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Extremes report 2013: NZ drought and record Aussie heat made worse by warming Gareth Renowden Oct 01

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The latest climate extremes report finds that 9 out of 16 extreme weather events from last year were influenced by climate change. In particular, the conditions that led to New Zealand’s severe North Island drought — the worst for 41 years, estimated to have cost the economy NZ$1.3 billion — were made more likely by the effects of continued warming. Australia’s hottest ever year and run of record-breaking heatwaves also had humanity’s fingerprints all over it. The new research — Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective [pdf] — published as a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is the latest in a series of reports designed to look at weather extremes soon after they happen, and look for signs of the influence of climate change.

The NZ paper, The role of anthropogenic climate change in the 2013 drought over North Island, New Zealand by Luke Harrington, Suzanne Rosier, Sam M. Dean, Stephen Stuart, and Alice Scahill (page s45 in the pdf), finds that a long term trend towards increasing summer high pressure systems over the North Island — seen in climate models as the system warms — has increased the risk of drought substantially.

No fewer than 5 studies in the new report found clear links between Australia’s record-breaking 2013 heat and the influence of human-induced warming, as explained by The Conversation here.

Climate change is already increasing the likelihood of heatwaves occurring in Australia and the temperatures we experience during these heatwaves. Extremely hot months, seasons and years are already more likely in Australia.

This human handprint will likely increase the future risk of extremely warm days, months, season and years in Australia. We will likely also see an increase in the risk of heatwaves and dry conditions acting in combination with heat to produce drought.

A summary of the report’s contents is available from NOAA, Climate Central has a very nice timeline, and The Guardian does it with pictures. Strangely, given the subject matter, only TV3 picked up on the NZ drought link (basing their story on a press release from the Green Party), while the NZ Herald chose to run an AFP story that led with the Aussie heatwaves and only mentioned the NZ drought in passing. Neither NIWA nor VUW chose to issue press releases about the study, despite its obvious newsworthiness and relevance to the NZ agricultural community.

Extremes report 2013: NZ drought and record Aussie heat made worse by warming Gareth Renowden Oct 01

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

The latest climate extremes report finds that 9 out of 16 extreme weather events from last year were influenced by climate change. In particular, the conditions that led to New Zealand’s severe North Island drought — the worst for 41 years, estimated to have cost the economy NZ$1.3 billion — were made more likely by the effects of continued warming. Australia’s hottest ever year and run of record-breaking heatwaves also had humanity’s fingerprints all over it. The new research — Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective [pdf] — published as a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is the latest in a series of reports designed to look at weather extremes soon after they happen, and look for signs of the influence of climate change.

The NZ paper, The role of anthropogenic climate change in the 2013 drought over North Island, New Zealand by Luke Harrington, Suzanne Rosier, Sam M. Dean, Stephen Stuart, and Alice Scahill (page s45 in the pdf), finds that a long term trend towards increasing summer high pressure systems over the North Island — seen in climate models as the system warms — has increased the risk of drought substantially.

No fewer than 5 studies in the new report found clear links between Australia’s record-breaking 2013 heat and the influence of human-induced warming, as explained by The Conversation here.

Climate change is already increasing the likelihood of heatwaves occurring in Australia and the temperatures we experience during these heatwaves. Extremely hot months, seasons and years are already more likely in Australia.

This human handprint will likely increase the future risk of extremely warm days, months, season and years in Australia. We will likely also see an increase in the risk of heatwaves and dry conditions acting in combination with heat to produce drought.

A summary of the report’s contents is available from NOAA, Climate Central has a very nice timeline, and The Guardian does it with pictures. Strangely, given the subject matter, only TV3 picked up on the NZ drought link (basing their story on a press release from the Green Party), while the NZ Herald chose to run an AFP story that led with the Aussie heatwaves and only mentioned the NZ drought in passing. Neither NIWA nor VUW chose to issue press releases about the study, despite its obvious newsworthiness and relevance to the NZ agricultural community.

[Update 2/10: Stuff.co.nz finally covers the story, with quotes from NIWA's Sam Dean.]

The Sixth Extinction Bryan Walker Jun 16

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Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is science journalism of a high order. As with her earlier notable book on climate change, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, she includes lively narrative accounts of her visits to places around the world where scientists are at work and communicates the import of their work with clarity and intelligence. Well-informed background discussions on the general topic of extinction are woven into these narratives, in passages well pitched to the understanding of the general reader. Foreboding though the subject may be the book is a pleasure to read.

The phenomenon of species extinction has only begun to be understood in relatively recent times. Kolbert traces the discussions of the 19th century from the ground-breaking conclusion of Cuvier to the doubting Lyell and finally Darwin, whose theory of evolution necessarily involved the disappearance as well as the emergence of species.

In evolutionary terms the mass extinctions of the distant past are a special case, arising from relatively sudden events for which natural selection over long periods of time had not prepared many of the species which disappeared under the stress of a rapidly changed environment. Kolbert comments on the fact that just as we have recovered the story of these past events and identified five of them we have discovered that we are causing another. Whether it will reach the proportions of the Big Five is not yet known, but the indications are significant enough for it to be called the Sixth Extinction. She notes the estimation that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles , and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion. It’s no small matter.

Sometimes it is perfectly obvious what has caused the disappearance of a species. The Great Auk was simply hunted to final extinction by the 19th century, a fate similar to that of the Moa in New Zealand. The book notes that the disappearance of megafauna such as the mammoth and mastodon is increasingly seen as caused by human killing rather than climate change, though either count gives cause for worry.

Other extinctions or near-extinctions are more mystifying. Kolbert visits Panama to report on the fungus that is killing off large populations of frogs in many countries. She also describes a cold-loving fungus destroying large populations of hibernating bats in the north eastern United States. In the context of the bat chapter she embarks on an extended discussion of introduced and invasive species and their sometimes destructive effects in their new environments.  By transporting species “we are, in effect, reassembling the world into one enormous supercontinent”.

Ocean acidification, global warming’s “equally evil twin”, is occurring at what may well be a record pace in the geological scale of Earth’s history as a consequence of the increased carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Acidification clearly played a significant part in at least two of the Big Five extinctions, and it is difficult to see how the current increases in ocean acidity can avoid serious loss of diversity in sea life.  Kolbert points out that oceans are now 30 percent more acidic than they were in 1800; under a business as usual scenario that will rise to 150 percent this century. The destructive visible effects of a more acid ocean on vulnerable species are described in a visit she makes to a research station on a tiny island near Naples close to a volcanic vent on the seabed.

The profound effect of acidification on coral reefs is highlighted in a chapter describing the author’s stay on a research station on a Great Barrier Reef island where a team headed by climate scientist Ken Caldeira was stationed. A recent paper by Caldeira and members of his team concluded that if current emissions trends continue, within the next fifty years or so “all coral reefs will cease to grow and start to dissolve.” Add the effect of warming oceans to acidification, and the future of coral reefs and all they mean for ocean life looks bleak indeed. Kolbert reports a group of British scientists saying reefs “will be the first ecosystem in the modern era to become ecologically extinct”.

I found myself wondering when reading this chapter what Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, making common cause with Canada’s Stephen Harper as I was writing this review, would make of such judgments. He seems to have dropped ‘crap’ from his climate change vocabulary, but he said recently that he could think of few things more damaging to Australia’s future than leaving coal in the ground and not  selling it. The Great Barrier Reef reduced to rubble looks a great deal more damaging, but I guess Abbott doesn’t read troubling books like Kolbert’s.

Migration or adaptation of finely-adapted species as temperature increases occur is in some cases likely to be essential to survival. One of Kolbert’s chapters tells of her visit to one of the world’s diversity “hot spots”, Manú National Park in Peru. Here she accompanied a forest ecologist Miles Silman who regularly checks the trees in seventeen plots which sit at different elevations and hence have different average annual temperatures. In the diverse world of the park this means that each plot represents a slice of a fundamentally different forest community.

Silman has found that global warming is driving the average genus up the mountain at a rate of two and a half metres per year, though the average masks a range of response. Kolbert points out that global warming is taking place at least ten times faster than it did at the end of the last glaciation, and at the end of all the earlier glaciations. To keep up, organisms will have to migrate, or otherwise adapt, at least ten times more quickly. It’s a big ask and so far in the monitored plots only the most “fleet-footed” trees are keeping pace. How many species overall will be capable of moving fast enough remains an open question, but  one  likely  to be answered within decades. The answer could be devastating.

In conclusion Kolbert faces up to the “transformation of the ecological landscape” for which our species has in many diverse ways already been responsible and which it looks set to continue through felling tropical forests, altering the composition of the atmosphere and acidifying the ocean. We are putting our own survival in danger, for we remain dependent on the earth’s biological and geochemical systems. Kolbert quotes Paul Ehrlich’s memorable words: “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.”

IPCC WG2 impacts report released: fire, floods and rising seas in all our futures Gareth Renowden Mar 31

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After the usual run of late nights and argument, the IPCC has released the second part of its fifth report — the Working Group 2 report on climate impacts and risks management. Commenting on the report, VUW climate scientist Professor Tim Naish said “this latest report makes it quite clear that New Zealand is under-prepared and faces a significant ‘adaptation deficit’ in the context of the projected impacts and risks from global average warming of +2 to 4°C by the end of the century.”

The IPCC identifies eight key regional risks for New Zealand and Australia:

  • significant impacts on coral reefs in Australia as oceans warm and acidify
  • loss of montane ecosystems in Australia, as climate warms and snow lines rise
  • increased frequency of and intensity of flooding in NZ and Australia
  • water resources in Southern Australia will be under increased pressure
  • more intense heatwaves will bring increased death rates and infrastructure damage
  • increasing risks of damaging wildfires in New Zealand and southern Australia
  • increased risks to coastal infrastructure and ecosystems from sea level rise
  • risk of severe drying in parts of Australia could hit agricultural production

For New Zealand, extreme weather events such as flooding and heatwaves are expected to increase in frequency and severity, and rainfall is expected to increase on the already wet west coast and decrease in the east and north east. Sea level rise of up to one metre is expected to cause significant problems for coastal communities.

VUW’s Jim Renwick points to sea level rise as a big issue:

Every 10cm of rise triples the risk of a given inundation event, and we are expecting something like a metre of rise this century. That would mean today’s 1-in-100 year event occurs at least annually at many New Zealand coastal locations. New Zealand has a great deal of valuable property and infrastructure close to the coast that will be increasingly at risk as time goes on.

The Summary for Policymakers of the WG2 report is available here (pdf), and the final draft of the full report can be downloaded from this page. The Australia and New Zealand chapter (25) is here (pdf) and the Small Islands (Ch 29) here (pdf).

A huge amount of coverage of the report’s findings has already hit the net, and there will be more to come. Check out The Guardian‘s take on the five key points in the report, The Conversation’s examination of climate health risks, Graham Readfearn’s commentary on 25 years of IPCC warnings, and Peter Griffin’s look at the prospects for agriculture. I’ll have a post about the NZ political response to the report tomorrow.

It’s hot down here: 2013 was the New Zealand region’s 2nd warmest year Gareth Renowden Jan 06

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NZ temperature expert Jim Salinger has been crunching last year’s data, and this morning confirmed that 2013 was a hot year in the New Zealand region — the second warmest in the long term record, beaten only by 1998. Based on 22 land stations and the three offshore islands, the annual average temperature was 0.84ºC above the 1961–1990 long term average of 12.17°C (1998 was +0.89ºC).

Winter 2013 was the warmest ever recorded, and Masterton, Omarama, Timaru, Invercargill and the Chatham Islands set new annual temperature records. In the last ten years only two years (2004 and 2009) have been cooler than average, and the ten year mean temperature was 0.26ºC above average, the highest on record.

NZ2013Salinger
Source: Jim Salinger

During 2013 the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was in a neutral phase, and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) was negative. According to Salinger, this favours more easterlies and north easterlies when temperatures are above average. Sea surface temperatures were also well above average, especially around the South Island and to the east of the country. Jim is also expecting 2014 to be warm:

ENSO neutral conditions are expected to persist at least until winter 2014, and negative IPO conditions are very likely to persist for the remainder of 2014. These conditions are expected to bring temperatures of +0.2 to +0.6°C above average for the New Zealand region.

Across the Tasman, Australia has just recorded its warmest year since records began — with a remarkable number of heat records being set. Final figures for the annual global average temperature on main terrestrial datasets has yet to be released, but the World Meteorological Organisation expects 2013 to be 6th warmest. A few days ago the University of Alabama in Huntsville revealed that its satellite temperature dataset provisionally put 2013 in 4th place since 1979.

Welcome to the Carbon COP cindy Nov 18

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The Polish National Stadium

The first week here at the climate talks in Warsaw kicked off with the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in a terrible tragedy, brought into the meeting by the country’s lead negotiator Seb Yano, whose fast has been joined by many from civil society. The plight of his people has been a rallying call around the world as we all look at the aftermath of this storm with horror.  Is it a direct result of climate change? What we do know is that the sea surface temps were 1.5degC above normal, and that we can expect more intense cyclones as the earth’s temperature warms.  But  as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth wrote:

“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….”

As we’ve been all walking around in circles of the Polish National Stadium, trying to stay sane, looking at the images from the Philippines and the campaigning by their government to get a stronger outcome, it seems several governments have kept their eyes firmly OFF the ball, instead  taking the opportunity of the occasion to walk away from their commitments. Most notably, Japan.   After warning all year they’d do this, Japan announced their new target, sending it over a veritable climate cliff.  The change in target would increase the emissions gap outlined by UNEP just last week by 3-4%, according to calculations by the Climate Action Tracker (disclosure: I’m here in Warsaw working for Climate Analytics, who run this analysis with Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute). Instead of reducing their emissions by 25% by 2020 on 1990 levels, Japan’s emissions will now increased by 3.1%. The general thinking is that Japan’s change in target is down to the fact that they’ve had to close all 54 of their nuclear power stations, so have had to switch to coal.  Not so.  The CAT calculated that if Japan’s nuclear industry didn’t re-open at all before 2020, they could still reach a target of 17-18%.

“The expected increase represents only 55% of the increase in emissions from the original Copenhagen pledge to the new 2020 target. The remaining 45% must therefore represent a change in Japan’s political will to reduce emissions.”

Not exactly an inspiration to other countries who have come here to negotiate a strong new 2015 climate agreement in good faith, and certainly not an inspiration to the people in the Philippines.  But perhaps this screenshot from Japan’s Ministry of Industry English website could explain it?

Screenshot of Japanese Industry Ministry's english website.
Screenshot of Japanese Industry Ministry’s english website.

Next up, Australia.  As we all settled into the second day of the talks, Australia’s new government was busily dismantling its climate legislation, an exercise that will cost them more than $7billion. This may take a while, not least because the current Labour/Greens dominated Senate won’t change until after July. But the CAT has calculated that this move, if successful, and combined with Tony Abbott’s so-called “Direct Action” policy to replace it,  they are very unlikely to meet their (already totally inadequate) pledge of 5% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. It’ll begin a recarbonisation of Australia’s electricity sector, just at the time when the new legislation was beginning to make a difference. Australia’s not even sending a Minister here for the High Level segment of the talks, for the first time in 16 years.  One gets the impression that this government really doesn’t give a flying (Castlemaine) XXXX about climate change, an extraordinary move given the rolling 12-month heat record set in August, September and October.  I think it’s clear who Tony’s listening to.  Certainly not Yeb Sano. Meanwhile the Polish Government is going ahead with hosting the World Coal Summit over the next two days.   More on that in my next post.  

Poland or Coaland? Climate talks about to begin in Warsaw cindy Nov 10

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Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)
Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)

Another year, another round of climate talks.  It’s the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention and we’re back in Poland, the scene of an almost complete non-event in 2008, the year before Copenhagen.

It’s Eastern Europe’s turn to host another meeting, and nobody else was prepared to put their hand up, so we’re back in the land of coal, in the country that has rallied their biggest coal companies to sponsor the conference, and which is dragging the whole of the EU down to their level as they refuse to accept stronger targets.  I suspect #coaland will be a well-used hashtag by the end of this.

Usually when you come to a meeting like this, the town is full of banners and signs that a climate meeting is being hosted, but there’s not much sign of it here in Warsaw, except this rather confusing industry advertisement at the airport.

Next weekend there’s a World Coal Association conference in town, being addressed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres, who turned down a talk to youth at the Powershift conference in favour of talking with Big Coal.  She’s assured them it’s because she wants to “talk frankly” – let’s hope she does.

Last month the Polish hosts were caught posting a news piece heralding the melting of the Arctic as a new opportunity to explore for yet more fossil fuels.  While The YesMen (in a specacular own-goal, in my opinion) tried to claim the piece as their own, it was indeed the Polish Government’s own work. Given this government is chairing the talks, it’s not looking terribly hopeful.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Cyclone Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has caused a terrible loss of life that’s still being counted – and major damage.  With winds at 195mph as it made landfall, it beat the 1969 record,  according to Jeff Masters’ blog.  Sea surface temperatures were up to 1.5degC above normal.

What role will the science have in these talks?  Will the IPCC’s recent working group 1 conclusions make a difference?  Figueres has already confirmed the IPCC’s carbon budget figures will not be on the agenda.

Finance for the poorest

This meeting is supposed to be the “Finance meeting” where governments are expected to make progress on committing money to the Green Climate Fund. They’ve promised $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy, but so far there’s little to show for it in the fund.

And a programme to get to 2015

Governments agreed last year that this year would be when they set up the roadmap to get to a global agreement on climate to be agreed in Paris, 2015.  This should include a timetable for when they all put their increased targets on the table (early next year would be good) and that they will have a full draft negotiating text sorted out by next year, to be finalised by 2015.   But of course that 2015 agreement, even if it does get finished on time, wouldn’t come into force until 2020.  If the world does nothing except the Copenhagen pledges between now and 2020, it’s not going to be pretty. So there’s a strong call from many quarters for better 2020 targets to be put on the table as soon as possible.

How will New Zealand stack up?  During the course of the next two weeks, expect information to come out that will make it clear what New Zealand’s “fair share” of climate action actually is.  Given our walking away from Kyoto and the Ministry for the Environment’s recent admission that our emissions are set to soar, I don’t hold out much hope.

The Australians have made a spectacular start, announcing that for the first time in 16 years, no Minister will make it to the conference. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, recently famous for declaring there was no evidence of a link between climate change and bush fires (using the solid source of Wikipedia) is instead staying at home to dismantle the Australian climate legislation.  That’s a Fossil of the Day right there.

Then of course there’s the Russians.  What will they do?  Will they continue to throw their toys out of the cot about decisions being made in Doha without their agreement?  Will they actually start negotiating and be good global citizens?  (hint: releasing the 30 Greenpeace activists from the Murmansk prison would be a good start).

More to come, as it happens.   From both myself and from David Tong with the Adopt A Negotiator team.

Australia’s burning – again Gareth Renowden Oct 22

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NSWfiresNASAEO2013294

Smoke from the bush fires burning in the Blue Mountains blows over Sydney in this NASA Earth Observatory image captured yesterday. The scale of the fires and their impact on the skies over Sydney and much of New South Wales is prompting much discussion in Australia about the link between weather, climate warming and wildfires, and bringing international pressure to bear on new PM Tony Abbott’s plans to scrap carbon pricing. Here’s researcher Roger Jones, writing in The Conversation:

We found that fire danger in Victoria increased by over a third after 1996, compared to 1972-1996. The current level of fire danger is equivalent to the worst case projected for 2050, from an earlier analysis for the Climate Institute.

While it’s impossible to say categorically that the situation is the same in NSW, we know that these changes are generally applicable across south-east Australia. So it’s likely to be a similar case: fire and climate change are linked.

This early start to the fire season comes after a year of record warmth in Australia — the hottest summer on record, the hottest 12 month period (to September), and it’s looking odds on that calendar 2013 will be the warmest on record. NSW also had its second warmest winter on record, which helped to dry soils out more than usual. With summer still a month away, the prospect for SE Australia’s fire-prone states looks grim.

For historical background on Aussie bush fires, see this overview from Weather Underground expert Chris Burt, and keep up to date with excellent analysis at The Conversation by following the NSW bushfires 2013 tag.

[Update: For pithy comment, do not miss today's First Dog On The Moon1. ]

  1. Do something about climate change you disingenuous muppet!

The Climate Show #35: elections, extremes and a big wind Gareth Renowden Sep 19

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We’re running a bit late with this one: recorded last week before the big wind left Gareth powerless for six days (a bit like Glenn’s PC), John Cook ruminates on the result of the Australian election, the boys marvel at the Mail’s myth making about Arctic sea ice, and look forward to the release of the first part of the next IPCC report. And much, much more. Show notes below the fold…

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

Follow The Climate Show on Facebook and Twitter.

The Climate Show

Show notes

News

Australian election, and prospects for climate policy:

Australia’s new government is likely to repeal the carbon price, by striking a deal with crossbenchers in the Senate after July 2014, or possibly going to a special election if it looks electorally attractive. Still, carbon pricing remains the logical choice for Australia’s longer term climate policy.

http://theconversation.com/what-next-for-australias-climate-policy-17991

In the run up to AR5, British right wing media up the ante by claiming that Arctic sea ice in “recovery” and cooling’s on the way:

Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415191/Global-cooling-Arctic-ice-caps-grows-60-global-warming-predictions.html

Express: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/427980/Global-warming-No-the-planet-is-getting-cooler

Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10294082/Global-warming-No-actually-were-cooling-claim-scientists.html

MSN: http://now.msn.com/global-warming-may-be-pausing-for-a-period-of-global-cooling

But the truth is:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/sep/09/climate-change-arctic-sea-ice-delusions

AR5 WG1 summary for policymakers due at end of month:

The Twelfth Session of Working Group I (WGI-12) will take place from 23 to 26 September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. This Session of WGI is being convened to approve the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGI AR5) and accept the underlying scientific and technical assessment.

The WGI AR5 Summary for Policymakers will be available on 27 September 2013.

AR5 web site: http://www.climatechange2013.org

NOAA/BAMS State of the Climate 2012:

2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally. The end of weak La Niña, and unprecedented Arctic warmth influenced 2012 climate conditions.

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130806_stateoftheclimate.html

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2012.php

NOAA/BAMS extremes report:

New analyses find evidence of human-caused climate change in half of the 12 extreme weather and climate events analysed from 2012.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-ties-climate-to-extreme-events-but-shows-hurdles-16438

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/05/climate-change-partially-caused-extreme-weather-2012

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130905-extremeweatherandclimateevents.html

Auckland Anglican Church votes to get out of any fossil fuel investments:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11121968

A link for the bit about the “Walkie Scorchie”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/architecture/10283702/Whats-frying-at-Walkie-Scorchie.html

Rooftop solar becoming so attractive in US that some power utilities are lobbying against incentives/wider adoption

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/with_rooftop_solar_on_rise_us_utilities_are_striking_back/2687/

ClimatePrediction Dot Net celebrates 10 years this week:

http://www.climateprediction.net/10-years-of-cpdn-and-you-are-invited-to-celebrate-with-us/

(Will be in Aus and NZ soon).

Bill English’s weasel words on weather, climate and drought Gareth Renowden Mar 14

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Occasionally — but only occasionally — the political pantomime that is parliamentary question time throws up something interesting. Yesterday, NZ’s deputy prime minister Bill English managed to dig himself into a drought-ridden hole, only to emerge looking like a climate denier. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman tried to get English to expand on his earlier comments that the government would not be able to help farmers hit by increased incidence of droughts, which led to this astonishing little exchange [Hansard transcript here]:

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the Government’s own research body the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) when it states: “Droughts are projected to become more frequent and more intense under climate change.”?

Hon Bill English: I would not want to question the scientific effort that has gone into that, although there is always uncertainty about these predictions. I recall similar predictions made by similar scientific bodies in Australia just 4 or 5 years ago and it has not stopped raining since.

Astonishing stuff. English gets the uncertainty issue completely wrong1, and then manages to insult Australians who have been suffering through their hottest summer ever. Here’s a little chart from the Aussie Climate Commission that he might find helpful.

The Angry Summer Map480

This is what NIWA has to say (pdf):

The most likely scenario sees farmers in most North Island regions, as well as those in eastern regions of the South Island — especially Canterbury and eastern Southland – spending 5-10 per cent more of the year in drought by the middle of this century. This means that if you spend an average of 10 per cent of your time in drought at the moment, by 2040, you might expect to spend as much as 20 per cent — although this figure will naturally vary from year to year.

Throughout the exchange with Norman, the deputy PM seemed extremely loath to use the words “climate change”, and instead made extensive references to cycles and weather patterns. In a later supplementary question, Norman asked him if he accepted that “human-induced climate change is real?”

Hon Bill English: It may well be, but I am not sure what that has got to do with this particular question.

Weasel words, at best. English wants to ignore the clear advice the government is receiving from the Crown Research Institute tasked with studying the issue, and can’t bring himself to directly accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change. You’d think it would be a simple matter for a senior politician to take reality at face value and act accordingly, but that seems be something that English and his cabinet colleagues find difficult in lots of areas…

  1. The best evidence (NIWA summary pdf here) we have indicates that the frequency of droughts is going to increase — the uncertainty is by how much and when.

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