Climate

Apparently Unaware of Global Warming, L.A. Times Remains “Perplexed by the Mild Weather Across the U.S.”

One thing you can say about the Los Angeles Times, they are consistent in their miscoverage of global warming.

On January 27, they committed “journalistic malpractice,” as climatologist Michael Mann tweeted, for omitting any mention of global warming whatsoever in their article seeking to explain why the U.S. “seems to have largely escaped winter.”

On Groundhog day, coincidentally enough, they did it again.  Hmm.  Maybe this is like the movie and they are just going to keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again…..

As the L.A. Times “explains” in the article:

“It’s mild,” said Pastelok, a meteorologist from AccuWeather, in one of the bigger understatements of the season.

“The departures have been way above normal this season, maybe in a top five or top 10 category,” he said when asked to rank how unusual the winter from the Plains eastward had been in terms of temperatures and lack of snow.

The situation has stymied forecasters, who study previous years’ patterns to predict the future. This year has been unique because even when there have been cold snaps, they have been extremely brief and followed by long, mild stretches.

If only scientists had predicted years ago that spewing billions and billions of tons of heat trapping greenhouse gases into the air would cause more frequent extreme heat waves — ones that covered a bigger area and lasted far longer than before.

And no, confusionists and their enablers, those scientists didn’t say that global warming would be responsible for 100% of all heat waves.  But we are now pushing so far beyond the historical norm that we are seeing  unprecedented uber-extreme heat waves (see Hansen et al: “Extreme Heat Waves … in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 Were ‘Caused’ by Global Warming”).

The good news is that while the L.A. Times remains clueless, NBC news got the story just right — global warming piles the heat on top of whatever natural variability, like La Niña, we see.  Here’s their excellent story on the heat wave so unusual, people were “calling it JUNuary”:

Again, one can always tell the difference between good  journalism and not so good journalism by whether they quote real climate scientists who have actually studied the issue in question.

In this case, they went to the source, Dr. Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  You can read about his work here:  “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.”  NCAR explained their findings in a news release:

Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

Of course, it’s not warm winters that cause the big problem, it’s the blistering summers.

Here’s a Stanford release for Climatic Change study (PDF here) I wrote about in June:

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, The study, based on observations and models, finds that most major countries, including the United States, are “likely to face unprecedented climate stresses even with the relatively moderate warming expected over the next half-century.”

I interviewed Diffenbaugh for my book, Hell and High Water, and in 2008 wrote about his earlier work in a post titled, “When can we expect very high surface temperatures?

Bottom line: By century’s end, extreme temperatures of up to 122°F would threaten most of the central, southern, and western U.S. Even worse, Houston and Washington, DC could experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year.

The peak temperature analysis comes from a Geophysical Research Letters paper that focused on the annual-maximum “once-in-a-century” temperature. The key scientific point is that “the extremes rise faster than the means in a warming climate.”

The results, depicted above (in °C), are quite remarkable, especially when you consider that this is just the A1B scenario. In 2100, A1B hits about 700 ppm with average global temperatures “only” about 3°C (5 F) warmer than today.

In fact, on our current emissions path, a 3C temperature rise will happen much sooner (see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C  warming by 2100 on current emissions path and M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).   And remember, the worst-case scenario is that this happens by mid-century [see Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!]

On our current emissions path, these record temperatures could be seen closer to 2060 than 2100:

… values in excess of 50°C [122°F] in Australia, India, the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and equatorial and subtropical South America.

As you can see from the map, extreme temperature peaks are only slightly lower over large parts of this country. The study notes:

Such temperatures, if lasting for some days, are life threatening and receive relatively little attention in the climate change debate.

On our current emissions path, we may well exceed the A2 scenario and hit A1FI, 1000 ppm (see here).  In a terrific March 2010 presentation, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what the A1FI would mean:

Mother Nature is just warming up.

The time to act is yesterday.

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14 Responses to Apparently Unaware of Global Warming, L.A. Times Remains “Perplexed by the Mild Weather Across the U.S.”

  1. A Jessen says:

    Amazing stuff to see in 2012. And although blistering summers may be the most obvious problem, one has to wonder when we’ll start seeing more serious insect and disease outbreaks (if we aren’t already) as a result of extra-mild winters. Precipitation changes aside, it could have implications for agriculture in some areas.

  2. Ray Duray says:

    No end in sight to warm winter? Just cross the pond and the folks in the UK and Europe are pondering their extreme winter. One possible cause? Open water in the Arctic. The Independent has more: http://preview.tinyurl.com/73wo2mz

  3. prokaryotes says:

    What about a movie plot where the average meterologist and journalist (with moderate climate denial) are the protagonist and then how slowly and creepy, overwhelmed by climate disruption and reality.

  4. Paul Revere says:

    I read that THIS particular VERY warm winter had more to do with the Arctic and the North American oscillation than with some fraction of a degree of global warming between last year and this year.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
    ― John Adams

    I thought this quote fits the post and the discussion

  6. A Jessen says:

    True to an extent, but the thing with fractions of a degree is that they’re cumulative, and at some point you get a noticeable effect. The Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation isn’t necessarily immune to that influence. There was some discussion on this blog regarding potentially strong regional effects from changes in circulation. The research just isn’t very robust at this point on the specifics.

  7. EDpeak says:

    “n a terrific March 2010 presentation, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe”

    She says the “natural greenhouse effect” warms earth by 70F. I seem to recall having heard a lower number..can someone confirm?

  8. EDpeak says:

    Found this: “If an ideal thermally conductive blackbody was the same distance from the Sun as the Earth is, it would have a temperature of about 5.3 °C. However, since the Earth reflects about 30%[7] (or 28%[8]) of the incoming sunlight, the planet’s effective temperature (the temperature of a blackbody that would emit the same amount of radiation) is about −18 or −19 °C,[9][10] about 33°C below the actual surface temperature of about 14 °C or 15 °C”

    Multiplying:
    33 * (9 / 5) = 59.4

    So she meant to say “about 60F warmer” instead of “about 70F warmer? In slide #32 of her presentation
    http://www.rep.org/Hayhoe_Climate.pdf

    which overall is pretty good, so I’m not going to fault JR for linking to this “Evangelical Christian view of Climate” selling her book etc..I still worry she may have other errors as I do any time sometime is bend on superimposing their religious belief on top of their being against or (in this case) for acknowledging the science of climate change…

    But anyway 60F, not 70F, if above from Wikipedia is right?

  9. Peter SM says:

    I read this a few days ago and wondered- ‘No link to Greenhouse Gases’ Why would the Times practice such journalistic ignorance…?

    Its amazing the LA Times would have such a inane story written to begin with. Is the writer totally oblivious to whats happening around the world? Or perhaps knows nothing about the science of AGW- and the perilous course we are on.

    When climate disruptions begin to really tear the fabric of our culture to the breaking point- who is going to be responsible?

  10. climatehawk1 says:

    (1) This assumes that what is happening in the Arctic and North Atlantic has nothing to do with global warming, which, of course, is false;
    (2) Setting that aside, it’s unlikely this VERY warm winter would have been so warm in the absence of global warming;
    (3) The LA Times stories do not even mention the possibility of climate change as a contributing factor.

    Inexcusable. I’ll hazard a guess as to what is going on–management is using the excuse that no particular spell of weather proves global warming to order reporters to never connect the two.

  11. Joe Romm says:

    First off, the warming makes things, well, warmer. Second, the AO is getting more extreme, and some link that to the loss of Arctic ice. But the bigger picture is, more extreme heat waves were predicted. It ain’t perplexing.

  12. RelayeR says:

    “one has to wonder when we’ll start seeing more serious insect and disease outbreaks (if we aren’t already) as a result of extra-mild winters.”

    The pine beetle outbreak qualifies as being “more serious” in my book. But then again, I’m Canadian…

  13. Marion Delgado says:

    Of all the weather-for-sale businesses, Accuweather’re the most tied in to Fox, their flagship weatherman is a denalist who made his bones as a sensationalist tabloid version of a meteorologist, etc. They often underbid other weather services for news outlets but I don’t think anyone would claim they’re a quality outfit any more.

    I always urge everyone to boycott them, as much as possible.

  14. Pangolin says:

    If they’re perplexed at the warm winter they’re sure to be totally baffled when they get a cut in their water shipments from Northern California come August. There is very little snow on the mountains north of Sacramento where the water shipments come from.