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Third Hottest Summer Globally, Second Warmest for U.S. With Stunning Weather Extremes, Texas Drought Worst in Centuries

By Joe Romm on September 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm

"Third Hottest Summer Globally, Second Warmest for U.S. With Stunning Weather Extremes, Texas Drought Worst in Centuries"

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U.S. Heat Records Continue Crushing Cold: Incredible 22 to 1 Ratio in August

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mVvCKjGVI4k/Tl_eG4pzY6I/AAAAAAAACaI/w0YPK6spvlA/s1600/temp.records.083111.jpg

Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center and found that in August,”The over 3000 daily heat records swamped the 142 cold records by 22.2 to 1.”

I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming.  And 22 to 1 is a stunning ratio.  In the last decade, the ratio averarged about 2 to 1 — see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.”  As Scolnik writes, “For meteorological summer (June-August) as a whole, the ratio increased to 11.4 to 1 … and the year to date is now at 3.4 to 1, more than 50% above the average for the previous decade.”

The meteorological summer was the third hottest on record in the NASA dataset.  This is particularly impressive because we’ve been in a  La Niña most of the year and were headed back into one –  and that is normally associated with cooler global temperatures.  It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming, well, other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

The “high-water” extremes this summer were record-smashing from Virginia, whose deluge was an “off the charts above a 1000-year rainfall,” to my hometown area around the Catskill Mountains, where Hurricane Irene was “the most devastating weather event ever to hit the region,” to Binghamton, NY, where “an extreme rainfall event unprecedented in recorded history has hit.” This is precisely what climate scientists warned would happen if we kept pouring  billions of tons of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, heating the planet up and putting more water vapor in the atmosphere to be entrained into monster superstorms — see the scientific literature here: Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment.

And, of course, there’s Texas to put the “hell” in “Hell and High Water,” a place where “No One on the Face of This Earth has Ever Fought Fires in These Extreme Conditions.” The NDCD has this stunning statistic on the severity of the Texas drought in its monthly “State of the Climate” Report:

An analysis of Texas statewide tree-ring records dating back to 1550 indicates that the summer 2011 drought in Texas is matched by only one summer (1789) in the 429-year tree-ring record, indicating that the summer 2011 drought appears to be unusual even in the context of the multi-century tree-ring record.

And it’s pretty safe to say this drought was hotter, what with Texas smashing the temperature record for the hottest meteorological summer in the  temperature record going back to 1895 — by  1.6°F over Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma:

Summer 2011 Record Statewide Temperatures

Climate Central has another way to look at how hot this summer was –  a map of days where the temperature hit 100°F:

Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wrote in a blog post:

“Compared to long-term averages of summer temperature, the rainfall deficit accounted for about 4°F of excess heat and global warming accounted for about 1°F of excess heat. Warmer temperatures lead to greater water demand, faster evaporation, and greater drying-out of potential fuels for fire. Thus, the impacts of the drought were enhanced by global warming, much of which has been caused by man.

I have talked to climatologist who think the contribution of global warming to this drought is higher, and I hope to report on that in the days to come.  Here is the most recent drought map –  which is about as ugly as it gets:

And what’s most incredible is that we’ve only warmed 1°F in the past 50 years.  If we keep listening to the climate science deniers like the current Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, we  could warm 10 times that this century.  In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

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37 Responses to Third Hottest Summer Globally, Second Warmest for U.S. With Stunning Weather Extremes, Texas Drought Worst in Centuries

  1. Dean says:

    I live in one of 2 states out of the 50 that had below average temps for the summer, so you can blame the PNW – La Nina really – for this not being the warmest summer.

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    They are indeed stunning stats and deserve to be widely publicized to reinforce first hand observations of, and unease about, the gathering changes, ME

  3. paul donohue says:

    I am sorry to see the LaNina continuing in 2012. I was hoping for a warm year to thwart Perry et.al. It is surprising that this hot year in Texas is not enough to stop Perry.
    I wonder if the cooling Pacific is due to the SO2 cloud from China?

    • Joe Romm says:

      You have this backwards. The La Nina means the devastating drought in Texas will, unfortunately, continue perhaps for another year.

      • NeilT says:

        Joe, it seems to me that the current blocking high over Texas is a repeat of the one in Russia in 2010. Just much longer lasting.

        If that is the case, we are seeing the combination of Russian drought and fires, plus the flooding and excessive rains, in Pakistan, from tropical storms not making it far enough inland, all in one country rather than two.

        Jeff Masters also talks about this Atlantic Hurricane season being exceptional with 14 named storms but only 3 Hurricanes. This season every potential hurricane has either been bent north or forced south over central america. The one storm which tried to generate over the very warm waters in the Gulf was quite literally ripped to shreds and forced north to do even more damage to the flood ravaged northern states.

        To my mind this is a much bigger story than an exceptional drought. Everyone knows the power of tropical storms. To push them or destroy them is a very powerful action.

        We already know the science of blocking high’s, yet we don’t talk much about them when we see their action. We talk about drought and weather.

        What happens when we get two of these in different areas of the globe? How bad do the weather extremes become as the tropical systems try to force their way between them?

        Surely somone must be looking at the full implication of what we are seeing this year?

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Now is a good moment to quit Oil Subsidies

    Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2010 Edition of the World Energy Outlook in which it reported that global fossil-fuel subsidies have amounted to more than US $312 billion in 2009. The number includes subsidies to fossil fuels used in final consumption and to fossil fuel inputs to power generation. However, the report did not include direct producer subsidies that topped US $100 billion last year according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

    The IEA report noted that the $312 billion was down from US $558 billion in 2008, most notably because oil prices declined in 2009. Conversely, if experts are correct, the subsidies should climb again in 2010 with the increase in oil prices.

    “As we strive to develop alternatives to oil we must recognize that we are not competing on a level playing field,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Massive multi-billion dollar oil subsides are a serious obstacle to the development of cleaner greener alternatives. Oil has a huge competitive advantage financed by global taxpayers. http://domesticfuel.com/2010/11/09/global-oil-subsides-reach-312-billion/

  5. prokaryotes says:

    Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2010 Edition of the World Energy Outlook in which it reported that global fossil-fuel subsidies have amounted to more than US $312 billion in 2009. The number includes subsidies to fossil fuels used in final consumption and to fossil fuel inputs to power generation. However, the report did not include direct producer subsidies that topped US $100 billion last year according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

    The IEA report noted that the $312 billion was down from US $558 billion in 2008, most notably because oil prices declined in 2009. Conversely, if experts are correct, the subsidies should climb again in 2010 with the increase in oil prices.

    “As we strive to develop alternatives to oil we must recognize that we are not competing on a level playing field,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Massive multi-billion dollar oil subsides are a serious obstacle to the development of cleaner greener alternatives. Oil has a huge competitive advantage financed by global taxpayers.”
    http://domesticfuel.com/2010/11/09/global-oil-subsides-reach-312-billion/

  6. prokaryotes says:

    test, my last 2 post disappeared

    • prokaryotes says:

      A good moment to quit a deadly addiction

      Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2010 Edition of the World Energy Outlook in which it reported that global fossil-fuel subsidies have amounted to more than US $312 billion in 2009. The number includes subsidies to fossil fuels used in final consumption and to fossil fuel inputs to power generation. However, the report did not include direct producer subsidies that topped US $100 billion last year according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

      The IEA report noted that the $312 billion was down from US $558 billion in 2008, most notably because oil prices declined in 2009. Conversely, if experts are correct, the subsidies should climb again in 2010 with the increase in oil prices.

      “As we strive to develop alternatives to oil we must recognize that we are not competing on a level playing field,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Massive multi-billion dollar oil subsides are a serious obstacle to the development of cleaner greener alternatives. Oil has a huge competitive advantage financed by global taxpayers.” http://domesticfuel.com/2010/11/09/global-oil-subsides-reach-312-billion/

    • Joe Romm says:

      Sorry. Glommed into Spam. I retrieved.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its 2010 Edition of the World Energy Outlook in which it reported that global fossil-fuel subsidies have amounted to more than US $312 billion in 2009. The number includes subsidies to fossil fuels used in final consumption and to fossil fuel inputs to power generation. However, the report did not include direct producer subsidies that topped US $100 billion last year according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

    The IEA report noted that the $312 billion was down from US $558 billion in 2008, most notably because oil prices declined in 2009. Conversely, if experts are correct, the subsidies should climb again in 2010 with the increase in oil prices.

    “As we strive to develop alternatives to oil we must recognize that we are not competing on a level playing field,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Massive multi-billion dollar oil subsides are a serious obstacle to the development of cleaner greener alternatives. Oil has a huge competitive advantage financed by global taxpayers.”
    http://tiny.cc/yre4e

  8. Joan Savage says:

    The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s long term forecasts show an increased probability of above normal heat for the southern states for at least a year. Sometime in April-May-June 2012, precipitation in the south will have an equal chance of above or below normal levels, so that is a possible time of reprieve from drought, but not heat.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/90day/

  9. Ray Duray says:

    Dear Joe,

    I read “Hell and High Water” in 2008 and followed up with Jim Hansen’s “Storms of My Grandchildren” when it came out.

    As I read this blog and Jeff Masters’ blog at WU I can’t help but get the feeling that the adverse weather conditions you were predicting for decades out are seeming to be becoming the new normal as of the last 18 months or so, with concurrent heat in Russia, flood in Pakistan, 1000-year flood in Nashville sort of kicking off what has been a relentless parade of new weather records world-wide.

    Have you given any thought to a long-form review of the predictions in you excellent and eye-opening “Hell and High Water” with four years of data to add to your models? Or, perhaps I’ve missed it if you’ve already published along these lines.

    Thanks for this outstanding blog. It is one of the best on the web, IMHO.

  10. Paul magnus says:

    Nervously reads….with a unsettled feelling…

    “This is particularly impressive because we’ve been in a  La Niña most of the year and were headed back into one –  and that is normally associated with cooler global temperatures.”

  11. Paul magnus says:

    http://hot-topic.co.nz/current-extreme-weather-events-part-of-climate-change/

    In the United States, the impacts are expected to be most severe over the western third of the country. “In these regions, if the 2°C threshold is passed, it is more likely than not that every summer will be an extreme summer compared with today.”

    “While previous work, including our own and that of researchers at Stanford, has highlighted that summertime temperature extremes, and how frequently they occur, will change significantly even in response to relatively small increases in global-mean temperatures, the extent and immediacy of the results really caught us off guard. Because these results are referenced to increases in global-mean temperatures, and not some particular time or change in amount of heat-trapping gases, they hold whether we reach this global-mean temperature increase in the next 40-50 years as currently projected, or the next century. They really are telling us that this is a temperature threshold that poses significant risks to our lives and livelihoods.”

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science and fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, had this to say:

      “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.”

    • Paul magnus says:

      While our understanding of how climate change affects extreme weather is still developing, evidence suggests that extreme weather may be affected even more than anticipated. Extreme weather is on the rise, and the indications are that it will continue to increase, in both predictable and unpredictable ways.

  12. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Increased temperatures are felt in India also. This will be a grave situation in the coming years unless remedial measures to reduce global warming are taken on a war footing.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  13. Gnobuddy says:

    @ #9 – Ray Duray says:
    …I can’t help but get the feeling that the adverse weather conditions you were predicting for decades out are seeming to be becoming the new normal as of the last 18 months or so
    —————————————–
    I have the same feeling. In fact, it’s more than a feeling – it’s a logical conclusion, as there is plenty of data to substantiate it. Just as the ice caps are melting “ahead of schedule” (by which we mean “perfectly on time on Nature’s schedule, but ahead of our unfortunately inaccurate human predictions”), so too extreme weather events are happening well “ahead of schedule”.

    When you watch Al Gore’s final presentation in his 24-hour Climate Reality event and see the marks from a massive mud-slide four storeys tall on the side of a building, or watch an entire hillside virtually liquify in minutes (
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVYJAUMqFrU ), you know we are definitely on the new Eaarth, and not our former planet Earth. When you read about typhoon Megi dumping nearly four feet of rain in 48 hours, or 875 tornadoes hitting the USA in one single month (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_climatology) there is no room remaining for doubt. Drastic climate change is here, well ahead of schedule, and almost certainly a portent of much worse things to come.

    Hang on tight, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and most certainly all seven billion of us will not make it all the way to the end. With nearly 400 million people already drastically affected by recent extreme weather, even the thin end of the climate disruption wedge is turning out to pack one hell of a punch.

    -Gnobuddy

  14. Peter Mizla says:

    If August was the 2nd warmest summer in the US during a La Nina- what will our next summer look like with an El Nino?

    I do not think we will have to wait to the 2040s to see multiple climate disasters, we are beginning to see them now. They will become worse as the decade progresses.

    I dare not think what we will be seeing in 10 years. As the years proceed climate change will become an important element of Presidential elections. How much so in 2012 remains to be seen. However another year of extreme weather events moves the issue further from the back burner of American voters concerns.

    The MSM thus far has shown no desire to begin to present to the public the threats we face now and will face in the future.

    C02 levels have not been this high in 20 million years- the Miocene- at that time there was no ice in the arctic year round- and Sea level was 25-30 meters higher.

    Yet C02 continues to rise- beyond that of the Miocene- which saw the globe continuing to cool after the Eocene optimum.

    What a fine mess we got ourselves into…….

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    “ The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born. ”

    — William Ralph Inge

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    ” In the 24 hours through Wednesday noon, up to 500 millimeters of rain is expected in the Tokai, Kinki and Shikoku areas in central and western Japan, and 250 mm in southern Kyushu, as well as the Kanto-Koshin area in central and eastern Japan, the agency said.

    Record rainfalls for September have already been logged in areas in Aichi, Kochi and Miyazaki prefectures. Among them, Misato town in Miyazaki was pounded by 87 millimeters of rain an hour.

    As precipitation increases, some areas may experience torrential rain of over 80 mm an hour. ”
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110920p2g00m0dm001000c.html

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    Boulder scientists: Climate’s ‘missing heat’ locked deep in the ocean

    But Trenberth and his colleagues — including lead author Gerald Meehl — were able to show, using NCAR’s Community Climate System Model, that the excess heat is likely buried deeper than 1,000 feet in the ocean, where researchers now have few reliable temperature gauges.

    The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

    “There’s not very much in the way of deep ocean measurements,” Trenberth said. “The challenge for us now is to find this in the observations. What the study has done is give us some real clues of where to look.”

    The heat may have been carried deep into the ocean by overturning circulations, which can plunge surface water from the subtropical regions into the ocean’s depths. The burying of warmer water also corresponds with La Nina weather patterns, which are born from cooler-than-average surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific. And over the last decade, La Nina conditions have dominated, Trenberth said.

    That the heat is buried in the ocean, and not lost into space, is troublesome, Trenberth said, since the heat energy isn’t likely to stay in the ocean forever, perhaps releasing back into the atmosphere during a strong El Nino, when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are warmer than average.

    “It can come back quite fast,” he said. “The energy is not lost, and it can come back to haunt us, so to speak, in the future.”
    http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_18932226

    • Joan Savage says:

      Wow. What a tool for prediction that could be.

    • Lewis Cleverdon says:

      With the recent report of a 50yr cycle of acidified water upwelling from deep circulation currents, can anyone say if this is what Trenberth is hinting at in speaking of “Knowing where to look” ?

      The thing is, if that missing heat won’t resurface for 500 years, then it’s an SEP (somebody else’s problem). But, if it were already starting to surface at the upwellings, then we face yet another form of pipeline warming (the fourth) and this one would already have begun to take effect.

      AR4 is starting to look pretty complacent.

      Regards,

      Lewis

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    It pours and pours.

    There has been no let-up in the torrents across the Badin district – a land that receives less than 60 mm of rain in a year has now seen over 300 mm in just of 48 hours.

    But it was a crisis already in the making because of record rains in the country’s southern province of Sind which received an incredible 1,000 mm of rain in less than three weeks and the deluge still continues pounding several districts in the area.
    http://blogs.aljazeera.net/asia/2011/09/13/poor-response-worsens-pakistan-flood-crises

    • Colorado Bob says:

      As we arrived in Badin the situation was already at crisis point and tens of thousands were on the move as the raging waters destroyed over 9,000 villages and destroyed over 2.5 million bales of cotton just weeks before the harvest.

      • Lewis Cleverdon says:

        Bob – the figure of 9,000 villages destroyed is particularly striking. By this measure the US has got off very lightly indeed so far this year, with perhaps less than 9,000 houses destroyed by the various extreme events of wildfire flood tornado and storm.

        Please correct me if you’ve an accurate count – but it’s been troubling me that with all the talk of US weather damage, there seems little awareness damage greater by far – in countries with little prospect of effective aid and recovery. E.g. the 800,000 still homeless and destitute from last year’s floods in Pakistan.

        Were it not for your diligence in posting global weather news, even CP would have a bit of a shortfall in my view – and without in-your-face info on the global damage there can be little prospect of arousing the moral outrage in western nations that seems critical to generating change.

        So Kudos on your efforts !

        Regards,

        Lewis

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    As of last Thursday, the damage to the sector was estimated at Bt8 billion. But the KRC said the full cost will not become clear until the last quarter of the year, given that the floods struck just as rice farmers were about to harvest their crops.

    Flood water has already swamped millions of rai of farmland.

    A large part of the country’s rice basket, which covers Suphan Buri, Ayutthaya, Chai Nat, Pathum Thani and Nakhon Sawan, is inundated.
    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2011/09/20/national/Floods-to-cost-farmers-Bt20bn-30165694.html

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Heavy record rains for more than a week have swamped several provinces in northern, central and southwest China, also injuring dozens of people, Newscore reports……Parts of China’s longest river, the Yangtze, recorded reaching seven meters above dangerous levels and was expected to rise to the highest level since 1847, the Herald Sun reports.
    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/110920/china-floods-dead-evacuated

  21. Sime says:

    Off topic but very important none the less.

    Merchants of Doubt

    Everbody should make a cup of tea and then watch this and then get your friends to watch it and make it go viral!

    http://youtu.be/jOnXL8ob_js

  22. SecularAnimist says:

    Peter Mizla wrote: “The MSM thus far has shown no desire to begin to present to the public the threats we face now and will face in the future.”

    It’s worse than that. The corporate media in the USA continues to actively deceive the public about the reality of anthropogenic global warming, and in particular about the relationship between AGW and the rapidly escalating onslaught of catastrophic weather events. And they will continue to do so for as long as they can get away with it.

    The corporate media’s denial (in part through silence) of the problem goes hand in hand with the utterly dishonest attacks on the solution — renewable energy (particularly solar power, and the electrification of ground transport) and efficiency.

    Take the two together and it is very clear that the corporate media’s priority is protecting the profits of the fossil fuel corporations at any cost.