Friday, March 23, 2012

Climate Crisis Update: If That Was Winter, What Will Summer Be?

Just as spring was about to officially begin, we finally got a bit of winter here on the North Coast, the kind of storms and rain (light and steady with periods of downpour) that we normally get in late December and January.  Elsewhere it has been crazier--snow in Southern California, temperatures in the 80s in Chicago and across the Midwest and into the Mid-Atlantic states, near 90 in the South.  The centennial cherry blossom festival in Washington was supposed to climax with the blooms in a couple of weeks, but the blossoms were already out when the festival started.

Warmer--or hotter--spring weather has already added energy to storms and tornadoes (both the images in this post are from storms earlier in March), and more dangerous and powerful examples of each are likely in the coming months.  And lurking in everybody's mind is the anxiety that if this is winter and spring, what is summer going to be like? 

Climate is the context, the setpoint conditions and processes.  Weather is a manifestation of climate, as well as the result of such phenomena as El Nino and La Nina.  A hotter climate manifests at first in some conditions that are intuitively obvious: it gets hotter.  But it also may manifest in counter-intuitive ways: more snow in the winter, or disturbed patterns of precipitation that makes some places rainier and others dryer, and sometimes even some places are colder, because the physics of a hotter climate favors extremes.

So while people believe less in global heating when it snows and more when it's a warm winter, they are not wrong to see evidence of the Climate Crisis in weather patterns.  Bill McKibben, through his and is organizing an action day for May 5 to "connect the dots" to show the emerging pattern of the Climate Crisis through these extreme manifestations.   That work is already underway with the evidence for you to see at  Climate Change Central.

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