Tag Archives: 2015

Highlights of Climate Change Research in 2015

The following is a list of posts on this blog that report new climate change research, usually but not always from the peer reviewed literature, or posts that are longer essays intended to give context to ongoing climate change research. The first few posts are from December 2014, which addresses the fact that “year end summaries” tend to be written during December, or even before, so December of any given year gets the shaft.

STEM in 2015: Brianne Bilyeu, Maddy Love, Greg Laden and August Berkshire

Homo naledi and the Chamber of Secrets ~ Psychology’s Inner Demons ~ Chilesaurus: The One That Went Vegan ~ Neurons Alter DNA All Day, Every Day

Popular science fans may recognize some of these colorful titles from the most recent publication of Discover Magazine’s 100 Top Stories of 2015. We at Atheists Talk enjoy a good science-ing now and then, and this Sunday we’re going to talk about some of the stories shared by Discover. It’s going to be a science smorgasboard extravaganza! Join Brianne Bilyeu, August Berkshire and Maddy Love as they nerd out about the science of 2015.

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Stormy Weather and Climate Change This Week

South Carolina Floods

I haven’t said much about this partly because there is so much good coverage, but South Carolina’s floods, still ongoing, are going to get on the list of worst weather events of 2015. Since these floods are amounting to a one in 1,000 year event, they are actually on the list of worst weather events since Vladimir the Great died, Cnut the Great invaded Enlgand (unrelated event), Eric Haakonsson outlaws berzerkers in Norway, and Olaf Haraldson declared himself King of Norway.

And yes, that event was climate change enhanced in at least two ways, maybe three. With global warming there is more moisture in the atmosphere and in large parts of North America it seems that this moisture is often clumped up into longer term slow moving rain systems. That was going on in the region for days. Then, the strength, size, and wetness of hurricane Joaquin, which indirectly fed moisture into the system, was enhanced by very high sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic. Also, those sea surface temperatures have generally increased the punch from Atlantic based storms. All in all, it is likely that South Carolina, the neighbor of the state that is famous for making climate change illegal, and who’s congressional delegation refused to help the victims of Super Storm Sandy, got walloped by climate change.

Fortunately for the good people of South Carolina, our federal government does not act cynically and help is on the way. But next time we are called to help a storm impacted region, we expect South Carolina to put their big kid pants on and step up to the plate.

Oh No, Oho!

The storm formerly known as Oho, a Category 2 eastern Pacific hurricane, is in the process of doing something that does not happen very often: Slamming into British Columbia and Alaska. I’m told this is only the second time a tropical storm, in a post-tropical state, has followed a track like this.


Probably not a big deal for a region where serious windy and wet storms are common. But this is yet another case of the tropics breaking out of their usual pattern as a result, likely, of climate change combined with this year’s ongoing El Nino. Certainly, warm sea surface temperatures (which are everywhere there is sea) have helped this system maintain strength as it has moved north.

Here in Minnesota, famous for winters that start in October, we will be experiencing a summer like weekend. Global warming plus El Nino has exacerbated an ongoing trend of warming falls. Too bad some of our garden plants respond more to changes in sunlight than to changes in temperature, or we might not be eating fried green tomatoes for dinner tonight.


More hurricanes to come?

Meanwhile keep an eye on the Eastern Pacific. Two more disturbances are developing with reasonable (though not certain) chances of becoming tropical storms. 18-E is very likely to become a hurricane by early Sunday morning, and if so it will be called Pali. Disturbance Number 1, just getting going, has about a 50% chance of becoming a tropical storm over the next five days. All quiet in the Atlantic, the rest of the Pacific, or the Indian Ocean.

In case you were wondering about the climate change – hurricane link, this might be of interest to you:

Will 2015 be warmer than 2014?

That is a good question, and difficult to answer. If it turns out to be, it will be the warmest calendar year in the instrumental record, which goes back into the 19th century.

Regardless of what El Nino (ENSO) does, 2015 will be a warm year. Why? Because everything is warm and getting warmer and even if 2015 is less warm than 2014, it will be warm. There is no other possibility.

Even without the effects of El Nino, though, it is possible that 2015 will be warmer than 2014 because we see a lot of heat out there. If the present, relatively weak El Nino continues for a while, it will likely increase the chance that 2015 will be warmer than 2014. But current predictions suggest that 2014 will not only continue to have a strengthening El Nino, but El Nino conditions may either continue or repeat over 2015 and beyond. If that happens, not only is 2015 likely to be the warmest year in the instrumental record (since 1880) but 2016 may be in the running to be even warmer.

So far each month of 2015 has been very warm (see graph above) overall (the “zero” on the Y-axis of that graph represents the 20th century mean surface temperature). This month, April, is not excessively warm. Likely when April is plotted for 2015 on this graph, it will be either cooler then or around the same as last April.

Obviously we won’t know until the year is over, and given that climate change is a medium term phenomenon best measured in decades, we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to know these numbers. But, given that climate change is the existential issue of our day and the data become available month by month, we are not going to ignore the march of surface temperatures. We are going to, rather justifiably, be interested in what happens, month by month, as it happens.

At the end of the month, climate scientists such as my friend John Abraham, who is tracking global temperatures daily, will be able to produce a very good estimate of what the major data bases (such as NASA GISS, used here) will say, but those data bases won’t be officially updated until around the middle of the following month or so. So stay tuned.

Added: For those keeping track, I made a new version of the above graph. The red line represent the monthly anomaly values required (on average) for the rest of the year for 2015 to equal 2014. I also extended the Y-axis to 100 because the warmest month in the GISS database is in the 90s, just in case such a very warm month occurs. It is likely that April 2015 will not e as warm as April 2014 but it will likely be above the red line.