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Sweatin’ the Mediterranean Heat

Filed under: — group @ 22 October 2007

Guest Commentary from Figen Mekik

This quote from Drew Shindell (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York) hit me very close to home: “Much of the Mediterranean area, North Africa and the Middle East rapidly are becoming drier. If the trend continues as expected, the consequences may be severe in only a couple of decades. These changes could pose significant water resource challenges to large segments of the population” (February, 2007-NASA, Science Daily).

I live in Michigan, but Turkey is my home where I go for vacation on the Med. This year’s drought was especially noteworthy, so I would like to share some of my observations with you, and then explore the links between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Mediterranean drought and anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

The 10-hour flight from Chicago to Istanbul often inspires passengers to romanticize about Istanbul, both tourists and natives alike. Istanbul is the city of legends, forests, and the Bosphorus. It is an open museum of millennia of history with archeological and cultural remnants surrounded by green lush gardens. It is the place where east meets west; where blue meets green; where the great Mevlâna’s inviting words whisper in the wind “Come, come again, whoever you are, come!”

So you can imagine our collective horror as the plane started circling Istanbul and we saw a dry, desolate, dusty city without even a hint of green anywhere.

The Marmara region of Turkey where Istanbul is located received 34% less precipitation than average this past winter; and the Aegean Region, which includes the city of Izmir, received 43% less precipitation than average since October of 2006. Precipitation this low was unprecedented in these regions in the last three decades. So is this a freak year, you may ask?

This next graph shows observational spring precipitation data between 1950 and 2007 (shown with green dots) for Istanbul and multi-centennial (1635-2000) spring precipitation reconstruction from tree ring data for the NW Black Sea region in Turkey (pink and red dots show a 5-year running average for precipitation data from tree rings) (data). Multi-centennial tree ring precipitation reconstructions for the Marmara region are not available. Although the observational precipitation record for Istanbul is generally lower than the spring precipitation reconstruction for the NW Black Sea region, both observational and reconstructed data follow a similar trend, except for two unusually rainy springs in 1998 and 2000 in Istanbul. Also note in the tree ring precipitation data that although the amount of precipitation has fluctuated throughout centuries, it has not consistently dropped for more than 3-4 years until the 1970’s. Since then there has been a steady decline until 2000 (the red part of the graph).

In the summer of 2007, temperatures rose over 46°C in many parts of Turkey as well as the entire Mediterranean region. This heat combined with aridity is estimated to have cost Turkish farmers ~$3.9 billion. Turkey’s wheat crop dropped by about 15%. The Turkish Aegean region alone suffered from 30% lower harvest yields in cotton, corn and tobacco and a 50% drop in fig production.

By mid-summer, the drought started to affect major cities. Ankara (~4 million), the capital, suffered serious water rationing this summer (two days on, two days off). Car washing and lawn watering were outlawed within city limits. With the unforeseen burst of the main water pipe feeding the metropolis, the whole city was left without running water for an entire week. Hospitals had to be issued groundwater in tankers, and city officials started to debate whether to delay public school openings until mid-October to contain potential spread of disease. By mid-August, Ankara had only 5% of total capacity in its reservoirs and dams.

Tuz Gölü, a large salt lake in central Turkey within the Konya Basin, lost half of its water volume in the last four decades. The Konya Basin itself, which hosts a third of all groundwater reserves in Turkey and is the home to eight wetland bird species on the brink of extinction, lost 1,300,000 acres of wetland and witnessed a water table drop of 1-2 meters, also in the last 40 years.
It looks grim.

But not just for Turkey. Even popular vacation areas around the Aegean were hellish this year. Greece had to declare “state of emergency” at least twice this summer: once for forest fires killing over 60 people, burning half a million acres of land, and costing $1.6 billion; and once for drought on the Cyclades Islands due to water shortages.

Morocco experienced 50% less rainfall than average this year which will likely result in half of last year’s grain harvest. And because feed prices went up as a result of this drought, Moroccan livestock was also seriously affected. Again, is this an unusual year? Actually not. This next figure, which is from Esper et al.’s (2007) paper in Geophysical Research Letters, shows a significant drop in Feb. – June PDSI (which is a standardized measure of surface moisture conditions after Palmer, 1965) since 1980 in Morocco.

Some speculate that the tragic fires in Greece may have been arson, others say better maintenance of water pipes and anticipation of the coming drought early in the previous winter would have prevented Ankara’s water shortage, and better irrigation systems in Morocco would have mitigated agricultural disaster there.

Though it is “debated” in the US, most people in Turkey consider AGW to be a given. This is generally a good attitude, of course, but it opened the door for some government and city officials to simply blame AGW for drought instead of their incompetence in dealing with it. As a result, the Turkish General Directorate of Disaster Affairs started discussing whether AGW should be listed under “natural disasters” in order to provide better risk assessment and adaptation plans, and to prohibit building new structures in “high risk” areas. Even Al Gore came to visit Istanbul this summer to give a talk at a conference called “Climate Change and its Effect on Life.”

So, is AGW to blame for Mediterranean drought? Although bad land use practices and arson share the blame, AGW is most likely the culprit. Here’s how:

The North Atlantic Oscillation is an alternation of air masses between polar and subtropical regions of the North Atlantic. When the NAO index (difference between the normalized sea level pressure anomalies in the Iceland and Azores areas, respectively) is in a positive phase, a low pressure system prevails over Iceland and a high pressure system over the Azores. This causes cooler northern seas, stronger winter storms across the Atlantic Ocean, warm wet winters in northern Europe, and cold and dry winters in Canada and Greenland. However, this also causes less rain and reduced stream flow in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. In general, when NAO is in a positive phase, the Mediterranean region receives less precipitation.

The precipitation pattern in Turkey is well correlated with the phases of the NAO index. For instance Cullen and deMenocal (2000) showed that Euphrates’ spring stream flow varies by about 50% with the NAO index. The NAO index vacillates between negative and positive phases, but its oscillations had a more annual pattern before the 20th century, and since then has become more decadal. More importantly, since the 80’s it has remained in a prolonged positive phase. This is in keeping with the precipitation drop I described for Turkey and Morocco (and the Mediterranean region) in the last several decades.

But do we know that this recent prolonged positive phase in the NAO index is not simply a part of its natural decadal variability? And is this recent positive phase actually related to global warming?

These are tough questions to answer definitively, but it is likely that AGW will continue to keep the NAO index positive because both atmospheric CO2 rise and stratospheric ozone depletion cause a strong polar night vortex. The North Pole is dark and very cold in the winter. This creates a large temperature difference between high latitudes and subtropics. The resulting large pressure contrast forces east-west winds into a stratospheric spiral. And this stratospheric vortex likely causes the NAO to prefer a positive phase. This was first shown by Shindell and colleagues in 1999, and seems to still hold true in the IPCC AR4 runs – although the average signal is smaller. And if it stays that way, southern Europe and the Middle East are likely to continue to get drier.

Thus, the Mediterranean region is at high risk for desertification. Even if 2007 were an anomalously dry year, these disastrous events show us that small perturbations in weather patterns can lead to tragic and costly outcomes. They also show what is in store for this area in the next few decades as global warming progresses. And desert makes more desert. As land is overused and scorched by the hot sun and no rain, it dries up and vegetation cover diminishes due both to drought and wildfires. Lack of vegetation leads to further loss of humidity and increases erosion rates. So, deserts expand even more.

Having said all of this, here is one last thought: if AGW is affecting nearly all latitudes negatively, then we need to wonder where global awareness of this problem stands. The Pew Center Report (2006) found that while over 90% of the population had heard of AGW in countries like the U.S., Germany, France, Britain, Spain and Japan, this dropped to about 75-80% in Russia, Turkey and China and below 50% in Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan (only 12%!). So the peoples in Middle Eastern countries most at risk for growing desertification are barely aware of the problem of AGW. What is even more striking is that of the percentages of people aware of AGW I listed, 70-80% are concerned about it in Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and India; but only 50-60% of U.S. citizens and peoples of China consider AGW to be a serious issue. So the problem isn’t just ignorance, it is also that of profound apathy.


124 Responses to “Sweatin’ the Mediterranean Heat”

  1. 51
    Rob Huber says:

    Re: #45

    Paul,

    It spooks me a little whenever anything in science is treated as a popularity contest – when people seem to be concerned about whether the US “lags far behind the rest of the world when it comes to accepting AGW as a fact”. Facts are not subject to majority opinion.

    I also think the word “fact” tends be used a bit too loosely in these debates. That the Sun is larger than the Earth is a clear fact. Evolution may be a fact, but would it be proper to say that any specific model of evolution is a fact? Probably not. In the same way, I have no problem with saying that “GW” is currently a fact, but I have a little trouble when the “A” is dropped in front of this acronym. Anthropogenic components play a role, but the extent of that role is by no means a fact. Does anything with a certainty less than 100% constitute a “fact”? When the role of this human factor or that is given a probability of say 95%, what does it mean to say that such a thing is a fact?

    Suppose that, for whatever reason, humans were really crappy astronomers and we could only estimate with 95% certainty that the Sun was larger than the Earth. Under such conditions, it would not be a fact that the Sun is larger than the Earth. [Bizzare analogy I admit, but I think it makes my point clear.]

  2. 52
    Eachran says:

    In The Guardian today by David Adam. Is this news to anyone.

    “Scientists warned last night that global warming will be “stronger than expected and sooner than expected”, after a new analysis showed carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere much faster than predicted.

    Experts said that the rise was down to soaring economic development in China, and a reduction in the amount of carbon pollution soaked up by the world’s land and oceans. It also means human emissions will have to be cut more sharply than predicted to avoid the likely effects.

    Corinne Le Quere, a climate expert at the University of East Anglia and British Antarctic Survey, who helped conduct the study, said: “It’s bad news because the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has accelerated since 2000 in a way we did not expect. My biggest worry is people are discouraged by this and do nothing. I hope political leaders will act on this, because we need to do something fast.”

    The study worsens even the gloomy predictions of this year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC, which shared the Nobel peace prize this month with Al Gore, said there were only eight years left to prevent the worst effects of global warming, by acting to curb emissions.

    Dr Le Quere said: “We are emitting far more than anticipated when the IPCC scenarios were drawn up in the late 1990s.” Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning has risen by an average 2.9% each year since 2000. During the 1990s the annual rise was 0.7%.

    The new study explains abnormally high carbon dioxide measurements highlighted by the Guardian in January. At the time, scientists were puzzled why dozens of measuring stations across the world were showing a CO2 spike for 2006, the fourth year in the last five to show a sharp increase in the greenhouse gas.

    Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million (ppm); from 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year; since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 1.9ppm.

    The new study, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), says three processes have contributed to this increase: growth in the world economy, heavy use of coal in China, and a weakening of natural “sinks” – forests, seas and soils that absorb carbon.

    Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, which carried out the research, said: “In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slowdown of natural sinks and the halt to improvements in the carbon intensity of wealth production.”

    The overall growth of the economy is the only one of the three factors accounted for in scientists’ forecasts of climate change, which means the growth in atmospheric CO2 is about 35% larger than they expected. About half of this is down to the Chinese reliance on coal, which has forced up the carbon intensity of the overall world economy since 2000, reversing a trend of increasing energy efficiency since the 1970s. The rest of the rise is explained by the weakening of the natural carbon sinks.

    Scientists assume about half of human carbon emissions are reabsorbed into the environment, but computer models predictincreased temperatures will reduce this effect. The PNAS report is the most convincing evidence so far that the global sinks have weakened over the last 50 years, though the large natural variations in carbon exchange between the earth and the atmosphere mean the team can be only 89% certain they have found an effect, short of the usual 95% confidence required to publish scientific findings.”

    I especially liked (irony) the last bit contrasting 89% with 95% and the implied criticism of the Chinese.

    I am not a pessimist : at least not yet.

    I shall repeat again, sorry to be so boring, that we really need a deadline for people to work to : a real deadline, a measurable effect which people will know approaches and more rapidly as each year passes. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere doesnt give that immediacy and doesnt engage people : it’s complicated understanding the consequences of yet more carbon.

    But an NAO based index for drought and a similar one for the mass balance of ice sheets for sea level rise might just do the trick.

    I shall pen a message to our world leaders today.

    I was wondering if Madam Mekik might feel qualified to comment on the oceans’ capacity to absorb : I think that I read on this site that wind change in the S Pacific reduced the churn of water and reduced that part of the world’s capacity to absorb by 30%.

    By the by, I hope Madam Mekik wasnt offended by my reference to her students. It is just that if I dont know someone I check up on them to see if they might be OK. Scientists are no different from lawyers, doctors and other professionals : you get good and not so good.

    The reason I come to this site for info is that I trust the Group to get it right. The fact that they allow you to comment as a guest is all to the good.

  3. 53
    Figen Mekik says:

    Barton, excuse my acronym ignorance but what do QT and PDQ stand for?

    David Wilson: AGW is an acronym frequently used on this site, and I didn’t want to repeatedly write “anthropogenic global warming” in my text to save space. However, it is important to qualify GW with “anthropogenic” because [1] that is the point that is most disputed by denialists-whether global warming (or climate chnage as Paul wants to say :) ) is indeed caused by human activities, and [2] our planet has experienced global warming in its past when no human being was around like about 55 milion years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

    Eachran: Of course I am not offended that you checked up on me. That’s what the internet is for…

  4. 54

    Re. #45

    Paul, Yes, we are lagging behind and that also has many factors, I think much can be attributed to our system of education as well as media systems that are more predatory than informative (referring to much of what is generated through the ‘idiot box’ as you say. There is not enough space here to discuss the problems of lack of foresight and lag time in governance.

    If people learned that media is in many ways inherently flawed with regard to factual transmission of information, then we could make faster progress. But in many ways the public may in fact be hypnotized by this media for the reasons stated above.

    Based on my observations, and what I am hearing, the energy industry that is engaged in using petroleum wants to keep the argument alive while they are figuring out ways to exploit the future energy development that is needed. basically they want to buy some time to come up with solutions that will make them money. Much like the tobacco argument, they will work to reduce their culpability in favor of profit and advantage as they see it, at any given point in time.

    Government policy could help in restructuring tax basis in order to help speed up transition processes but there are a lot of special interests in the way still.

    If you have noticed, the energy companies are already starting to flaunt their green feathers and that has an effect on the public subjected to such ads. The fact that green energy from Chevron is being touted as a banner to prove they are green does not negate the fact that the oil they sold has likely caused billions of dollars of damage past, present, and future. Like the tobacco industry, these questions will be addressed sooner or later and we will all have to work our way through it.

    It will take a lot of understanding to address the bigger questions pertaining to: humans using energy, industrial humans use more energy, and we are using too much energy, and/or from the wrong source. None of these subjects will be easy to cope with.

  5. 55
    Johnno says:

    I’m sure I recall that 5 years ago an increase in global average precipitation was predicted by now, the term being ‘wetter, warmer world’. No mention of ‘global drying’. The term ‘oscillation’ suggests counterbalancing effects. I assume that global mean rainfall statistics are kept.

    I’ve noted that rain proneness seems to involve more than just temperature and humidity; why for example thin wispy cloud can produce rain and dark billowing cloud does not. Is there some Factor X at work?

  6. 56

    [[Barton, excuse my acronym ignorance but what do QT and PDQ stand for?]]

    “Quick Time” and “Pretty Damn Quick,” respectively.

  7. 57
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rob Huber asked: “When the role of this human factor or that is given a probability of say 95%, what does it mean to say that such a thing is a fact?”

    Rob, actually, there are very few things in life that are subject to 100% certainty, so science has learned–and is still learning–how to deal with such propositions. Probability can have many meanings–from the inherent probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics to the measure of uncertainty in flipping a coin. There are different ways of dealing with these different probabilities.
    If we flip a coin and it comes up heads, we can say little about whether the coin is “honest” (equal probability heads and tails). However, if we flip it 10 times and it comes up heads every time, we would have strong suspicions of its honesty, and after 100 times, we would have a virtual certainty that we were dealing with a trick coin. Note, however, we can never state as a “fact” that the coin is dishonest. Now, let’s say we flip a coin and it comes up heads, 19 straight times. Are you going to bet on tails on the 20th toss? How about if I give you 20:1 odds? That is one measure of a probabilistic “fact”.
    After 150 years of climate science, we have a model that has flushed out the basic drivers of the theory and their relative importance to a high degree of confidence. We have lots of evidence from multiple independent investigations that humans are affecting climate. We have NO evidence that strongly contradicts this hypothesis, albeit there are some studies where the evidence has been ambiguous. So, I ask, on what empirical basis would a scientist reject anthropogenic causation? Or put another way, the coin has come up heads (anthropogenic) 19 times. How are you going to bet?

  8. 58
    Gareth Evans says:

    This is a well written and chilling article by Figen Mekik deserving of a wider circulation – to help address the issue of “lack of awareness” (as raised in #51 above) and to emphasise the need for more of a focus on local and regional studies in the debate on global warming / climate change.

    The earth is warming, much of the warming is man-made arising primarily, at this stage, from emissions of CO2 (as Arrhenius predicted in the 1890s), natural sinks are being depleted, positive feed-backs are starting to speed up the rate warming, and local climates are changing as this extra energy is redistributed by natural circulation processes.

    In the debate on global warming / climate change there has probably been too much emphasis on global and annual temperature means. The general public finds it difficult to identify with, and see the local relevance, of such a focus. The public needs to know what global warming / climate change means to them, at the local level, where they live. Scientists need to develop ways to better understand local impacts and to provide this information to a wider audience.

    This article by Figen Mekik is a welcome contribution to this process.

    Gareth Evans

  9. 59
    Figen Mekik says:

    #29 Nick Gotts:

    Sorry for the somewhat delyaed response. First off, yes the “polar night” is the polar winter. Six months of darkness with temps at -70 to -100 degrees C around the north pole.

    CO2 rise and AGW causes the subtropics to become warmer which creates a stronger temperature and pressure gradient between the cold polar night (winter) and the subtropics. This steepened gradient is what causes the east-west winds in the stratosphere to develop into a vortex, a spiral. And many researchers think this spiral (cyclonic circulation or polar night vortex) is where ozone-destroying chemicals are trapped, like chlorine. In spring the sunlight causes photochemical reactions which break down ozone in the stratosphere. And as the ozone is depleted in the stratosphere, it creates an additional reduction in sea level pressure, thereby exacerbating the gradient in sea level pressure between the tropics and poles. This increases the strength of the polar night (winter) vortex. This last part about ozone is more important for the south pole and Antarctica though.

  10. 60
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #41, “anthropogenic” would not be necessary, except for denialists who partly (in addition to saying GW is not happening) argue that GW is happening, but not due to us.

    I’ve never had trouble with the term. But then I’m an anthropologist.

  11. 61
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    Question:

    Is there a current summary out there anyone is aware of that measures crop yields on a regional and global basis?

  12. 62
    Figen Mekik says:

    #58 Gareth Evans:

    Thanks so much for your very kind words. I am not anywhere near being in the league of the editors at RC in climate sceince, so I consider it a huge honor and privilege that they post my commentaries. This gives me a chance to interact with people (other commenters) I wouldn’t normally be able to speak to about topics that I find interesting or concerning. And I really appreciate it that it is getting positive responses from the commenters. Thanks again.

  13. 63
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE (#17 & 40) hydrogen sulfide outgasing and killing off large segments of life on earth. It doesn’t really matter when it might happen (I myself figured in a couple of thousand years, maybe more), but that we are currently pushing the system in that direction, and there will be some tipping point (I think soon), beyond which it will more or less be a done deal for the distant future. In other words I’m not too concerned it will happen to me in my lifetime, only that I may be causing it to happen to others — and it doesn’t matter whether those others are in the century 2300 or 4300.

    RE # 51 & “Anthropogenic components play a role, but the extent of that role is by no means a fact”

    For people looking beyond mere cognitive rational scientific facts into how it relates to them on a emotional level — such as what’s my part in it & what can I to help the situation? — the “anthropogenic” is most important.

    However, in answer to anyone saying the human role is small or nil, I would answer that it means that we must reduce our GHGs all the more to effect even a small slowing this GW in hopes of saving a few lives.

  14. 64
    Aaron Lewis says:

    Re 61
    I mostly use USDA numbers. (http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?parentnav=AGRICULTURE&navid=CROP_PRODUCTION&navtype=RT)

    FAO also does numbers.

    Financial advisors supply research related to commodity futures that include grain and meat.

    The food and grain producer’s organizations track conditions related to projected markets and sale prices. (Farmers need to know how much to plant and whether to sell at harvest or hold for better prices. Animal producers need to know if they should buy at harvest or wait for lower prices.)

    Perhaps the best source is “Feed Stuffs”, which is a weekly publication by subscription.

  15. 65
    Adam says:

    Re #59 I assumed that polar amplification will reduce the temperature gradient. Can someone explain how this fits in?

  16. 66
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 24 Majorajam: “…economist Richard Tol assured me on another blog that, “Water scarcity and heat stress have no obvious relationship, as water stress does not mean that drinking water is scarce.”’

    Hmm…tell that to the people of Atlanta:

    ATLANTA, Oct. 22 — For more than five months, the lake that provides drinking water to almost five million people here has been draining away in a withering drought. Sandy beaches have expanded into flats of orange mud. Tree stumps not seen in half a century have resurfaced. Scientists have warned of impending disaster…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/us/23drought.html?em&ex=1193284800&en=8a04b9fdb71465cf&ei=5087

  17. 67
    Khebab says:

    A quick question:

    California is being ravaged by fires, is AGW also a contributing factor?

  18. 68
    Nick O. says:

    Re. #57: Ray – good comments, well put.

    For some more of the latest on the effectiveness or otherwise of natural carbon sinks, see the below and related links:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7058074.stm

    I have to say that I am still v. concerned about the possible long upper tail of the climate sensitivity pdf. It’s bad enough that most people have lack of familiarity with ideas such as the normal distribution, let alone factors/parameters which could heavily skewed such as this. An uphill battle still, I fear.

  19. 69

    Re. #57

    Ray, great explanation, thanks!

    PS, I’m betting on heads :)

  20. 70
    Ellis says:

    For the acronym illiterates, of which I am one, and in fact often keep a second browser page open just to check what I have just read.

    http://www.acronymfinder.com/

  21. 71
    Svend Jensen says:

    Congratulations Figen Mekik for a lucid and enlightening report on the Turkish and Med region, which combined with the feedback from climate scientists, t’other scientists and lesser morsels !!! makes for stimulating and often chilling reading..
    Also coming from a non-Anglo point of view, I would propose that – Alas, however, notwithstanding …most politicians (democratically elected or otherwise) with an average life span of 8 to 12 years and civil servants in the majority of countries HAVE, ARE and WILL in the future of ‘climate change’ be less, less inclined and/or able to implement effective awareness programs and ‘adapt to extreme climate events’ measures.

    Actions speak louder than words – as amply demonstrated by the continuous utterances from the British government and Prime ministers regards climate change etc:, Having lived in England and 4 of her former colonies there is little evidence to support the implementation of widespread programs concerning ‘adapting to climate change’. France is certainly no better – Mon Dieu, radioactive clouds originating from Chernobyl stopped at the French border because they didnt understand French…now that is positive climate engineering !!!.
    However at least in Germany, where I have scurried to, there is a physical scientist, Angela Merkel as Chancellor,promoting and endeavouring to implement a wide range of measures. I have the impression that across the broad political German spectrum this position is adhered to and implemented..as is the case in Scandinavia, Holland, Switzerland and Austria. But the automobile industry, petro-chemical industries and olde brown coal are powerful lobbies in Germany…racing along at plus 160km is very much a sacred ‘right’ here. Talk of reducing this is as taboo as proposing the widespread use of seperator-flushless toilets, double clean-grey water systems etc which should become mandatory in certain southern European regions and parts of France and Germany….
    With all due respect, you striving climate scientists can present more and more valid and ‘getting closer to reality models’ you want, but for the average Joe, Pierre, Hans or Nakagawa San (I lived in Japan for 8 years) a practical life style change in adapting to climate extremes will have to be thrust upon him and probably forced down his throat too. Certainly, 2-3 year drought-flood cycles in most industrial countries will oblige the implementation of more effective and UNPALATABLE measures while shifing the emphasis from often dubious democratic processes to ‘every day survival’ security and maintenance.

    Moving between RealClimate.Org and the ICH.org InformationClearingHouse (US,foreign misadventures and geo-strategy)with their lively blogs helps to edge me towards a more ‘realistic’ but ‘pragmatic’ outlook on our ’3 steps forward 2 steps back’ approach to ‘climate change’ and ‘peak oil’..
    Thanks for a wonderful source of honest and straightforward news reporting & discussion..

  22. 72
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 67

    A quick question:

    California is being ravaged by fires, is AGW also a contributing factor?

    =====================

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Western_North_American_heat_wave

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_wildfires_of_October_2007

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. McIntyre, it takes a long time to detect whether there’s a change —there are baseline studies:

    http://www.sdfirerecovery.net/docs/SDFRN_Workshop_Chaparral_21apr04/7_Mensingetal1999SantaAnaFires500years.pdf

    “Microscopic charcoal from varved Santa Barbara Basin sediments
    was used to reconstruct a 560-yr record (A.D. 1425 to 1985) of Santa
    Ana fires. Comparison of large (>3750 mm2) charcoal with documented
    fire records in the Santa Barbara Ranger District shows that
    high accumulations correspond to large fires (>20,000 ha) that occurred during Santa Ana conditions. The charcoal record reconstructed a minimum of 20 large fires in the Santa Barbara region during the study period. The average time between fires shows no distinct change across three different land use periods: the Chumash period, apparently characterized by frequent burning, the Spanish/ Early American period with nominal fire control, and the 20th century with active fire suppression. Pollen data support the conclusion that the fire regime has not dramatically changed during the last 500 yr. Comparison of large charcoal particle accumulation rates and precipitation reconstructed from tree rings show a strong relationship between climate and fire history, with large fires consistently occurring at the end of wet periods and the beginning of droughts.”

    It’s the same problem as with hurricanes — people like the locations and build in them, over and over.

  24. 74
    helen says:

    How can the NAO, being an index for the climate in winter be measured through tree-ring width/density which responds to the summer climate?

    [Response: In Morocco, the trees are most sensitive to winter precipitation - not summer temperatures. Hence that is what gets reconstructed. - gavin]

  25. 75
    Svend Jensen says:

    AGW ??? – California ravaged by fires…
    Not only, but also Greece (not even serious cadastral, even GIS-GRASS coverage..I doubt if 600 million euro emergency EU funding will change an iota..), Spain, Portugal, Australia, southern France, Croatia, Bulgaria etc ravaged by fires..

    other valid contributing factors are often:
    - inappropriate bush-undergrowth management which is overgrown and unchecked without grazing, human intervention -and ‘quick burning’ fire is an essential ecological element in many regions..

    - inappropriate highly inflammable trees and bushes planted too near and too densely toresidences ie hi-oil content,’exploding’ behaviour, not regularly pruned…Fire-resistant trees (to a degree) are listed and studied

    - inappropriate maintenance of fire breaks – labour is expensive and hilly terrain is sweating- but of course high wind driven fires can jump most breaks
    - VERY INAPPROPriate housing materials and design, looks great and burns great !!! Check out for example some Ozzie ‘Permaculture’ recommendations, especially David Holmgren, regarding ‘fire proof’ housing and building materials. The fires in Victoria state Oz, Ash Wednesday 1980s ?? etc were real killers almost hitting greek 2007 fatality levels..but folks learnt from it..
    - Finally… Too many people and too many houses in high risk areas and unregulated wishy-washy urban planning- German, Austrian and English floods 2002 to 2007 epitomize ineffective urban planning for recognized natural disasters..

    Fires are part of our future – we can and must adapt accordingly…
    AGW is the icing on the cake…’cuse the pun !

  26. 76
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John and Nick,
    Thanks. Good to see somebody hasn’t succumbed to the gamblers fallacy.

  27. 77
    Walt Bennett says:

    Perhaps a new post is needed, to talk about the SoCal wildfires.

    That is a dry, hot region, getting drier and hotter. The mountains which artificially feed that region with water are losing their snowpacks, reducing the water flow even as demand increases exponentially.

    These fires release an enormous amount of CO2, am I correct? The burning of these lands will allow some of the region (much of which is already desert) to turn to desert because their plant life will have been burned off, and there is no water coming to allow new plant life to grow. Am I correct about this?

    In other words, are we witnessing land change based on global warming? The post could also address the American southeast, which is in a drought emergency.

    Are these warming-related? More to the point, is there any way they can be reversed?

    If not, are we not at the beginning of what will become a mass migration away from those areas?

  28. 78
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    Re: 77

    Your comments are well-taken. Your questions are ultimately unanswerable. This is part of how I get by these days: I don’t have to know the answers. Whoever gave me a right to know anything?

    Sorry for the imprecision. It’s a bit disconcerting, but it can be thought of as intellectual rigor, akin to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics: we don’t know, we probably never will.

    That said, the sentiments behind your questions remind me of that too-famous last stanza of TS Elliot’s The Hollow Men: this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, and so forth.

  29. 79

    Re. #77

    Walt, sounds like this is starting to sink in with you. As to your questions

    yes, yes, yes (generally speaking)

    While singular incidents are difficult to attribute to global warming, trends are. and the trends are more acres burned per year, averaging upwards. So I would say yes, it is related.

    As to can it be reversed? Good question. The faster we take action the better a chance we have to mitigate the affects. There are not short term solutions other than reducing consumption in many areas. Reversing Global Warming is not something that can happen overnight, if we are really ingenious we might be able to reverse the affect in say 100 years, if not then hundreds of years will be required.

    I personally lean towards the innovation capacity and the axiom that necessity is the mother of invention.

    On the other hand, we clearly have some major challenges ahead of us. Let’s just hope we don’t cross too many tipping points.

  30. 80
    Svend Jensen says:

    re 77. Walt Barnett
    Agree suggested new post for SoCal fires, as we ‘is drifting away from Sweatin Med.

    Available space/carrying capacity and Mass migration seen perhaps in a historical perspective of max 1 billion world population living 30-55 years, without provoking TV coverage, was an accepted and viable necessity for some but usually unknown issue for most unless directly concerned..

    Population of US at Dust Bowl time of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and 10,000s – 100,000 Oakies heading to Calif..?
    Where would your present day Californians trot off too ? New England, Great Lakes ?? as drought is hardly confined to the west coast !!!

    Population of Judea, pseudo-Palestine etc at time of old testament, max. 50,000 to 100,000 ?? plus every 6-7 years fallow farm cycle!!!

    Scant historical evidence of land change-global climate change being reversible, rather scamper away, allow boom-bust cycle with subsequent die-off, wait a few decades -hundred years and perhaps drift back..

    Modern Mass migration away from important areas in Calif, other parts USA, within Europe, within the middle east and northern china etc IS A POLITICAL NO-NO, TABOO SUBJECT to be AVOIDED at all costs.
    It’s political suicide..at the moment !!
    Apparently, many academics avoid this topic too..
    Apart from suspect CIA-RANK studies..

    Unsubstantiated gossip:: the Dutch government is supposedly providing subsidies-financial assistance to certain !! Dutch citizens to NOT build a house in Holland but move to higher lands of French speak Belgium ??

  31. 81
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 73

    Mr. McIntyre, it takes a long time to detect whether there’s a change —there are baseline studies

    ===============

    I really wasn’t attempting an answer to the question. The my posting of the two links was not meant as offering an opinion one way or the other, simply as a reference of what is happening this year – and today. Frankly, any opinion I have is just that – an opinion. My apologies if I came off as saying something I didn’t mean to.

    “It’s the same problem as with hurricanes — people like the locations and build in them, over and over.”

    Yes, I know. I have family in the U.S Forest Service stationed in the area that is burning right now, directing a portion of the operation (though there is little they can do until the winds die down, and there is talk they won’t calm for three more days).

    Suffice to say one of the big problems are the development of communities in the area of canyons – canyons that, in Santa Ana conditions, behave as natural blast furnaces. This is particularly bad in the San Diego region. Add to that the Bug Kill that is prevalent throughout the region and the understanding the Southern California has received less rain than even Death Valley averages in a year, and it’s a climate for disaster.

    While I’m watching those fires with interest, the place I’m really worried about is Arrowhead and the areas around it. If that really catches, things could get very nasty.

  32. 82
    Richard Ordway says:

    #67 Kebab: “A quick question:
    California is being ravaged by fires, is AGW also a contributing factor?”

    Don’t know.

    Averages, averages averages… including 30+ years of evidence and from multiple locations… that’s what the world-wide climate science communtity works on. No single event can be easily ascribed to AGW (human-caused warming).

    For instance perhaps, the current San Diego fires are just a freak 500 or 1000 year natural event…

    BUT, this sort of increase in fires around the world has been increasing from an average point of view…but you probably want more years of averages from more locations just to make sure… Following are some scientific references on increasing world-wide fires.

    “If climate change is increasing wildfire,. as Westerling et al. suggest,”
    “They show that warmer temperatures appear to be increasing the duration and intensity of the wildfire season in the western United States”

    A. L. Westerling, H. G. Hidalgo, D. R. Cayan, T. W. Swetnam, Science 313, 940 (2006); published online 6 July 2006 (10.1126/science.1128834).
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/313/5789/940

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2004/2004GL020876.shtml

    N. P. Gillett et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L18211 (2004).

    Balzter, et al. Coupling of vegetation growing season anomalies with hemispheric and regional scale climate patterns in Central and East Siberia, Journal of Climate 20:15, 3713–3729,

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070731191203.htm
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/313/5789/927

    G. R. van der Werf et al., Science 303, [73] (2004).

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/303/5654/73

  33. 83
    Walt Bennett says:

    Thank you for the replies. There seems to be a consensus that the conditions are not likely reversible in the foreseeable future, which is also my view.

    Whether or not warming is a key contributing factor in the prevalence and intensity of these fires, it seems certain to me that much of the area will be left without significant plant life, and that water scarcity will prevent that plant life from regenerating.

    I am wondering if this land change, as well as the inability to acquire water for other purposes – drinking, cleaning, manufacture and so forth – will inevitably lead to migration. I wonder if this is the opening scene of a story which will keep getting told, over and over.

    It really makes me wonder why we cannot effectively desalinate sea water on a large scale. It seems to me that this is an obvious solution in which investment should have long ago been made.

    Instead we keep divvying up declining mountain water. Even if that supply was to remain constant – a complete fantasy – demand continues to escalate.

    The combination of increased demand and decreased supply seems, to me, to be an enormous stressor. When it bends too far it will break.

  34. 84
    viento says:

    #46 Again, I honestly do not see how the observed NAO index supports model projections for the future. In the 20th century we have mostly a negative trend – only between 1960 and 1990 was the trend positive. And the trend in the last 15 years is again negative. Is’nt it more reasonable to interpret this just as natural variations, so far?.

  35. 85
    Figen Mekik says:

    Viento,

    The trend between 1970 and 2004 looks positive and 2007 is a high positive number. Are we talking bout the same graph? :)

  36. 86
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #67, I’m from California and remember doing a class ecological project on a chaparral forest in the early 60s. We learned that these forests naturally burn every so often, and this would explain many of the past fires.

    However, when you consider that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor and desiccates the land and brush; and that GW is also expected to increase storms and winds; add in the natural tendency for these areas to burn, and you get what we’re seeing now.

    “Climate” is on a more macro-level of scientific inquiry than weather — it is the aggregate statistics for weather — so climate scientists cannot say a particular event (at the micro-level) is caused by global warming (at least not yet), only that the warming will entail higher probabilities of such events.

    However, since I’m not a climate scientist, I say, yeh, the California mega-fires we are witnessing today are due to global warming (even if its role was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak). We live in a globally warmed and warming world, so I say everything that can reasonably be attributed to GW is due to GW (not tooth-aches, of course), unless proven otherwise. We have to imagine what the world would have been like without global warming, and whether the fires (and droughts, and hurricanes, and such) would have been as big or harmful. I think not.

    Also Dr. Mekik raises an important point when she writes, “small perturbations in weather patterns can lead to tragic and costly outcomes.” It is those final inches of floodwater that breach the levee (the ones caused by GW on top of the natural conditions), that last “huff” that blows or burns the house down (that small increment caused by GW on top of natural & other human-made conditions), that often does the most severe damage.

    There are many necessary (but insufficient) causes for such great harms; the addition of GW may finally make the set of causes sufficient for much greater harms in certain cases. Or, as they say, the whole is much greater than sum of the parts.

    I’m thinking catastrophe theory in mathematics might be helpful here, but I don’t know much about it, only the idea that there are other than smooth linear functions, some with big leaps.

  37. 87
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    Just an add-on re the SoCal fires.

    The evacuation number is up to one million, the firefighters have given up any attempt at containment because of the winds, and the governor is quoted as saying about 68,000 homes are threatened.

    This is going to be very ugly barring a miracle.

  38. 88
    J.C.H. says:

    It’s interesting to look at these areas on the graphic of the globe on page 16 of the SPM : Projected Patterns of Precipitation Changes.

    Is the future playing a little peekaboo with the present?

  39. 89
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. McIntyre, where’s your ‘one million’ evacuation number from?
    I’m looking for a reliable source.

  40. 90
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh. http://www.kcbs.com/pages/1119024.php?

    Back around 1990, when I first started trying to get some advice about restoring a burnt-over mountain site in N. Ca., the best advice I got was from people around the Mediterranean. They told me that they had accepted it was sure the climate was changing and expected more warming, more extreme weather, and more erosion problems, and said that they were basically building contour berms on difficult sites, just little ditches with raised edges along slopes one above another, as ways of interrupting sheet erosion from wind and water.

    I took that advice — the results were amazing. Each little groove I’d cut by dragging a pickaxe the first fall had by springtime filled up with a little ribbon of black carbon runoff from the burned over hill, and in each of those little trenches there were lined up orange manzanita seeds starting to sprout, and pine seeds, and a whole lot more.

    The other advice I got from the Mediterranean folks was not to clear all the brush, but to make sure that any bare patch had some dead branch laid across it, again to break up sheet erosion.

    And that worked too — each of those accumulated a little pile of dead leaves and pine needles and bits of burned bark, and had a few seeds sprouting, surrounded by the bare gravel the fire had left behind the previous fall.

    This was before the Web, I had gone to Usenet newsgroups for advice. It was way ahead of the advice I got from the local agencies in the USA — there the standard was to pile and burn every bit of fire debris and leave a clean pruned smooth hillside.

    Believing that the worst that has happened in the past is indeed likely to happen again, and probably sooner with climate change moving faster, seems a good idea.

  41. 91
    tree ocean says:

    I believe we are about to discover first hand what happened to the water on Mars.

    Too bad there isn’t a lush, green planet next door. ;)

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Walt Bennett wrote:
    > allow some of the region (much of which is already desert) to
    > turn to desert because their plant life will have been burned
    > off, and there is no water coming to allow new plant life to
    > grow. Am I correct about this?

    No. This is normal fire behavior. The big worry is that European and Asian annual grasses (cheatgrass, Bromus tectorum; medusahead, Taeniatherum caput-medusae) will take over like crazy on the burned areas.

    The only tactic I know of for those is expensive — spray the hillside with sugar water, so the soil microbiota can use that plus all the excess minerals and nitrogen in the ash during the winter, starving those fire-adapted invasive grasses. Otherwise they grow like crazy. If those and their ilk can be discouraged for a few years, the native California perennials come back.

    The California Native Plant Association has a lovely T-shirt design.
    It shows a horizontal line, and above the line is a tiny stem and a few little leaves, and below the line is a _huge_ network of deep widespread roots.

    When I worked on my burnt off site, a botanist dug around in the gravel and showed me a California lupine root — a big thing the size of a thumb — and told me it was likely a hundred years old, and would come back fine after the fire if we could discourage the invasive annuals.

    We did. The slopes we worked on — which had burned down to orange gravel and black silt in many places — are thick with lupine after 18 years, and covered with pine straw where we scattered a few branches across them the first winter and left them alone but for attacking the invasives (with flame weeding, during the wet weather just as they set seed).

    Look at any of the So. Cal. fire sites. Look at Yosemite since its big fires. Fire works fine in these environments if it happens often enough, and if it happens gracefully enough — and you manage that by avoiding big piles of stuff that causes huge conflagrations.

    Like, well, houses.

  43. 93
    Dave Rado says:

    Re. #89, Hank Roberts:

    Mr. McIntyre, where’s your ‘one million’ evacuation number from?
    I’m looking for a reliable source.

    The BBC is claiming “more than half a million”. They don’t cite their source but their fact-checking is usually very reliable.

  44. 94
    Jim Eaton says:

    Hank Roberts wrote:

    “Mr. McIntyre, where’s your ‘one million’ evacuation number from?
    I’m looking for a reliable source.”

    Well, not to suggest that the New York Daily News is a reliable source, but the media in general is using the one million figure this evening. Additional evacuations are being ordered as the fires continue, especially since the end of the Santa Ana winds may result in westerly winds turning the fires eastward.

    “Nearly one million Californians were ordered to evacuate their homes on Tuesday night as wind-whipped wildfires roared across the parched landscape from Malibu south to the Mexican border.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/2007/10/23/2007-10-23_nearly_1_million_californians_forced_to_.html

    Walt Bennett wrote:

    “Whether or not warming is a key contributing factor in the prevalence and intensity of these fires, it seems certain to me that much of the area will be left without significant plant life, and that water scarcity will prevent that plant life from regenerating.”

    As Hank Roberts wrote, many California native plants are “fire” species which come back quickly after a fire. Most of the chaparral hillsides will be showing new growth after the first winter rains. Indeed, the cones of some pine species do not even open to release their seeds until they are exposed to fire.

    Some of the lands burning this week were burned in the huge fires of 2003. So the vegetation did re-grow enough in just four years to carry the current fires.

    Unfortunately, many exotic annual grasses are changing the picture in parts of California. In parts of the Mojave Desert, for example, the annual grasses now are allowing fires to spread to some plants that seldom were affected by fires in the past, such as Joshua trees and some cacti. The spacing of these native plants kept fires from spreading in the past, but the grasses allow fires to travel further than they used to.

    If global warming results in extended droughts in southern California, catastrophic fires may become more common, and the species composition of plants and animals may change. But even though parts of California suffered they driest season since humans have been recording rainfall, there still were a lot of plants growing this year.

  45. 95
    Eachran says:

    So far on this thread, we have worries about drought and the ravages of fire, crop yields and migration as well as the normal worries about temperature increase and sea level rise.

    And now for extinctions, in The Guardian today, just to cheer you all up.

    “Predicted levels of global warming could trigger a “mass extinction event” like the one which wiped out the dinosaurs, new research suggests.

    Such a disaster would not necessarily mean the end of humanity, but it could kill off more than half of all the animal and plant species on Earth.

    British scientists have uncovered the first strong evidence of a close coupling between the Earth’s climate and extinctions.

    The researchers from the University of York analysed the relationship between the two over the past 520 million years – almost the whole of the available fossil record.

    Matching marine and terrestrial species diversity against temperature estimates, they found that the range is relatively small during warm “greenhouse” climate phases. Meanwhile, extinction rates are relatively high.

    The opposite pattern is seen when cooler “icehouse” conditions prevail. Then, biodiversity increases and more species survive.

    Climate change predictions for the future fall within the range of the warmest greenhouse phases associated with mass extinction events in the fossil record, said the scientists.

    Dr Peter Mayhew, a member of the York team, said: “Our results provide the first clear evidence that global climate may explain substantial variation in the fossil record in a simple and consistent manner. If our results hold for current warming – the magnitude of which is comparable with the long-term fluctuations in Earth climate – they suggest that extinctions will increase.”

    Computer simulations point to global temperature rises of around 1.5C by the middle of the century, and 3C in the next 100 years. Some experts believe these estimates are too conservative.

    The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

    Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2007, All Rights Reserved.”

    JS McIntyre, I tried something similar earlier in the year and started with the FAO website which I found to be un-navigable. Fortunately I have a friend there who arranged for the stuff to be dug out for me. If you cant navigate the FAO site let me know : I will be only too pleased to help.

    Coming back to the wider point there does seem to be a requirement for regular updates for each area of worry and the use of indices to communicate this to the general public. It used to be OK to have 4 yearly up-dates from the IPCC but something more immediate seems to me necessary today.

    On agricultural yields alone, I have read recently that the Chinese fear a reduction of between 30 and 40% over the next few decades and there is precious chance that this deficit will be covered by increasing yields generally (I understand 2 to 3% a year under favourable conditions).

    The problem I have is a very good memory so that most stuff I read sticks : but that doesnt help me very much when I try to up-date everything together to give me the current global picture. I think we need that up-date and the obvious candidates to do that are the developed copuntries.

    I am still doing my letter to them and if I get a response I shall let you all know.

  46. 96
    ScaredAmoeba says:

    I know it’s off-topic but ‘History of mass extinction is a grim lesson on climate change’ at:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article2726751.ece?Submitted=true

    is gathering its quota of carping denialist posts. I have made a number of attempts to post refutations but something has gone wrong, I have yet to find out what!

    Maybe some of you guys may have better luck at putting the record straight!
    The abstract of ‘Fossil record supports evidence of impending mass extinction’ may be found at:
    http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=7218

  47. 97

    I’m from Big Bear Lake, CA. Big Bear only has two escape routes left at this time and no one is allowed up the mountain, except residents. The entire area is at risk. Luckily I’m not there.

    My family all live in SoCal.

    My brother Paul is working the fire lines I think in the Romona area. His children have already evacuated (mandatory) with their horses.

    My mother and sister and family evacuated (mandatory) from Fallbrook. The entire city has been evacuated; they went to a friends in Oceanside (for now). They both keep calling their houses to see if the answering machine is still on, because if it is, they now they still have a home.

    While a single event can not be attributed to Global Warming, I think it is fair to say that global warming contributes to the conditions that increase the likelihood of those single events increasing in number and intensity. Because those conditions are drier conditions, and that is a significant factor in the likelihood of fire, and fire getting ‘out of control’.

    I would also say this is ‘normal’ fire behavior in the sense that this is what fire does. But I would not disconnect these events from Global Warming because they are occurring under the contributed conditions.

    There have been many reports I have read that were from the national forest service and those I spoke with in Big Bear Lake, that have said that the intensity of these fires, because they are burning hotter will decrease the likelihood of life returning to those areas due to the larger destructive capacity of these fires. This will lead to increased decertification.

    With the trend toward less and less moisture, the likelihood of life returning to these areas decreases; made that much more difficult.

    Also, this is not off topic in my opinion. The Mediterranean region is experiencing increase fires in number and intensity also. The problem is global and the California fires are only the most recent large manifestation of the problem.

    What the insurance companies already know is that this (global warming) is going to get expensive. What the politicians have yet to figure out is that this is going to get expensive.

    As to migration, sure no one wants to talk about it, and maybe there are ways to mitigate those potentials. But if we can’t, then yes, migration will become a reality. Will politicians talk about it, not yet. It frightens them. We must talk about it. The sooner the better. So I am very happy this is beginning to be discussed here on RC! No, we don’t know everything, but the more talk, the more potential for real solutions to be envisioned.

    Our best bet is efficiency and action. We don’t have any time left. Each day we wait will make it more difficult to deal with in the future. Until this lesson is learned in the highest levels of government, industry, and in the majority of society, we can expect the global GDP to be affected more.

    As to evacuations, they are now reporting up to a million in the headlines and an estimated 910,000 people.

    http://cbs2.com/topstories/local_story_295010422.html

    The Rice fire is positioned as of 10:30 last night to run over the entire city of Fallbrook. If the Big Bear house survives (hoping), then the family, mom, sister, husband, three kids, will all be living with me.

    Is this connected to Global Warming. I’m not a scientist, but common sense and reason are my rules of thumb. I have to say YES!

  48. 98
    viento says:

    #85

    I am looking at your graph with the SLP-based NAO index, thick continous line – which I assume is some type of multi-year smoothing. I see a clear maximum around 1990 and a negative trend afterwards. The positive trend starting in 1970 is not continued after around 1990. If you look at the subsquent peaks after 1990 they get continously smaller. The ‘high positive value in 2007′ was pretty close or even lower than all the 1990′s (with one exception), some years in the 1920′s, some years in the 1990′s and some years in 1880′s.

    I think we have to be honest. An anthropogenic signal should look very different than this graph. The signal is present in many other climatic indices, but certainly not in this one. Not yet.

  49. 99
    Figen Mekik says:

    #90: Hank,

    That is very interesting. Did you work as an agricultural engineer? I grew up in Turkey and went to college there (MIddle East Technical University in Ankara-great school!). From grade school on, I’ve been taught that the biggest natural threat in Turkey is soil erosion. So early on we were taught about terracing farmland and contour berms. And water rationing in Ankara is nothing new (I grew up in Ankara) but to have it two days on and two days off is the most extreme I have ever experienced. It was usually just several days in a month in the summer that there would be no running water and everyone would be warned well ahead of time to conserve water and fill up reservoirs at home. And not every summer. So this year was pretty scary.

  50. 100
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #97

    John,

    Thank you for that vivid and in some ways sobering account. I feel for you and all those affected.

    One note of interest: while we all seem to understand that a warming planet will be drier and hotter in places, there is a broad variety of opinions about the nature of the SoCal event and its eventual aftermath. I am not a botanist and have no knowledge of root systems and so forth. What I have been basing my concern on is the decline in available water. Much of the American southwest would already be bone dry without diversion, primarily from the Colorado. As diversion becomes less and less available, this region will have no choice but to assume its natural state, which is dry.

    As I see it, the warming (sucking moisture out of the ground) will complete the job. I have heard reports that SoCal temps are running 10 degrees above normal, which sounds like Dr. Hansen’s 6-sided die came up HOTTER.

    I see a connecting of dots here. I would greatly appreciate an RC post to explore that in depth.


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