Summer Nights are Getting Warmer Across the US

Summer is the time of year when warm temperatures are expected. As our climate changes, however, the season is getting even hotter, especially at night.

Since 2010, according to NOAA, there have been 34% more record-warm low temperatures set than record-warm high temperatures. Nationally, summertime lows have increased an average of 1.8°F since 1895, according to an analysis by Climate Central, a nonprofit science news organization. The southwestern part of the country has seen the greatest warming, with Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada showing an increase of 16.9°F and 9.1°F respectively. Not far behind are El Paso, Texas at 7.7°F and Salt Lake City, Utah at 6.6°F.

In addition to climate change, land use issues also play a role in our warming nights. Paved surfaces hold more heat than vegetated ones, so cities tend to be hotter than rural areas, particularly during the overnight hours. This is known as the urban heat island effect.

When temperatures do not significantly cool off at night, people do not get a chance to recover from the heat of the day. This can cause serious health concerns, especially for young children, the sick, and the elderly. Warmer nights also drive up energy bills, as people with air conditioning units use them more. This in turn, if they are powered by fossil fuels, adds even more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Credit: Climate Central

June 2019: Warmest June on Record for Planet Earth

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with June 2019 marking the warmest June ever recorded on this planet.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.61°F. That is a staggering 1.71°F above the 20th-century average and 0.04°F above the previous record that was set in 2016.

June 2019 also marked the 414th 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. Furthermore, nine of the ten warmest Junes have occurred since 2010. June 1998 is the only year from the last century on the top ten list and currently ranks eighth.

While heat dominated most of the planet this June, some places were particularly warm, including Europe, parts Russia and South America, as well as Alaska. In fact, Europe posted its warmest June on record and Alaska had its second warmest June since statewide record-keeping began there in 1925.

For the contiguous US as a whole, this June was close to average and ranked in the middle third of the national record. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves long-term trends more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first six months of 2019 tied with the first half of 2017 as the second 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 on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

June 2019: Earth’s Warmest June on Record. Credit: NOAA

Swamped by Barry, Arkansas Sets New State Tropical Rainfall Record

Hurricane Barry made headlines for making landfall in Louisiana over the weekend, but its torrential rain made history Arkansas this week.

According to the NWS, the remnants of the moisture-laden storm dumped 16.59 inches of rain in Dierks, Arkansas, setting a new tropical rainfall record for the state. The previous record of 13.91 was set in Portland, AR during Tropical Storm Allison in 1989.

Arkansas is the fifth state to set a new tropical rainfall record in the last two years. The other four include Texas, Hawaii, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

These types of extreme rain events have been happening more frequently in recent years and most experts see a link to climate change. As the atmosphere and oceans warm, storms are able to carry more moisture, and therefore drop more rain.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

“Warming Stripes”: The Colors of Climate Change

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. That is the case with “Warming Stripes”, a creative visualization of climate data by Ed Hawkins, a scientist at the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Painting a picture of our changing climate, each stripe represents a single year from 1850 through the present. With an aesthetic similar to color field paintings by artists such as Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko, the images use only color to communicate meaning. Simplifying a complex issue for maximum impact with the general public, they avoid distracting details and focus on the big picture.

In “Warming Stripes for the Globe” (see below), it is plain to see the shift from blue (cooler) on the left to red (warmer) on the right. While there were a few warm years here and there in the past, the overall trend clearly shows temperatures are getting warmer. It is also important to note that the red has been getting darker (hotter) in recent years.

To see how the warming trend is playing out on a more regional or local level in different parts of the world, visit www.showyourstripes.info

“Warming Stripes for Globe, 1850-2018”. Credit: Ed Hawkins

Summers are Getting Hotter in the US

Summer is the warmest part of the year with high sun angles and long daylight hours. But, as our climate changes, the season is getting even hotter.

Across the contiguous United States, summer temperatures have increased an average of more than 2°F over the past fifty years, according to Climate Central, a non-profit science news organization. The western and southwestern parts of the country have seen the fastest seasonal increase, with places like Boise, ID, Las Vegas, NV, and McAllen, TX each warming more than 5°F since 1970.

Soaring temperatures can pose a risk to human health and cause energy costs to skyrocket as people try to beat the heat.  They can also lead to drought and threaten agricultural production.

Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing the atmosphere to warm, can minimize many of these impacts. On a local level, adaptation measures are also important. In urban areas, which tend to heat up quickly, planting more trees can help keep neighborhoods cooler during the increasingly intense heat of the summer months.

Credit: Climate Central

Earth Posts 4th Warmest May and 2nd Warmest March-May Season on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. May 2019 marked not only Earth’s fourth warmest May but also closed out the planet’s second warmest March-May 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 May – over both land and sea surfaces – was 60.13°F, which is 1.53°F above the 20th-century average. This May also marked the 413th 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 March, April, and May – meteorological spring in the northern hemisphere – was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.73°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F. That makes it the second warmest such period on record. It is also important to note that the five warmest March-May periods have all occurred since 2015.

While heat dominated most of the planet this season, some places were particularly warm, including Alaska and western Canada. For the contiguous US as a whole, this spring was close to average and ranked in the middle third of the national record.

To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first five months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Credit: NOAA

Climate Communication: Art Helps Build Political Will for Change

The Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) is taking place this week in Vancouver, Canada. Organized by the International Environmental Communication Association, the theme of this year’s event is “Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication.”

Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. It looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.

From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.

While environmental issues have changed over the years, so has technology and the way we relate to images. As such, this presentation also poses questions about what form of art will reach the most people and motivate them to speak up on climate change today.

Credit: IECA

May 2019: Second Wettest Month on Record for US

When it rains, it pours! This old adage was proven to be true last month. With national weather data dating back to 1895, May 2019 was the second wettest month ever recorded in the contiguous United States. Only May 2015 was wetter.

According to NOAA, an average of 4.41 inches of rain fell across the lower 48 states, which is 1.50 inches above average. Heavy precipitation was reported from the West Coast through the Mid-West, and into parts of the Northeast. Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri each experienced their wettest May on record.

This relentless rain caused deadly and destructive flooding in several states along the Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers.

While there were a number of factors that contributed to May’s excessive rainfall, including El Nino, climate change also likely played a part.  As the National Climate Assessment points out, heavy precipitation events are increasing in both frequency and intensity across the United States as the atmosphere warms.

As greenhouse gases heat the atmosphere, the air is able to hold more water vapor. More specifically, according to the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, for every increase of 1°F, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%. In other words, warmer temperatures lead to more evaporation from oceans, rivers, and lakes, and therefore more water vapor is available to condense and fall as precipitation.

Sadly, with our global temperature continuing to rise, experts say we should expect to see more extreme rain and flooding events in the future.

Credit: NOAA

Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers

Climate change is a complex scientific subject with a plethora of data-rich reports that detail its causation and diverse impacts. However, as important as all that information is, not everyone responds to facts and figures or charts and graphs. That is why art, which taps into human emotion and tells visual stories, can help create new pathways to understanding this global issue.

Marking World Environment Day on June 5, I will be discussing this idea in a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the UN Committee of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT. Blending the qualitative and quantitative, this talk reviews the results of a recent poll that measured the influence climate-art has on people’s opinions and highlights specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

As the famous scientist, Lord Kelvin, said, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” If that is true, then art has an important role to play in helping to broaden the public conversation on climate change.

Credit: Melissa Fleming/The Weather Gamut

April 2019: Earth’s Second Warmest April on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with April 2019 marking the second warmest April ever recorded on this planet. Only April 2016 was warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.37°F. That is 1.67°F above the 20th-century average. April was also the 412th 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.

While heat dominated most of the planet in April, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Greenland, Scandinavia, and Asia. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change.

For many people in the contiguous US, especially in the northern and central parts of the country, this April was relatively cool. To put this disparity into context, consider that the United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail also highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather conditions that are happening in any one part of the world.

Year to date, the first four months of 2019 were the third warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

April 2019 was Earth’s second warmest April on record. Credit: NOAA