Tag Archives: heat records

Should I Be Worried?

The candidates want you to worry. Be very worried – about immigrants, about job security, about terrorists, about China, about billionaires, about healthcare.

Here’s one thing they don’t particularly want you to worry about: The planet has a fever. Its thermostat is broken. Our only home is heating up dangerously.

Take last year, for example. It was the hottest year for the world since measurements began in 1880. Take a look at what that meant all over:Picture2

In pockets here and there, 2015 was a little cooler (see the blue?) than average: If you lived in a boat off the Straits of Magellan, for instance. But almost all of the world was “Much Warmer Than Average” (the deep pink on the map above). And “Record Warmest” (pictured in red) prevailed in Central and South America and the Amazon, Europe, and vast expanses of ocean: the Pacific, the Indian, and the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic.  The Arctic was off the charts, but that doesn’t show up on this map.

Should I be worried?

Well, maybe things just change from time to time. Heat goes up. Heat goes down. Maybe 2016 will be different?

Well, unfortunately, this year is off to another blazing-hot start. Maps for February aren’t out yet, but it was a global sizzler. But January (another record) maps are here. Take a look:Picture1

We can add Southern Africa and the Mediterranean to the “Record Warmest” list. But notice a couple of exceptions. First, the US lower 48 states were about normal in January (and this is a problem, because we tend to ignore things we can’t feel right here at home).

And then, do you see that blue blob in the North Atlantic just below Greenland? (It was there in 2015 too.) The Gulf Stream usually keeps that part of the world warm, carrying warm tropical water northward, warming Europe in the process, and regulating climates all over the globe. But these days, the warm Atlantic waters are getting stuck in the sweltering tropics, and the northern waters are now cooler. Mess with the Gulf Stream, and you’re messing with just about everything on earth. Some have predicted that global heat could slow or stop the Gulf Stream entirely, and that’s the basis for apocalyptic movie scripts.

Should I be worried?

Well, let’s not get carried away by one or two years of funny data. Haven’t I heard politicians saying that the world hasn’t warmed in 20 years, or something?

Yes, in fact you have. Unfortunately, it is entirely wrong, even cynical. Even after the data began screaming just the opposite, many kept saying it. Most are now trying to avoid the topic, or to revert to dog-whistle rants about jobs and government meddling, but Senator Cruz remains undeterred by the facts, doubling down on the “no-warming” message.

But the facts are, well, worrisome. Here’s a look:Picture3

Last year was the hottest year on record, followed by 2014 in the number-two spot. 2010 takes the bronze medal, so to speak; but fourth place goes to 2013. In fact, of the 15 hottest years on record, 14 occurred during the first 15 years of this century. The only exception was 1998 (which, of course, just barely pre-dated our century).

So it’s hot, staying hot, and getting hotter. Should I be worried?

Well, if you’re a Christ-follower, you’re confronted with the challenging command not to worry. “Do not worry about your life … your body … your clothes …. But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…” (from Matthew 6:25-34).

But orders from anyone not to worry can be tricky in practice, don’t you think? And then there’s that ubiquitous qualifier: “your.” Your life, your body, your clothes. What if it’s the plight of God’s world that worries me? Or his creatures? Or the children he’s given my wife and me? Or our little grandkids? And what if Jesus’ antidote to worry – “but seek first his kingdom” – means precisely that I should be willing to look unblinkingly at the worrisome facts around me, even if it costs me a bit of sleep?

Should I be worried? Should you?

Melting Arctic: Pictures v. Thousands of Words

Ho hum. Another global heat record.

So, September was the hottest September ever recorded. That’s what NASA told us this week. And August was also a record-busting high, according to NOAA. And in fact, the three months June-August were also the hottest for the planet on record. Of course, we can now extend that to June-September. And NOAA tells us that the chances are very strong that the whole of 2014 will now break all global records for surface heat.

Let’s look at some heat maps, and maybe a couple of charts (yawn).

Global heat anomaly August map (left); June-August long term trends (right).

Global heat anomaly August map (left); June-August long term trends (right).

Doesn’t this make your blood boil?

No, in fact it doesn’t. More statistics, more science, more record-keeping – B.O.R.I.N.G.

Meanwhile, one out of every 165,000,000 Americans has been infected with Ebola in our country, and we can’t talk about anything else. If only we had people in hazmat suits cleaning up the effects of climate change on national TV. If only it threatened our lives, not just our children’s….

Well, I’ve just watched some amazing footage that goes a long way to unmasking the often-invisible hand of manmade climate change. Acclaimed nature photographer James Balog has made a career of hanging off of cliffs and giant redwoods, camera in hand, to bring us face to face with the marvels of creation. And a few years back, he figured that the polar ice could be a tangible way for you and me to witness our impact on the world around us. So Balog launched the Extreme Ice Survey, planting scores of cameras in some of the world’s coldest and most unhospitable places.

The results are amazing, not to mention terrifying. Take a look at this short clip, from Greenland’s enormous Ilulissant Glacier. In less than five minutes, you’ll see a mass of ice equivalent in size to a lower Manhattan, filled on every block with Empire State Buildings, collapsing and washing away in a span of just over one hour.

Like much of Greenland’s ice sheet, Ilulissant is melting and collapsing at breakneck speeds. And for a breathtaking view of Balog’s work in the Arctic, set aside an hour this evening, and watch “Chasing Ice,” his full-length documentary. It’s free, and you can watch it here.

Balog captures the astounding scale of changes occurring in the creation, which are driven by those boring statistics we keep citing. And when you catch your breath, you may find yourself asking, as I did: When I consider the work of your fingers, what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Adapted from Psalm 8:4)

We’ve learned that global action to preserve our children’s future won’t be driven by ever more compelling statistics. But when we who call the Creator “our Father” take a hard look with our own eyes at what we’re doing to His gifts, maybe then we’ll find the motivation to take action.