April 27

2021 Earth Day: Huge Environmental Challenges Remain – Using Drones to Track Tornado Damage

NOAA

2021: Big Environmental Challenges Remain

”He that plants trees loves others besides himself” wrote 17th century historian Thomas Fuller. Much has improved since the first Earth Day in 1970. Big challenges remain. Warming gases are increasing faster than anytime in the geological record; the 6 warmest years on record observed since 2015. Worldwide: 50 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020, a new record.

More than 4 out of 10 Americans breathe unhealthy air, with a disproportionate impact on people of color. Every day 2 million tons of sewage are flushed into our rivers and oceans. Every year 9 million tons of plastic is dumped into landfills and oceans. Every threat is an opportunity and cleaning up our home sounds like a good idea to me.


Highs Friday

Slight Cool Bias Going Into Second Week of May. No hot fronts anytime soon for most of the USA, with unseasonably cool weather predicted 2 weeks out for the Great Lakes and Midwest. Old Man Winter is just toying with us now.

File Image
Bay News 9

Did Oklahoma Just Overtake Florida as Lightning Capital of the USA? Depends who you ask, and what equipment you rely on, according to a timely post at Bay News 9: “…It is important to note that Vaisala owns and operates their own lightning detection network that detects cloud-to-cloud lightning along with cloud-to-ground lightning. For simplicity, we are using the term lightning flashes to include the total number of lightning events over each state. At the end of the day Oklahoma and Florida are neck and neck. According to Vagasky, Florida averages 82.8 flashes per square kilometer each year and Oklahoma averages 83.4 flashes per square kilometer each year. You can’t ignore that there is a margin of error for each value. Accounting for the margin of error, Florida could technically squeeze out Oklahoma as the lightning capital…”


ECMWF vs. GFS Accuracy Since 2007. The data is the data.
Graphic courtesy of blog.weather.us and meteorologist Ryan Maue.

Will a New GFS Model Upgrade Close the Gap with The European Model? Here’s an excerpt of an article I wrote for Aerisweather.com: “Are you with Team GFS or Team ECMWF, the “European Model”? I hate to pick sides, but as a meteorologist I defer to the weather model that, consistently, is most accurate. Of course I’m rooting for the “American Model”, the GFS or Global Forecast System, to win. But here’s the thing: if you’re sanding a table or building a deck you want to use the best tools at your disposal, right? So it goes with weather forecasting. Meteorologists examine scores of models, looking for consistency, continuity, and trends – ultimately choosing a blend of model solutions that has the highest probability of coming true. Believe it or not, we want to get the forecast right! Like most people I defer to what works, based on personal experience. And in recent years many meteorologists have reached the conclusion that I have over time: ECMWF, The European Model, is consistently more accurate. Not perfect, but stepping back and looking at the big picture…which prediction of future weather is better in most real-world scenarios? ECMWF wins most days...”


Climate Central

American Property Casualty Insurance Association Acknowledges Possible South/East Shift of Tornado Alley. Insurancenews.net has the story; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…A recent analysis of the 38,000 tornadoes that occurred from 1950 to 2019 found a clear shift from the first half of the 70-year period to the second half. Tornado activity was almost identical in the two 35-year periods, but in the Southeast the number of tornadoes increased by 42 percent and in the Great Plains the number of tornadoes decreased by 20 percent. Severe weather and tornadoes can occur throughout the year, but April, May, and June are typically the peak months in terms of frequency and intensity. In 2020, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Illinois experienced the greatest number of tornadoes, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…”


Tracks of all Atlantic named storms that have formed before June 1 in each hurricane season from 2015 through 2020. The black segments of tracks denote when each system was either a remnant low-pressure center or an area of low pressure before becoming a depression or storm.
NOAA, TWC

Atlantic Hurricane Season is 6 Weeks Away, But It Has Started Early 6 Straight Years. Weather.com has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…Since 2015, at least one named storm has developed before June 1 each hurricane season, some of which have had impacts in the United States and elsewhere in the Atlantic Basin. The National Hurricane Center has not yet adjusted the start of hurricane season earlier to account for these pre-season storms. However, beginning this year, they will begin issuing routine Atlantic tropical weather outlooks on May 15, rather than June 1. Last May, the Carolinas were impacted by a pair of tropical storms late in the month. Tropical Storm Arthur brought soaking rain to far eastern North Carolina as it tracked just off the Southeast coast May 16-19...”


This video, captured with a research drone deployed by NOAA researchers, shows sweeping tornado damage in remote and heavily-wooded areas.
NOAA

Using Drones to See Tornado Damage in Remote Areas. Here’s a clip from a story at NOAA and WeatherNation.com: “After deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast in March, NOAA researchers for the first time successfully captured aerial photos and video of storm damage from hard-to-reach locations using remote-controlled, uncrewed aircraft. The new imagery helped the community’s response and recovery efforts and enabled forecasters to more accurately map the paths of destruction from multiple tornadoes. For example, they were able to identify the beginning of an 80-mile tornado track in a remote area with limited road access near a river. Scientists hope images from the research drones will improve our understanding of tornadoes and lead to better forecasts...”


The Triumph of Death. 1562
Pieter Bruegel the Elder. (Museo del Prado)

You Thought 2020 Was The Worst Year? Not Even Close. A story at Big Think set me straight: “…But was it the worst year ever? Nope. Not even close. In the eyes of the historian and archaeologist Michael McCormick, the absolute “worst year to be alive” was 536. Why was 536 so bad? You could certainly argue that 1918, the last year of World War I when the Spanish Flu killed up to 100 million people around the world, was a terrible year by all accounts. 1349 could also be considered on this morbid list as the year when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe, with up to 20 million dead from the plague. Most of the years of World War II could probably lay claim to the “worst year” title as well. But 536 was in a category of its own, argues the historian.


Climate Stories…

President Biden: 50% Drop in Climate-Warming Pollution by 2030. Here’s an excerpt of a press release from The White House: “Today, President Biden will announce a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030 – building on progress to-date and by positioning American workers and industry to tackle the climate crisis. The announcement – made during the Leaders Summit on Climate that President Biden is holding to challenge the world on increased ambition in combating climate change – is part of the President’s focus on building back better in a way that will create millions of good-paying, union jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice, and improve the health and security of communities across America…”


Carl Parker, Twitter

Climate Change Could Cut World Economy by $23 Trillion in 2050, Insurance Giant Warns. The New York Times (paywall) has details: “Rising temperatures are likely to reduce global wealth significantly by 2050, as crop yields fall, disease spreads and rising seas consume coastal cities, a major insurance company warned Thursday, highlighting the consequences if the world fails to quickly slow the use of fossil fuels. The effects of climate change can be expected to shave 11 percent to 14 percent off global economic output by 2050 compared with growth levels without climate change, according to a report from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance to other insurance companies. That amounts to as much as $23 trillion in reduced annual global economic output worldwide as a result of climate change...”


NASA, Apollo 11 Mission

US Pledges To Cut Emissions In Half By 2030: Climate Nexus has more perspective with additional headlines and links: “The Biden administration said today it will commit to slash climate pollution by 50-52% below 2005 emissions levels by 2030. The updated “Nationally Determined Contribution” under the Paris agreement essentially doubles the Obama administration’s pledge of 26-28% emissions reduction by 2025, but is still less ambitious than pledges made by the UK and EU, despite the fact that the U.S. is by far the largest historic emitter and has the highest per-capita emissions to date. The Biden administration has not yet released a detailed roadmap for achieving the target, but White House officials said in a briefing call that meeting this target will require steep and rapid reductions in oil, gas, and coal use by nearly every sector of the economy. According to Climate Action Tracker, the new NDC is not sufficient to meet the cuts needed to hold global warming below 2.7°F (1.5°C), but is “well on the way.” The administration — through diplomatic efforts, executive actions, and its push for climate-friendly infrastructure legislation — has sought to reestablish American credibility in the international climate arena, hosting a (virtual) summit of 40 world leaders this week to press forward on climate action. “Those are the things that I would say to other world leaders if they come back and say, ‘Well, why should we think that this time is different?’” Nate Hultman, who worked on Obama’s climate pledge and now directs the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, told Politico. “The answer is it is actually different.” (Politico, Washington Post $, Bloomberg $, CNN, HuffPost, New York Times $, NPR, USA Today $, Reuters, CBS, NBC; New York Times Interactive; Climate Nexus Backgrounder)


Ned Price, U.S. State Department

Paul Douglas

More Than 4 in 10 People Breathe Unhealthy Air – People of Color 3 Times as Likely to Live in Polluted Places. MarketWatch has details: “More than 4 in 10 people (135 million) in the U.S. live with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk, an annual report from the American Lung Association, released just ahead of Earth Day, shows. People of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades, says the 2021 report, which analyzes data from 2017-2019. “This report shines a spotlight on the urgent need to curb climate change, clean up air pollution and advance environmental justice,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “The nation has a real opportunity to address all three at once – and to do that, we must center on health and health equity as we move away from combustion and fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy…”


NOAA

As Extreme Weather Increases, Climate Misinformation Adapts. Some people are (financially/ideologically) predisposed to live in an alternative reality, according to new data highlighted by Associated Press: “…Instead of focusing on denialism, climate misinformation is getting local, focused on extreme weather events tied to a changing climate — such the Texas storm or recent wildfires that ravaged California and Australia. “It just isn’t credible to deny climate change or the impacts it’s having. People see it with their own two eyes,” said Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann. “So there’s a shift in tactics. Now it’s softer forms of denial, and efforts to diminish the impacts of climate change.” That evolution is evident online. Media intelligence firm Zignal Labs analyzed millions of social media posts, news stories and other online content and found that overall, conversations about climate change in the past 12 months peaked during high-profile natural disasters, including the Texas storm and the California wildfires. Overall, online mentions of natural disasters and their relationship to climate change also increased by 27%, Zignal found...”


NOAA Climate.gov, Twitter

How is China Managing Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Right now China is the biggest emitter of climate-warming GHG, followed by the United States. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting post at ChinaPower: “Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have been the primary driver of climate change. Much of these emissions have come from China, which has had the world’s largest carbon footprint since 2004 and was responsible for 28.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China has faced widespread criticism from the international community. Beijing also faces domestic pressure to address environmental concerns while maintaining economic growth. Having pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 60 to 65 percent as part of the Paris Agreement, how China manages these challenges affects both its ability to emerge as a leader in sustainable development and the broader fight against climate change…”


Rosenmeier Forum host Mike O’Rourke (top left), meteorologist Paul Douglas and climatologist Mark Seeley take part in a virtual seminar where they discuss the micro and macro implications of climate change in Minnesota.
Screenshot / Gabriel Lagarde

Experts Discuss Local Effects of Climate Change During Rosenmeier Forum. I was so happy to team up with friend and mentor Dr. Mark Seeley for this virtual Town Hall Meeting; here’s an excerpt from a summary at Brainerd Dispatch: “…It’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict how weather patterns will emerge, Douglas noted, while Seeley observed that central Minnesota is experiencing a paradigm shift in terms of what trees, plants and animals thrive here best. The short version? Generally speaking, these organisms typically favored climates that were notably more temperate than Minnesota historically has been. As time goes on, the Upper Midwest’s distinction as “America’s Siberia” is becoming increasingly tenuous. Although, Seeley later noted, while the complexion of Minnesota is changing rapidly, it may yet be a preferable environment to many areas of the south and southwest, where volatile weather patterns and increasingly arid conditions are becoming imminent problems...”


U.S. Navy

Climate Change Creates Migrants. Biden Considers Protections. The Associated Press has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…The idea still faces monumental challenges, including how to define a climate refugee when natural disasters, drought and violence are often intertwined in regions people are fleeing, such as Central America. If the U.S. defined a climate refugee, it could mark a major shift in global refugee policy. Biden has ordered national security adviser Jake Sullivan to see how to identify and resettle people displaced directly or indirectly by climate change. A report is due in August. It makes sense for the United States to lead the way, being a principal producer of greenhouse gases, advocates say...”


Global mean sea level rise data from Church and White 2011 (red), Jevrejeva et al 2014 (yellow), Ray and Douglas 2011 (grey), Hay et al 2015 (light blue) and Dangendorf et al 2019 (dark blue). Satellite altimeter data from 1993 (black) to present is taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A correction for global average isostatic rebound of 0.3mm/year is added.
Zeke Hausfather, CarbonBrief

How Climate Change is Accelerating Sea Level Rise. Here’s a clip from an analysis at CarbonBrief: “…Sea levels have risen by between 0.18 and 0.2m (180 to 200mm) since 1900. The newer Hay and Dangendorf datasets tend to show less sea level rise than the earlier Church and White and Jevrejeva datasets. While SLR estimates mostly agree in recent decades, larger divergences are evident before 1980. Rates of change in global sea levels are shown as longer-term 20-year averages because individual years are sensitive to global surface temperatures; El Niño years where temperatures are a bit warmer tend to have more rapid SLR than cooler La Niña years. Recently, there has been some debate around whether the current rate of SLR exceeds that experienced back in the 1940s…”


Worldwide Air Pollution Deaths
World Health Organization

NCAA Wants Its Chapters to Say No to Fossil Fuels. Grist reports: “It would be hard to find a more widely revered civil rights organization than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, which has campaigned for the “political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons” since its anti-lynching crusades more than a century ago. It’s little wonder, then, that major industrial interests take pains to portray themselves as allies of the group’s work. Fossil fuel companies and utilities, in particular, want you to believe they’re helping people of color. To burnish this image, they may donate money to local NAACP chapters, which exist all over the country and can operate with relative autonomy. But the relationships have sometimes gone further than that…”


Therapists specializing in eco-anxiety say the field is finally adapting to meet a growing need.
Illustration: Benjamin Currie/Earther

Climate Anxiety and PTSD Are On The Rise. Therapists Don’t Always Know How to Cope. The Guardian delves into a rapidly-changing climate and our collective mental health: “…The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes climate change as a growing threat to mental health, but many mental health professionals feel unequipped to handle the growing number of people anxious and grieving over the state of the planet. Therapists in a few sub-specialties, such as eco-therapy, train specifically to integrate environmental awareness into their work with clients. But these therapists make up a small percentage of the field, and the vast majority of people don’t have access to climate-informed therapy. A 2016 study found that more than half of therapists interviewed felt that their training had not adequately prepared them to deal with the mental health impacts of the climate crisis…”

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