Tag Archives: NOAA

NEWSFLASH: Earth Just Had a Not-Record-Hot Month!

It had to happen sooner or later. After sixteen consecutive months of record monthly global heat since record-keeping began, September 2016 fell short of the prior September’s heat by a scant 0.04 degrees Celsius, making it only the second hottest September in the last 137 years.

That is, if you believe the National Oceanic & Aeronautic Administration (NOAA). If you prefer NASA’s analysis, the record heat continues, with this September edging out last September’s record heat by a razor thin margin.

NASA's global temperature has been this color for many, many months

NASA’s global temperature map has been this color for many, many months

Of course, we still run into people who remind us that temperatures go up, and they also go down. So with all these record hot months recently, we looked for the most recent record low month, and found it! It was February 1929, eight months before the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.

Facts are stubborn things. It’s been a long time since the earth has been cool, and the string of record hot global temperatures is becoming downright terrifying. The politicians who control Congress may wish they could hide it, but they simply can’t cling to “I’m-not-sure” any longer, without condemning our children to a dismal future.

My own congressman (Scott Garrett, Republican NJ-5th) is one of these climate-science deniers. I beg him, as I hope you will beg yours: It’s not too late yet. God’s entire creation is in peril from our reckless carbon binge. You may hate the solutions that have been proposed to date. Fine. Propose your own. But we’re not the only ones who have children. When we are dead, and answerable to the Lord of Creation, all of our kids — yours included — will inherit whatever world we have left them.

Isn’t it time we decided to do something to spare them from the chaos we are leaving behind?

February Smashed Global Heat Records: But What Does That Mean?

You’ve already seen the news. February was a record month for global heat. It followed the hottest January on record. Which followed the hottest year (2015) on record. Which follow the previous hottest year (2014) on record. Etc. Etc. Etc.

So, maybe we think: A bunch of scientists are sifting through data from all over the world, and we’re supposed to be alarmed at a few more degrees of heat? Seriously, what does this mean to us? Well, let’s see if we can distill this down to a few key points.

First, these records are not flukes or outliers. Global data has been kept for 137 years. Of all the Februaries over that time, this one ranked #1, unseating last February, the former hot-weather champion.

Picture2Worse, it wasn’t just the hottest February. It was the hottest month ever, compared to 20th century averages. And the prior record had just been set only two months earlier, in December.

Worse yet, it continued a ten-month string of record-hot months. Yes, February was the hottest of all 137 Februaries. But January was also #1 for all Januaries. And they were preceded by #1 records in December, November, October, September – and all the way back to May 2015. Something like that has never happened before. Doubters will tell us “The climate always changes!” Not like this. Not always in one direction. Not in lockstep. We’re seeing something frighteningly new.

Second, did you notice the amount of warming? For all land and ocean surfaces, the earth was 1.21oC (or 2.18oF) above the 20th century averages. You may recall that the nations of the world just agreed in Paris on efforts to limit global warming this century to no more than 2.0oC, and to make every effort to keep it below 1.5oC, to spare our fellow humans from the Philippines, Bangladesh and island nations from being inundated by rising seas. Well, already, we’ve experienced a month within a whisker of breaking that 1.5oC threshold.

Worse, if we look at land surfaces alone (where most of us live) the average global temperature was 2.31°C above the 20th century average. Two-point-three degrees. That’s territory we’re not supposed to see in our lifetimes, or even our children’s. But it just happened.

Third, the heat was just about everywhere. Record heat took hold across much of South America and southern Africa, southern and eastern Europe, around the Urals of Russia, and most of Southeast Asia stretching to northern Australia. Here are some examples:

  • New Zealand had its second warmest February and second warmest month of any month since national records began in 1909, at 2.2°C above long-term averages.
  • In Venezuela and Colombia, the heat was about 3.0°C higher than average.
  • Germany ran 3.0°C above average and Austria was a whopping 4.1°C hotter than average.
  • Speaking of whopping, Alaska reported its warmest February in its 92-year period of record, at 6.9°C higher than the 20th century average. That’s not a typo. Six-point-nine degrees Celsius, or 12.4° Fahrenheit. That’s more than the difference between the last Ice Age and today’s world.

Fourth, all this heat is destabilizing the Polar regions dangerously. For starters, this winter marks the lowest sea ice coverage ever measured in the Arctic. It’s way less icy than 2012, the previous record year for summer Arctic ice melt. That means that this summer and fall there will be less ice to start with, and the seasonal warmth will have an easier time melting what remains there. Not only that, but less winter ice mean less bright, reflective snow surface, and more deep blue, heat-absorbing water to soak up the sun’s heat, which will warm the region even further.

Sea IceBut an even greater concern is now emerging in the southern Pole, with new warnings about the instability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. About the size of Mexico, the ice sheet could raise sea levels by 12 feet or more if it becomes destabilized. Many of us took some comfort in believing that while this will occur in a warmer world, humanity and the rest of creation would probably have hundreds of years to adapt. But new research from scientists at Penn State and UMass now projects that continued greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting heat could disintegrate the West Antarctic sheet in only decades. That would mean that coastal cities like New York, Boston, Miami and New Orleans would be largely inundated during the lifetimes of children born today, with further sea-level rises of one foot per decade thereafter.

But it’s not hotter EVERYWHERE. And that’s actually alarming. There’s one spot on earth where it’s not getting warmer. It’s Iceland, and the North Atlantic Ocean. See that spot of blue on the map? In a warming world, it was cooler there all last year, and in each of several years before that. That region has always been warmed by tropical ocean currents (called thermohaline, or the Gulf Stream) carrying equatorial waters northward along the US East Coast to Iceland, before they dive to the ocean depths and return southward. Scientists have long believed that fresh meltwater from Greenland could slow down the Gulf Stream, trapping hot water off the US coast, and chilling the northern seas.Picture1

So what’s the big deal? A little warmer here, and little cooler there? Actually, it’s a very big deal. Warm coastal waters off the American East Coast are what gave us Super-Storm Sandy, but that storm happened when the oceans were cooler than they are today. And warm Icelandic waters have given Northern Europe the benign climate it has enjoyed for millennia. Tinker with the Greenland Ice Sheet too much, and we’ve got something much worse than a few more feet of sea-water on our hands.

Final thoughts from a Christian thinker: So before we hand these climatic records off to the statisticians for filing, maybe we could take a minute to consider where we stand in history. Two centuries after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, we’ve pumped eons’ worth of carbon – long hidden deep within the earth – back into the atmosphere. As a result, we’re seeing the early results of our planetary carbon experiment: a consistent record of global warming; heat growing at an ever-faster pace; not just here and there, but spread all over the map; and destabilizing the Polar ice sheets, which are raising sea levels and threatening coastal communities. And we’re even seeing signs of disruption in planet-regulating systems like the Gulf Stream.

“Where is God in all this?” asks Christian author Rev. Edward Brown, in his landmark book, Our Father’s World. “God would not allow us to destroy his creation, would he?”

Well, yes he might, concludes Brown, noting that within his sovereignty, God allows us humans a shocking amount of latitude in what we do with our lives – including what we do with his creation. “If we choose to destroy our home,” says Brown, “God will not stop us. Unless, that is, God were to step into history the way he usually does, through human beings who have aligned their lives with him and who are committed to accomplishing his purposes in their own small histories.”

Brown reminds us of God’s answer to Israelite prayers from the misery of slavery in Egypt: “I have heard them crying out…. So I have come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:7-8).

Phew! So maybe God will rescue our injured planet, just like he did in Exodus! But Brown demands that we read on: “So now, go” he tells Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Go? Who, me? How? What can I do? “I will be with you,” says God to Moses, words taken up again by the resurrected Christ more than a thousand years later: “Go…. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Do you think maybe it’s time for God’s people to hear that call once again?

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?

The Climate Gods Must Be Crazy

I am so cold! I just gave up doing fence work in the central produce field, and beat a hasty retreat to the shelter of the farmhouse. It’s 30 degrees and blustery on this spring day. The wind cuts right through my hoodie. The fence can wait.

And so can just about everything else. I’m freezing! The asparagus field isn’t even mowed yet, let alone disked. The subsoil is still frozen, so I can’t dig post holes. Peas aren’t in the ground, ten days after the traditional planting date of St. Patrick’s, and there’s no sign that we’ll get them planted any time soon.

It's cold here in Jersey!

It’s cold here in Jersey!

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Alaska, it’s ten degrees warmer than here at Good Hand Farm in New Jersey. There, in the frozen North, it’s  44 degrees, headed to 46 tomorrow. In fact, for all of 2014, Anchorage never once fell below zero. Not once. The average? 29 days with readings below zero. Last winter? None. We could have fled New Jersey for winter relief by going to Alaska? Yup. That’s right, Alaska.

But wait, it gets weirder.  It’s colder on our farm, WAY colder than – wait for it – ANTARCTICA! And not just barely. This week, the mercury on the Antarctic Peninsula hit an all-time record of 63.5 degrees! A day earlier, 63.3 degrees! And no, it’s not summer there. This is our spring, and their autumn. And it’s more than 30 degrees warmer in Walrus Land than here in the Garden State.

For us here in the American East, it’s hard to understand how global records for heat are being broken month by month. 2014 broke the all-time record for global average heat. Then came January: second warmest ever. And then February: new record for heat.

Picture1

NOAA data: Record hot month, and only the U.S. East is colder. Way colder.

But here on the farm, I’m shivering cold, and can hardly get into the fields. To highlight what’s going on, here’s a map prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that portrays the reality of climate chaos. See that blue blob? That’s us in the East, way colder than normal. And almost everywhere else, it’s hotter than normal.

Well, I’m glad I sat down to write this in my comfy office. I’ve managed to warm up. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Oh, how I pray for warming weather! But I know that all over the earth, God’s children are praying for just the opposite.

God has not gone crazy. But our climate systems sure have.

Warm Winter? But it Felt So Cold!

Here, that is – where I live.

It turns out that last month was the fourth hottest March for the entire planet on record, according to NASA. In fact, it’s been 29 years – 349 consecutive months, to be precise – since we’ve seen a month that was actually cooler than the historical average. And it also turns out that the changing weather is making a lot of people very hungry.

The data is now in, and for the whole world, our frigid March – shivering in the path of a wobbly “polar vortex” – was actually 1.2°F hotter than the average global temperature for the last 30 years. A look at the global temperature map tells a remarkable story:

assets-climatecentral-org-images-uploads-news-3_19_14_Andrea_LandTempAnom2014Winter-500x386Notice how there are just two or three cool spots (in blue) on the planet. Midwest and Eastern North America were wicked cold, and some places in western Siberia and Uzbekistan were too. But now look at the rest of the world: all of South America, Africa, China, and Australia were warm (in red). And Europe, Alaska and eastern Siberia were downright hot, compared to the historical average.

A bad month perhaps? No such luck. The whole winter – freezing for us – was very warm for the Earth as a whole. It was cold here under the wobbly winter vortex, and warm just about everywhere else. In fact, the whole world was 1.57°F hotter than average.

Maybe all of last year was better? Well, you decide: It was the fourth hottest year on record according to NOAA. And three of the four hottest years have all occurred since the year 2000. And as we noted, it’s been almost three decades since we’ve seen one single month that was actually cooler than the 20th Century average.

The world is warming, and maybe it’s time to take note. The UN’s climate panel, which convenes the world’s climate scientists to issue an advisory report every 5-6 years, has warned that climate change will mean more hunger and rising food prices, falling hardest on the hungry poor.

And almost on cue, our food prices shot up last month, largely because of persistent drought in the West and extreme weather in the Midwest. Wholesale beef prices increased 23% over last year, and pork soared by an amazing 56%. Globally, food prices increased 2.4% in March, and they’re more than double what they averaged in 2002-2004. If you spend most of your income feeding your family – as the world’s poor do – this is a really big deal.

And maybe that’s why more and more Christians are beginning see global climate disruption as having a lot to do with their faith. The Christian Reformed Church has passed a call to action to confront climate change, which they call a core gospel issue.  “Climate change,” they say, “poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable.”

In this, the CRC has followed in the footsteps of the 190-nation Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, which in 2012 issued a comprehensive call to action for climate justice. “The world is in crisis,” they said, “brought on by global climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of species to extinction and water stress. These threats place a heavy burden on the poor….”

Meanwhile, here at Good Hand Farm, we’re still wrapped in extra sweaters, as we watch in vain for our first asparagus and pea shoots to push through the frigid ground. But around the world, it’s unusually hot, food’s getting scarcer, and unless ordinary people take action, it’s hard to see how hunger won’t keep getting worse.

The World is Getting Hot. So Why am I Freezing?

The results are in, and 2013 ranks as the fourth hottest year for global heat since record-keeping began in 1880. That’s 37 straight years with above-average global temperatures. The last below-normal year was 1976, when I was still in college. All 13 years of the new century have ranked among the hottest 15 ever on record. And nine of the hottest ten on record have all occurred since the millennium.

Wow. I guess it’s really hot, right?

assets-climatecentral-org-images-uploads-news-1_21_14_andrew_10warmestyears-660x372Um, well, let me check. Yup, just like I thought. It’s cold out there, and it’s snowing! With these freak winter storms, the U.S. has registered the second coldest January since 2000, although well short of 2011’s January freeze. And everyone’s talking about that strange new term – the “polar vortex.” It seems something has kicked open the door to the Arctic, and the cold is pouring in everywhere.

Actually, not quite everywhere. While the Central and Eastern U.S. shiver and dig, it’s eerily warm in Alaska and the West. Last Sunday, it was warmer in Homer, Alaska – 55°F – than anywhere in the lower 48, except for South Florida. And last Tuesday, Nome, Alaska, that remotest of Arctic outposts, hit a record 51°F. That’s FIFTY-ONE DEGREES in January! No need for Balto under these circumstances. You could rescue Nome by bicycle.

And it’s not just Alaska. Los Angeles registered average highs of 75°F for the month of January, a full seven degrees above normal. And coupled with the heat, California is in its third straight year of crippling drought, with the state’s reservoirs 30 percent below the long-term average, and widely-publicized forecasts for spikes in prices at the grocery store.

But let’s not quibble. The Central and Eastern U.S. are feeling pretty darn cold just now. After an amazingly warm decade in these parts, what’s up? Are all those scientists still sure about the perils of global warming?

No Question, It’s Been Getting Much Hotter

Both NASA and NOAA – the nation’s twin atmospheric research powerhouses – have compiled the data for 2013, and it was another global scorcher. Using slightly different methods, they ranked 2013 the fourth hottest (NOAA) or the seventh (NASA) – but the difference between the two was a mere 0.02o Fahrenheit. Continue reading

Extreme Weather: The Climate-Chaos Tax

As I prepared to leave Prince Edward Island last week, I said my goodbyes as many of my new  agroforester-friends headed back to their homes across the U.S. and Canada.

There was Valerie, headed back to Alaska where the mercury had just topped 96 degrees Fahrenheit, smashing all prior records, hotter than Miami in many parts of the state. There was a large contingent headed back to Calgary, where the Bow and Elbow Rivers had inundated Canada’s fourth-largest city in a devastating flood. Many were on their way to the American Southwest, trapped in a record heat wave and an unrelenting multi-year drought, with wildfires raging over 1.8 million acres so far this year. (In less than one week, nineteen elite firefighters would lose their lives fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona.)

Calgary's rivers overwhelmed the city

Calgary’s rivers overwhelmed the city

Others were headed back to Texas, whose climate-denying governor, Rick Perry, had just renewed and extended his two-year-old emergency drought declaration to 200 counties, as drought conditions persisted over 95 percent of the parched state.

Back at my hotel, the breakfast-room attendant held forth with surprising knowledge on the prospect that climate change was splitting beautiful PEI into two separate islands, as rising sea levels flood and erode the island’s picturesque coastlines. On the other side of the world, the 68,000 islanders who inhabit the Pacific Marshall Islands battled the rising seas, as high tides surged over the seawalls defending the tiny nation’s capital and flooded the airport.

When I arrived at the Charlottestown-PEI airport, the TV news splashed graphic images of countless Indians stranded in churning water, as the Ganges River claimed more than 1,000 victims in a record monsoon flood. The prior week, floods on rivers too numerous to name had ravaged Warsaw and Budapest, among many other cities in Germany, Austria, Poland and other European countries.

Maybe you’ve noticed too? Extreme weather is all over the news, practically all the time. Perhaps you’ve wondered if the media is just finally reporting on bad weather that’s been there all along? Continue reading