Christmas Tornadoes Roll Across South and Midwest

A total of 24 tornadoes were reported in seven states: Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan.  10 people were killed in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas as storms spawned rare Christmas tornadoes. A large tornado tore a 100-mile path through northern Mississippi, demolishing or heavily damaging dozens of homes and other buildings in a six-county area before plowing into western Tennessee. Officials blamed the severe weather for injuring scores of others Wednesday and destroying dozens of cars, homes and businesses. In the worst-hit communities, search parties hunted for missing people and volunteers helped clear debris on a day often reserved for gift wrapping and last-minute shopping. Unseasonably warm weather is the main cause. The National Weather Service forecast isolated severe thunderstorms from the mid-Atlantic region to the Gulf Coast and record warmth to New York.

“To have long-track tornadoes in December in the Memphis forecast area is an unusual event,” said Jonathan Howell, a meteorologist in the NWS Memphis office. "We typically don't have tornadoes of that intensity that impact the area, but we're dealing with this unusally warm weather pattern." The line of storms are moving east today (Thursday) and will bring heavy rain and thunderstorms to Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The threat of severe weather just before Christmas is unusual, but not unprecedented, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center. Exactly a year ago, twisters hit southeast Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens of others.

Research provide insights on recent 'unprecedented' melting of Greenland's interior ice sheet.

NASA observations show the dynamism of Greenland's Ice sheet in the changing elevation of its surfaces. Recent analysis of seven years of readings from NASA's ICESat satellite and four years of laser and and ice-penetrating radar data from NASA's airborne mission Operation IceBridge shows the changes taking place.

In the animation featured below, the colors shown on the surface of the ice sheet represent the accumulated change in elevation since 2003. The light yellow over the central region of the ice sheet indicates a slight thickening due to snow. This accumulation, along with the weight of the ice sheet, pushes ice toward the coast. Thinning near coastal regions, shown in green, blue and purple, has increased over time and now extends into the interior of the ice sheet where the bedrock topography permits. As a result, there has been an average loss of 300 cubic kilometers of ice per year between 2003 and 2012.

This animation portrays the changes occurring in the surface elevation of the ice sheet since 2003 in three drainage regions: the southeast, the northeast and the Jakobshavn regions. In each region, the time advances to show the accumulated change in elevation from 2003 through 2012.

“The retreat of these glacier  is likely to increase sea-level rise for decades to come, collapse of the entire basin is going to take a long time, But it’s a process, when you start, you don’t see the glacier recovering.”

Published on Mar 27, 2014

Arctic Report Card: Arctic warming more rapidly than rest of planet.

Highlights of the Arctic Report Card:

  • Average annual surface air temperature anomaly (+1.3°C) over land north of 60°N for October 2014-September 2015 was the highest in the observational record beginning in 1900; this represents a 2.9°C increase since the beginning of the 20th Century.
  • Average air temperature anomalies in all seasons between October 2014 and September 2015 were generally positive throughout the Arctic, with extensive regions exceeding +3°C relative to a 1981-2010 baseline.
  • Anomalously warm conditions from November 2014 through June 2015 in Alaska were caused by weather patterns that advected warm mid-latitude air northward from the northeast Pacific Ocean. Anomalously warm Arctic conditions during spring (April, May, June) 2015 across central Eurasia were also due to southerly winds.
  • Strong connections between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes were also seen in late winter-early spring (February-April) 2015, when cold air advected south-eastward from the central Arctic resulted in major negative temperature anomalies over eastern North America.
  • Melt area in 2015 exceeded more than half of the ice sheet on July 4th for the first time since the exceptional melt events of July 2012, and was above the 1981-2010 average on 54.3% of days (50 of 92 days).
  • The length of the melt season was as much as 30-40 days longer than average in the western, northwestern and northeastern regions, but close to and below average elsewhere on the ice sheet.
Surface air temperatures over the Arctic have climbed 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th Century – more than twice the level of warming experienced elsewhere on Earth, scientists said Tuesday in an annual report. Between October 2014 and September 2015, the average surface air temperature in the region was 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the baseline average set between 1981 to 2010 — the highest temperature in 115 years, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers researcher Jackie Richter-Menge.
“In general, air temperatures in all seasons were above average throughout the Arctic, with extensive regions exceeding 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the 1981-2010 baseline,” Richter-Menge told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
The warmer air contributed to changes in the amount of Arctic sea ice, which peaked on Feb. 25 – 15 days earlier than average. This winter ice pack was the smallest on record since 1979.
In addition, only 3 percent of the ice cover in February and March 2015 was so-called “old ice,” which is older than four years. New, first-year ice made up 70 percent of the pack, the research showed. Three decades ago, 20 percent of the ice pack was more than four years old and just 35 percent of the pack was first-year ice, Richter-Menge said. “Given consistent projections of continued warming temperatures, we can expect to see continued widespread and sustained change throughout the Arctic environmental system,” she added.

Greenland is loosing ice mass quite rapidly for years, as this chart indicates:
Cumulative change in the total mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet
Cumulative change in the total mass (in Gigatonnes, Gt) of the Greenland Ice Sheet between April 2002 and April 2015
The changing Arctic is impacting the rest of the planet as well, said Rick Spinrad, chief scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which released the 2015 Arctic Report Card
“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” Spinrad said. “What happens matters to all of us from strategic, climate and national security perspectives.”

NASA’s worried that Greenland’s melting could accelerate.

As the world prepares for the most important global climate summit yet in Paris later this month, news from Greenland could add urgency to the negotiations. For another major glacier appears to have begun a rapid retreat into a deep underwater basin, a troubling sign previously noticed at Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier and also in the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica. And in all of these cases, warm ocean waters reaching the deep bases of marine glaciers appears to be a major cause.

NASA’s worried that Greenland’s melting could accelerate.

The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole. Mr. Overstreet’s task is to collect critical data from the river, and is essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming. The scientific data he and a team of six other researchers collect here could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.

“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” said Laurence C. Smith, head of the geography department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the leader of the team that worked in Greenland this summer. “But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.”

For years, scientists have studied the impact of the planet’s warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. But while researchers have satellite images to track the icebergs that break off, and have created models to simulate the thawing, they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise.

The new fast-moving glacier is the Zachariae glacier or Zachariæ Isstrøm, located in the far northeastern part of Greenland. In a new paper in Science, Jeremie Mouginot of the University of California-Irvine and his colleagues find that the ocean-based glacier, which contains 0.5 meters or a foot and a half of potential sea level rise, has begun a rapid retreat, especially since 2012. The glacier has lost fully 95 percent of the ice shelf that used to help stabilize it, they say, and now sports a 75 meter high ice cliff extending above the water (the glacier also extends hundreds of additional meters below it).

“This is sort of the second major floodgate from Greenland that has opened up,” says Eric Rignot of UC-Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of the authors of the study. The first, says Rignot, was the Jakobshavn glacier, Greenland’s “fastest” moving, according to a recent study, which is currently based 1,300 meters below sea level and also retreating into a deep basin. Now, at Zachariae, that seems to be happening again. In combination with its nearby neighbor, Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier, the two glaciers contain a potential 1.1 meter of sea level rise (over 3 feet), so any change here is not good. “If you see Greenland as a boat, it’s like we’re taking water from every side now,” says Mouginot.

Furthermore, Mouginot, Rignot and their colleagues note that Zachariae and Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden together form the terminus of the northeast Greenland ice stream, “the only large, dynamic feature that extends continuously deep to the ice sheet interior near Greenland’s summit.” Twelve percent of the entire Greenland ice sheet, they say, therefore drains through this region.

"Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth's major glaciers were to start retreating. We no longer need to wonder," 

A massive glacier in northeast Greenland has dramatically melted in the past decade and would raise global sea levels by a foot and a half if it thawed completely, according to a study published Thursday. It was a "surprise" to learn how fast the large chunk of ice was shrinking, said Jeremie Mouginot, of the University of California, Irvine, lead scientist of the report. The glacier holds enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 18 inches if it were to melt away to nothing, but no timetable exists for how long that process could take, according to the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

All by itself, it holds enough water to raise global sea level by more than 18 inches (46 centimeters) if it were to melt completely. And now it’s on a crash diet, losing 5 billion tons of mass every year. All that ice is crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean. Just next door, there’s another melting glacier called Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden that could raise sea levels another 21 inches, totaling 39 inches globally. What does that look like, independent of any other global sea rise?

"The glacier has profoundly transformed in only 10 years," Mouginot, said. "The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come." The melting of the "Zachariae Isstrom" glacier is a result of warming temperatures both in the sea and the air, said study co-author Eric Rignot, also of UC-Irvine. "The top of the glacier is melting away as a result of decades of steadily increasing air temperatures, while its underside is compromised by currents carrying warmer ocean water, and the glacier is now breaking away into bits and pieces and retreating into deeper ground," he said. 

The glacier is near a large one also melting rapidly but at a slower rate. The two chunks of ice make up 12% of the Greenland ice sheet and would boost global sea levels by more than 39 inches if they both totally collapsed, a process that would likely take centuries.

The planet's two major ice sheets are in Greenland and Antarctica, and together make up 99% of the freshwater ice on Earth, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In Greenland, ice sheet decline continues to outpace accumulation, because warmer temperatures have led to increased melt and faster glacier movement at the island's edges, the data center said.

"Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth's major glaciers were to start retreating. We no longer need to wonder," Rignot said. "For a couple of decades now, we've been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers. The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland."The entire ice sheet of Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea levels some 20 feet. It has been losing ice rapidly in recent years, through a combination of meltwater runoff on the ice sheet’s surface – which reaches the sea through complex channels and fissures — and the calving of large icebergs from its glaciers.

Both of these processes have elements that can be pretty spectacular. Atop the ice sheet, vast meltwater lakes can form and then suddenly vanish in a matter of hours, draining rapidly as crevasses open beneath them and they spill into the ice sheet’s depths. At the front ends of marine glaciers, meanwhile, detaching icebergs can tumble and slam back with such force that they knock the glacier itself backwards, and trigger magnitude 5 level earthquakes.

NASA estimates that currently, through the combination of these mechanisms, the Greenland ice sheet is losing several hundred billion tons (or gigatons) per year and raising sea levels by three quarters of a millimeter annually. If so, that would be a little under a third of the total global sea level rise, which is currently 3.24 millimeters per year.

And now, Zachariae glacier may be poised to add to that total.

From 1996 through 2010, the new research finds, Zachariae glacier’s grounding line — where the glacier simultaneously meets both the seafloor and the ocean — retreated inland 3.5 kilometers. But then from 2011 through 2015, it retreated another 3.5 kilometers, a sure sign of acceleration. A key event in letting the glacier speed up seems to have been the collapse of its ice shelf, a buttressing tongue that used to extend out over the fjord in front of the glacier, creating an underwater cavity beneath it. Now, in contrast, Zachariae is basically a steep cliff. Other ways of measuring the rate of change of the glacier — its rate of thinning, for instance, or its flow speed into the sea — were also observed to be increasing in the new study.

“This study does a nice job of putting together data from multiple sensors to document the ongoing speed up of this glacier. At present its contribution to sea level is relatively small, but there is certainly the potential for it to increase more over time,” says Ian Joughin, a Greenland and polar science expert at the University of Washington, in Seattle, in a comment on the new study. Joughin notes that thus far, despite the fast retreat, Zachariae is not losing as much ice each year as the Jakobshavn glacier in central western Greenland is losing. The new study reports a loss of 5 gigatons annually for the Zachariae glacier, or 5 billion metric tons, versus 25 to 35 gigatons for Jakobshavn, according to Joughin. Joughin thinks Zachariae may not catch up to the latter, since the basin into which it is retreating is not as deep.

But Rignot notes that with 1.1 meters of potential sea level rise between them, the Zachariae and Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glaciers together contain about as much ice as the very worrisome glaciers along the Amundsen Sea coast of West Antarctica. Granted, in the latter case the situation is worse because losing those coastal glaciers would then unleash a bigger destabilization of West Antarctica as a whole.

Still, Greenland’s glaciers face a kind of double threat — not only changes in the ocean, but also rapidly rising Arctic temperatures, meaning that they can melt both from above and below. The key question, however — as with all studies of glacial retreats in regions with the potential to cause major sea level rise — is how much and how fast. And that’s also, of course, the hardest one to answer.

“The retreat of these marine-based sectors is likely to increase sea-level rise from Greenland for decades to come,” the paper concludes — but it does not specify how rapidly a full loss of the Zachariae glacier could occur. “Collapse of the entire basin is going to take a long time, it’s not going to happen tomorrow,” says Mouginot. “But it’s a process, when you start, it’s like Jakobshavn — [you don’t] see the glacier recovering from that.”

Patricia Becomes Strongest Hurricane Ever Recorded!

Patricia Becomes Strongest Hurricane Ever Recorded! 

Catastrophic Landfall Expected in Mexico.

The hurricane is forecast to make landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco Friday 4 PM as a Category 5 hurricane capable of causing widespread destruction. Residents and authorities in Mexico are rushing to prepare for what will likely be the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall on that country's Pacific coastline. Hurricane Patricia became the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere on Friday morning as its maximum sustained winds reached an unprecedented 200 mph (320 kph).

Hurricane Patricia now also holds the record for lowest pressure in any hurricane on record. With a minimum central pressure of 880 millibars .  Patricia among the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones ever witnessed anywhere in the world since the advent of modern meteorology.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted the Category 5 Hurricane Patricia would make a "potentially catastrophic landfall" in southwestern Mexico later in the day.  Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated Friday from Mexico's Pacific coast as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere bore down on the popular tourist area packing sustained winds of 190 mph, down from 200 mph earlier in the day.

Global Sea Level rise to put dozens of cities in danger of flooding.

Global Sea Level rise to put dozens of cities in danger of flooding.

Sea Level rise to put dozens of cities in danger of flooding.

New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Boston, Long Beach, San Francisco, and dozens of coastal U.S. cities are doomed to be washed away by ever-rising sea levels, according to findings from a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fourteen cities with more than 100,000 residents each could avoid this fate in this century, including Jacksonville, Florida; Chesapeake, Virginia; and large areas of the San Joquien Valley  in California, including Sacramento and Stockton.

Scientists have already established that if we do nothing to reduce our burning of fossil fuels, the planet will face sea level rise of 4.3m to 9.9m, said the study's lead author Ben Strauss, "Some of this could happen as early as next century," Dr Strauss said, "But it also might take many centuries. Just think of a pile of ice in a warm room. You know it is going to melt, but it is harder to say how quickly."

"Some cities appear to be already lost. For New Orleans, there are levees, it's possible to build levees higher and stronger for some time, but that's not necessarily safe or sustainable in the long run. We've already seen what can happen when levees break, when the sea level gets higher, the bigger the tragedy can be."

If carbon emissions are not put in check by the year 2100, the sea level could increase at least 14 feet. That would impact about 20 million people who live along the country's coast, Strauss' research found. In danger are as many as 1,800 municipalities, including 21 cities with more than 100,000 residents each.

An online tool shows which US cities may face "lock-in dates beyond which the cumulative effects of carbon emissions likely commit them to long-term sea-level rise that could submerge land under more than half of the city's population". "Norfolk, Virginia, for example, faces a lock-in date of 2045 under a scenario of unabated carbon emissions," the study says. For cities such as Miami and New Orleans, the limits are already exceeded. "In our analysis, a lot of cities have a future that depends on our carbon choices but some appear to be already lost," Dr Strauss said.

Sea level rise has been mostly measured in inches in the past decades, but scientists said they could increase more than 20 feet in the future as global warming continues to melt ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

The dire projections are based on a look back at the climate record, with scientists finding that increases of 20 feet have happened at least twice over the past 3 million years when temperatures were very similar to what they are today. "Studies have shown that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributed significantly to this sea level rise above modern levels," Anders Carlson, an Oregon State University glacial geologist and paleoclimatologist, and co-author on the study that was published Thursday in Science, said.

"Modern atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are today equivalent to those about 3 million years ago, when sea level was at least 6 meters higher because the ice sheets were greatly reduced," he said. "It takes time for the warming to whittle down the ice sheets but it doesn't take forever. There is evidence that we are likely seeing that transformation begin to take place now."

Why California's Record Drought is Just the Beginning...

Why California's Record Drought is Just the Beginning... 

Thom Hartmann talks with Dr. Joseph "Joe" Romm  about the massive California drought being  linked to climate change.
Dr. Joseph "Joe" Romm is the Founding Editor of 
Senior Fellow-Center for American Progress 
Chief Science Advisor, Emmy-winning TV series, "Years of Living Dangerously"


Record-low rain numbers have put much of California in a major dry spell.

Record-low rain numbers have put much of California in a major dry spell.

California continues to deal with its ongoing drought. Water managers and farmers are adapting their practices to help conserve water and reduce economic loss in the state. Temperatures in California were warmer than average in the south, gradually transitioning to cooler than average northwards. The only precipitation that fell during the period was in south and east Nevada.
 During the next 6-10 days, the probability of cooler than normal temperatures are high in the Ohio and Tennessee River Valley’s extending into the Great Lakes and Midwest. Chances are likely that the rest of the country will experience warmer than normal temperatures, especially in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest.

Over the same period, precipitation associated with the large system centered over Wisconsin will move through the Great Lakes area. Further south, the precipitation will slowly move eastward and dissipate as the low pressure moves into Canada. Another, less powerful and dryer system will follow producing the heaviest precipitation in the Midwest. Ridging continues to hold its grip in the West while monsoonal precipitation may bring light drought relief in the Southwest.

Last Week
3 Months Ago
Start of Calendar Year
Start of Water Year
One Year Ago
Population Affected by Drought: 58,499,934

This is what climate change looks like.

This is what climate change looks like.

The picture shows snow in the mountains of California, 2013 and 2014.  Snow usually provides 30% of California's water, so that was bad news.  But 2015 was much worse. "We're not only setting a new low; we're completely obliterating the previous record," said the chief of the California Department of Water Resources.  There's now only 5% as much snow as the average over the last century! Is all this due to climate change?
This is the kind of thing we can expect.

California Governor Jerry Brown has imposed mandatory water restrictions: a 25% cut in water use in every city and town. This will save about 1.8 cubic kilometers of water over the next 9 months - nearly as much as Lake Oroville now holds. He said: 

"People should realize we're in a new era. The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day - that's going to be a thing of the past."

Brown's seven-page executive order, issued Wednesday, outlined the first statewide mandatory water use restrictions in California's history. Among them: He ordered a 25% reduction in urban use statewide compared to 2013 levels. The directive also bans the use of drinking water to irrigate median strips in public roads, initiates the removal of 1,150 football fields worth of grass to be replaced with drought-tolerant plants; and orders golf courses, campuses and cemeteries to significantly cut their water consumption.
Agricultural mandates were milder. Irrigation districts were directed to develop drought management plans that include supply and demand data. Agencies in basins where groundwater has been overpumped must immediately monitor groundwater levels. And the State Water Resources Control Board was told to crack down on illegal water diversions and "those engaging in the wasteful and unreasonable use of water."

The vast majority of Brown's plan focused on urban water use — such as lawns, golf courses, parks and public medians — which makes up less than 25% of Californians' overall water use. For critics of Brown's plan, it's ineffective policy to crack down on watering suburban yards while largely ignoring the vast, still-green expanses of the state's fruit and vegetable garden. "The government's response to this growing crisis has been behind the curve," said Jonas Minton, water policy advisor for the Planning and Conservation League and a former state water official. He argued that state officials should clamp down on groundwater pumping and plantings of thirsty new crops.

Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said growers have been dealing with water cutbacks for years. As for regulating which crops growers plant, Mount said that could distort the market and have unintended economic consequences. "It's our view that government probably is not going to do a very good job of deciding what should and should not be grown." Moreover, Mount said that while the state could ban certain plantings under its constitutional powers to stop the unreasonable use of water in a drought, growing high value crops such as almonds would not be considered unreasonable. "I think much of California is all of a sudden waking up to the fact that the drought is not theoretical. It's going to manifest itself in ordinary Californians' lives for the first time. "You do that overnight and there is extraordinary disruption," Mount said. "In some basins, this is going to be very painful, economically and socially, and you have to be careful about forcing that pain too quickly."

"Well, our farmers have been feeling it for a while," said Chris Scheuring, a water attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation. Scheuring, noting that at least 40% of residential water use in the state is for landscaping, said that urban cuts don't have the same economic impact as slashing irrigation deliveries. "Folks are still going to brush their teeth," he said. "They're still going to run their dishwashers …flush their toilets. It's just that their lawn might be brown and they're going to have make some hard choices about landscaping. "That's a different thing from telling a farmer goodbye to 25% of what little [water] you may have. That has direct economic consequences."

Other water experts and growers say that agriculture has already suffered severe cutbacks as a result of the drawn-out drought, now in its fourth year. For the second year in a row, Central Valley farmers without senior water rights are expecting no deliveries from the valley's big federal irrigation project. Growers who get supplies from the State Water Project will receive only 20% of requested deliveries this year. Farmers left more than 400,000 acres unplanted last year, dealing a $2-billion blow to the state's agricultural economy.
The Legislature approved a statewide groundwater law last year intended to end decades of overpumping from aquifers in the Central Valley. But it won't take full effect for more than two decades, a timetable that critics say is far too generous. The rules are expected to limit withdrawals in some basins, forcing farmers who have increasingly relied on pumping groundwater to permanently retire cropland. Experts say change that significant requires time. We definitely need to improve agriculture.  But don't forget: for the second year in a row, farmers in California's big Central Valley are getting hit with big water cutbacks.  The ones who get water from the State Water Project will receive only 20% of their usual amount.  While farmers are moving to more efficient irrigation practices, they still practice wasteful flood irrigation on about 40% of irrigated acreage, said Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland think tank. "We have a long way to go," she added.
Phil Isenberg, vice chairman of the Delta Stewardship Council, said the sections of Brown's order demanding more water use data from agriculture are "a very dramatic change." Not only does the state lack information on all water diversions by farmers, groundwater pumping in the Central Valley has gone largely unmonitored for more than a century. "You gotta know who's using what," he said. "Should it do more?" he said of the order. "Yes, but the seriousness of seven pages of executive order with specifics is quite unusual."

Almost 40% of California experiencing "exceptional" drought.

Almost 40% of California experiencing "exceptional" drought.

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a University of California, Irvine, water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, urged the state to begin a program of "immediate mandatory water rationing" for all customers and cautioned that California "has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing."

Famiglietti writes that the situation is much more urgent than policymakers realize. The state has no contingency plan should the water dry up, and regulators are quickly running out of time to deal with the problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

The background: California's four-year drought, which boasts both record-breaking average temperatures and sustained lows in rainfall averages, is widely considered to be the worst in the state's recorded history. Climate scientists who examined tree ring samples dating back centuries have concluded that a sustained drought of this severity hasn't occurred in California in the last 1,200 years. Paleoclimatologist Kevin Anchukaitis, a researcher from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who worked on the tree ring sample study, said that "there is no doubt that we are entering a new era where changes to the climate system will become important for determining the severity of droughts and their consequences for coupled human and natural systems."

The United States Drought Monitor estimate 93.44% of the state is experiencing severe drought or worse, with an astonishing 39.92% of the state still experiencing "exceptional" drought in the middle of what is usually the tail end of California's rainy season.

The Guardian has launched a campaign : Keep it in the Ground!

The U.K. Guardian has launched a campaign of science and conscience to reverse humanity’s self-destructive pursuit of burning all of the world’s fossil fuels: #keepitintheground. Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen labeled it “an old fashioned newspaper campaign.” The Guardian starts by calling on Bill and Melinda Gates to divest their foundation from all investments in fossil fuels. Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger has also asked for help from whistleblowers in fossil fuel industries to help expose the industry.

The science is clear that we need to leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have any chance whatsoever of limiting total warming to non-catastrophic levels. The journal Nature spelled that out in a January study, “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C.” The Guardian has posted a video on their website explaining why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and why that is the biggest story in the world:


 Editor Rusbridger writes that the argument to divest from the biggest carbon polluters is “becoming an overwhelming one, on both moral and financial grounds.” He quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” He explains: The usual rule of newspaper campaigns is that you don’t start one unless you know you’re going to win it. This one will almost certainly be won in time: the physics is unarguable. But we are launching our campaign today in the firm belief that it will force the issue now into the boardrooms and inboxes of people who have billions of dollars at their disposal. 

Media campaigns for the public interest and against injustice are nothing new. And what greater public interest is there than not turning much of the planet’s most habitable and arable land into a near permanent dustbowl, sharply reducing humanity’s ability to feed what will then be 9 billion people? 

Bill McKibben, one of the founders of the divestment movement whose organization is partnering with the Guardian, emailed me, “Alan Rusbridger is the finest newspaper editor of his era, and this caps his career — he’s the first editor, I think, that’s ever truly treated the greatest story of our time with the gravity it requires.”

NASA: California Down to One Year Supply of Water

NASA: California Down to One Year Supply of Water. 

California is in the midst of the worst drought seen in a millennium. A NASA scientist warns that the state has only one year of water left. 2014 was the hottest year on record for California (and the rest of the world), and this intense heat just exacerbates the ongoing drought by speeding up evaporation and drying out the land surface, which is rapidly depleting its water supply. NASA's Jay Famiglietti believes a more "forward-looking process" is necessary to deal with the problem.
"California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain," wrote Famiglietti, a senior water cycle scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

 Four years of drought and record-setting high temperatures have combined to drop California's reservoirs to critically low levels. As our winter season draws to a close, it is clear that the little rain and snowfall California has received has done nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014.

California's water reserves have been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are due to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century. It's not unusual for the state to find itself in a drought, but this latest dry spell is an entirely new class of its own. A whopping 55 percent of the state is experiencing "exceptional drought conditions," which is the most severe classification, according to the US Drought Monitor.

It's been said that 11 trillion gallons of water is the solution to a full recovery, but with only one year's worth of water left in storage, and the groundwater supply at an all-time low, it would take a miracle to completely bounce back. Perhaps Famiglietti suggestions hold the answer.
"Our state's water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin."

New York City among the 10 cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

 New York City among the 10 cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

New York City is approaching the danger zone for climate change. Some would say it has already arrived. The effects of climate change are irreversible. 

The OECD ranked New York City among the 10 cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels with 2.9 million people and $2.1 trillion in assets exposed to storm surges by 2070 if sea levels keep rising.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates they could rise by another meter or more by the end of this century. As global temperatures continue to rise, ice in the polar regions and glaciers will melt, dumping tons of extra water into the ocean. Warmer water will cause the oceans to expand. These factors will cause sea levels to increase and flood coastal areas all over the world. This is just one of the symptoms of a warming planet. Climate change will also cause a rise in rain and snowfall. Average annual precipitation will likely rise by between 4% and 11% by the 2050s and between 5% and 13% by 2080. By 2080, New York City could see 1.5 times as many days of extreme rain or snowfall. We won't just see an increase in average precipitation throughout the year. The number of severe storms will rise as well. Hurricane Sandy was our first warning. Sandy struck without mercy. Hurricane strength winds downed trees and electric lines. Water flooded streets, wiped away homes, and crippled subway lines. Thousands of New York City homes lost power. New York City lost $25 billion in business activity. 

New York City is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Sea level in New York City could rise between 11 and 21 inches by 2050. By 2080, it could rise between 18 and 39 inches, and by the end of the century it could rise 75 inches, or six feet. Sea levels have been rising globally (Duh!). 
Sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world's major cities.

A new report from the New York Academy of Sciences finds that by the end of this decade, New York City will be a warmer place to live than it is now. Average annual temperatures in New York City are expected to rise much faster in the coming decades than they have in the past. By the 2050s, average yearly temperatures will rise by between 4.1 and 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit. By the 2080s, we'll likely see an increase of between 5.3 and 8.8 degrees. By comparison, average temperatures for the region have only increased by 3.4 degrees since 1900. Heat waves in New York are also expected to triple by the 2080s.

Stanford scientists investigate the worst drought in California's history

Stanford scientists investigate the worst drought in California's history.
Causes of California drought linked to climate change. The extreme atmospheric conditions associated with California's crippling drought are far more likely to occur today than in the climate that existed before humans emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Associate Professor Noah Diffenbaugh and graduate student Daniel Swain explain the 'ridiculously resilient ridge' and its role in the California drought. The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists write in a new research paper.

In a new study, a team led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

The research, published on Sept. 29 as a supplement to this month's issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and California's ongoing drought.

"Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region – which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California – is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," said Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The exceptional drought currently crippling California is by some metrics the worst in state history. Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state. A recent report estimated that the water shortage would result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone. Such impacts prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency and the federal government to designate all 58 California counties as "natural disaster areas."

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly stubborn "blocking ridge" over the northeastern Pacific – popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or "Triple R" – that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere. "Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure," said Daniel Swain, a graduate student in Diffenbaugh's lab and lead author of the study. "We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months now, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry."

Blocking ridges occur periodically at temperate latitudes, but the Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity. While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned even stronger by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, which is normally California's wet season.

"At its peak in January 2014, the Triple R extended from the subtropical Pacific between California and Hawaii to the coast of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska," said Swain, who coined the term "ridiculously resilient ridge" last fall to highlight the unusually persistent nature of the offshore blocking ridge.

Like a large boulder that has tumbled into a narrow stream, the Triple R diverted the flow of high-speed air currents known as the jet stream far to the north, causing Pacific storms to bypass not only California but also Oregon and Washington. As a result, rain and snow that would normally fall on the West Coast was instead re-routed to Alaska and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

An important question for scientists and decision-makers has been whether human-caused climate change has influenced the conditions responsible for California's drought. Given the important role of the Triple R, Diffenbaugh's team set out to measure the probability of such extreme ridging events.

The team first assessed the rarity of the Triple R in the context of the 20th-century historical record. They found that the combined persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 was unrivaled by any event since 1948, which is when comprehensive information about the circulation of the atmosphere is first available.

To more directly address the question of whether climate change played a role in the probability of the 2013 event, the team collaborated with Bala Rajaratnam, an assistant professor of statistics and of environmental Earth system science and an affiliated faculty member of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Rajaratnam and his graduate students Michael Tsiang and Matz Haugen applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations.

Using the Triple R as a benchmark, the group compared geopotential heights – an atmospheric property related to pressure – between two sets of climate model experiments. One set mirrored the present climate, in which the atmosphere is growing increasingly warm due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In the other set of experiments, greenhouse gases were kept at a level similar to those that existed just prior to the Industrial Revolution.

The interdisciplinary research team found that the extreme geopotential heights associated with the Triple R in 2013 were at least three times as likely to occur in the present climate as in the preindustrial climate. They also found that such extreme values are consistently tied to unusually low precipitation in California and the formation of atmospheric ridges over the northeastern Pacific.

"We've demonstrated with high statistical confidence that the large-scale atmospheric conditions, similar to those associated with the Triple R, are far more likely to occur now than in the climate before we emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases," Rajaratnam said.

"In using these advanced statistical techniques to combine climate observations with model simulations, we've been able to better understand the ongoing drought in California," Diffenbaugh added. "This isn't a projection of 100 years in the future. This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now."

Diffenbaugh's group was supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Rajaratnam's group was supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a DARPA Young Faculty CAREER Award, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the UPS Fund.