Why Our Weather is Weird ‘n Wild and Why It Is Getting Worse

Repost from 2011: More and more science reveals the not surprising connection between a warming planet and extreme weather. Won’t stop unless emissions of fossil fuels stop — Stephen 

(Bonus: How we can kick the fossil fuel addiction)

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 16, 2011 (IPS)

Human-induced heating of the planet has already made rainfall more intense, leading to more severe floods, researchers announced Wednesday.

Two new studies document significant impacts with just a fraction of the heating yet to come from the burning of fossil fuels. Fortunately, another new report shows the world can end its addiction to climate-wrecking fossil-fuel energy by 2050.

“Warmer air contains more moisture and leads to more extreme precipitation,” said Francis Zwiers of the University of Victoria.

Extreme precipitation and flooding over the entire northern hemisphere increased by seven percent between 1951 and 1999 as a result of anthropogenic global warming. That represents a “substantial change”, Zwiers told IPS, and more than twice the increase projected by climate modeling.

Zwiers and Xuebin Zhang of Environment Canada used observations from over 6,000 weather stations to measure the impact of climate warming on the intensity of extreme precipitation for the first time. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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The planet is currently 0.8 degrees C hotter from the burning of fossil fuels. However, global temperatures had not yet started to increase in 1951, the first year of rainfall data Zwiers and Xuebin examined. By 1999, global temperatures had climbed by about 0.6 degrees C. The average temperature increase over that 50-year period is relatively small compared to the present but major impacts have been documented in terms of storm and flood damage even with this small increase in temperatures.

This suggests that the Earth’s climatic system may be more sensitive to small temperature increases than previously believed.

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Heading for +2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) Carbon Use Must Peak by 2015 Scientists Warn

Carbon overload - have to stop expanding
Carbon overload – have to stop expanding

By Stephen Leahy

“We shouldn’t forget that a 2-degree C global mean warming would take us far beyond the natural temperature variations that life on Earth has experienced since we humans have been around.”

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Apr 30 (IPS)

Climate scientists are calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels because humans are now pumping so much carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere that the ‘2-degree-C climate balloon’ will burst otherwise, new studies show.

That 2-degree C climate balloon has a maximum capacity of less than 1,400 gigatonnes of CO2 total emissions from the year 2000 to 2050, Malte Meinshausen and colleagues report in the current issue of Nature. The European Union and others consider a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees C as dangerous and potentially catastrophic. Temperatures are already 0.8 C warmer than the pre-industrial period.

UPDATE Nov 2009 Prospect of a four-degree Celsius rise in global average temperatures in 50 years is alarming – but not alarmist, climate scientists now believe. Four Degrees of Devastation

The reality is that global emissions for the last seven years amounted to almost 250 gigatonnes of these long-lived greenhouse gases, meaning that the current and growing rates of fossil fuel emissions would burst the balloon in about 20 years – or less. Even if emissions are held to 1,400 gigatonnes maximum for the next 40 years, there is still a 50-percent probability of exceeding 2 degrees C, said Meinshausen, lead author of the study and climate researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Indigenous peoples from around the world also called for a phase-out of fossil fuels at the conclusion of the first Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska, that concluded last week.

“That call is well-supported by the evidence in this study,” Meinshausen told IPS.

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