Thursday, February 23, 2017

70 Degree February Days As We Head Toward The First 'Year Of No Seasons'

David Suzuki - above- who predicted the first 'Year of No seasons' by 2040.

Scene in Chicago February 27, as temperature hits a record high of 75 F.

Let us admit that a 75 degree day in Tampa, Florida in February is not unusual, and in fact normal. Let us also admit a 75 degree high day in Chicago is not. When the high temperatures also hit 77 F here in Colorado Springs, I noted to Janice that this is a reminders that within 20-25 years such days will be the norm, not just in February. Imagine then 65-75 degree highs from December through February, for most of the nation, and 75 to 90 degree highs from March through May, then 95 to 105 degree days from June through October. Unreal? No, very real, and well on the way as humans continue to by and large disregard the harbingers of massive global warming, acting like nothing strange is going on.

Just imagine now, if you can, weird warm days in northern cities ALL the time, not just a few instances or one offs.  Picture in your mind no more autumns with brilliant leaf colors such as Vermonters currently enjoy, and no more adequate snow pack to accommodate skiers at Vail or any other place. Impossible? You wish.

Researcher and author David Suzuki, in his book It's A Matter of Survival (Harvard University Press, 1991) co-authored with Anita Gordon, believes we are well on our way there and will reach that stage by the year 2040. The first 'Year of No Seasons' (I happen to believe we will reach this stage a lot sooner, perhaps by 2020.) Bear in mind Suzuki based his projections on 1991 data and the hope we'd be able to keep the warming increment to less than 2C by 2100. According to data compiled from the National Climate Data Center, IPCC, the Hadley UK Center and other sources, all bets are off for achieving this based on their recent reports and the maximum increase now is projected to be from 3.6 C to 4.0 C.

Suzuki and Gordon wasted no time bitch-slapping the complacent reader from the first words of Chapter One: Beyond Your Worst Nightmare:

"A.D. 2040- If we were to give this year a name it would be Despair. This is the hopeless world we have left our children and grand children. Where once our lives were measured and enriched by the cycle of the seasons, there is now only searing heat and the certainty it will get hotter. Seasons exist only in the nostalgic longing of those of us old enough to remember the richness of life......

Daily, experts try to play God, desperate to determine what each new ecosystem will be, before it too is lost. This is the nightmare world of 2040 on this sad excuse for the planet we once called home."

On p. 8 of the same chapter, Suzuki and Gordon go on to link the total disappearance of the seasons worldwide to global mean temperatures 5 C (9F) above what they were in 1991. Given that Carl Sagan once forecast an increment of 6C as adequate to trigger the runaway Greenhouse, Suzuki's numbers would put us right on the cusp. Once that begins, and the methane is also released from melting permafrost and later CO2 is released from all the carbonate rocks in the world, we are for the high jump.

Of course, the cessation of seasonal changes is only one aspect of ongoing climate change. Already here in Colorado we are seeing a continued and relentless dying of the trees. One in 14 trees is now dead in Colorado forests and the number of gray-brown standing-dead trees has increased 30 percent since 2010 to 834 million, the state’s annual survey has found.    The dying trees are  largely the result of insect infestations —which  can lead to large intense wildfires, such as the Beaver Creek fire in 2016 that burned 38,000 acres northwest of Walden, This is according to  Colorado State Forest Service officials in a report released 2 weeks ago.
Standing-dead trees are shown on Wolf Creek Pass in Mineral County. One in 14 trees are dead in Colorado forests and over the past seven years, the number of gray-brown standing-dead trees increased 30 percent to about 834 million, according to the state's annual forest survey.
Still standing dead trees on Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Recall the insect infestation is traced to the mountain pine beetle which population has exploded directly as a result of warming temperatures. Those readers interested in a detailed account of the trepidations spawned by this pest can get hold of the superb book: The Dying of the Trees.  You can read a shorter account here:

The point is the beetle is a major catalyst for all the ongoing and uncontained Colorado wild fires

With the release of the report, given we now know there are at least 800 million dead trees in the state, greater attention is being focused on conserving what we have left. State forest service director Mike Lester quoted in The Denver Post stated:

"When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source. Beyond the implications for our atmosphere, forests in poor health have implications for our water supplies, public safety, wildlife and recreation opportunities.”

Other key findings:

• Colorado’s mountain pine beetle epidemic killed trees across 3.4 million acres
• The continuing spruce beetle epidemic has killed trees across 1.7 million acres
• About 80 percent of Colorado residents rely on forest watersheds for their municipal water supplies
• Climate models projecting statewide average temperature increases by 2.5 to 6.5 degrees before 2050 mean the risks of severe wildfires, insect infestations and droughts will worsen

More sobering yet, a University of Colorado -Boulder study is questioning whether burned forests on the Front Range in Colorado will ever return to normal. Given the predations of the mountain pine beetle in concert with the forest fires, it may be wishful thinking to believe so.

Note also the older trees that burned in fires were seedlings 50-100 years ago and we know the climate was different then.. The 2014 Climate Change in Colorado  report for the Colorado Water Conservation Board found that statewide temperatures have increased 2 F over the past 30 years.  This may sound insignificant but simulations of differing conditions on ponderosa pine and Douglas fir seedlings- in a 2015 published Canadian study (Canadian Journal of Forest Research) -  found that those growing in a post-burn areas had less chance of survival when subjected to even small increases in temperature. Or when subjected to less water.

One more takeaway: A recent study by scientists working as part of a group called World Weather Attribution, looked at the influence of climate change on the seasonal variation of temperatures, using models of the atmosphere as it exists and of a hypothetical atmosphere with no greenhouse gas emissions and thus no human-driven climate change. They found that a warm February like the one just experienced is now about four times more likely in the current climate than it would have been in 1900, before significant CO2 emissions began to change the climate.

How will all this play out as our own EPA, and indeed government, has been captured by climate change deniers and anti-science knuckle draggers? That will be the subject of an upcoming post.

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