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”:

Unknown iFrame situation

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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