Labor Day 2040: Endless Summer

Who ever would’ve guessed that there would be a Labor Day card for global warming?  But that is what SomeEcards are for:

But “The Onion” of e-card companies makes a serious point:  In the not-too-distant future, people are going to be amazed that anybody ever thought Labor Day signified the unofficial end of summer.  As Climate Progress discussed in “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up” last year:

Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers

The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists….

“According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh.

And this could happen even sooner since, “actual GHG emissions over the early 21st century have exceeded those projected in the SRES scenario used here, suggesting that our results could provide a conservative projection of the timing of permanent emergence of an unprecedented heat regime.”

Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what staying on the business as usual emissions path (A1FI or 1000 ppm) would mean for the end of this century (derived from the NOAA-led impacts report):

Yes, absent a sharp and deep reduction in national and global emissions, by century’s end, Kansas (!) could well be above 100°F for three full months.  Labor Day will mean a return to those pleasant mid-to-upper 90s!

It truly will be an endless summer over much of Texas and Arizona and the Central Valley of California (see also NASA’s Hansen: “If We Stay on With Business as Usual, the Southern U.S. Will Become Almost Uninhabitable”).

Not only will it be hot, but if we don’t reverse emissions trends ASAP, it will be very, very dry :

The maps use a common measure, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which assigns positive numbers when conditions are unusually wet for a particular region, and negative numbers when conditions are unusually dry. A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought.  More details on this figure are here.

The PDSI in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here).  So the numbers projected by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are catastrophic by the 2060s (see New study puts the ‘hell’ in Hell and High Water).

The NCAR study warned, “The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decadespossibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

This drying creates a vicious circle.  The heat dries out the land.  Then Dust-Bowlification exacerbates the warming because when large tracts of land are dry, the warming doesn’t go into evaporating moisture from the soil, but into heating up land.  It bakes.  That’s why, for instance, the U.S. set so many temperature records in the 1930s Dust Bowl.  And it’s why in July 2011, drought-stricken Oklahoma saw the highest average temperature of any state in the continental United States for any month since statewide average temperature records began in 1895.

It’ll be a hellish summer for much of the West by mid-century — see Climate change expected to sharply increase Western wildfire burn area — as much as 175% by the 2050.

Here’s the grim wildfire projection from a presentation made by the President’s science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo in 2010:

If you’re wondering what the worst-case might look like, then the UK Met Office has what you are looking for: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

This is the “plausible worst case scenario” for around 2060 from the Met Office that occurs in 10% of model runs of high emissions with the carbon cycle feedbacks [temperature in degrees Celsius, multiple by 1.8 for Fahrenheit]:

Now that is an endless global summer.

Note: While that is the plausible worst-case scenario for 2060, it is in fact just business as usual for 2100!

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14 Responses to Labor Day 2040: Endless Summer

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    It looks like Arizona will be baked from May to September, rendering it uninhabitable at the lower elevations. Phoenix highs already reach over 120F, and at 132F, the likely land temps, equipment will fail, wood framed housing will buckle and crack, and heatstroke death will become epidemic. The metropolitan area will be right out of one of those “Life After People” shows, with feral cats and dogs crawling in and out of decaying buildings.

    Maybe the people of Arizona already sense this, explaining why they have been so nutty lately over guns, immigrants, and a lot else. Flagstaff and Sedona will become fortresses, so they won’t be welcome there. Let’s hope they migrate to their soul brothers in Alberta, and not bring their assault rifles out here to California.

  2. Tami Kennedy says:

    More university science for the GOP do disclaim the research. I wonder if there is a degree in Romney-science or generic GOP-science? Grants and scholarships available from Koch, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, etc.

  3. Phil Blackwood says:

    I think the estimates for when we will see extreme heat become very common are too low.

    Dr. Hansen’s recent paper on extreme heat showed that in the last 30 years the percentage of earth’s surface with an extremely hot summer (compared to local conditions from 1950-1980) has increased from much less than 1% to 10%.

    The paper focuses on the observed data; it is not based on models and does not make any forecasts.

    However, if you extrapolate the data forward, it is a mathematical certainty that when the mean shifts by 3 standard deviations we will see summers where 50% of the earth’s surface experiences extreme heat.

    This could occur within 20 years, and we have very little time to change it.

    Let’s get moving!

    (when you focus in on just the extreme heat, the area to the right of 3 sigma approximates the cumulative normal distribution as the curves shift to the right. Changes to the standard deviation over time do NOT change the point at which we hit the 50% mark, only the shape of the curve on the way there — it’s a pay me now or pay me later, with the 50% mark fixed)

  4. Tim says:

    I know someone who lives in the Phoenix area who sells more electricity than he uses throughout the summer months. He has a 6 kW solar system that he installed for something in the 10 -12 k$ range – with subsidy. He figures the system will have paid for itself with 8 years or so. The houses won’t buckle and crack if their interiors are at 75 ˚F. I think the problem in Arizona will be water – there will be very little of it.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    In spite of all that sunshine, you’d be surprised how few rooftop collectors there are in Phoenix, mostly for ideological reasons.

    Interior AC won’t prevent sealing cracks and wood deformation when it gets hotter in Arizona. Tree farm wood has high moisture content, and goes haywire even with current high temperatures.

    I agree that water will be a bigger problem, though. The Colorado is already oversubscribed, with allocations based on wet decades from the early 20th century. Arizona will crater economically, too, since two of their main industries- retirement communities and winter farming- will collapse. Social disintegration will occur, as people become desperate. We’re seeing some of that already, with cops, environmentalists, Republicans, and Hispanics all at each others’ throats.

  6. Peter M says:

    AZ will crater economically, but so will most of the intermontane west, below 2500 feet elevation. You should include Las Vegas, El Paso, Albuquerque, and eventually all of the mid and lower Great Plains.

  7. Lore says:

    That’s how it all begins. A few decades of extreme heat and violent weather will shake out the last of the residence from places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, New Orleans and many other areas of the South and Southwest. With dwindling potable water resources and multi-year crop failures, refugees from these lands will put an even heavier strain on the parts of the country that are less affected.

    Think of how bad it’s going to be for the rest of the world.

  8. Peter M says:

    The grim reality is that by 2050, two thirds of the US- mostly the interior below 40 degrees latitude will not be habitable without special housing and stored water supply. The fringes of the country, the upper northeast, the Pacific coast states- will all see added migration pressure.

  9. GP Alldredge says:

    Re the Hayhoe figure “Weeks per Year > 100 F”, please verify the SRES scenario used for it.

    The National Climate Assessment for 2009 “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” uses the following tag-phrases for three SRES scenarios:
    “Lower Emissions” — B1
    “Higher Emissions” — A2
    “Even Higher Emissions” — A1FI

    NCA-2009 mostly uses the first two; only in a very few places does it use the A1FI scenario (“Even Higher Emissions”). Unless Dr Hayhoe mixed up terminology, the figure you used in this post is for A2, not A1FI.

  10. Roket says:

    What we have here is one big giant uncontrolled experiment. In other words, allow me to quote one of America’s greatest conservative heroes.

    “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don’t know.”

    US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

    The unknown unknowns are alive and well and are able to maintain their secrecy beneath the veil of right-wing disinformation bandwagon. I blame Satan.

  11. Joe Romm says:

    She told me it was A1FI.

  12. Chris Winter says:

    I blame Santa — specifically the Two Santa Claus Theory of Jude Wanniski.

  13. Has anyone done combined maps of habitable and arable land lost to temperature AND sea level rise?