WSJ – More Droughts, Floods, Extreme Weather Expected With Warming Climate

Rising temperatures in the U.S. already have brought more frequent heat waves, droughts, floods and other extreme weather and scientists expect more of the same as a result of climate change, according to a government study released Friday.

Average U.S. temperatures have risen by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with most of the increase occurring in the past 30 years, according to a draft of the National Climate Assessment.

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UK’s coldest spring since 1963 claims 5,000 lives

UK’s coldest spring since 1963 claims 5,000 lives: Pensioners worst affected – and experts say final toll could be ‘horrendous’

  • 2,000 extra deaths registered in just the first two weeks of March
  • And for February, 3,057 extra deaths registered in England and Wales
  • Campaigners warn weather could prove deadly for thousands more
  • Power cuts and travel disruption expected to continue today
  • Up to an inch of snow fallen across parts of England and Scotland overnight

Freezing Britain’s unusually harsh winter could have cost thousands of pensioners their lives.

This month is on track to be the coldest March for 50 years – and as the bitter Arctic conditions caused blackouts and traffic chaos yesterday, experts warned of an ‘horrendous’ death toll among the elderly.

About 2,000 extra deaths were registered in just the first two weeks of March compared with the average for the same period over the past five years.

Meanwhile, power cuts and travel disruption will continue to blight Britain today, as more snow falls across the country on another bitterly cold day.

Drought that ravaged US crops likely to worsen in 2013, forecast warns

Drought that ravaged US crops likely to worsen in 2013, forecast warns

NOAA predicts tough spring for already struggling farmers as growing demand for water leaves US more exposed dry seasons.

The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.

The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.

The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.

“It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather,” Laura Furgione, the deputy director of NOAA’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.

Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.

The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy

The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country. But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.

The agency was forecasting above-normal temperatures in the south-west and other parts of the country, with only the Pacific north-west expected to experience below-normal temperatures.

It said drought conditions were likely to remain in the central and western parts of the country, and could expand in California, the south-west, the southern Rockies and Texas. The Florida panhandle should also anticipate drought conditions, according to the forecast.

Scientists warned of an increased risk of wildfires, because of the dry conditions, for parts of Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Other areas of the country however were in line for floods, with the most significant along the Red and Souris Rivers in North Dakota. NOAA said it was also expecting some 20,000 acres of farm land to be flooded in the Devil’s Lake area of North Dakota.

Some flooding was also expected along the upper Mississippi into southern Wisconsin, northern Missouri and parts of South Dakota and Iowa.

Meanwhile, a poor snowpack suggests the drought will persist in the Rocky Mountain states and California.

“The drought that we accumulated over the last five or six years in the middle part of the country and also the south-west is going to take a long time to remove,” said Furgione. “The deficits in the soil and very unlarged, and it is very unlikely the seasonal mean precipitation will ameliorate that.”

Farmers had been anticipating a poor start to the growing season, especially in the south-west and areas such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where the drought has not relaxed its grip.

Farmers in some areas did not even bother to plant winter wheat this year.

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‘Temperature Rising’: Will Climate Change Bring More Extreme Weather?

According to the historical record dating back to 1895, 2012 was the hottest year this country has ever seen. But it’s not just that the temperature has risen — from deadly tornadoes to the widespread coastal damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, we seem to be living through a period of intensified and heightened weather extremes.

Whether or not these harsh weather events are connected to global warming or are simply the random violence nature visits upon us is one of the central questions that environmental reporter Justin Gillis tackles in his “Temperature Rising” series for The New York Times. The series focuses on the arguments in the climate debate and examines the evidence for global warming and its consequences.

“It’s an ongoing struggle for the scientists to puzzle out which of these things are linked and which ones aren’t,” Gillis tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies.

Justin Gillis writes about climate change for The New York Times.

Gillis notes that there is “robust, healthy science” that provides evidence of climate change. Within the scientific mainstream, however, he says there is a considerable range of views about the risks we’re running by causing what is essentially (on the geologic time scale) an instantaneous increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One such risk is rising sea levels. Gillis says experts believe sea levels will rise at least 3 feet in the next century, and that number could be as much as 6 feet.

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New study finds physical mechanism linking extreme weather to climate change

New study finds physical mechanism linking extreme weather to climate change

Scientists said Monday they have identified a physical mechanism behind the extreme weather that has plagued many parts of the world in recent years — and that it is tied to climate change.

Since 2010, for example, the United States and Russia have each suffered scorching heat waves, while Pakistan saw unprecedented flooding.

Scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have traced the events to a disturbance in the air currents in the northern hemisphere, in a new study out Monday in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“An important part of the global air motion in the mid-latitudes of the Earth normally takes the form of waves wandering around the planet, oscillating between the tropical and the Arctic regions,” lead author Vladimir Petoukhov said in a statement.

“During several recent extreme weather events, these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays,” he said.

In an ecosystem ill-adapted to long periods of extreme heat, the stress can be disastrous, with high death tolls, forest fires, and agricultural losses.

For instance, during Russia’s 2010 heat wave — the worst in its recorded history — wildfires spread out of control, killing dozens of people, burning down thousands of houses and threatening military and nuclear installations.

Global warming, despite its name, is not uniform across the planet. At the poles the bump in temperatures — amplified by shrinking snow cover and ice — is greater than in the swathes between, the scientists explained.

This reduces the temperature differences between the Arctic and the middle latitudes, which affects the flow of air around the globe.

In addition, continents heat and cool more rapidly than large bodies of water, the scientists said.

These two factors “result in an unnatural pattern of the mid-latitude air flow, so that for extended periods the slow synoptic waves get trapped,” Petoukhov said.

Fellow author and PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber cautioned that the 32-year period used in the study is too short for definitive conclusions.

“The suggested physical process increases the probability of weather extremes, but additional factors certainly play a role as well, including natural variability,” he added.

Nevertheless, he called the new research “quite a breakthrough,” that helps explain the relationship between the spate of weather extremes and climate change.

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Climate Change Responsible for Extreme Weather in Australia: Report

A report on extreme weather of Australia has attributed this problem to the climate change. Recently, the Australian weather witnessed scorching heat.

This heat of summer affected eastern and southeastern coasts of the country. Such weather has been followed by heavy rains and flooding in the more densely populated states of New South Wales and Queensland.

This instance left at least six people dead and approximately $2.43 billion was damaged along the eastern seaboard. At least 123 weather records were broken recently in a short span of 90 days.

Shocking figures have unveiled that in 102 years since Australia began collecting national records, there have been 21 days when the country showed temperature of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 Celsius), and eight of them were in 2013.

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U.S. Cities in Front Line of Adapting to Extreme Weather, Rising Sea Levels

The signs of rising water are everywhere in this seaport city: yellow “Streets May Flood” notices are common at highway underpasses, in low-lying neighborhoods and along the sprawling waterfront.

Built at sea level on reclaimed wetland, Norfolk, Virginia has faced floods throughout its 400-year history. But as the Atlantic Ocean warms and expands, and parts of the city subside, higher tides and fiercer storms seem to hit harder than they used to.

Dealing with this increased threat has put Norfolk at the forefront of American cities taking the lead on coping with intense weather, from floods to droughts to killer heat, without waiting for the federal government to take the lead.

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Extreme Weather as Cyclone Nears Pilbara Coast

“Extreme weather preparations continue across our mining operations in anticipation of the cyclone moving further inland,” the miner said in a statement.

“Additional operations will be suspended if necessary,” it added.

BHP Billiton had earlier suspended shipping and rail operations at Port Hedland, with all personnel safely evacuated from site and tie-down activities completed, the company said.

Port Hedland, Australia’s biggest iron ore port that is also used by miners Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG.AU) and Atlas Iron Ltd. (AGO.AU), remains on red alert as Rusty edges closer to the coast.

Having strengthened to a Category 4 system overnight, Rusty was downgraded as of 0600 GMT to a Category 3 system that is due to move over land late Wednesday afternoon, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in an update on its website.

The cyclone is expected to cross east of Port Hedland, which will escape Rusty’s worst winds, the bureau added.

Noble Prize winner and atmospheric scientist says more droughts, floods are coming seasons due to climate change

Noble Prize winner and atmospheric scientist Donald Wuebbles says more droughts, floods and severe winter are likely in coming seasons due to climate change. He will present current findings on extreme weather in Boston next week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a gathering of thousands of scientists.

“U.S. Climate and Weather Extremes: Past, Present, and Future,” one of several days of AAAS sessions, will feature Wuebbles and five other speakers assessing the link between climate change and extreme weather events.

Panel organizer and climate researcher Connie Woodhouse, of the University of Arizona, said such extremes don’t happen very often and this meeting is “a message of caution” to scientists and the public.

“I think there’ll probably be some clarification of what we can say about extremes with regards to climate change,” Woodhouse said, “and what we can expect looking into the future.”

Wuebbles, who teaches atmospheric science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will speak on “Severe Weather in the United States under a Changing Climate” as part of the panel.

Wuebbles is a lead author for both the 2013 National Climate Assessment and the next major U.N. report on climate change that will be released this year by the International Panel on Climate Change. The panel, as a group that included Wuebbles, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

In a preview interview, Wuebbles said heat waves and extreme precipitation in the U.S. are on the rise, as they have been over the last 50 years, and there is a strong link between these severe weather events and the changing climate. Global temperatures have warmed about 1.5 degrees F on average.

“We are projecting significantly more of [total] rainfall coming as a larger event,” Wuebbles said. “So, there is more of a possibility of droughts [in the summer], and in the winter and spring more of a likelihood for floods.”

Woodhouse said the meeting will focus on the role of climate and extreme weather on droughts in Texas and North America, as well as on wild animal species. She said speakers will be looking at how the media covers extreme weather and climate as well.

Wuebbles said weather forecasters should be doing more to incorporate the changing climate into their predictions and looking at the “long-term.” He said when forecasters look at changes in climate over longer periods of time they tend to have those “something’s happening” moments.

“Short-term forecasters are still catching up,” Wuebbles said. “They are so focused on this near-term thing that they are missing the forest for the trees.”

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Powerful Solomon Islands earthquake triggers tsunami

A powerful and shallow earthquake off the Solomon Islands has triggered a tsunami in the South Pacific.

he 8.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by at least five aftershocks, struck at a very shallow depth of only three miles about 200 miles east of Kira Kira in the Solomons, prompting reports that several villages had been destroyed.

Shortly later, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna islands.

A tsunami watch was issued for the rest of the South Pacific nations, including Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, however, the Australian Weather Bureau said there was no threat to the nation’s mainland or islands.

France issued a tsunami alert for its Pacific territory New Caledonia, saying the tsunami was scheduled to hit at 3pm local time (4am GMT). Residents near the coast were being advised to evacuate immediately.

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