Autumn is a transitional season. It is generally a time when the heat of summer fades away and the chill of winter gradually returns. But, as our climate changes, the season is heating up.
Across the contiguous United States, autumn temperatures have increased an average of 2.5°F over the past fifty years, according to Climate Central. The western part of the country has seen the fastest seasonal increase, with Reno, NV warming 7.7°F. Las Vegas, NV, and El Paso, TX have each seen a rise of more than 5°F since 1970.
These warmer temperatures may feel like a summer bonus for some, but they also bring a number of negative impacts. Less frost-free days means the allergy season is extended and disease-carrying pests like mosquitos and ticks are able to live and thrive longer. Warmer temperatures also drive up energy bills, as people with air conditioning units use them longer into the season. This in turn, if they are powered by fossil fuels, adds even more heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Wildlife is also feeling the effects of a warming fall. The timing of when fruits ripen, for example, is being skewed from its “normal schedule”. In turn, this is impacting the once well-synced patterns of animal behaviors such as bird migration and hibernation.
Looking ahead, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, so too will the temperature and its associated impacts.
Credit: Climate Central
It is hard to believe, but today marks the eighth anniversary of The Weather Gamut.
Initially begun as a way to deepen and share my knowledge about weather and climate change, this blog has allowed me to expand on my interests and concerns in ways that I never thought possible. This past year, I gave a variety of presentations on creative climate communication and was invited to share my climate-related artwork in several exhibitions around the world.
Producing this blog has been an interesting journey that has taught me a great deal about the science of weather and climate as well as the art of writing. It has also put me in touch with many wonderful people working in this fascinating field. I am grateful for all their support and encouragement.
As always, thank you for reading!
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially began at 7:50 UTC, which is 3:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
The astronomical seasons, as opposed to the meteorological seasons, are a product of Earth’s axial tilt – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the autumn months, the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. This position distributes the sun’s energy equally between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Since the summer solstice in June, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been sinking and daylight hours have been decreasing. Today, the sun appears directly overhead at the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.
Transitioning from summer to winter, autumn is also a season of falling temperatures. According to NOAA, the average high temperature in most US cities drops about 10°F between September and October.
Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA
Climate Week NYC begins on Monday. This annual event is taking place alongside the UN Climate Action Summit, the theme of which is “A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.”
Organized by The Climate Group, the week-long event brings together leaders from a variety of sectors, including government, business, and non-profit organizations, to discuss solutions to climate change. Their overall goal is to accelerate climate action and limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Public events to raise awareness and support of the summit’s mission are scheduled all around the city. They range in style from panel discussions and seminars to concerts and exhibitions. One early event taking place this Saturday is the “Our Future Festival”, which has been organized by the NYC Chapter of the Climate Reality Project. For the full program of events, go to the Climate Week website.
Credit: The Climate Group
Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. August 2019 marked not only Earth’s second warmest August, but also closed out the planet’s second warmest June-August season on record.
According to the State of the Climate Report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for August – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.76°F, which is 1.66°F above the 20th-century average. This August also marked the 416th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.
The three-month period of June, July, and August – meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere – was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.67°F above the 20th century average of 60.1°F. That makes it the second warmest such period on record. It is also important to note that nine of the ten warmest June-August periods have all occurred since 2009.
While heat dominated most of the planet this August, some places were particularly warm, including Europe, Africa, and parts of Hawaii and Alaska. For the contiguous US as a whole, August 2019 tied August 1955 as the 13th warmest on record.
These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. As greenhouse gases continue to spew into the atmosphere, global temperatures are expected to continue to rise.
Year to date, the first eight months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. At this point, it is very likely that 2019 will finish among the top five warmest years ever recorded. Global temperature records date back to 1880.
Art and science have come together at the New York Hall of Science to highlight the fascinating world of weather. In a group exhibition titled Weather the Weather, artworks of various mediums explore the different ways we understand and experience the forces of nature.
Curated by Marnie Benney, this SciArt Initiative exhibition features the work of twenty-one artists from around the world. Honored to be one of them, images from my American Glaciers: Going, Going, Gone and Wildfires series are on display.
The exhibition will be on view from September 10, 2019 through January 10, 2020 at The New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street, Queens, NY. For hours, directions, and a list of associated events visit www.nysci.org
Icebergs break off from Portage Glacier, AK. Credit: Melissa Fleming
There are a variety of indicators that show our climate is changing, including increasing average temperatures, melting glaciers, and sea-level rise. Nevertheless, it is extreme events, such as record heat, that usally garner the most attention.
Around the globe, the number of record high temperatures are out-numbering record low temperatures. In the US, according to an analysis by the AP, record warm days have out-paced record cold days by a ratio of 2:1 since 1999. This is a clear sign of our climate is shifting to a “new normal”.
In a stable climate, record highs and lows would be more balanced, with the ratio being closer to 1:1.
While climate change is a global phenomenon, we can see it playing out at a local scale. Here in New York City, we still get the occasional cold snap in winter, but the record highs have been outpacing the record lows for decades.
Credit: Climate Central
August 2019 was another month of noticeable temperature swings in New York City. Highs ranged from an unseasonably cool 74°F to a balmy 90°F. In the end, however, the extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 75.5°F, which is only 0.3°F above average.
In terms of precipitation, the city was unusually dry. Overall, eleven out thirty-one days posted measurable rainfall that added up to only 3.70 inches for the month. Of those eleven days, two produced strong storms that delivered more than an inch of rain each. This was the first time since March that the city received below-average rainfall. New York City, on average, gets 4.44 inches for the month.
Credit: The Weather Gamut