U.N. Climate Summit

A one-day climate summit was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City yesterday ahead of the 69th General Assembly. Convened by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General and participant in Sunday’s Climate March, it drew more than one hundred heads of state from around the world to discuss ways to mitigate climate change.

Speeches by dozens of dignitaries covered topics ranging from scientific findings to current and planned climate actions. After listing a variety of extreme weather events that have impacted the US recently, President Obama declared, “The climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it.”  He went on to say, “There should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it.”  He pointed out his administration’s new E.P.A. regulation to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

President Obama also urged other countries to take action, saying, “We can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.” He specifically called on China to join the US in leading this effort. The US and China are world’s two largest economies and largest carbon polluters.

The current international goal is to limit global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions are not quickly and significantly reduced, the planet’s atmosphere could warm beyond that tipping point very soon. As the IPCC’s report on the Impacts and Vulnerabilities of Climate Change points out, a warmer world means more extreme weather events like droughts and floods, higher amounts of sea level rise, a decrease in the availability of fresh water, and even food shortages around the world.

While a number of encouraging pledges were made at yesterday’s summit by a wide variety of countries, the real test will come next year at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. The objective there will be a legally binding global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

United States President Barack Obama addresses the Climate Summit, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/R. Drew)

US President Barack Obama addresses the UN Climate Summit in NYC.                                                   Image Credit: AP Photo/R. Drew.

Summer 2014: Warmest on Record for Planet Earth

Looking back at the summer of 2014, temperatures across most of the eastern United States were relatively moderate. Globally, however, it was a record warm season.

According to a recent report from NOAA, the meteorological summer of 2014 (June, July and August) was the warmest summer ever recorded on this planet. Earth’s combined average temperature for the season – over both land and sea surfaces – was 62.78°F. That is 1.28°F above the 20th century average.  The previous record was set in 1998.

Rising ocean temperatures, according to NOAA, helped fuel the season’s record warmth. Between June and August, the global ocean surface temperature was the highest ever recorded for the three month period at 1.13°F above average.

While the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming overall, this summer’s temperature anomalies (both above and below average) highlight the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than what is happening in our own backyards.

Year to date, according to the report, 2014 is currently the Earth’s third warmest year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.



Celebrating Third Blogiversary

Three years ago today, I started writing The Weather Gamut. I did so in an effort to both deepen and share my knowledge about weather and climate change. In the process, I have met some wonderful people with similar interests and concerns. Looking ahead, I am excited to continue this rewarding journey.

As always, thank you for reading!


Autumnal Equinox 2014

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially begins at 02:29 UTC, which is 10:29 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

The astronomical seasons are a product of the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. Today, as fall begins, 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 daily passage across our sky has been moving southward and daylight hours have been decreasing. Today, it crossed the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.

As a transitional season, autumn is a time when the heat of summer fades away and the chill of winter gradually returns. The largest drop in average temperature, however, usually lags the equinox by a few weeks.


Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA


The Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun on the Equinox.                   Image Credit: NASA

Massive Turnout for the People’s Climate March in NYC

More than 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March. Calling for action on climate change, organizers say it was one of the largest environmental demonstrations ever held.

From scientists to activists to parents concerned for the future of their children, this massive grassroots event attracted people from across the country and around the world. It even included some boldface political names like former U.S. Vice President Al Gore (founder of the Climate Reality Project), NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as high profile environmentalists like Jane Goodall and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The message of this enormous rally was aimed at the more than 120 heads of state that will be attending the U.N. Climate Summit this Tuesday in NYC.  The summit is an effort to mobilize political will ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris next year where the objective is a binding global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

Demonstrators making their down Sixth Ave in mid-town Manhattan during the People's Climate March.  Image Credit: Fox News/AP

Demonstrators making their down Sixth Ave in mid-town Manhattan during the People’s Climate March.  Image Credit: Fox News/AP

Climate Week NYC 2014

Climate Week NYC is back for its sixth year. This global conference brings together leaders from a variety of sectors, including business, government, and non-profits to discuss ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

Organizers say this year’s conference will also serve as a “collaborative space for all related events in support of the U.N. Climate Summit”, which convenes in New York City on Tuesday, September 23rd.  Together, the two summits aim to bring “climate change back to the top of the world agenda.”

Climate Week NYC sessions, which run the gamut from high profile invitation-only meetings to free public events and activities, officially begin on Monday.  In addition, a number of events will take place in advance this weekend, including the People’s Climate March. For a complete schedule, visit: http://www.climateweeknyc.org/events/

Warmest August on Record for Planet Earth

August was fairly seasonable in New York City this year. For the Earth as a whole, however, the average temperature soared to a record high yet again.

According to a report released this week by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, August 2014 was the warmest August ever recorded for the entire planet.  Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.45°F. That is 1.35°F above the 20th century average. August 2014 also marked the 354th consecutive month that our global temperature was above its long-term norm.

Rising ocean temperatures, according to NOAA, helped fuel this record warmth. In fact, the August global sea surface temperature was 1.17°F above its long-term average of 61.4°F. That is the highest for any August on record and the highest departure from average for any month. The previous all-time record high was set just two months ago in June 2014.

Year to date, 2014 is currently the Earth’s third warmest year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.



An Increasing Number of 90° Days in NYC

The summer of 2014, overall, was fairly mild in New York City. We only had 8 days reach 90°F or higher. On average, the city typically gets 15. That said, this was just one season. Looking at long-term trends, the number of 90°F days in the Big Apple has actually been increasing.

The graph below shows the number of 90-degree days recorded in Central Park by the National Weather Service every year from 1870 to 2013. While there has been variability over the years, the trend is clearly on the rise.

To date, the most 90°F days that NYC has ever had in one year was 39. That happened in both 1991 and 1993. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 1902 only had one day hit the 90° mark. Last summer, we made it to 90°F or higher 17 times.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

The number of 90-degree days recorded in Central Park by the NWS every year from 1870 to 2013.  Graph Credit: The Weather Gamut

The Weather of the Future: Forecast for September 2050

In advance of the U.N. Climate Summit later this month, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has launched a video series of hypothetical weather forecasts for different regions of the globe that are all set 36 years in the future. They are meant to show that today’s climate projections could really be tomorrow’s weather. The U.S. version of this project was released today and it focuses on sea level rise, heat waves, drought, and the warming arctic.

Produced by the Weather Channel, the scenarios presented are based on projections published in the latest IPCC report and the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Watch the video below to see what an American weather forecast could look like on the not so distant date of September 23, 2050.

Video Credit: WMO, TWC, and YouTube

The Dew Point Makes a Difference

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” This common refrain heard throughout much of the eastern U.S. in summer refers to how the amount of water vapor in the air affects human comfort. Since the main source of body cooling is evaporation of perspiration, the higher the moisture content of the air, the less evaporation takes place and the warmer we feel. One measure of atmospheric moisture is the dew point temperature.

The dew point, as defined by the NWS, is the temperature to which air must be cooled in order to reach saturation. In other words, the difference between the air temperature and the dew point temperature tells you how much moisture is in the air. The greater the distance between the two, the dryer the air is. Conversely, the closer they are together, the higher the moisture content of the air.

While everyone has a different tolerance for humidity, in summer – when air temperatures tend to be high – a dew point temperature of 50°F is generally considered comfortable. Dew points in the 60s are thought of as muggy and once they reach the 70s or higher, the air can feel down right oppressive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, dew points in the 40s or lower are considered dry. Dry air has its own set of comfort issues, including skin irritations.