Global Warming in Perspective

HellscapeI know it’s not global warming. Weather is not global warming. But here is the seven day forecast for my hometown of Santa Rosa, California: 106, 106, 106, 106, 95, 97, 91. Three days ago it was in the 60s and pouring rain. This is not typical weather for this place at any time. The truth is that in the last decade, this area hasn’t been getting as much rainfall as it normally did. I suspect that’s global warming. I suspect that we will be seeing more and worse heat waves because of global warming. That’s the thing about climate science. We’ve never been that concerned that average temperatures would go up by a couple of degrees. The big problem is extreme weather events. This five-day period of 100+ temperatures (yesterday was the same) will cause people to die unnecessarily. They don’t die because it is a bit hotter on average. They die because a two day heat wave of 99 degrees is now a five day heat wave of 106.

The other issue, perhaps even more important, is rainfall. Hotter surface temperatures will lead to more rainfall. The problem is that all that extra rain and then some will be falling over the oceans. Agricultural areas like my hometown will be screwed—as will all those avocado farmers in the valley. In fact, over the next hundred years, most of the really productive farm land in the United States will go away. Things are looking mighty good for Canada! (Not that they weren’t anyway.) Siberia is likely to become very fertile land as well. (The reasons for this are complicated, but the main thing is that carbon radiative forcing affects polar regions much more than equatorial regions.)

Of course, all of this is very directly focused on humans. We don’t really know what’s going to happen to the ecosystems of the world. There is little doubt that global warming is going to be great for insects. So there’s that. Whether it will be good for bees, specifically, we can’t say. And if bees die out, we are basically screwed. Or it could mess up the thermohaline circulation and then we are basically screwed. Or… We are basically screwed.

But what does any of this matter?! I mean, ExxonMobile only made $41 billion in 2011. What are extra deaths, the destruction of American farming, and the decimation of ecosystems compared to shareholder profits? Really: we have to have priorities and it is clear what those priorities are. After all, you start cutting into oil company profits and soon it is a Stalinist hellscape. Except it would be cooler than the world we are headed for.

Meanwhile, it’s still too darned hot:

0 thoughts on “Global Warming in Perspective

  1. There’s a local meteorologist (as opposed to "weatherwoman/man," which is an untrained individual who reads the NWS forecast on TV) named Paul Douglas. He uses his daily paragraph in the Minneapolis paper to pimp two obsessions; one, storm preparation, and the other, global warming. (Oddly, he identifies as Republican, but everyone here suspects he’s one of those oddball Log Cabin types who hope the party will change its tune on everything save taxes for wealthy people. Good luck with that, Paul . . . cute and "lifelong bachelor" Paul.)

    From his stuff and what I’ve read by others, climate change scientists don’t predict everyplace, everywhere, getting hotter. They predict normal weather patterns going bonkers. And that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. I mean, 106 in the Bay Area? Nuts. And don’t be surprised if you have snow in a winter or two.

    The only refutation of climate-change forecasts I know of is that almost no scientists predicted it would start to get this crazy, this soon; their computer models predicted the effects we’re seeing now happening another decade or three down the road. But then, nobody could have predicted the feedback effects like methane escaping from tundra, or how oceans absorb heat increases. I imagine the models will get better, and the weather will get crazier. Interesting times, as the curse says.

  2. More snow is a sign of warming. Sure winter weather is colder. Here in Illinois, we get more snow in late fall and late winter than in the frigid days of mid-winter. Reason being that warm air holds more moisture than cold air. When you see areas getting more snow in winter, a good part of the reason may be temperatures being warmer.

    Next time a denier cites more snow, educate them. I do.

  3. @JMF – You are correct. There are lots of microclimate issues. Interesting that you mention permafrost. My MS thesis was on release of CH4 and N2O from permafrost. In fact, Keith Kvenvolden was on my thesis committee.

    I’ve been shocked at how quickly things have changed. I was always a skeptic. But its been about 15 years since you could really be that.

  4. @BillD – That’s good. But I’ll tell you, global warming is about the only thing I won’t argue about anymore. I can’t tell you how many people have made me speechless by thinking that their [i]Fox News[/i] education somehow trumped my PhD. Now in general, I don’t think much of my degrees (BS Applied Physics; MS & PhD Atmospheric Physics). But these people knew literally [i]nothing[/i] about climate science. Oh: and it’s all a plot by Al Gore to get rich.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

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