Large ponderous entities like the IPCC or government agencies like NOAA take forever to make basic statements about climate change, for a variety of reasons. They are going to have to speed up their process or risk losing some relevance. Among the coming problems we anticipate with global warming will be events that have huge, widespread effects and that happen in time scales of weeks or months, or a season, and having a nice governmental report about it two years later isn’t going to do anybody any good. So let’s see to that problem, please (looking sternly at IPCC and NOAA).
But that’s not really what I want to talk about here. Rather, I want to give a wether/climate report that operates at several scales because the information comes to us on several scales and is about stuff that happens at several scales.
First, expect excessive heat in 2012! Or, rather, expect that when the data are finished being analyzed, 2012 will be one of the top ten hottest years on record, despite the fact that the whiny-pants climate science denialists keep saying that global warming has stopped. This is from an annual report from NOAA that looks at the year as a whole, the previous year, many months after the year is over. Also, the Arctic is melting much faster than anyone expected over the last decade or so:
Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries (highlights, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky.
“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment.”
Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest “summer minimum” extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent.
So, here we have two scales of events being reported at one large scale of reporting and study. How does one year stand among more than a century of years, we learn after a year of data collection and 8 months of study and report preparation? What gives in the Arctic over one year in relation to about two or three decades of years, again looked at with months of digestion of a year of data? And, the same report verifies that extreme, often killer, weather (which generally happens over scale of minutes through days) is now normal. So get used to it.
At a somewhat different scale of time, we hear this news from Alaska: The village of Newtok, on the Bering Sea, is being inundated by rising sea levels and they want to move, but political snags seem to be halting the process. This village is probably going to be entirely gone in four years and hardly anybody lives there. This gives us great hope that we will be able to move Boston and New York over the next few decades! (Not)
While we’re still in the Arctic, there is a new study that shows that the Arctic Sea ice as a whole has lost about 15% of its albedo. Here we have a decadal time scale of climate change and a week-long cycle of memic change. First, we had “OMG Santa” with puddles at the North Pole. Then we had “Oh those silly puddles” at the north pole. Now we have the puddles at the north pole being a key factor in the rapid melting of the Arctic Sea ice, which is one of the most significant things going on the Global Warming front now.
And now we are about to experience, it seems, at the scale of a few days an event that may push the current year into infamy among three decades of Arctic Ice melting; a storm is brewing in the Arctic, which together with a wind-generating high pressure system, may blast the ice off much of the Arctic Sea. This is normal … the storms being part of the ice melt. What happens is this: Every time there is a storm or set of storms, the rate of melt goes up and in between stormy periods it slows. You can see this in the minor wiggly-wobbly-ness happening within a given year of Arctic Sea ice melt like in this graph:
We are about to hit a new wobbly. A big one, I think.