In the past several years there have been studies showing plants flowering as much as a month early, butterflies migrating weeks later than usual, changes in the timing and location of bird migrations, tropical frog extinctions, bears in Spain no longer hibernating because there is enough food to eat all winter, tree lines moving up mountainsides and up in latitude, the line of permafrost moving north, and others. But none of these are close enough or important enough to us, personally, to make us (Americans) concerned. These are all out on the fringe of our world and simply do not affect us.
But here is an example of how we actually are being affected and will continue to be affected by the changing climate. In 1949 the southeast had a rare weather event. An out-of-season tornado developed in early February, much earlier than normal.
Well, this year southern Wisconsin had a rare weather event. An F-3 tornado developed January 7th for the first time - that early in the year - in the record books that go back over 120 years.(1)
Add to that the devastating outbreak of tornadoes in the first week of February this year in the Southeast where a super-cell developed an F-4 which rolled along the ground for 123 miles wreaking havoc to many towns along the way.(2) That was one of four tornado outbreaks in the Southeast in January and February. Jan. 10 saw 5 tornadoes, Feb. 17 saw 12 tornadoes, and Feb. 26 saw three tornadoes and a wind storm called a 'Derecho'.(3)
This is a pure, shinning example of climate change straight out of the text books. The rare, early, out of season formation of a tornado has moved to the North by roughly 500 miles......... and the rare, early, out of season weather event in the Southeast has now grown to an extremely strong system that produces 4 tornadoes and extreme devastation over a 123 mile long path killing 57, which is only one of four major tornadic events in the first two months of the year.
Since the January '99 outbreak of over 100 tornadoes in a four day period, the number of Feb. and Jan. twisters in the Southeast has been on a sharp increase with the past nine years tripling in average tornadic days. Here are the decadal statistics from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center Storm Data:
Southeastern Region February and January tornadoes -
1950 to 1959 - 1 days of tornadoes............ Total - 2 tornadoes
1960 to 1969 - 1 days of tornadoes............ Total - 2 tornadoes
1970 to 1979 - 2 days of tornadoes............ Total - 59 tornadoes
1980 to 1989 - 0 days of tornadoes............ Total - 0 tornadoes
1990 to 1999 - 3 days of tornadoes............ Total - 111 + tornadoes
2000 to 2008 - 6 days of tornadoes............ Total - 121 tornadoes (adjusted down from 189 preliminary reports)
That's Not All
If that is not alarming enough, a recent study shows that Lake Mead will be dry in twelve years. What will LA, Las Vegas and Phoenix do for drinking water? Also the drought in the Southeast has brought several towns to water rationing.
"According to researchers at the Aspen Global Change Institute, "it" is already happening. Its studies show that Aspen has an average overall warming of 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years and if the trend continues, it will have a ski country climate similar to that of say Amarillo, Texas, by the end of the century."(4)
A just released 2008 report from the National Recourses Defense Council declares "The planetary warming...........is already underway, and it is greater in the American West than across most of the globe." It goes on to say "Across the country, four of the five top years for crop loss claims due to drought have been since 2000."(5)
These things are hitting us right now......the effects of climate disruption are in our face, and are proving to be sooner than expected. This is how climate change is manifesting itself with just one degree F of warming. Won't 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 degrees be wonderful for our grandchildren?
It's no longer the polar bears or the coral reefs or a village of Eskimos in the Arctic that can easily be ignored.
Don't think of 'Global Warming' as the worry - higher temperatures all year round and warm winters - that is not what global warming or climate change means weather-wise. That is an uninformed and quite naive thought.
It's what the warming is CAUSING that you should be concerned about - climate change, climate SHIFT, or climate DISRUPTION which is the result of warming the oceans by nearly one degree F. Doesn't sound like much, does it? It is quite literally astronomical.
The oceans are simply unfathomably immense! Their volume is actually incomprehensible, being 71% of the earth's surface (310 million cubic miles). If you could stack water 100 cubic miles long and 100 cubic miles wide, that column would reach 31,000 miles into outer space. That is truly an astronomical amount of water! No pun intended.
Just try to imagine the amount of heat it would take to raise the ocean's temperature just 1 degree. And essentially, that heat or energy remains in the water, and is the power that fuels weather events for a very long time.
12 of the 13 warmest years in many centuries are in the past 13 years. That is not 'climate variability'. Climate variability would be ONE of the past 13 years being among the 13 warmest years. This is a distinction that is little understood by the general public.
Climate Warming Momentum
A 100 year-long (at the very least) 'program' has been installed into the world's climate system (the oceans) that does not have a 'delete' button. If it were possible to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere today entirely, what has already been emitted will continue to raise the temperature of the planet for over 100 years because it remains in the air for over a century. That continued warming cannot be stopped! That is "in the works", as they say. This is another very grim fact that the public is generally not aware of.
The climate is a very sinister, very slow moving, and very dangerous entity. It is little understood by the lay people of the world, which makes it an even more dangerous thing because ordinary people can be easily confused by skeptics spewing out disinformation and lies.
Don't Be Afraid - Be Informed
Dr. James Hansen, the chief US climatologist, tells us in a recent paper entitled Rampant Negativity - No Reason to be so Glum, "There is still time to phase off fossil fuels, but it requires sensible policies in the public interest. This will not be easy: the special interests are pouring huge amounts of funding into disinformation campaigns."(6)
He gives us three important things to do to prevent us from "producing a very different planet from the one to which humanity is adapted".
1) Fight for a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants,
2) Oppose extraction of fossil fuels in public and environmentally sensitive regions,
3) Vote for politicians who take the 'Stewardship Pledge', - do not vote for "well-oiled" politicians who accept funding from fossil fuel interests.
Slight movements of the climate have brought about enormous events such as drought and famine and pestilence. Now, mankind is able to cause these horrible situations with emissions of CO2 and whatever other natural factors may be at work. But with the will of the people and the right leaders, man can turn the escalating situation around, reduce heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, and preserve a comfortable climate for our grandchildren and theirs.
1) January 7, 2008 Tornadoes in Far Southeast Wisconsin
2) A Tragic Event/A Record Event
3) JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2008
4) Global warming placing ski industry at risk
http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_7627696 - [this link is not functioning, search the title in the Post's search engine to retrieve the article]
5)Hotter and Drier, March 2008
6) Rampant Negativity - No Reason to be so Glum, Mar. 2008