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Climate adaptation should be based on robust regional climate information

Climate adaptation steams forward with an accelerated speed that can be seen through the Climate Adaptation Summit in January (see previous post), the ECCA 2021 in May/June, and the upcoming COP26. Recent extreme events may spur this development even further (see previous post about attribution of recent heatwaves). 

To aid climate adaptation, Europe’s Climate-Adapt programme provides a wealth of resources, such as guidance, case studies and videos. This is a good start, but a clear and transparent account on how to use the actual climate information for adaptation seems to be missing. How can projections of future heatwaves or extreme rainfall help practitioners, and how to interpret this kind of information? 

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Rapid attribution of PNW heatwave

Summary: It was almost impossible for the temperatures seen recently in the Pacific North West heatwave to have occurred without global warming. And only improbable with it.

It’s been clear for at least a decade that global warming has been in general increasing the intensity of heat waves, with clear trends in observed maximum temperatures that match what climate models have been predicting. For the specific situation in the Pacific NorthWest at the end of June, we now have the first attribution analysis from the World Weather Attribution group – a consortium of climate experts from around the world working on extreme event attribution. Their preprint (Philip et al.) is available here.

Trends in Tmax globally
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Unforced Variations: July 2021

Filed under: — group @ 2 July 2021

This month’s open thread for climate science. Probably a good time to discuss attribution for extreme heat, wildfires, hurricane intensity and intense precipitation.

Unforced Variations: Jun 2021

Filed under: — group @ 2 June 2021

This month’s open thread for climate science. Start of the meteorological summer, official hurricane season (outlook), the final stretches of the IPCC AR6 review process and a rare conjunction of Father’s Day and the summer solstice. Please stay on topic.

Why is future sea level rise still so uncertain?

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 May 2021

Three new papers in the last couple of weeks have each made separate claims about whether sea level rise from the loss of ice in West Antarctica is more or less than you might have thought last month and with more or less certainty. Each of these papers make good points, but anyone looking for coherent picture to emerge from all this work will be disappointed. To understand why, you need to know why sea level rise is such a hard problem in the first place, and appreciate how far we’ve come, but also how far we need to go.

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Unforced Variations: May 2021

Filed under: — group @ 1 May 2021

This month’s open thread for climate science topics.

Nenana Ice Classic 2021

Filed under: — gavin @ 30 April 2021

And…. it’s that time again. The clock stopped on the Nenana ice classic this afternoon (April 30, 12:50pm AT). This is pretty much on trend and unsurprising given the relatively slightly cool winter in Alaska. The jackpot on offer this year was $233,591 but will likely be shared among several winners. This year’s ‘break up’ is a little odd, since the ice moved sufficiently to trigger the clock, but not enough to actually topple the tripod (which is still visible as this is being written (9pm ET) – Update 10:30pm ET: gone now though!). But, the rules are the rules…

Nenana Ice Classic break-up dates since 1917.

The trends in the break up date is about 8 days earlier per century (±4), estimated over the whole record, but substantially faster over the last 50 years (16 ± 12 days/century, 95% CI).

Other phenological records show similar trends, notably the longest cherry blossom record from Kyoto which dates back to 9th Century, and which had a record earliest peak bloom this year and a clear trend over the last few decades:

Kyoto Cherry Blossom trends (graph from Statista)

Feel free to link to your favorite such record in the comments…

Two graphs show the path to 1.5 degrees

Filed under: — stefan @ 21 April 2021

In the Paris Agreement, just about all of the world’s nations pledged to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”. On Saturday, the top climate diplomats from the U.S. and China, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, reiterated in a joint statement that they want to step up their climate mitigation efforts to keep that goal “within reach”.

But is that still possible? Here are two graphs.

Global temperature trend (relative to mean 1880-1910, NASA data). The colored curve shows the moving average over 12 months, the black line the linear trend over the last 50 years. Transient warmth following two strong El Niño events in the tropical Pacific is indicated by arrows. If everything continued like this, the 1.5 degree limit would be exceeded around 2040.

The first graph shows the global temperature trend. Warming has progressed essentially linearly for fifty years in response to increasing CO2 emissions. Although the latter accelerate the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere, on the other hand, radiative forcing (which causes warming) increases only with the logarithm of CO2 concentration, and therefore roughly linearly since the 1970s. Any acceleration of warming over the last decade is not a significant trend change. It is linked to two El Niño events in recent years, but that is part of natural variability. Does anyone remember the discussion about the supposed “warming pause” in the early 2000s? It also never was statistically significant, nor did it signify a trend change.

Therefore, if emissions continue to grow, we expect a further roughly linear increase in temperature, which would then exceed 1.5 degrees around 2040. If we lower emissions, the trend will flatten out and become roughly horizontal as we reach zero emissions. Therefore, these observational data do not argue against the possibility to still keep warming below 1.5°C.

Exemplary emission trajectories with CO2 emission budgets that, according to the IPCC, correspond to limiting warming to 1.5 °C with 50% probability (solid) or limiting it to 1.75 °C with 67% probability. The same emissions as in 2019 were assumed as the starting point in 2021, assuming the “corona spike” in 2020 is likely to be temporary.

The second graph shows global CO2 emission trajectories with which we can still limit warming to 1.5 °C, at least with 50:50 probability. This means: given the uncertainties, this could also land us at 1.6 degrees, but with a bit of luck, it could land us a bit below 1.5 degrees. The core conclusions:

  •     It is not yet impossible to keep warming below 1.5 °C.
  •     This requires roughly a halving of global CO2 emissions by 2030 (as already stated in the IPCC 1.5 degree report).
  •     If the world dithers for another ten years before emissions fall, it will no longer be possible (red curve).

It should be noted that I have not assumed net-negative emissions here. Many scenarios assume that we first emit too much and that our children then have to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere after mid-century – I think this is not very realistic and also ethically questionable. I think we will probably not be able to achieve more than reducing global emissions to net zero. Even that would require CO2 sinks to compensate for unavoidable residual emissions, e.g. from agriculture.

Conclusion: The limitation to 1.5 degrees is still possible and from my point of view also urgently advised to avert catastrophic risks, but it requires immediate decisive measures. I am curious to see what the climate summit scheduled by US President Joe Biden will bring in the coming days!

Link

Fact check by Climate Analytics to the claim that we can no longer limit warming to 1.5°C.

This article originally appeared in German at KlimaLounge.

Should the official Atlantic hurricane season be lengthened?

Filed under: — Jim Kossin @ 2 April 2021

By Jim Kossin, Tim Hall, Mike Mann, and Stefan Rahmstorf

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season broke a number of records, with the formation of an unprecedented 30 “named storms” (storms that reach wind-speed intensity of at least 18 m/s and are then given an official name). The season also started earlier than normal. In fact, when ranked by their order in the season, the date of formation of every named storm, from Tropical Storm Arthur to Hurricane Iota was substantially earlier than normal (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Average number of named storms by day of the year in the historical record from 1851–2019 (dark blue line). The light blue shading denotes the range between the minimum and maximum number of storms observed by each day. The days of formation for the 2020 named storms are shown by the red squares.
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Unforced Variations: Apr 2021

Filed under: — group @ 1 April 2021

This month’s open thread for climate science discussions. Be nice, it’s Earth month.