Why Heavy Rain Events are Becoming More Common

Torrential rain events and the flooding they cause are nothing new. Global warming, however, is helping to make them more likely.

Heavy rainfall trends in NYC. Credit: Climate Central

According to the most recent National Climate Assessment, heavy precipitation events have increased in both frequency and intensity across the United States. While there are seasonal variations with different regions, the greatest increases have been observed in the northeast.

Climate scientists attribute this increase in heavy precipitation to our warming world. As greenhouse gases warm 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%. That means there is more evaporation from oceans, rivers, and lakes, and therefore more water vapor available to condense and fall as precipitation.

Heavy rain events have a number of consequences, including an increased risk of both flash floods and river floods. This, in turn, is a threat to life and property. Over the long-term, it also affects insurance rates and property values. According to NOAA, individual billion-dollar flooding events (excluding tropical cyclones) in the U.S. have added up to $39 billion in losses since 2010.

As our global temperature continues to rise, experts say we should expect to see more extreme rain events, even in areas where overall precipitation is projected to decrease. In other words, when it rains, it will likely pour.

Downpours have been getting more frequent and intense across the US. Credit: Climate Central and NCA4

Speaking Event: The Art and Science of Climate Change

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 critical issue that affects us all.

On Saturday, April 7, I will be giving a presentation titled, The Art and Science of Climate Change, at the Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh, NY. Blending my two passions, it introduces the basic science of climate change and explores how artists from around the globe are reacting to its various impacts and possible solutions.

Currently on view in the gallery is Anthropocene, a group exhibition in which I am showing pieces from my Under Glass series. Curated by Virginia Walsh, the show has been well covered in the press, including a blog post on Climate You and a nine page feature in Issues in Science and Technology, a magazine published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

If you are in the area, please stop in and say hello. The program begins at 2PM and it is also the final day of the exhibition. The Ann Street Gallery is located at 104 Ann Street, Newburgh, NY.

“Memory: 41 years” is on view in the Anthropocene exhibit. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Earth Posts 11th Warmest Feb and 5th Warmest Dec-Feb Season on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. February 2018 marked not only the eleventh warmest February on record, but also closed out the planet’s fifth warmest December – February season.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for February – over both land and sea surfaces – was 55.07°F, which is 1.17°F above the 20th-century average. This February also marked the 398th 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 December, January, and February – meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere – was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.31°F above the 20th century average of 53.8°F. That makes it the fifth warmest such period on record.

While heat dominated most of the planet this season, some places were particularly warm, including Alaska, northern Russia, and parts of the Middle East. Here in the contiguous US, this winter ranked among warmest third of the nation’s 124-year period of record.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. In fact, La Niña conditions – the cool counterpart of El Niño – were present in the Pacific during all three months of the season.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

The Dec 2017- Feb 2018 season was the planet’s 5th warmest on record. Credit: NOAA

“Anthropocene”: A Look at Climate Change Through the Arts

Art and science are coming together at the Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh, NY to expand the public conversation on climate change. In a group exhibition called Anthropocene, artworks of various mediums explore the diverse impacts of this pressing issue.

In choosing Anthropocene as a title, the show highlights the fact that humans are the major cause of the Earth’s current transformation. The word, modeled on the names of geologic epochs, is widely used to describe the age we live in today where human activity is the dominant influence on the environment.

Curated by Virginia Walsh, the show features the work of: Darcie Abbatiello, Michael Asbill, Brigitte Amarger, Caitlin Cass, Reenie Charriere, Mariah Conner, Michael Fishcherkeller, Susan Fishman, Melissa Fleming, Stephanie Garon, Helen Glazer, Eloisa Guanlao, Colleen Keough, Dakotah Konicek, Rena Leinberger, Jonathan Barry Marquis, Gregory Martin, Daniel W. Miller, Sarah Misra, Itty Neuhaus, Maye Osborne, Elaine Quave, Jamie Rodriguez, John Shlichta, Gianna Stewart, and Uros Weinberger.

Anthropocene is on view from February 24 through April 7. The Ann Street Gallery is located at 104 Ann Street, Newburgh, NY. Gallery hours:
Wednesday – Thursday: 9 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:30 PM to 4 PM
Friday – Saturday: 11 AM to 5 PM

The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, February 24th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.

“Energy: 300 Million Years” by Melissa Fleming is one of the pieces in the show. Credit: Melissa Fleming

 

January 2018: Earth’s Fifth Warmest on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with January 2018 marking the fifth warmest January ever recorded on this planet. The last four Januarys now rank among the five warmest on record.

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 54.88°F. That is 1.28°F above the 20th-century average. January was also the 397th 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 this January, some places were particularly warm, including the western half of the United States and most of Europe. For the contiguous US as a whole, January ranked among warmest third of the nation’s 124-year period of record.

Coming on the heels of 2017 – Earth’s third warmest year on record and warmest year without an El Niño – these soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. In fact, La Niña conditions – the cool counterpart of El Niño – were present in the Pacific during January.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

January 2018 was the planet’s 5th warmest January on record. Credit: NOAA

The Outlook for the Winter Olympics in a Warming World

Millions of American are tuning in to watch the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and one of the ads they are seeing features a strong message on sustainability from Toyota. Showing ice sculptures of athletes melting, the company is promoting their hybrid vehicles and says it wants “to help keep our winters, winter”. It is a poignant and timely message as our global temperature warms and the viability of many previous Winter Olympic host sites is declining.

Since the first winter games were held in 1924, the month of February – the traditional time of year for this global event – has increased an average of 1.82°F worldwide. If this current rate of warming continues, according to Climate Matters, only 6 of the 19 past host sites will be reliable future venues by the end of the century. Under a business as usual scenario, previous host cities, on average, are expected to see a temperature increase of 7.9°F by the 2080s. Significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions would reduce that warming to 4.86°F

Warming winters also affect athletes’ ability to train. In the US, NOAA says winter temperatures have increased almost twice the rate of summer temperatures. If this trend continues, some areas are likely to see the ski season cut in half by 2050. This truncated season correspondingly means an economic hit for the winter sports and recreation industry. These businesses, according to Protect Our Winters, contribute $72 billion to the national economy annually and support more than 600,000 jobs.

The 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia were the warmest winter games on record.

Credit: Climate Central

Art and Climate Change: “In Human Time”

The inaugural exhibition of The Climate Museum in New York City has brought art and science together in an effort to expand public understanding of climate change. 

“In Human Time” explores the intersections of polar ice, timescales, and human perception. Installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design (the museum is looking for a permanent home), the exhibit is divided into two parts. The first of which (December 20 – January 15) displayed Zaria Forman’s large-scale image, Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 4. Depicting calved glacial ice grounded in shallow water, it could easily be mistaken for a photograph captured in an instant. However, a time-lapse video alongside the piece reveals it to be a pastel drawing created by hand over many weeks.

Ice Cores. Credit: Peggy Weil

The second part of the exhibition (January 19 – February 11) focuses on the Arctic and highlight’s Peggy Weil’s 88 Cores. This slow-paced video is essentially one continuous pan that takes the viewer nearly two miles down into the Greenland ice sheet and more than 100,000 years back in time. Photographs of ice cores as well as artifacts and media that offer a science context to the Arctic ice accompany the artwork.

“The Climate Museum’s mission,” according to its website, “ is to employ the sciences, art, and design to inspire dialogue and innovation that address the challenges of climate change, moving solutions to the center of our shared public life and catalyzing broad community engagement.”

The exhibition is on view through February 11, 2018, at :
The Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons School of Design
66 Fifth Avenue, New York City

For more information, visit http://climatemuseum.org/home

“Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 4″, Pastel on Paper, 84″x144”. Credit: Zaria Forman.

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record for Planet and the Warmest Year Without an El Niño

It is official, 2017 was the third warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015 and 2016 were warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.51°F. That is a staggering 1.51°F above the 20th-century average.

2017 also marked the 41st consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any year posted a below average reading was 1976.

While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our third warmest year on record.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2017 was the warmest year on record without an El Niño being present in the Pacific. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Three of those years – 2014, 2015, and 2016 – were back-to-back record breakers. As greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2017 was the third warmest year on record for our planet. Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record in US

2017 was the third-warmest year ever recorded in the continental United States. Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer.

The average annual temperature of the lower 48 states, according to a report by NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 54.6°F. That is 2.6°F above the 20th-century average. 2017 also marked the 21st consecutive year that the annual average temperature for the contiguous US was above its long-term norm. That means the last time the US had a normal to below normal annual temperature was 1996.

From coast to coast, for the third year in a row, every state posted an above-average annual temperature. Five states – Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina – had their warmest year on record. This was despite the unusually cold conditions that dominated the eastern part of the country in December.

The year was also notable for its unusual number of weather and climate disasters that each totaled more than $1 billion in damages. In all, sixteen such events collectively caused $306 billion in direct costs – a new US record. Sadly, they also claimed the lives of at least 362 people across the country. These incidents included drought, wildfire, floods, severe storms, and three major landfalling hurricanes.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 was independent of El Niño. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.

Credit: NOAA

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 well 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 vital issue that affects us all.

On Tuesday, January 9, I will be giving a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin, Texas. The theme of this year’s conference is “Transforming Communication in the Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise“.

Building on my previous interdisciplinary art-science projects, this talk will review the results of a recent national survey that shows how art can help to broaden the public conversation on climate change. It will also highlight specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

Credit: AMS