What is Causing Weather Extremes in 2010?


Massive rains in Pakistan, China and Iowa in the US. Drought, heat and unprecedented fires in Russia and western Canada. 2010 is going down as the year of crazy, extreme weather. Is this just a wacky year or a trend of things to come? According to meteorologists, unusual holding patterns in the jet stream in the northern hemisphere are to blame for the extreme weather in Pakistan and Russia. But also, the World Meteorological Organization and other scientists say this type of weather fits patterns predicted by climate scientists, and could be the result of climate change.

“All these things are the kinds of things we would expect to happen as the planet warms up,” said Tom Wagner, a NASA scientist who studies the cryosphere, during an interview on CNN on August 11. “And we are seeing that the planet is warming about .35 degrees per decade. Places like Greenland are warming even faster, like 3.5 degrees per decade. And all these events from heat waves to stronger monsoons, to loss of ice are all consistent with that. Where it gets a little tricky is assigning any specific event to say, the cause of this event is definitely global warming, that is where we get to the edge of the research.”

“This weather is very unusual but there are always extremes every year,” said Andrew Watson from the University of East Anglia’s Environmental Studies. “We can never say that weather in a single year is unequivocal evidence of climate change, if you get many years of extreme weather then that can point to climate change.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves, and more severe rainfalls. In its 2007 report, the panel said these trends have already been observed, with an increase in heat waves since 1950, for example.

NOAA measurements show that the combined global surface temperatures for June 2010 are the warmest on record, and Wagner said there are larger conclusions to be drawn from the definite global warming trend. “We are seeing things that haven’t really happened before on the planet, like warming at this specific rate. We think it is very well tied to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the late 1800’s caused by humans.”

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

Graphs on NASA’s climate website show an undeniable rise in global temperatures, sea levels, and carbon dioxide levels. See more of these graphs here.

“Not just over 10 years, but we have satellites images, weather station records and other good records going back to the late 1800’s that tells us all about how the planet is warming up,” Wagner said. “Not only that but we have evidence from geologic records, ice cores, and sediment cores from ocean cores. All of this feeds together to show us how the planet is changing.”

Asked if the cycle can be reversed, Wagner replied, “That is the million dollar question. One thing we have to think about is that the planet is changing and we have to deal with that. Ice around Antarctica and Greenland is melting. Sea level is rising right now at 3 millimeters a year. If you just extrapolate that to 100 years, it will rise to at least a foot of sea level rise. But there is the possibility it could be more than that. These are the types of things we need to think about and come up with mitigation strategies to deal with them. We’re doing the research to try and nail down these questions a little more tightly to see how much sea level is going to rise, how much temperatures are going to rise and how are weather patterns going to change.”

Reducing emissions is one thing that everyone can do to help protect the planet and the climate, and climate experts have been saying for years that there needs to be sharp cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that go into the atmosphere from automobiles, power plants, and other fossil fuel-burning industrial and residential sources.

In the news this week was the huge ice chunk coming loose from a Greenland glacier. Not only is this an indication of warming water, but other problems could develop, such as the large ice chunks getting in the way of shipping lanes or heading towards oil rigs. The high temperatures and fires in Russia are affecting big percentage of the world’s wheat production, and could have an effect on our food supply this coming year.

Not only that, but the wildfires have created a noxious soup of air pollution that is affecting life far beyond just the local regions, JPL reports. Among the pollutants created by wildfires is carbon monoxide, a gas that can pose a variety of health risks at ground level. Carbon monoxide is also an ingredient in the production of ground-level ozone, which causes numerous respiratory problems. As the carbon monoxide from these wildfires is lofted into the atmosphere, it becomes caught in the lower bounds of the mid-latitude jet stream, which swiftly transports it around the globe.

Two movies were created using continuously updated data from the “Eyes on the Earth 3-D” feature, also on NASA’s global climate change website. They show three-day running averages of daily measurements of carbon monoxide present at an altitude of 5.5 kilometers (18,000) feet, along with its global transport.

And in case you are wondering, the recent solar flares have nothing to do with the wildfires — as Ian O’Neill from Discovery space deftly points out.

Sources: CNN, AP, JPL , SkyNews

24 Replies to “What is Causing Weather Extremes in 2010?”

  1. There is a peculiar phrasing in your lead paragraph that implies something that I don’t think you intend. You say “According to meteorologists … But other scientists …”. The implication of the “But” is that “meteorologists” disagree with “other scientists”. This seems unlikely to me. I don’t mean to spark the usual flame war about climate science but to point out that the particular distinction implied by your first paragraph doesn’t exist. There is no strong disagreement on this topic between “meteorologists” in one camp and “other scientists” in another camp.

  2. The Weather Channel – ‘Wake Up With Al’ had a thing on this morning, where they were blaming counter current jet streams in the No. Hemisphere for the odd/hot or wet WX…

    You know why God made Weathermen, don’t you? A: To make economists look good….. plop.

  3. What is Causing Weather Extremes in 2010?

    I think this is a bit over the top, or rather: fuzzy.

    Earlier this year a nice review was published in WIREs: “Detection and attribution of climate change: a regional perspective”, Stott et al. They show that the AGW signal is now so strong that one can _attribute climate changes_ to AGW with 95 % certainty.

    This attribution is further more local than climate baselines (typically ~ 30 y, AFAIU), so interannual and regional trends can be used, say yearly weather extremes over continents.

    But it is still the trending over several years that this is doable for. I.e. a specific year result must be compared with the trend, not as its spurious differential amplitude. AGW is a basic cause, not an immediate one – many local mechanisms makes extremes.

    [Another nice result presented is that the AGW climate regime is detectable. I.e. one observes that variations of the old regime doesn’t naturally explain the signal anymore, but the new AGW regime does so. The climate has changed for a fact, due to AGW.]

    mitigation strategies

    So they have started to model this too. It is early times, and IPCC sums previous efforts IIRC. But the other week there was one group that claimed that if the politicians wants to keep within max 2 degC increase this century, they have to go cold turkey on _any_ carbon emissions after 2050 with the current increase of emissions.

    The heating trend will continue roughly linear in their model, so after 2100 someone will have to start remove carbon dioxide to curb heating. Of course, at that time todays politicians are insensitive to the result. (Read: out of office and out of life.)

  4. D’oh! The last paragraph in my previous comment was me speculating on the groups graph. I’m afraid that, as well as the other parts, didn’t come out too clearly. Short version: “good reference!”

  5. Climate change and an averaged warming of the Earth’s atmosphere means there is more energy in the Earth’s system that may generate atmospheric dynamics. The Lorentz equations, the first Gerlakin series in the hydrodynamic model, will exhibit more chaotic behavior. These equations are responsible for the butterfly attractor, and the scaling or strength of the attractor will be larger. This means we can expect more wild fluctuations in seasonal variations and weather. So even in a region which might get an averaged increased rainfall, there might well be seasons of extreme drought.

    On aspect of climate change we face is that patterns of weather and seasons may become increasingly unpredicable.


  6. Summer has been great here, and about damn time, but not extreme. This article is provocative at the lest, what with again mentioning greenland when we have only been recording data in that area since 2003, one can or cannot claim it is because of this or that.
    Anyway I can see a clear sky tonight thanks to it been sunny in summer, hope it stays that way.

  7. Every time an extreme event happens can we stop blaming man kind immediately? (1 volcano could out do all we have done).. The cold of the Dark ages man made?… The cold of the 70s man made? … So every peak above OR trough is climate change? (indicating man made origins)…. There is SOOOO much money involved in this… Investigate the climate trade. It is a TRILLION dollar industry… That is a lot of money to throw at creating a consensus… 92 degrees is not shocking to me. It is a heat wave and happens. We had 12 inches of snow in Texas this year and one heck of a cold winter…. anyway I will not sway the die hard just please be aware of the money and big business involved in this trade. ( not to mention the loss of freedoms) .

  8. So,..it is true that we have the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in atmosphere within last 650,000 years. Mankind caused deforestation, farmlands are transforming into highways, blocks of flats, on hypermarkets, parking places, factories,..We are burning fossil fuels in catastrophic rate and also destroing consuments of carbon dioxide. But, there also the worst floods, there are record total amounts of rains per time of measurements since 1870,…or so. I live in Slovakia.
    Catastrophic floods were here this year in Jun,…and again in time or some days after New moon, full moon, when Venus was close to down conjunction,..in direction close to Orion, where Earth’s axis is tilted in these hundred years,.
    Week ago catastroph. floods were in Czech republic, in Poland, Germany. Situation is worse and worse from year to year in Central Europe,….
    I think that situation would be even worse during end of this December and next Jun,July, August when gravitational forces of coming Nibiru together with Venus, Jupiter gravity during full, New moons could cause even more destructions,..more on http://senmut.webs.com/apps/blog/
    where it is explained with more details

  9. @soul
    Even when there is a lot of money involved, it does not mean that climate change is not true. Science is very clear on in now: CO2 is a problem, the biggest part is it is human caused and we have to act now.

    But the climate change is being misused by greedy people trying to suck money out of people under the false pretences of doing good. We have to stop these people misusing it.

  10. @senmut

    This site is visited by people who really know astronomy and physics and right now they are laughing at you because you claim stupid things which is astronomically impossible. Unless you can give maths and number so we can test your claims and confirm it.

    Astronomically there is no planet out there that has enough mass to have any effect on Earth whatsoever. If it were the effects could by now be clearly seen by everyone on this planet when looking at the sky. The sun would be ion the wrong location, the planets would be in the wrong location the stars themselves would be in the wrong location, Earth’s orbit around the sun would be altered. But on the surface of Earth it would have no effect since earth is only 12.000 km diameter and the inverse square law of gravity tells us that with a far distant planet the gravitational difference between the close side and the far side on Earth is nearly none-existing.

    It would only affect us when you have a close body like the Moon.

    But show us your maths, give us numbers, for example the orbital elements of the mysterious planet, how the gravity will affect earth, give us numbers.that can be tested.

  11. People over the whole World are laughing on materialistic official science what is simply ignoring all scientific results what are not suitable for politicians sponsoring mainstream science. TILL TWO YEARS AGO YOU WERE SUPPORTING BUSH,.. PROPAGANDA, THAT THERE IS NO GLOBAL WARMING AT ALL!. Because it was suitable for his, their greedy oil,.. financial sponsors. You are saying that there are no effects of Nibiru on Earth till now, so Nibiru doesn’t exist or is too far. For example,..what are effects of Jupiter on length of year or of day on Earth? Is it important if Jupiter is in aphelia, or in perihelia? Is day on Earth significantly longer or shorter when Jupiter is in oposition to Earth, though Jupiter is 318x heavier than Earth? No!
    But all distant heavier planetoids (Sedna, Eris,..) and Pluto too are in such orbital positions, that they are close to perihelia or aphelia. Why? Nibiru causes opposite motion of Sun with inner planets and it looks like so.
    Results of Milagro Los Alamos cosmic rays survay are for me clear. There are also depicted position of Nibiru in circa Outumn equinoxes in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.
    Results are nearly identical with ancient Senmut map and with ancient astro carpet map where are depicted positions of Nibiru during last 10 and more years before, after perihelia. but, you simply ignore history and what old historians, astronomers depicted on sky maps.

  12. Olaf, you afraid this:
    the climate change is being misused by greedy people trying to suck money out of people under the false pretences of doing good. We have to stop these people misusing it.
    I think, that BP made so much harm only in Mexican gulf, that all those greedy environmentalists can suck so much many how PB caused harm so circa in 1000years. Governments are simple too benevolent to rich oil,…suckers.

  13. Like the article says, “one year does not a human global warming make”. The good old hocky stick again. Please notice the units on the left side of the graph. They are in ppm – parts per MILLION. At that scale, the change in CO2 concentration seems alarming. However, if you show it in percentage composition (that would be parts per hundred), the line is flat as a board. Such tiny changes in concentration simply cannot affect global climate. Also, bear in mind that CO2 is effeciently converted to oxygen by plants, hardly a greenhouse gas. Contrary to claims in the media, there are very many scientists who simply do not buy human global warming.

  14. It should be noted that while heat is a contributing factor, this is a natural disaster. Like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, the extreme conditions of forest fires can and will take lives during any climatic condition. Global warming should not be highlighted as the primary factor of this natural disaster, nor the loss of life ensued. Global warming does not modify weather to make natural weather related disasters. Weather extremes such as floods or heat waves happen every year, all over the globe. Upper level atmospheric conditions are responsible for most of these weather extremes, and there is very little to connect increasing temperatures to changes in jet streams, stalling high pressure systems, or the directions of El Nino and La Nina patterns.

    As some meteorologists continually stress, one extreme weather event, or even a series of weather events, is not caused by global warming or climate change. Weather extremes such as floods or heat waves happen every year, all over the globe. So, while we can tie many of these global weather disasters together around a common meteorological trigger, we cannot say for certain if climate change is helping to pull that trigger, or perhaps loading the gun more frequently.

    Additonally, I find it disheartening that the global warming has taken on the guise of AGW. I find it disappointing that with all our scientific research capabilty that we, as a nation of international interests have put all our eggs in one basket. I find it sad that the IPCC has convinced any portion of the world that by simply curbing the global pollution output (i.e. CO2 and other greenhouse gas output), that we can control climate change.

    Considering by the mid 1980s, when the global CO2 concentration went above 350 ppm, the global temperature was able to maintain its first significant rise in temperature of avg. 0.35C variation in the 20th century. The next plateau of avg. 0.55C variation was reached in the 1990s, when the CO2 concentrations went over 360 ppm. Between these two plateaus, there is seen a average change of 0.2C difference in the average temperature variations for about a 10 year time span. However, while the CO2 concentration is currently peaking just above 392 ppm for 2010, the rising rate of temperature variations has decreased to an avg. 0.65C for about the last 15 years. Between this recorded data and the past plateau of the 1990s, there is seen an average change of only 0.1C difference in the average temperature variations of the past 15 years.

    While this does make it the warmest six month (per previous years) so far (I guess since the Little Ice Age anyway), the trend is now towards a stalling rate of temperature increase rather than a rising rate. However, while the CO2 concentration has risen to approximately 392+ ppm (25% higher than previously recorded in Vostok Station ice cores), the rate of increased temperature variation has slowed to an annual average rise of about +0.0165C (June – global combined ocean & land surface temperature), fluctuating from +0.4C to +0.77C, for the last 15 years. And this fluctuation does not represent consecutively warmer years, but rather a random scattering of warmer and cooler years.

    Point being that the rate of the global temperature increase in the 21th century has slowed down in comparison to previously steeper rises prior to the 20th. This is not consistent with the every increasing rate of CO2 concentration. It appears that after the CO2 concentration became greater than 350 ppm, the rate of increasing temperature actually decreased. Where is the drastic increase in temperature proportional to the increased concentrations of CO2?

  15. In fact, while records of CO2 concentrations show a steady rise since post WWII years, the land-ocean temperature variations actually declined until about the mid to late 1970s. This is not consistent with the every increasing rate of CO2 concentration. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

    In fact it appears that changes in temperature variations follow a pattern of stagnating about every 30 years before rising for anohter 30 years. So per the land-ocean temperature variation trends, we should be seeing a relative stagnation of temperatures until about the year 2025.

    The fact that the IPCC used the last 30 years when temperature variations were rising (similarly in tandem with rising CO2 concentrations) as their baseline to project future events demonstrates their tendency to skew the data in their favor, and the inaccuracy of their model.

    As this is not consistent with the expected AGW model of increasing temperatures relative to increasing CO2 concentrations, I believe we need a new model to tell us what is really going on.

  16. @ Spoodle58, Soul, Senmut/Resenmut, Neoguru, Sjbauer:

    None of looked at the reference I gave, which clearly shows that changes in extremes (interannual and regional) can now be attributed to AGW _only_ with 95 % certainty, and presented a competing climate science that predicts the data.

    Instead you try a) present false data (i.e. “very many scientists” – when the majority of climatologists support AGW, “hockey stick .. flat”, “Nibiru”) b) Gish Gallop (“Venus close to”, “Little Ice Age”), which doesn’t matter for climate science.

    Remember that this is a science blog – we don’t take well to anti-science.

  17. @sjbauer

    Typical for conspiracy theorists is that some science paper out of context using quote mining.

    Your link

    Clearly says:
    These rising levels are significantly higher than the natural range (about 172 ppm to 300 ppm) that existed for at least 2.1 million years until the start of the industrial revolution. [reference]

    But of course you hid that part in your discussion.

  18. One of my hobbies is checking out the climate of the US and the World. Checking out the latest NOAA link showed most of the Earth has a positive increase, areas like European Russia was muchh above average. Couriously where I live, in central California, a CSA Mediterranean climate in its’ pure form, the temperatures have been below average for the last 6 weeks, about the same period as European Russia suffered a deadly heat wave. Now that the heat wave in Russia is breaking up, I expect California to return to normal or above normal temperatures in the next few weeks.
    It is interesting how Perth, Australia has lost 1/3 of its’ annual precipitation over the last 50 years, causing the Perth metro area to use de-saltination plants.

  19. So what about this being just another of Earth’s warming and cooling periods? We actually could be living and witnessing a time in history as I call it “The Peak Holocene Period” which might last for another 75 to 100 years or longer. During which we will see a vast global warming followed by vast global cooling temperatures.

  20. Olaf – Per your comment, “These rising levels are significantly higher than the natural range (about 172 ppm to 300 ppm) that existed for at least 2.1 million years until the start of the industrial revolution. [reference]
    But of course you hid that part in your discussion.”

    I wasn’t trying to hide that information at all. In fact it was exactly my point that CO2 concentrations level were so outrageously high without a reciprocal response in the rise of the expected temperature variations. Point being that the climate change (or current global warming) is not primarily dependent on the rising CO2 concentrations levels. Global warming is happening, as it has been demonstrated in the past 650 thousands years, irregardless of greenhouse gas concentrations.

    Whereupon it is also a known fact that when the temperature does increase, trapped CO2 is released from both land and ocean. And this greenhouse gas concentraton is credibly larger than the expected levels of CO2 to be released from these sources. So man has definitely influenced the CO2 concentration levels. However, what is not being seen is the projected steep rate of rise in temperature variations relative to this drastic rise in CO2 concentrations.

    Previous data presented by the IPCC projected that the rise in temperature should correspond to the rising rate of greenhouse gas concentrations, and we are just not seeing this predictions of AGW coming to fruition.

  21. Tomk – I totally agree with your expectaion of the glacial-interglacial cycles influencing the overall climatic conditions. Weather extremes have been seen for centuries. Only the global averages can be viewed as relative to global warming.

    While the rate of rising CO2 concentrations is increasing, the average rate of rise in the global temperature variations is declining. Or to explain it another way, while the average global temperature is rising, the average rate of rising temperatures is declining. Since the rate of rising global temperature variations is drastically different from the extreme rising rates in the CO2 concentrations, the current AGW model of greenhouse gas concentrations forcing this climate change is not well proven.

  22. @ Torbjorn Larsson OM

    If you read my post you will that I did neither (a) or (b).

    If you do not think the 2003 date is correct for the commencement of climate data gathering in the region in Greenland where the ice chuck broke off, read this article on a website called universe today.


    By the way, science is about debate, if your afraid to debate your point, you must worried that 5% is going to show you up and keep an open mind, too many people thesedays follow theory like a religion.

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