In many places, the heat waves of summer have begun, with record high temperatures making spring pass by in a flash. In recent years, that brought highly destructive fires terrorizing places like California and Australia, something hard to remember adequately now that they’re being eclipsed somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic. Around the corner are large storms, which clear out the air and sun but also more than that, often taking homes and life with them. What does the rapidly warming ocean waters mean in this calculus? Quite a lot.
🚨 Last month was statistically tied for the *warmest* April on record for our planet. Striking 'warmth' across northern Siberia again.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) May 5, 2020
Temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees above average over parts of the Southwest, Great Basin, the Rockies and parts of the High Plains. When the temperature rises, make sure you stay cool, and look out for others as well. Stay #WeatherReady! pic.twitter.com/iXNgnjiJdZ
— National Weather Service (@NWS) April 30, 2020
As a review, NOAA’s chief climate monitoring scientist, Deke Arndt, answers the question, “What evidence is there that the change in climate we are experiencing now is human-caused rather than a part of a natural cycle?”
Putting together a briefing for the first time since this all started, plugged in the numbers, and the cheesy animation that brings in the little bit on the upper right made me gasp. This is my job, and it made me gasp.
(it will come down from that perch, but damn) pic.twitter.com/qUYYDSjzVd
— Deke Arndt (@DekeArndt) April 21, 2020
“There are three main indicators. Number one, science has known about the influential ‘greenhouse’ properties of certain human-produced gases and has anticipated greenhouse warming in the real world for nearly 200 years now. Number two, the troposphere (the lower atmosphere) is warming, while the stratosphere (higher atmosphere) is cooling. You can’t warm the lower atmosphere and cool the higher layers without changing the composition of the atmosphere. And three, we have no alternative explanations. There isn’t a competing theory of what’s driving the warming other than human activity.”
Seasonal/climatological lens on billion dollar disasters. Was neat to see this come together this spring. https://t.co/0HaPIohJ3I
— Deke Arndt (@DekeArndt) April 29, 2020
According to NOAA, parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans all hit the record books for warmth last month. Among other thins, that means the Atlantic hurricane season could be harsh. Additionally, the data suggest that the record heat and severe thunderstorms raking the southern US will continue.
The winter never seemed to come here in the Southeast, with record warm water in the Gulf of Mexico making winter feel more like spring, and now spring more like summer. Indeed, according to Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section at the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, Florida had its hottest March on record, Bloomberg reports, “and Miami reached 93 degrees [April 15], a record for the date and 10 degrees above normal, according to the National Weather Service..”
Confirming what you might have sensed, it was not simply you sweating more than expected. Indeed, the whole planet was and may continue to sweat in rising heat. February 2020 ranked as the second-hottest February in the 141-year global climate record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. And that affected the waters worldwide.
“Worldwide, sea temperatures were 1.49 degrees Fahrenheit above average in March. That’s the second highest level recorded since 1880 for the month of March, according to U.S. data. In 2016, temperatures were 1.55 degrees above average.”
Warmer waters mean more big storms. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth is concerned that if the Gulf of Mexico remains record warm, another major hurricane could plow through portions of the US.
Today's #hurricane preparedness topic is on Assembling Disaster Supplies. You need to prepare for both the hurricane and for what could be a long recovery period too. Prepare for AT LEAST three days. https://t.co/ij60LqeNDy #HurricanePrep #HurricaneStrong pic.twitter.com/wWSJqE97Af
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) May 5, 2020
One may think all of this is unrelated to wildfires, terrifying in their own right. For much greater understanding of modern fire, watch the fascinating film The Human Element. “The new fires that we’re seeing now tend to be larger, more intense,” Stephen Pyne, professor Arizona State University, said in the film. “I think we are starting to understand that this began a long time ago — when the Earth’s keystone species, which is us, changed fundamentally its combustion habits.”
The Bloomberg reporting explains the link to the oceans and some thoughts on the coming season, “The oceans also play a role in setting the stage for wildfires. In the case of Australia and the Amazon, really warm areas of the ocean can pull rain away from the land, causing drier conditions and, in extreme cases, drought. Last year, for instance, the Indian Ocean was really warm off Africa, so that is where all the storms went. Australia was left high and dry.
“Back in the Atlantic, research by Katia Fernandes, a geosciences professor at the University of Arkansas, has also shown a correlation between sea surface temperatures in the northern tropical Atlantic and drought and wildfires in the Amazon. The warmer the water, the further north rainfall is pulled across South America.”
It’s all connected, on this blue and green marble.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) November 14, 2016
Featured image: Next door, the morning after Hurricane Irma, by Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica