The first half of 2010 has been the hottest globally in recorded history. A small change from last month: I briefly saw this headline at the top of a corporate media outlet: MSNBC. I should have taken a screen-shot because I saw it at 10:45P local time last night and it had been replaced by 11:00P when I looked again. So it would be untruthful to claim, for this month at least, that you couldn’t have seen this story covered in a prominent way by the corporate media. I will lament that it took four straight months of record warmth before they did, however. I will also lament that it was replaced, nearly in the middle of night, by other headlines within minutes – short shrift for such an important topic.
In a similar fashion as last month, the NOAA analysis of global temperatures have marked the warmest month of June, the warmest 3-month April to June period and, along with NASA, the warmest 6-month January to June period in recorded human history. That makes for one heck of a headline, doesn’t it?
NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.59°C (+1.062°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period). June 2010 joined June 2005 as the third highest anomaly in the NASA dataset, behind the record anomaly from 1998 of 0.69°C (1.24°F) and the 0.62°C (1.116°F) anomaly from 2009, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.
NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.68°C (+1.224°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010. According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest June was observed in 2005: +0.66°C (+1.188°F).
With record and near-record monthly temperature averages observed so far in 2010, it is no surprise to see the January-June period this year also setting a temperature record. According to NASA, the Jan-Jun 2010 period has been the warmest at +0.71°C (+1.278°F). For comparison, NASA includes the same period from the two warmest years in their dataset so far: 2005 and 1998 (note: the Jan-Jun 1998 and 2005 periods were not the two warmest on record; only the full annual time period was). Globally averaged surface temperatures in Jan-Jun 2005 were +0.61°C (+1.098°F); the same period in 1998 was +0.62°C (+1.116°F). So the Jan-June 2010 observed warmth was 0.10°C more than the same period in the warmest year to date on record.
According to NOAA, the Jan-Jun 2010 period has also been the warmest: +0.68°C (+1.224°F). The NOAA site also contains information from the same period during the warmest or the next warmest year on record. Their methodology differs slightly from NASA’s, but is just as valid and acts as an independent check on the other dataset. NOAA’s methodology identified 1998 as the next warmest for global land and ocean surface temperatures at +0.66°C (+1.118°F).
I would like readers to take note of where the most extreme anomalies are: exactly where climate scientists have predicted they would be – at the poles. According to NASA, the Arctic region has a large area that is 3.5 to 5.1°C warmer than it was during the 1951-1980 base period. According to NOAA, the northern stretches of North America and Asia are up to 5°C warmer compared to their base period. Both of those measurements are for the entire first six months of this year!
NOAA’s June 2010 analysis for the U.S. showed a majority of the country experiencing warmer average temperatures than normal. Note the large area that experienced 4-6°C warmer conditions than they’re used to. Remember the record-breaking heat-have that gripped the U.S. east coast the week of July 4th? Cities experienced a few days with high temperatures over 100°F and low temperatures in the 70s. Those cities had better get ready for summers that are even worse, as the image I posted last month shows.
Boston can expect 1-3 weeks (not days!!!) of 100°F+ daily high temperatures; New York City and Washington D.C. can expect 3-5 weeks of 100°F+ temperatures; Denver can expect 7-9 weeks of 100°F+ daily highs. Anybody who lived near Denver in July 2005 should remember how unbelievably hot that month was. Climatologically, it was +4.3°F for the month’s average with “only” 7 days of temperatures over 100°F. Can you imagine what 6-8 more weeks of that kind of heat would feel like or what the effects would be afterward? Can you imagine what would happen if that became our new “normal”?
What would happen if the map above reflected the new “normal”? According to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters conducted by a Stanford group,
Exceptionally long heat waves and other hot events could become commonplace in the United States in the next 30 years.
That means that the July 4th heat wave the east coast experienced this year wouldn’t be relieved. The heat wave would just keep going and going and going. How would millions of people escape a weeks-long extreme heat wave? Take careful note of the date in the Stanford study: this could be our reality by 2039. The Stanford study noted that ~3 of these long heat waves could take hold along the east coast per decade. How about Colorado? Try 6-9 events per decade. That would mean the few years without dangerous heat waves would become the more rare event.
Most importantly, the Stanford study is derived from a “likely scenario” (as determined by the IPCC). I have written many posts over the past few years about what kind of scenarios by the IPCC were likely and which ones won’t be. As of mid-2010, our global emissions path is matching that of the set of models considered by the IPCC to be the “worst-case scenario” (A1F1 instead of B1 or B2). The 2007 IPCC Report’s worst-case scenario is the emissions path we’re on, not the likely scenarios. Under the IPCC’s likely scenarios, there is only 1°C (1.8°F) warming between 2010 and 2039. The events described as possible by these studies are based off of scenarios that we’ve been exceeding. How much likelier will those events be with our actual emissions history? How much more intense will the heat waves be? That research remains to be done.
Remember that there is still warming in the climate “pipeline” – the climate system still wouldn’t have responded to all of the forcing that humans have been responsible for by the 2020s, let alone any of the forcing that will occur between now and 2039.
It should be overwhelmingly clear by now that when scientists have been talking about ‘catastrophic climate change’ for years, they weren’t kidding; they didn’t have an agenda. If anything, their relative lack of knowledge obscured only an underestimation of how much things would change. Additional research is only going to show more and quicker change. The science has been good enough to act on for over 30 years. We’ve squandered that time instead of taking cheap but effective action. Further delay will not only cause more changes in the climate, it will make responses and mitigation more expensive and less effective.