes, it can still be curbed.

Dr. Peter Hoeppe, Head of the Geo Risks Research Department at Munich Re, had been (incorrectly) quoted by AFP saying, “The first nine months of the year have seen the highest number of weather-related events since Munich Re started keeping records.”  I asked him about that and about Munich Re’s assertion that climate change is driving the increase in weather-related catastrophes.  He wrote me:

I never said that 2010 is the year with the highest number of weather related loss events, it is the second highest after 2007. Currently (December 23) we have reached the number of 931 nat cat loss events, 849 of them being caused by weather related events. The still record year is 2007 with a total of 1043 events, 943 weather related. For me the most convincing piece of evidence that global warming has been contributing already to more and more intense weather related natural catastrophes is the fact that while we find a steep increase in the number of loss relevant weather events (about tripling in the last 30 years) we only find a slight increase in geophysical (earthquake, volcano, tsunami) events, which should not be affected by global warming. If the whole trend we find in weather related disaster should be caused by reporting bias, or socio-demographic or economic developments we would expect to find it similarly for the geophysical events. By the way the assumption that climate change is increasing the risk of extreme weather events is backed by IPCC.

This is all one big coincidence for the anti-science disinformers.  But for the rest of us, the really scary part is that we’ve only warmed about a degree and a half Fahrenheit in the past century.  We are on track to warm five times times that or more this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F ).

In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Update:  Brad Johnson has some iconic photos of extreme weather events here:


RUSSIA BURNING: As central Russia suffered through its hottest summer in thousands of years, hundreds of wildfires swept the countryside, causing billions in damage. Russians here try to stop a fire from spreading near the village Golovanovo, Ryazan region, on August 5, 2010. (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)


PAKISTAN FLOODS: Starting in July and lasting for months, some of the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history took place – at one point nearly one fifth of the country was underwater. Here, Pakistani flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)


WEATHER BOMB: Visible satellite image of the October 26, 2010 superstorm taken at 5:32pm EDT. At the time, Bigfork, Minnesota was reporting the lowest pressure ever recorded in a U.S. non-coastal storm, 955 mb. (NASA/GSFC)

UPDATE:  Capitol Climate has good piece, “California Rainfall Smashes Records By Wide Margin.”

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50 Responses to The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”

  1. dhogaza says:

    To further differentiate Jeff Masters from faux TV meteorologists like Anthony Watts, perhaps you could refer to him as Dr. Jeff Masters, since he does have a PhD in the field?

    “über meteorologists Dr. Jeff Masters” would be fine :)

    Seriously, meteorologist is such a meaningless word on its own, it’s worth making clear that Masters has a strong academic background …

    IMO.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    In an article this week on the relentless rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, I outlined one of the canonical projections of climate science: if the amount of carbon dioxide doubles, the average surface temperature of the earth is likely to increase by 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a whopping change. I contrasted that with a prediction from skeptics of climate change who contend that the increase is likely to be less than 2 degrees.

    One major voice on climate science, Richard B. Alley of the Pennsylvania State University, told me he gets annoyed by the way this contrast is often presented in news accounts. The higher estimate is often put forward as a worst case, he pointed out, while the skeptic number is presented as the best case.

    In fact, as Dr. Alley reminds anyone who will listen, and as he recently told a Congressional committee, the estimate of 5 or 6 degrees is actually mildly optimistic. Computer programs used to forecast future climate show it as the most likely outcome from a doubling of carbon dioxide, but those programs also show substantial probabilities that the warming will be much greater.

    The true worst case from doubled carbon dioxide is closer to 18 or 20 degrees of warming, Dr. Alley said — an addition of heat so radical that it would render the planet unrecognizable to its present-day inhabitants. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/climate-change-and-balanced-coverage/?partner=rss&emc=rss

  3. Michael T. says:

    “How Will We Know if 2010 Was the Warmest Year on Record?”

    “Different Groups’ Methods Yield the Same Finding: Warming Surface Temperatures”
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/tracking-the-temperature-of-a-warming-planet/

  4. MapleLeaf says:

    Seconded dhogaza :)

    Great article Joe, the disparity between the slight increase in insurance costs from volcanoes, earthquakes etc. the last 30 years (even after big events like the Asian Tsunami, Haiti and Chili), contrasted with the rapid increasing costs from weather-related events is very telling and disturbing. Someone ought to write up a study on this, looking at some detailed stats, and per capita costs etc. Perhaps they have, if so, could someone refer me to the most recent (credible) citation? Thanks.

    I love that quote form Trenberth too. On that note, the eastern sea board of Canada has been hammered by three nor’easters of late, and another on the way next Monday. They have had unprecedented rain (not snow), flooding from heavy rain and storm surges and damage from near-hurricane force winds.

    That and Hudson Bay is still not completely frozen over. Anyone taking bets for there still being open water on the Bay on 1 January?

  5. paulm says:

    What a mess.

    I was sitting in a Christmas pantomime yesterday and just thinking was this all real or is it just some sort of dream. Are we really going to see the demise of human civilization in the next 30-50yrs. Not only that we have triggered the next ME.
    Can it be true. I can believe it.
    What a nightmare.

    Thanks for all your work you’ve put in to this blog. The MSM has really capitulated to Brainless Frog syndrome. If it weren’t for the efforts of people like you we would be years behind the ball.
    MSM has failed humanity. I guess they are only human.

    [JR: The demise of civilization is unlikely by 2060, though multiple, permanent catastrophic impacts occurring by the 2060s is now the plausible worst-case scenario.]

  6. catman306 says:

    Perhaps someone can explain better than I, that ‘mild seasonable weather’ is the opposite of the weather that we can expect with global warming caused climate change? And further, that ‘mild seasonable weather’ when it occurs probably just indicates the beginning of draught conditions?

    Humans, as well as the rest of the biosphere, thrive best with stable predictable climate.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    The Carnarvon event ending up producing 2 years worth of rain in a week. There is another one beginning in far northeast Queensland …….

    Far north Queensland faces flash flooding, mudslides with Christmas Day downpour

    Most of the north from Daintree to Townsville was bucketed with more than 100mm of rainfall yesterday, with Ingham recording more than 300mm.

    Cairns Police District Superintendent Brian Connors said forecasters had warned of an “unbelievable downpour” in the next 48 hours out of the vast tropical thunderstorm cell.

    “No one knows quite how the flooding hot spots will cope under those phenomenal conditions,” Supt Connors said.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/far-north-queensland-faces-flash-flooding-mudslides-with-christmas-day-downpour/story-e6frf7l6-1225975689754

  8. MapleLeaf says:

    H/T to Tom Yulsman.

    NCDC have just released their data for November 2010, the global SAT anomaly was +0.694 C. That is quite close (within 0.05 C) to the GISTEMP value (+0.74 C)– not sure which baseline NCDC is using (1901-2000?). Note that, like GISTEMP, the NCDC anomaly also jumped upward from October, actually even more so (+0.15 C versus +0.06 C for NASA).

    So those trying to claim that NASA is “fudging the numbers” are clearly far out to lunch.

    Skeptical Science also has a nice comparison of the various global SAT datasets, and I understand that they are also trying to add (true) global SAT reanalysis data,

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Comparing-all-the-temperature-records.html

  9. Michael T. says:

    Climate Center 2010 Top 5 Climate Events

    “Climate Central’s Heidi Cullen counts down the five biggest climate and weather related events of 2010 in this newest edition of ClimateCenter. Get the context behind some of this year’s most important climate-related events, from Feburary’s snow storms in the Northeast, to floods in Pakistan.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlbVR_7bRzU

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    I have noticed that the coral bleaching world wide this year isn’t making any of these year end lists.
    Several million small fishermen world wide are going to see declines in their source of protein as a result.

    Global Reports of the 2010 Coral Bleaching Event

    http://coloradobob1.newsvine.com/_news/2010/11/12/5457136-global-reports-of-the-2010-coral-bleaching-event-

  11. Barry says:

    Humanity is losing our “best case/worst case” roll of the dice with ocean acidification too. The more we study the more we realize we have underestimated how bad this fossil fuel pollution disaster will be.

    SciAm reports: “a new study shows that a CO2-induced increase in acidity also appears to disrupt the marine nitrogen cycle. The finding, to be published December 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could have ramifications for the entire ocean food web.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=ocean-acidification-may-disrupt-the-2010-12-20

    How many BILLION tonnes of climate pollution do we allow fossil fuels to release totally free and without any restrictions?!? Everyone thank the GOP for another year of coal in our stockings.

  12. Climate scientist Richard B. Allen (Penn State): balanced reporting should tell that doubling of CO2 (to 560 ppm) may lead to 10-11 degrees C of global warming: http://bit.ly/CS1820

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    How Earth’s Orbital Shift Shaped The Sahara

    Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    say that the current melting of ice in Greenland is already causing the tilt to change at a rate of approximately 2.6 centimeters each year. They predict that his change could increase in the years ahead.

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/How_Earth_Orbital_Shift_Shaped_The_Sahara_999.html

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    “The hypoxic zone off West Africa, which covers virtually all the equatorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean, is roughly the size of the continental United States, and it’s growing,” said Dr. Eric D. Prince, NOAA’s Fisheries Service research fishery biologist. “With the current cycle of climate change and accelerated global warming, we expect the size of this zone to increase, further reducing the available habitat for these fish.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101222162402.htm

  15. Wanda Ballentine says:

    I think everyone should checkout Mike Ruppert’s warning that global system collapse is imminent

    http://www.collapsenet.com/

  16. @MapleLeaf (#5): Unbelievable! Hudson Bay area 18C warmer than normal for past 7 days; above freezing; no wonder sea ice not recovering: http://bit.ly/Huds18

  17. From Peru says:

    Jeff Masters on the crazy weather in the Northern Hemisphere in December:

    “Europe’s cold and snowy winter forecast to gradually ease”

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1714

    “The Arctic is usually dominated by low pressure and counter-clockwise circulating winds, and this “Arctic Vortex” has broken down and reversed its flow direction to clockwise, as high pressure is now in place over the Pole. Natural variability in the weather can cause this pattern, though significant loss of Arctic sea ice, such as occurred this fall, can also be a contributing factor. The extreme conditions in the Arctic this December has led to a rather remarkable event–sea ice decreased this week, during a period when we normally see some of the fastest rates of ice formation in the Arctic. Arctic sea ice extent is now at its lowest extent ever recorded for this time of year, due to the combined effects of unusual wind patterns and temperatures in excess of 10°C (18°F) above average over most of the Arctic.”

    The map shows that temperatures over Canada were over 20ºC above normal in the last few days!

    Masters is predicting that the extreme negative Arctic Oscillation will break down next week, so the weather will warm over Europe and the Arctic will cool.

    By the way, in the US the cold anomalies have been replaced by warm ones, and now seems that temperatures in Canada had peaked:

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/fnl/sfctmpmer_01b.fnl.html
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/fnl/sfctmpmer_01a.fnl.anim.html

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    Much has been learned in the past decade, as researchers have studied mudslide threats in the area. The USGS has coordinated with the National Weather Service to build models of how much saturation different kinds of soil can take, estimate the amount of water expected from coming storms, and then make their evacuation warnings accordingly. Variables include what areas have had vegetation denuded by fire, and how much leaves and other woody debris have been removed by residents. Researchers have also learned that when plants are burning, they release a gas into the soil that produces a waxy layer inches beneath the turf. That waxy layer halts water infiltration – and creates a slippery slide for soil sitting above it, paving the way for a landslide.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/1222/When-is-mudslide-danger-greatest-Lessons-from-California-storms

  19. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Huge rains in southern Utah about washed the place away. Over 11 inches in the past few days, and that’s not the final count. Very spectacular. The St. George area usually gets about 8 inches a year. This is the second 100-year flood they’ve had in less than five years.

    And the weather here in W. Colorado has been running 15 degrees plus above normal. Lots of rain, and tons of snow in the high country. Everyone agrees it’s downright weird to have rain here this time of year, it’s almost unheard of.

  20. Tom Yulsman says:

    MapleLeaf: Good point about how close NCDC and NASA were in their temp anomaly findings for November. I should have made that point in my Climate Central story. What will really be interesting is if after December’s numbers are in, all three groups — NCDC, NASA and HadCRUT — find 2010 to be either the warmest year or tied for warmest year on record. Could happen.

    And btw: If you’d like to see the same story but with a much more amusing graphic (involving urban hipsters, sea level rise and the Empire State Building…), check this out: http://www.cejournal.net/?p=4702

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Central Qld town cut off as deluge continues

    Forecaster Michelle Berry says more heavy rain is expected along the east coast.

    “We’re looking at least 300 to 600 millimetres over the next few days,” she said.

    “I think over that tropical coast we’ll see falls in excess of that actually.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/12/24/3100906.htm

  22. peter whitehead says:

    It is obvious to climate zombies that the PLANET is part of the conspiracy!

  23. paulm says:

    Global civilization, is in trouble. If we see extreme events years like 2010 in a row. This will mainly be driven by food shortages.

    The probabilities of extreme events are changing due to changing weather patterns and tipping thresholds. There is a very high probably that we will get groups of extreme warm years in a row now(1C seems to be the threshold). The frequency from around 1998 was 5yr. With increase temp this period is going to be reduced. It think 2010, 2011 & 2012 are probably going to be the first of the series and probably could be enough to topple many nations.
    see …

    UK’s infrastructure will struggle to cope with climate change, report warns
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/23/uk-infrastructure-climate-change?intcmp=122

    One cannot apply with any confidence past system behavior to future predictions. We have not see this level and rate of injection of greenhouse gasses for tens of thousands of years on the planet.

    From observations of the current trends in our climatic system, the rate is astonishing. Its way worst than most scientist admit to. There are a few brilliant ones like Lovelock, Hawkins and Frank Fenner who can see this and have voiced their concern. You could even put Hansen in this group. They all say that human civilization is in trouble by 2100.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/08/frank-fenner-obituary

  24. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and have witnessed first hand the rain. Everyone is talking about the weather, and just how “tropical” it has felt.

    Australia has lost about $3bn worth of crops, while many towns where flooded. At the other end of the spectrum South West Australia groaned under a heat wave which also wiped out crops.

    A small portent of the future? I fear this is the case.

    2010 is a “watershed” year: a year after the failed COP15 talks, the planet decided to send us a reminder.

    Tough times ahead people.

  25. Wit's End says:

    “In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!” said Joe.

    Correct. And individual, isolated, extreme, violent and destructive record-smashing weather events will continue to intensify and scale and quantity but even so, will PALE IN SIGNIFICANCE when all the trees and other vegetation are dead from toxic greenhouse gas emissions…which is happening at a speed equivalent to that of a tsunami, or a perhaps a super-tornado, which is pretty obvious to anyone who looks at the horizon instead of the teevee.

    Anybody who doesn’t see that trees are dying, ISN’T LOOKING. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the ecosystem is collapsing is being willfully delusional.

    Here’s a partial list of populations reported by scientific research to be “in decline” – in other words, dying off faster than they are being replaced:

    tigers
    polar bears
    seals
    fish of ALL types except those invasive carp in the Great Lakes, and jellyfish
    corals
    phytoplankton
    whales
    penguins
    bees
    butterflies
    birds
    bats
    trees: maples, oaks, sycamores, butternuts, pecans, hemlock, white pine, aspen, birch, ash, horsechestnut, pines (ponderosa, lodgepole, scotch, limber, bristlecone), elm, and that’s just off the top of my head
    wildflowers
    frogs of all types
    rhinoceros
    oysters

    …there are many more. Plus, there are millions of species that no one is monitoring also dying off.

    The only species with a population burgeoning at an exponential rate (aside perhaps from some invasives, bacteria and viruses) is humans – and that is going to make a very sudden reversal.

    See you back here next year this time to re-assess. Maybe.

    Happy Holidays!

  26. Richard Brenne says:

    While civilization as a whole (or hole) might not collapse by 2060, if you were living in much of Haiti last January or much of Pakistan last July it effectively collapsed for you.

    Of course collapse will never be completely uniform, but in many places it is already beginning, and will almost certainly only accelerate for all the reasons catalogued here at CP better than anyplace.

    Happy Holidays to everyone, and God Bless us, every one.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The hope that collapse might be put off until 2060 seems hopelessly Panglossian to me. James Lovelock opined years ago that the climate would go through extreme variability before settling into a new equilibrium, and obviously it is here. And climate ain’t the half of it. Ocean acidification has burst onto the consciousness of the non-imbecile fraction in just the last few years, and now it is anoxic dead-zones, rapidly spreading, that were, just a few years ago, a problem only on coastal, estuarine and river environments polluted with excess nitrogen. These and new horrors, like tree death, are all synergistic and rapidly evolving. Barring divine intervention, which alas, I do not expect, the collapse will begin to cause real catastrophe almost immediately. Food production and prices, exacerbated by the return to the commodity ‘markets’ of the ruthless, amoral, speculator class, fueled up by the odd trillion gifted them by Obama, Bernanke and the other market absolutists, are going to soar, and I’m afraid that this time production will be found wanting. I hope I’m wrong of course, because this translates into vast human suffering. And insanities like bio-diesel and biofuel ethanol diverting food for ‘oil’ will just make it even worse. The Four Horsemen are straining to be unleashed.

    [JR: Not sure folks understand what 'collapse' means, but it ain't world war or widespread suffering.]

  28. John McCormick says:

    Dr. Mann’s “Defining dangerous anthropogenic interference” at

    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/11/4065.full.pdf+html

    gets to the truth of where civilization finds itself as our planet’s systems struggle to find equilibrium.

    “If one considers the collective impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gases alone, we have already reached 450 ppm CO2eq. It is only when the cooling due to anthropogenic aerosol production (e.g., sulfate) is taken into account (equivalent to 80 ppm CO2eq) that we appear to be safely below the 450-ppm number, at an effective 375 ppm CO2eq [this number is uncertain, due to the substantial uncertainty in estimates of the net impact of anthropogenic aerosols (13)]. If we were to suddenly halt the various dirty industrial and agricultural processes responsible for anthropogenic sulfate, nitrate, and other aerosols, we would suddenly find ourselves with 450 ppm CO2eq on our hands.”

    For starters, stop referring to CO2 concentrations and talk only of
    CO2eq which is closer to 455 ppm of infrared radiation-trapping compounds in the atmosphere. Then factor in the aerosols dimming the sunlight to the tune of about 80 ppm CO2eq and we are likely experiencing the effects of about 375 ppm CO2eq. Clean up the global air shed and we’re back to dealing with the full measure of AGW gases….450 ppm CO2eq.

    We are there folks, in the land of dangerous anthropogenic interference and we can feel it all around us. And, we are just beginning to tack positive feedbacks from the increasing heat.

    John McCormick

  29. fj3 says:

    Climate Change 101
    http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/climate_change_101.php

    (From Columbia Journalism Review, Curtis Brainard, December 23, 2010)

  30. MapleLeaf says:

    Well, Obama finally seems to be trying, but is it going to be enough, or too little too late. If the US implements some kind of regulation, any regulation, then Canada has to follow, and others will too….but the USA needs to move first, sad and pathetic, but true.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12069884

    Come on USA lead the world! The only way to do that is to keep the regressive and myopic GOP out of power. We have a slogan (coined by a provincial conservative premier ironically enough) here in Canada: “ABC”, Anything But Conservative”.

    Let that be the new rallying cry in the USA.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

  31. fj3 says:

    The year of living dangerously http://bit.ly/g9l0mT Net-Zero PlaNYC2020 at wartime speed! http://twitpic.com/3i4zl7

  32. Wes Rolley says:

    I generally don’t get a chance to comment here until all the rest of you have had your say. I get my news the way most do… and last night I was pleased that ABC’s Nightline allowed Dan Harris to use Michael Oppenheimer as the spokesperson for facts regarding climate change and it’s relationship to this years extreme weather. They also allowed Shimkus, Boehner and Dr. Singer to look a bit silly.

    Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but still not what we need.

  33. I’m not a “cheerleader for the apocalypse”, nor do I don’t see civilisations “collapsing” or our extinction.

    I imagine the future will be “tougher”; food/water security issues; political instability in some regions; a contraction of the global economy; expanded government; more climate related disasters; an impact on quality of life for everyone on the planet; the collapse of the global airline industry (too expensive to maintain + peak oil); a rush to implement alternative energy sources (including nuclear); rumblings of the geo-engineering debate; extremism on both sides of politics; and ironically, cries that the “scientists” should have “tried hard to warn us!”.

    What does 2060 really bring? I don’t know. I suspect some of the above if history and human behaviour is any guide.

    My daughter will be 50 then. My intention is to make my part of the world as “safe” for her and my family. What more can I do?

  34. Ross Hunter says:

    I’m siding with #26 and #27 – collapse is what happens in your back yard and it’s already here on Earth. The Brits are starting to use the language of apocalypse in their government reports, which I’m glad to see:

    “UK’s infrastructure will struggle to cope with climate change, report warns” –
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/23/uk-infrastructure-climate-change

  35. As I said to a sceptic I know, the real extreme “warming” view is never presented because we can’t even concieve of it yet. So any “debate” of the oposing views is ultimately biased.

    I too fear we will see a global collapse of human civilisation in a rapidly worstening environment (and extinction event).

    But I have to hope that humans can respond to this. This is the reason I continue to work for change. Some are listening. It hasn’t gone far enough to make the majority take notice butI have hope we can salvage something from the crash when it comes.

    In my area, there is a lot of discussion about colapse of the value of water front land. Australia has lots of properties in this situation (700,000 according to a Government report). The same will be true of many other regions. This is the only way people will pay attention to this problem; if it affects their hip pocket.

    All the best for the festive season.

    “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians)

  36. Colorado Bob says:

    When I hear the deniers bleat about great natural cycles , and never site one , or explain how one might apply today, …….. I always think , ” Drunk drivers cause car wrecks, therefore all car wrecks are caused by drunk drivers. ”

    Some examples of this -
    Large impactors cause climate change, there fore all climate change is caused by impactors. ( For the deniers here , an “impactor” is a body coming from outside the earth system. )
    Continental drift causes climate change, there fore all climate change is caused by Continental drift.
    Volcanic eruptions cause climate change, there fore all climate change is caused by volcanic eruptions.
    The sun”s out put causes climate change, there fore all climate change is caused by the sun’s out put.
    The wobble of the earth’s axis causes climate change, there fore all climate change is caused by the wobble of the earth’s axis.

    But the actions of 7 Billion human beings burning trillions of tons of carbon based fuel in under 2 centuries , that was buried over the course of hundreds of millions of years, ….. hey that don’t count.

  37. Colorado Bob says:

    For a long time, the belief was that the Earth’s tilt would change only insignificantly in the next century. However, recent research is suggesting that the effects of global warming-particularly the oceans-could cause a change in the Earth’s axial tilt.

    Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that the current melting of ice in Greenland is already causing the tilt to change at a rate of approximately 2.6 centimeters each year. They predict that his change could increase in the years ahead.

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/How_Earth_Orbital_Shift_Shaped_The_Sahara_999.html

    One of Hansen’s ” Monster behind the door “

  38. peter whitehead says:

    For those who like collating weather events, here’s another site you might like see:

    http://www.met.rdg.ac.uk/~brugge/world.html

  39. Prokaryotes says:

    May i suggest, twitter such post as this one or add a “twitter this” button?

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    Re 38# Colorado Bob said “ecent research is suggesting that the effects of global warming-particularly the oceans-could cause a change in the Earth’s axial tilt.”

    Earth literally becomes unstable.

    Earth knocked for a loop
    Chilean quake sped up Earth’s rotation, tipped planet’s axis http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/56903/title/Earth_knocked_for_a_loop

  41. dp says:

    for the new year, i’d like humanity to find a way to keep the extraordinary foreign investment from increasing coal use overseas. i’m sick to death here picturing nice american families rebuilding their retirements by accelerating asian carbon output.

  42. Anne says:

    There seem to be two types of people in the world – those who understand (or wish to understand) and take responsibility for our natural environment, for Earths ecological systems – and those who do not, for one reason or another, many times stemming from the book of Genesis which says that the Earth should be “subdued” and that man shall have “dominion” over the Earth. In this case, religious ideology replaces rational thinking, reason, and empirical data. In other cases, the profit motive blocks reality-based thinking; it is simply too inconvenient to believe that was is making money is also jeopardizing our well-being. Of course, these points by now are cliche. The real question is, what does the second group of people need to overcome their personal denial? I am beginning to think that this group can be swayed by offering acceptance of them as individuals while offering (lovingly) rejection of the belief system, and offering them a graceful way out, a face-saving way of loosening their grip on false ideas and embracing the truth about our only planet. A particular kind of “therapy” is needed, I think, in which “deniers” can feel safe enough to let go of their denial. This would be a great topic for social scientists and psychologists to study and research.

  43. Esop says:

    #20 (Tom):
    It seems very likely that NCDC, GISS and UAH will put 2010 as the warmest year. Quite the contrary to what the denier choir predicted back in 2008.
    I doubt HadCrut will, as they basically skip the high Arctic (which right now is a massive 22F above normal).
    This presents an interesting situation: deniers will no longer be able to use their tired “no warming since 1998″ BS, unless they quote the CRU data. Since they themselves proved CRU data to be fraudulent in the Climategate “scandal”, they can’t quote that dataset.
    The irony is grand.

  44. Joni Grady says:

    Anne’s comment was very helpful in helping me try to figure what my attitude should be toward those deniers not profitting from their skepticism. It’s hard to remain charitable in the face of their blustery and (usually) insulting refusals to listen to reason, but perhaps it’s a good spiritual exercise.

  45. Fred Heutte says:

    Responding to dp (#42), a coalition of national groups (including my own, the Sierra Club) and local groups are doing exactly that:

    “Groups challenge Cowlitz County’s approval of coal export facility”

    http://tdn.com/news/local/article_2f0082f0-06f7-11e0-a209-001cc4c002e0.html

  46. dhogaza says:

    Fred Heutte:

    “Groups challenge Cowlitz County’s approval of coal export facility”

    Quick backgrounder on this … currently in Oregon there’s one coal-fired electricity generation plant, in Boardman, owned by PGE.

    The environmental/conservation community has been fighting to get this plant closed for years, and finally, a date has been set, agreed to by PGE.

    So now the company supplying the coal that fires the plant is proposing to ship it by rail to the Columbia River port of Longview, Washington and then by sea to China, where it will be burned in coal-fired electricity generation plants.

    An unexpected consequence of my state’s working to reduce CO2 emissions will lead to a net increase, in other words, of this project is allowed to go forward.

    Thus the fight, which hopefully will result in the project being canceled. If not, it will certainly be condemned by anyone concerned about climate change …

  47. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Collapse: rapid simplification of society. Joseph Tainter talked of 95% population reductions, but much of that reduction was through migration. Then he did not think you could apply that to the entire plannet, I would be curious what his thoughts would be now.

    The UN predicts a population of 9 Billion by 2050, I do not think so. Maybe 1 billion come 2100.

    Now none of us here are going to be around 2100, but how far would you go to see your grand children part of that 1 billion. We have had wars over what date to celebrate Easter, how much worse will it be when survival is at stake.

    There may be some places that simplify through choice and without stress, but many more will suffer a terrible transition. There will be collapse, but it will vary significantly and may not look like collapse from inside, just a series of failures of this and that.

  48. The energy from that latest California system is now pounding the Northeast:
    Northeast Blizzard Snow Totals Top 20″, Winds Reach Hurricane Force

  49. Mike says:

    Climate Depot now has a link to this post. Talk about influence!