Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Tropical High Cloud Frequency Increases – Climate Change Cited

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The most recent American Geophysical Union conference ( late Dec. 2008 ) was a venue where numerous climate change study results were presented.  I’ll post what I can – which is likely to be the more noteworthy results.  One such result is the following:

The frequency of extremely high clouds in Earth’s tropics — the type associated with severe storms and rainfall — is increasing as a result of global warming, according to a study by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For every degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average ocean surface temperature, the team observed a 45-percent increase in the frequency of the very high clouds. At the present rate of global warming of 0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, the team inferred the frequency of these storms can be expected to increase by six percent per decade.

Also on the increase has been annual global rainfall.  Projected rainfall by the IPCC report’s “worst-case scenario” has already been surpassed by observations.  That isn’t a knock on the value of the IPCC report – it is instead making the point that that worst-case scenario is underestimating the effects of climate change that have already occurred in recent years.  It is the opposite of what most climate change deniers/delayers have criticized about the state of climate change research.  While they waste time claiming scientists are purposefully and unnecessarily alarming the public about climate change, the reality is scientists and policy makers aren’t relaying the growing threat of climate change enough.

This especially makes a difference to policy makers.  The 2009 U.S. Congress and President have the opportunity to aggressively address our climate forcing actions.  If they falsely think climate change isn’t the threat the IPCC detailed, not only will future corrections prove more expensive than corrections taken today, those future corrections could be even more expensive than many were discussing in 2008.  Every ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, every 0.1 degree Centigrade, every mm of sea level rise carries with it an associated cost.  Aggressive action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions must begin today, not tomorrow.

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