As the oil and gas industries continue to ramp up their plans to extract more fossil fuels from beneath the surface of the Earth, the planet itself is sending warning signals that things are about to get a lot hotter. The loudest of those warnings relates to surface temperature of the oceans that cover more than 70 percent of the Earth.
In a letter published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science last month, a group of scientists warned that sea surface temperatures last year were “off the chart”, with dire implications for atmospheric regulation and storm intensity. “Warm oceans intensify atmospheric circulation and associated extreme events,” Francisco Eliseu Aquino, the deputy director of Brazil’s Polar and Climate Center, told The Guardian. “The record temperature and extreme events observed on the planet in 2023 have not passed. The planet has not cooled down.”
Francesca Guglielmo, a senior scientist at the EU’s Copernicus satellite monitoring service, said 2024 had started as 2023 ended, with “exceptional temperatures and many extreme events”. She pointed to a recent forecast by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center that suggested there was a good chance 2024 will set a new record with global temperatures passing 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for the first time. Some climate scientists think we have already passed that temperature level. A report by Berkeley Earth last month said,
2023 was the warmest year on Earth since 1850, exceeding the previous record set in 2016 by a clear and definitive margin. The global annual average for 2023 in our dataset was estimated as 1.54 ± 0.06 °C (2.77 ± 0.11 °F) above the average during the period 1850 to 1900, which is traditionally used a reference for the pre-industrial period. This is the first time that any year has exceeded the key 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) threshold. The last nine years have included all nine of the warmest years observed in the instrumental record.
Guglielmo said scientists were now considering risks that had been unthinkable until recently. “2023 has broken so many records that a number of new hypotheses, including the dawn of a new phase in the global warming rate, have been floated. These hypotheses were not nearly as prevalent a year ago.”
High Temperature, High Risk
“Fueled by extreme weather and climate extremes, the frequency of climate related disasters has dramatically risen in recent years,” said Raul Cordero, a climate professor at the University of Groningen and the University of Santiago. “In some regions of the world, we are facing climate-fueled disasters for which we are not prepared, and it is unlikely that we will be able to fully adapt to them.”
Richard Betts, of the Met Office’s Hadley Center in the UK, said many extremes, including longer heatwaves, heavier rainfall, increased drought and more fire weather, were becoming more severe due to human caused climate change that is leading to an environment that is is at a higher temperature than at any time in human civilization.
“We can still limit the extent to which extremes get worse if we urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero – but with global emissions still rising, it’s hard not to be increasingly concerned about how we will deal with what’s coming,” Betts said. “We already need to adapt to the changes that we’ve already caused, and adaptation will become increasingly difficult the longer we leave it to reduce emissions.”
Temperature And Atmospheric Rivers
You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that as air rises in temperature, it is capable of holding more moisture. More moisture means heavier rain that last longer than usual. Southern California is now suffering the effects of two monster storms that dumped over 6 inches of rain on the area in the past few days, leading to massive flooding and mudslides. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in those areas.
Those storms have been supercharged by hotter than normal temperature events over the Pacific Ocean during what is termed an El Niño event. According to Wikipedia, El Niño — Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate phenomenon that exhibits irregular quasi-periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical Pacific Ocean. It affects the climate of much of the tropics and subtropics, and has links to higher latitude regions of the world. The warming phase of the sea surface temperature is known as El Niño and the cooling phase as La Niña. The Southern Oscillation is the accompanying atmospheric component, which is coupled with the sea temperature change.
Gabriel Boric, the president of Chile, has declared two days of national mourning after that country’s deadly forest fires that claimed more than 120 lives in the Valparaíso region. Those fires follow a decade-long drought in the area and a shift from diverse natural forests, which are more resilient to fire, to monoculture plantations, which are more vulnerable.
2023 was the hottest year in human history. Last month was the warmest ever January. Many regions in the northern hemisphere are sweltering in heatwaves that would be more normal in June. Marine scientists are shocked by the prolonged and intense heat at the surface of the oceans.
Scientists say the extreme heat is mostly the result of human activity, such as the burning of oil, gas and coal and the cutting down of forests. This has been amplified by natural factors, particularly the El Niño event that started last year and is expected to continue until spring at the earliest. This year has a one in three chance of being even hotter than last year’s record, according to the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Amidst all this high temperature madness, the MAGA idiots are beating the drums for their messiah, a disgraced former president who suffers from an advanced case of megalomania. (Is there such a thing as MAGAlomania?) The game plan, according to The Guardian, is once back in office, the total dismantling of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act, the cessation of all government support for renewable energy, a massive increase in fossil fuel extraction and exports, and replacing the entire federal bureaucracy with partisan loyalists who will upend any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in America.
Will humans live of die? That is the nub of the next election. It’s not about immigration or aid to Ukraine. It’s about whether the United States will be a leader in the struggle to keep the temperature of the Earth low enough to allow humans to survive or not. Please vote responsibly.