It’s “the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology,” said one climatologist. “Nothing stands close to this.”
As Europe closed the books on its warmest year ever recorded, an exceptionally potent winter heat dome descended on much of the continent over the holiday weekend, with thousands of daily and monthly high-temperature records shattered from Spain to Russia.
“The intensity and extent of warmth in Europe right now is hard to comprehend,” meteorologist Scott Duncan toldThe Times of London. “There are too many records to count. Literally thousands. Overnight minimum temperatures are like summer.”
The Times reported:
Bilbao in northern Spain reached 24.9°C, the hottest temperature recorded for the city in January and more akin to a summer’s day than the start of the year. Records were broken throughout Germany, including Dresden in the east where it was 13.5°C. Temperatures in Switzerland were at 20°C. The Czech Republic recorded a January national record of 19.6°C at the town of Javornik.
The Washington Postnoted that at least seven countries—Belarus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland—recorded their warmest January temperatures ever.
Poland’s Institute of Meteorology and Water Management (IMGW) said Sunday that “the average daily temperature for Słubice was 15.3°C for the last day, and 15°C in Warsaw and Wrocław.”
“This means that we have a one-day thermal summer in the middle of winter,” IMGW added. “The thermal anomaly is over 15°C. This is an unprecedented situation in our climate.”
Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, who specializes in extreme weather, called the temperatures “totally insane” and “absolute madness.”
It’s “the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology,” Herrera told the Post. “Nothing stands close to this.”
As the Post noted:
This exceptional wintertime warmth comes on the heels of the warmest 2022 in many parts of Europe, including in the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland. Extreme heat visited Europe in waves throughout the year and was intensified by a historically severe summer drought. The combination helped push the United Kingdom to 104°F (40°C) for the first time on record in July.
Climatologists said that while weather conditions caused the heat dome currently over Europe, there is a proven link between the continued burning of fossil fuels and rising global temperatures.
“The record-breaking across Europe over the new year was made more likely to happen by human-caused climate change,” Imperial College of London climate scientist Friederike Otto told The Times, “just as climate change is now making every heatwave more likely and hotter.”
Climate change is one of the main drivers of species loss globally. We know more plants and animals will die as heatwaves, bushfires, droughts and other natural disasters worsen.
But to date, science has vastly underestimated the true toll climate change and habitat destruction will have on biodiversity. That’s because it has largely neglected to consider the extent of “co-extinctions”: when species go extinct because other species on which they depend die out.
Our new research shows 10% of land animals could disappear from particular geographic areas by 2050, and almost 30% by 2100. This is more than double previous predictions. It means children born today who live to their 70s will witness literally thousands of animals disappear in their lifetime, from lizards and frogs to iconic mammals such as elephants and koalas.
But if we manage to dramatically reduce carbon emissions globally, we could save thousands of species from local extinction this century alone.
An extinction crisis unfolding
Every species depends on others in some way. So when a species dies out, the repercussions can ripple through an ecosystem.
A real-life example of a co-extinction that could occur soon is the potential loss of the critically endangered mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) in Australia. Drought, habitat loss, and other pressures have caused the rapid decline of its primary prey, the bogong moth (Agrotis infusa).
Research suggests co-extinction was a main driver of past extinctions, including the five previous mass extinction events going back many hundreds of millions of years.
But until now, scientists have not been able to interconnect species at a global scale to estimate how many co-extinctions will occur under projected climate and land-use change. Our research aimed to close that information gap.
The fate of wildlife
Using one of Europe’s fastest supercomputers, we built a massive virtual Earth of interconnected food-web networks. We then applied scenarios of projected climate change and land-use degradation such as deforestation, to predict biodiversity loss across the planet.
Our virtual Earths included more than 15,000 food webs that we used to predict the interconnected fate of species to the end of the 21st Century.
Our models applied three scenarios of projected climate change based on future pathways of global carbon emissions. This includes the high-emissions, business-as-usual scenario that predicts a mean global temperature increase of 2.4℃ by 2050, and 4.4℃ by 2100.
If this scenario becomes reality, ecosystems on land worldwide will lose 10% of current animal diversity by 2050, on average. The figure rises to 27% by 2100.
Adding co-extinctions into the mix causes a 34% higher loss of biodiversity overall than just considering primary extinctions. This is why previous predictions have been too optimistic.
Worse still is the fate of the most vulnerable species in those networks. For species highest in food chains (omnivores and carnivores), the loss of biodiversity due to co-extinctions is a whopping 184% higher than that due to primary extinctions.
We also predict that the greatest relative biodiversity losses will occur in areas with the highest number of species already – a case of the rich losing their riches the fastest.
These are mainly in areas recognised as “biodiversity hotspots” — 36 highly threatened areas of the Earth containing the most unique species, such as Southwest Australia and South Africa’s Cape Floristic region. This is because the erosion of species-rich food webs makes biological communities more susceptible to future shocks.
We also detected that these networks of interacting species themselves will change. We used a measure of “connectance”, which refers to the density of network connections. Higher connectance generally means the species in a food web have more links to others, thereby making the entire network more resilient.
Connectance, we learnt, will decline between 18% and 34% by the end of this century in the worst-case climate scenario.
This reduction in connectance was also driven by the loss of some key species occupying the most important positions in their local networks. These could be top predators such as wolves or lions keeping plant eaters in check, or an abundant insect eaten by many different insectivores.
When such highly connected species go extinct, it makes the network even less resilient to disturbance, thereby driving even more loss of species than would otherwise have occurred under a natural ecological regime. This phenomenon illustrates the unprecedented challenges biodiversity faces today.
It follows the recent COP27 climate change summit in Egypt, where the resulting agreement was inadequate to deal with the global climate crisis.
We hope our findings will, in future, help governments identify which policies will lead to fewer extinctions.
For example, if we manage to achieve a lower carbon-emissions pathway that limits global warming to less than 3℃ by the end of this century, we could limit biodiversity loss to “only” 13%. This would translate into saving thousands of species from disappearing.
Clearly, humanity has so far underestimated its true impacts on the diversity of life on Earth. Without major changes, we stand to lose much of what sustains our planet.
Climate change has been accumulating slowly but relentlessly for decades. The changes might sound small when you hear about them – another tenth of a degree warmer, another centimeter of sea level rise – but seemingly small changes can have big effects on the world around us, especially regionally.
The problem is that while effects are small at any time, they accumulate. Those effects have now accumulated to the point where their influence is contributing to damaging heat waves, drought and rainfall extremes that can’t be ignored.
The most recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is more emphatic than ever: Climate change, caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels, is having damaging effects on the climate as we know it, and those effects are rapidly getting worse.
Earth’s energy imbalance
An excellent example of how climate change accumulates is Earth’s energy imbalance. I am a climate scientist and have a new book on this about to be published by Cambridge University Press.
The Sun bombards Earth with a constant stream of about 173,600 terawatts (that is 12 zeros) of energy in the form of solar radiation. About 30% of that energy is reflected back into space by clouds and reflective surfaces, like ice and snow, leaving 122,100 terawatts to drive all the weather and climate systems around us, including the water cycle. Almost all of that energy cycles back to space – except for about 460 TW.
That remaining 460 TW is the problem we’re facing. That excess energy, trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is heating up the planet. That is the Earth’s energy imbalance, or in other words, global warming.
In comparison with the natural flow of energy through the climate system, 460 TW seems small – it’s only a fraction of 1 percent. Consequently, we cannot go outside and feel the extra energy. But the heat accumulates, and it is now having consequences.
To put that in perspective, the total amount of electricity generated worldwide in 2018 was about 2.6 TW. If you look at all energy used around the world, including for heat, industry and vehicles, it’s about 19.5 TW. Earth’s energy imbalance is huge in comparison.
Interfering with the natural flow of energy through the climate system is where humans make their mark. By burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and releasing greenhouse gases in other ways, humans are sending gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere that trap more of that incoming energy rather than letting it radiate back out.
Before the first industries began burning large amounts of fossil fuels in the 1800s, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was estimated at around 280 parts per million of volume. In 1958, when Dave Keeling began measuring atmospheric concentrations at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, that level was 310 parts per million. Today, those values have climbed to about 415 parts per million, a 48% increase.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and increased amounts cause heating. In this case, the human increment is not small.
Where does the extra energy go?
Measurements over time show that over 90% of this extra energy is going into the oceans, where it causes the water to expand and sea level to rise.
The upper layer of the oceans started warming around the 1970s. By the early 1990s, heat was reaching 500 to 1,000 meters (1,640 to 3,280 feet) deep. By 2005, it was heating the ocean below 1,500 meters (nearly 5,000 feet).
Global sea level, measured by flights and satellites, was rising at a rate of about 3 millimeters per year from 1992 to 2012. Since then, it been increasing at about 4 millimeters a year. In 29 years, it has risen over 90 millimeters (3.5 inches).
If 3.5 inches doesn’t sound like much, talk to the coastal communities that exist a few feet above sea level. In some regions, these effects have led to chronic sunny day flooding during high tides, like Miami, San Francisco and Venice, Italy. Coastal storm surges are higher and much more destructive, especially from hurricanes. It’s an existential threat to some low-lying island nations and a growing expense for U.S. coastal cities.
Some of that extra energy, about 13 terawatts, goes into melting ice. Arctic sea ice in summer has decreased by over 40% since 1979. Some excess energy melts land ice, such as glaciers and permafrost on Greenland, Antarctica, which puts more water into the ocean and contributes to sea level rise.
Some energy penetrates into land, about 14 TW. But as long as land is wet, a lot of energy cycles into evapotranspiration – evaporation and transpiration in plants – which moistens the atmosphere and fuels weather systems. It is when there is a drought or during the dry season that effects accumulate on land, through drying and wilting of plants, raising temperatures and greatly increasing risk of heat waves and wildfire.
Consequences of more heat
Over oceans, the extra heat provides a tremendous resource of moisture for the atmosphere. That becomes latent heat in storms that supersizes hurricanes and rainstorms, leading to flooding, as people in many parts of the world have experienced in recent months.
Air can contain about 4% more moisture for every 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.55 Celsius) increase in temperature, and air above the oceans is some 5% to 15% moister than it was prior to 1970. Hence, about a 10% increase in heavy rain results as storms gather the excess moisture.
Again, this may not sound like much, but that increase enlivens the updrafts and the storms, and then the storm lasts longer, so suddenly there is a 30% increase in the rainfall, as has been documented in several cases of major flooding.
In Mediterranean climates, characterized by long, dry summers, such as in California, eastern Australia and around the Mediterranean, the wildfire risk grows, and fires can be readily triggered by natural sources, like dry lightning, or human causes.
Extreme events in weather have always occurred, but human influences are now pushing them outside their previous limits.
The straw that breaks the camel’s back syndrome
So, while all weather events are driven by natural influences, the impacts are greatly magnified by human-induced climate change. Hurricanes cross thresholds, levees break and floods run amok. Elsewhere, fires burn out of control, things break and people die.
I call it “The straw that breaks the camel’s back syndrome.” This is extreme nonlinearity, meaning the risks aren’t rising in a straight line – they’re rising much faster, and it confounds economists who have greatly underestimated the costs of human-induced climate change.
The result has been far too little action both in slowing and stopping the problems, and in planning for impacts and building resilience – despite years of warnings from scientists. The lack of adequate planning means we all suffer the consequences.
[The Conversation’s science, health and technology editors pick their favorite stories.Weekly on Wednesdays.]
Geneva, 13 September 2022 (WMO) – Climate science is clear: we are heading in the wrong direction, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which highlights the huge gap between aspirations and reality. Without much more ambitious action, the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating, it warns.
The report, United in Science, shows that greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to record highs. Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns. The ambition of emissions reduction pledges for 2030 needs to be seven times higher to be in line with the 1.5 °C goal of the Paris Agreement
The past seven years were the warmest on record. There is a 48% chance that, during at least one year in the next 5 years, the annual mean temperature will temporarily be 1.5°C higher than 1850-1900 average. As global warming increases, “tipping points” in the climate system can not be ruled out.
CLIMATE change and fuel poverty campaigners are set to demonstrate in London on Satuday after the country endured searing high temperatures this week.
It comes as the High Court ruled that the government broke its own climate change laws by failing to properly assess its net zero policies.
Climate activists from across the country are planning dozens of “swarm” marches from various meeting points across London, converging at Parliament Square for a symbolic mass sit-down.
The demonstration, jointly organised by Just Stop Oil, Fuel Poverty Action and the Peace and Justice Project under the banner of We All Want to Just Stop Oil, will then gather in a park for a picnic and small discussion groups.
Protesters are demanding no new oil projects, the taxation of big polluters and billionaires, an end to families having to choose between heating and eating, more insulation for homes and cheap public transport.
A short series of statements that recognises the current urgency and absolute primacy of the climate crisis. May be revised or corrected. Undecided how this series will go. Away njoio over the weekend (no not Glastonbury).
Let’s get this clear from the outset: I represent nobody except myself. Despite supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s UK Labour party I have never been a member of the Labour party. I may have briefly been a member of SERA (Socialist, Environment and Resources Association) approximately 40 years ago while I was an active anti-nuclear activist. SERA was and continues to be closely associated with the Labour party.
I have been publishing inconsistently on the internet since 1998 or 1999 and I am certainly amoung the earliest bloggers. I have a portfolio of posts and articles that establishes me a competent and accomplished blogger, journalist or political activist – whatever I am. I warned of climate crisis online – from memory – in 1999.
Politicians encounter problems addressing the climate crisis because of 1. the short-termism inherent in contemporary politics and 2. the huge influence of climate crisis deniers on them.
Politicians are typically elected for terms of four or five years. They are concerned with one or at most two terms only by which time they will have lost power to the opposition.
I have difficulties comprehending climate change deniers. Perhaps I understand it in the ignoramus US resident Donald Trump.
Climate crisis activist protocol says stay positive, promote the notion that climate crisis can be averted. I am breaking with that protocol. I believe that the tipping point has been passed, that climate change has now acquired it’s own frightening dynamic. Apologies for saying this to those of you who have children.
10/7/19 There’s an issue with normally intelligent people having minds closed to the state we’re in. I’m talking in terms of the world having been destroyed, having passed tipping points that develop their own frightening dynamic. Their minds are closed and they cannot contemplate the state we’re in.
The long-awaited climate-emergency post. I have taken some time to decide what’s necessary to say. This post may be revised and expanded but the main points will remain.
Climate change, the climate emergency or crisis is a fact. The poles are melting, sea levels are rising, seas are turning to acid, polar bears and penguins have nowhere to live. It’s taken repeated record temperatures and a little girl for it to be accepted such was the power of climate denial.
Political parties that deny climate change – right-wing parties like UKIP and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party “In terms of policy, there’s no difference (to UKIP)…” are sucking up to the ultra-rich showing that they present no threat to their interests. ed: many prominent Brexiteers are climate change enthusiasts.
It is safe to assume that the World’s plants and animals do not have a concept of ownership. They do however have as much right to live, to exist. The rich do not own the planet and do not have the right to destroy it.
Unless you’re filthy rich, it’s unlikely whatever you do is going to make any noticeable difference. It is the rich who have superyachts and private jets. It is the rich who fly abroad for meals. It is the rich who travel with entourages. It is the rich that own private islands.
There is an exception – a secondary lesser class of human that is climate-dirty: those who travel a great deal especially those that commute by airplane. People who fly regularly are climate-dirty.
A wider issue: the rich are in charge. Wars are conducted at their behest and for their benefit. The whole bullshit narrative of terrorism and consequent anti-Muslim racism is for them. It is their bullshit narrative to divide and control, to weild their influence. There is one main nation-state behind terrorist attacks, often aided by another one or two nation-states with police and intelligence agencies playing along with it, turning a blind eye. Terrorist attacks are often timed for political objectives of no advantage to Islamists. You have to be really stupid to believe that a disabled old man could achieve so much from a cave in Afghanistan and that it didn’t provide the excuse for yet another war for the dirty black stuff.
edit: I am aware that I have power and influence which I tend to regard as transitory and temporary. The climate emergency is a big deal and I am laying the blame exactly where it belongs.
later: I need to write about corporate climate destruction while this post is about lifestyle climate destruction. Corporate solar exploration appears particularly futile and climate destructive. Trips to outer space for the rich? ed: It’s space tourism for the rich to further destroy the planet.