Global Warming, Record Arctic Ice Loss Create Deadly ‘New Normal’ With Twenty-Five Billion-Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters In 2 Years
This year brought staggering weather extremes, record loss of Arctic ice and a growing body of scientific analysis linking the two. Those extremes, plus Superstorm Sandy, raised public concern about the immediate threat posed by climate change, providing a palpable debunking of the (mistaken) belief that climate change will impact only future generations or people in faraway lands.
The superstorm — which scientists explained was made far more destructive by manmade climate change – hit the media where it lives and may have been a game changer for many of them, as the Bloomberg Businessweek cover suggests.
Sandy “may have also reset the politics of climate change,” as the UK Guardian noted today (see, for instance, “Michael Bloomberg Endorses Obama, Citing Climate Change As Main Reason“). The official nomination today of climate hawk John Kerry for Secretary of State is a hopeful sign that the president will (finally) raise the salience of this most preventable of existential threats to modern human civilization.
The AP year-end wrap up explained that 2012 should not have been a surprise to anyone who has been listening to climate scientists:
In 2012 many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes: Record melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean. U.S. cities baking at 95 degrees or hotter. Widespread drought. Flooding. Storm surge inundating swaths of New York City.
All of that was predicted years ago by climate scientists and all of that happened in 2012.
Indeed, 2012 showed that the record-smashing weather extremes of 2011 weren’t a fluke, they were a pattern.
America’s heartland lurched from one extreme to the other without stopping at “normal.” Historic flooding in 2011 gave way to devastating drought in 2012.
“The normal has changed, I guess,” said U.S. National Weather Service acting director Laura Furgione. “The normal is extreme.”
Here is how meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters put it in his 2012 sum up:
It was another year of incredible weather extremes unparalleled in American history during 2012. Eleven billion-dollar weather disasters hit the U.S., a figure exceeded only by the fourteen such disasters during the equally insane weather year of 2011.
Even without including the 2012 disasters, Munich Re, a top reinsurer, found for the first time a “climate-change footprint” in the rapid rise of North American extreme weather catastrophes:
“Climate-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, for heavy precipitation and flash flooding, for hurricane activity, and for heatwave, drought and wild-fire dynamics in parts of North America.”
Many top climatologists agree with that assessment. Dr. Kevin Trenberth explained in his must-read 2012 paper “How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change“:
The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….
A growing number of climatologists are warning that we have undergone a “systemic change”:
These are “clearly not freak events,” but “systemic changes,” said climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany. “With all the extremes that, really, every year in the last 10 years have struck different parts of the globe, more and more people absolutely realize that climate change is here and already hitting us.”
A growing body of scientific research links this systemic change to global warming, in particular to loss of Arctic ice far more rapid than any climate model had predicted:
- NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather
- Arctic Warming Favors Extreme, Prolonged Weather Events “Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves“
- Must-See Video: Has Global Warming Caused A Quantum Jump In Extreme Weather?
Human activity is utterly reshaping the Arctic as this remarkable figure makes clear: