Climate changes 2016

Clyde Burnett, Peak to Peak.  This year-end publication is an occasion to remind you that it is essential that Earth’s humanity understands and appreciates the function of the atmospheric greenhouse effect which supports our favorable climate. It is the water vapor from the oceans on 70% of the Earth’s surface that has the principal role in trapping the thermal infrared radiation. Then the trapping by the CO2 trace gas produces the slight additional ocean warming that tops off the ocean evaporation, and this additional water vapor trapping gives us a benign climate with an average global temperature of 59oF. However, now the more than 40% increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is giving our planet an energy imbalance that is slowly moving our global temperature towards the dangerous 2oC increase. Much of the additional danger is in the Earth’s responses of sea level rise and extreme weather.
We can’t reverse our course with global warming; the atmospheric cycle of photosynthesis and decay of CO2 is something like a century and the cycles of capture in ocean and land are much greater. (See NASA photo of data from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory –OCO-2)
Question: Did 2016 show climate change?
Answer: The World Meteorological Organization says that 2016 will be the hottest year on record. We have damaging floods that have become more frequent from Texas, to West Virginia, to the Gulf Coast and Louisiana, and to the repeat flooding of Iowa rivers. (As a boy, I caught my share of sunfish and carp from the Shellrock, Cedar, and their tributaries; I never saw floods such as these recent ones.)
There were 50,000+ damaged homes and 13+ fatalities in the Louisiana flood. The Cajun Navy was busy; we saw the local folks cooperating in adaptation to the disaster, but they are all in the same boat. Poverty-stricken Haiti could not respond to our October Hurricane Matthew, suffering extreme damage and 800+fatalities.
Question: Do they understand why this happened?
Answer: It just rained a lot! They have no time or energy for study of the climate cause of their disaster.
Question: What do the scientists say?
Answer: The climate science functions completely independently from politics, economics, or religion. Our oceans are absorbing 90% of the energy imbalance from our procrastination in moving away from fossil fuel energy generation. It is the evaporation from this warmed ocean that furnishes the water vapor, the latent heat, and the extra precipitation for these flooding disasters. The atmosphere has a global warming increased humidity capacity of 7% per Celsius degree for this evaporated water from the warmer ocean. In nature, what goes up must come down! When this humid air is lifted to cooler altitudes we have condensation, and the excess precipitation causes floods. Then, as the latent heat of evaporation is released, this increased lift adds to the likelihood of tornadoes.
It was the climate change drought situation in the southeast that generated the atmospheric potential for the wildfire destruction of hundreds of Gatlinburg homes and businesses. The extremely warm dry air mass conditions at the interface with the cold winter air mass brought the jet stream conditions to the surface, producing an 80 mph wind-driven fire. Unlike the Louisiana situation, these homeowners have nothing left to salvage.
So you’ve had your fix of disaster entertainment. These disasters have no other possible cause than the continuing excess greenhouse heat trapping that has solid explanation in business-as-usual energy production from fossil fuels. Television channels describe the spectacular damage and personal hardships with apparent acceptance of possible climate change, but no search for cause. Public Television personnel, local weather commentators, and the general television media neglect concerning climate change and continue to support the climate change deniers.
We find that FEMA has revolutionized since Katrina with financial support of millions in a matter of days to the needy in Louisiana and North Carolina. That outlay of FEMA money for flood and fire relief is your tax contribution and the insurance payments must be balanced by increasing your rates. You accepted the warning about the costs to switch from fossil to renewal. But gosh, what about the obvious costs to you of fire and flood adaptation? These will increase with future global warming. Your children and grandchildren inherit these as well as the changed climate.
Question: Are we working to avoid the increasingly dangerous climate disasters?
Answer: We may expect Washington activity in the immediate future to favor personal and corporate wealth over climate change mitigation efforts. It should be obvious that this business-as-usual will continue the increase of greenhouse gases and the global warming approaching the critical 2oC warming. The centuries long atmospheric lifetime of CO2 means we can’t return to our normal climate. Those citizens who understand the scientific basis of the extreme danger must take independent action at the personal, community, city, and state levels to continue progressing towards carbon free energy.