Wild Weather Blankets Earth, January 2013

Wild Weather Blankets Earth, January 2013
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Over the past couple Januaries (2011 and 2012) I have kept a scorecard of Earth's wild weather. Anyone who doesn't accept that we are experiencing human-induced, off the charts global warming and the effects of Arctic sea ice amplification be forewarned.

Yesterday (Jan 8, 2013) NOAA released statistics clearly showing that 2012 temperatures across 48 contiguous states eclipsed 1998 as the hottest in the United States since the inception of continuous record keeping in 1895.

The two statistics that jumped off the page for me were: the hottest month of July ever recorded for the lower 48 states fueling an exceptional drought; and a less than half normal snowpack for the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains reducing melt-waters that supply 35 million Americans their life-sustaining needs.

It turns out that in addition to heat-waves, one after the other that blanketed central and eastern United States during the summer (2012), intense droughts prevented crops e.g. corn, soybean from growing. Climate disruption is now affecting farmers directly, which is threatening our food supply and causing prices of all foods to rise.

According to the National Climatic Data Center the U.S. is experiencing its worst drought since the 1950s and in tandem with the highest average temperatures recorded in modern times, scientists know that drought and these higher temperatures kill trees -- much faster than in the 1950s.

The U.S. drought also in turn has directly affected the mighty Mississippi River - a $180 billion transportation super-highway. In particular a 180-mile stretch between Cairo, IL and St Louis, MI. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are dredging continuously to maintain a 9-foot channel.

The Mississippi River carries everything from corn to coal and petroleum to grains. That 180-mile stretch is very close to shutting down because it's so dry; it would immediately disrupt 8,000 jobs, $54 million in wages and benefits and 7.2 million tons of commodities worth $2.8 billion.

As of January 3, 2012 the U.S. drought of 2012 had seeped into the new year, with 42.05 percent of Continental U.S. is experiencing severe to exceptional drought including Minnesota, South Dakota south to Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. It's the U.S. corn belt which supplies half the world's corn export, in turn feeding livestock (both meat and dairy) and providing corn oil for sweeteners and ingredients for paints and plastics.

The U.S. is not the only country experiencing drought. Northeast Brazil is also contending with its worst drought in decades. In December of 2012 the hydro-electric capacity of its dams had fallen to 32 percent; they are running dry. The drought has also hit this region hard as cattle and goats have starved to death: Corn, cotton and sugarcane crops have failed.

The Amazon Basin has been brutally lambasted by droughts and a massive storm in its windless region (Intertropical Zone of Convergence). The results were death of at least a couple billion mature trees. Those trees are nature's crucial cloud-making and rain machines. Those clouds, by the way, are vital to reflect incoming solar equatorial radiation (the highest on the planet). Without trees, the Amazon is missing clouds; without clouds, Earth absorbs more solar radiation and it warms (especially with rising heat-trapping greenhouse gases being released from the drought- and storm-killed Amazon forests and beetle-killed western North American forests).

Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere the last four months of 2012 were abnormally hot across Australia. The average maximum temperatures are the highest since continuous record keeping commenced in 1910. And since December 25, 2012, the nation has suffered through the most vicious heat-wave ever recorded.

On January 4, 2013 Hobart endured its hottest temperature ever of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. On January 7 Australia recorded the hottest day on record - the average temperature across the entire continent was 105 degrees Fahrenheit surpassing 1972 at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Also on January 7 - New South Wales issued a catastrophic fire risk - statewide. Thousands of firefighters bravely fought 135 fires and 40 mph winds along with 40 aircraft and 250 fire-trucks.

On January 8, a dome of heat in central Australia was so intense that the Bureau of Meteorology added new colors: Deep purple and pink to extend beyond 122 degrees Fahrenheit now up to 129 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Dr. David Jones, manager of Climatic Monitoring and Prediction at the Bureau of Meteorology "the current heat-wave's duration, intensity and extent are unparalleled. And many more hot records are occurring than we're getting cold records. It's not explained away by natural variation."

Australians are being warned to prepare for more heat-waves in the near future. Dr. Liz Hanna from the Australian National University's Climate Change Adaptation Network in Canberra concurs with the Bureau of Meteorology "The unparalleled setting of new heat extremes is forcing the continental upward trending of warming predictions for the future and the time scale is contracting."

Dr. Jones of the Bureau of Meteorology told the nation "that our oceans are hotter, the tropics are hotter, so any attempt to disentangle climate change from what we see in terms of weather doesn't make much sense - everything is hotter - there's no alternative world which doesn't have the fingerprints of warming."

This warning comes on the heels of the University of Bristol's science team showing melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland will drive the ocean levels well past a 3-foot rise. It will cost New York City, Boston, Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other coastal cities and towns across America billions of dollars to future proof against a rising ocean.

So what is holding back the U.S. and other nations from rolling up their sleeves and protecting their citizens from what's ahead?

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere on September 16, 2012, the Arctic sea ice reached its lowest cover of 1.32 million square miles - some 300,000 square miles less than the previous record low set in 2007. The sea ice decline has enabled a warming Arctic Ocean (of at least 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) to release its latent heat into the Arctic atmosphere thereby disrupting the polar jet stream, which is now carrying massive blobs of frigid air much farther south into China and Russia.

The bitter cold in China has smashed a 43 year old record -- closing highways, canceling flights, stranding tourists and leaving several provinces without power. By January 4, 2013, over a thousand ships were locked in ice on Laizhou Bay in eastern China's Bohal Sea.

Eastern inner Mongolia's minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit pales compared to Russia's harshest winter in over 70 years with minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit with its latest cold spell rivaling that of 1938.

The Doha climate talks produced no action plan from the delegates representing almost 200 nations. Until a worldwide carbon tax is in place to curtail more than 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses spewed daily into our environment - we can expect much more intense and prolonged wild weather.

Earth Dr. Reese Halter is a broadcaster, distinguished biologist and co-author with Chris Maser of their forthcoming book "Life, The Wonder of it All."

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