“I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain.”
The fire season for 2013 has already started in earnest. Last week more than 8,000 acres were scorched in California. Fifteen homes have been damaged which is fortunately a rather low number, but hundreds of people living in Ventura County had to evacuate.
None of this should come as any surprise. Much to the chagrin of skeptics and deniers, climate change is already upon us and events like this are part and parcel. In California, they’ve had particularly dry conditions—I won’t describe them as unusual because sadly this is becoming the norm—as well as stronger Santa Ana winds usually reserved for the autumn months, and record low rainfalls. This year, the downtown region of Los Angeles has had only two inches of rain so far when the usual amount used to be eleven inches by the month of May. California has had to contend with 680 wildfires this season, while the average used to be only 200.
And it’s only going to get worse. NASA predicts that in the coming decades, the wet areas of our planet are going to get wetter, and the dry are going to get drier. Continue reading →
“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant. What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” -GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt
I woould have predicted 2012 to be the hottest year ever recorded, but that’s because I live in North America where many extremes were experienced last year. For the contiguous 48 states south of the border, 2012 was the hottest year ever. (Canadian data are still pending but I expect it will be similar.) But NASA has announced that 2012 was only the ninth hottest year in recorded history.
I expect deniers and skeptics will try to argue that somehow this is proof that global warming isn’t happening, that it stopped in 1998. Continue reading →
Thanks to NASA satellites, we’re able to see some of the world’s wonders for the first time during this generation. During the daytime, images of Earth are all land, water, and clouds. But the nighttime is something altogether different.
With all the bad news this week—increasing global emissions rather than stabilizing or decreasing emissions, and the added risk of melting permafrost leading to even more emissions—I wanted to find something a little more inspiring for today, but something that still shows what’s happening on our planet.
This video uses the Earth at night view created by NASA’s Earth Observatory with data processed by NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and combined with a version of the Earth Observatory’s Blue Marble: Next Generation. It shows Earth at night completely free of cloud cover. Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (a joint program by NASA and NOAA) captured this nighttime image. Not only do these images depict city lights reflecting our tremendous energy use all over the planet (most of which is generated by combustion of fossil fuels), but it also shows gas flares related to obtaining those fossil fuels, and wildfires contributed to by global warming related to the combustion of those fossil fuels.
This new video is a composite of data acquired over nine days in April and thirteen days in October 2012. It took 312 satellite orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of land surface.
I think it shows the beauty of Earth and what we have accomplished as a species, but also reminds us of what we need to change.
“All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.” —Carl Sagan
If a picture tells a thousand words, how many does a video cover?
In my efforts to pass on information to people about global warming and climate change, I like using every means possible to get information across. On occasion I’ve passed along some video clips that are useful for my purposes, but just as the internet has a lot of useful information out there, it also has a lot of garbage.
The same applies to videos on the internet. Some are great. And some—not so much. Case in point: I get a lot of response to my blog posts from the skeptic / denier crowd. Much of the time they throw some of the “science” out there that attempts to refute anthropogenic global warming. Generally, it’s pretty easy to argue against the “evidence” they hold dear, but it certainly keeps me on my toes in my efforts to sift through the information they pass along and understand it, especially where it goes wrong.
Recently, one skeptic started an interesting dialogue with me and gave me some information to contemplate. I’d already looked at this information previously and posted a blog about it back in February, but the recent conversation made me explore it in greater detail, leading me to become even more confident that this alternate theory of global warming he was adhering to isn’t correct.
But the interesting thing was that as he continued to argue his case, it got weaker and weaker. He finally tried to summarize his points with a video clip he provided me. I watched the clip and was surprised he even offered it as evidence, because his case was only weakened by it. (I’m not going to show you the clip because I’d rather pass along facts than misinformation, but if you’re interested you just need to follow some of the comments on my recent posts to find it.)
The clip offered as evidence was from the TV program “The 700 Club,” and the news segment covered in the clip was from their “Christian Broadcasting Network.” Although they have been in business since 1966, it’s abundantly clear that the “700 Club” and its host Pat Robertson support a fundamentalist Christian agenda which is very conservative and supports the Republican party openly. Nothing wrong with that, but hardly a forum to provide a balanced news story on global warming and climate change.
So I’m going to make sure I offer video clips that are independent of political parties and are supported by the science. To that end, here’s a great video that’s from NASA. It provides a great summary of some basic facts on global warming. I’d much prefer to hear on the state of our planet and its climate from NASA scientists over religious groups with overt connections to political parties any day.
“This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?”
—Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Satellites have been giving us useful information by providing images of our planet for over thirty years. One of the best ways we have to track changes in melting ice patterns is by imaging them with satellites. By watching what happens with the Arctic ice cap for example, we’ve been able to prove that it’s been getting smaller each summer to a significant degree in the span of one generation, one of the best sources of evidence that global warming is indeed happening.
Another large source of ice on our planet is the ice cover over Greenland. Unlike the Arctic ice cap which is a large floating ice cube floating in the Arctic sea, Greenland is a land mass, but it’s almost entirely covered in ice. Near the coasts the ice is very thin, but in the center the ice thickness can reach two miles. Continue reading →