The unbearable turbulence of climate change


As anyone who reserves their best pair of jeggings for intercontinental air travel will know, the combination of your good jeggings, red wine, and turbulence can be an absolute nightmare. It turns out, adding climate change into the mix will make for a literal (by which I mean figurative) perfect storm.

We all know that climate change is heating up our atmosphere and oceans, causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt, raising sea levels, and increasing risks due to hailstorms, wildfires, hurricanes, and Al Gore lectures. Some of us even know that it's forcing certain trees to move westward. But none of that mattered, because none of it affected me.

What affects me, and the majority of the planet's population, on a daily basis? You guessed it: climate change's impact on airplane turbulence! A recent study in Advances of Atmospheric Science claims that turbulence is only going to get worse as climate change continues to change climates. Using multiple climate models, the authors have determined that in all categories of "wintertime clear-air turbulence," rated from light to severe, bumpiness will increase dramatically (on the order of 60-150%) by the middle of this century (~2050 CE).

You may be wondering, what exactly is "turbulence"? Well, scientifically speaking, it's a menace. But, it's also when two very different parcels of air collide and make everything around them go haywire. Kind of like when Trump meets up with any other world leader...

California winters are warming


First off, here is a list of songs about California,

  • California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas
  • Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • California - Rufus Wainright
  • Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
  • Drive My Car - The Beatles

Second off, here is a list of winters,

  • The winter that has the winter Olympics
  • Winter squash
  • The winter of our discontent
  • Nuclear winter
  • The winter that is coming

Now that that's sorted, an article that was recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters is telling us that California's winters have been getting warmer. The authors, presumably winterologists, looked at five different historic temperature records and looked at the maximum and minimum temperatures for each day in every winter since 1920.

The five data sets of temperature all agreed that California winters are getting warmer:

  • Since 1920, minimum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 1.2-1.9 degrees/century
  • Since 1970, minimum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 2.0-3.9 degrees/century
  • Since 1970, maximum temperatures for California winters have warmed at a rate of 2.0-3.7 degrees/century
  • One of the data sets actually had max temperatures cooling by 0.3 degrees/century since 1920, but the other four data sets showed max temperatures warmed by 0.6-1.2 degrees/century since 1920.

So, if you like warm winters that are getting warmer, California might be the place for you. Although, if you like the opposite of droughts, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes, and the eminent threat of a quasi-apocalyptic tsunami, maybe just stay where you are...

Note: all temperature units have been given in degrees Celsius, mainly because I don't live in the US or the 19th century.  (NOTE: Even if I did live in the US, I'd still use Celsius, because I enjoy things that make at least a modicum of sense)

Basically, oceans

The ocean was the antagonist of the Clooney classic The Perfect Storm and the protagonist of the Clooney classics Ocean's 11 through 42. Now some scientists are suggesting that it can be the panacea for all our climate change pan-aches. 

In their recently published paper in Reviews of Geoscience, people who I assume are oceanographers have taken the position that dumping a bunch of rocks into the oceans, making the oceans more basic (as in the opposite of acidic), would help ameliorate (although would more likely Amelia-Badeliate) the inevitable catastrophic effects of climate change. Here's the thought process,

  • the oceans are good at removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • oceans are better at removing CO2 from the atmosphere the more basic the water is
  • let's dump a bunch of powdered rocks in the ocean to make it more basic
  • added bonus: oceans are less acidic, which is killing coral. But making it less acidic will speed up ocean intake of CO2, which makes the ocean more acidic...

It's an interesting idea, but it's still geoengineering. Geoengineering basically means "engineering the globe to our liking." One immediate problem with that is how and who gets to define "our liking." What's good for the Canada goose might not be good for Uganda. Also, if you do your calculations wrong, you've just fu... Amelia-Badeliated the planet. Not to mention any unforeseen, unintended consequences of attempting to drastically altar 70% of the Earth's surface. What could go wrong?!

Seriously, what could go wrong?

By audience applause, who won global warming?

On Tuesday, coalmonger and head of the EPA Scott Pruitt told Reuters that he hopes to have a televised debate on climate change. He proposed that it would be between "a group of scientists," but refused to say who these scientists would be, what kind of science they tend to get up to, or what kind of barrels he plans on scraping the bottom of in order to find a climate scientist opposed to human-caused climate change. One would assume he'd go with the discredited shill barrel, but then there's always the tried and true emeritus gadfly barrel for when you're looking to throw a contrarian among the proper scientists.

At this point, having a debate on whether humans are causing climate change or not is about as useful as debating whether the dress was actually #whiteandgold or #blackandblue. 

Now, I haven't seen the actual dress myself, but I trust the experts that have. Despite the fact that my eyes see (and the picture is) browny-gold and a bluish-white, I can accept the fact that the actual dress was black and blue. (Writing that made my eyes want to barf--the picture of the dress is clearly team #whiteandgold!)

It may not seem to some that climate change is a thing we as humans are doing, but trust the experts: we are! So, here's a list of debates that would better serve the public:

  • Do mermaids exist? If so, are humans causing mermaids to exist less? Probably.
  •  Is Frank Underwood's accent from a place? If so, a consistent place?
  • Why do the elderly hate squirrels so much? Is it that they're the only ones that remember what the squirrels did during the war?
  • How many rollerblades is too many?
  •  Is Vaseline pronounced vays-line or vaws-line?

Watch for falling ice

Ever since humans and weather were both a thing, humans haven't known what hail's deal is vis-à-vis climate change. This was mainly because humans have lacked the computing power needed to accurately simulate hail storms within our climate models. But, hail ignorance no more! A recent study in Nature Climate Change reports that climate models are now sophisticated enough to properly simulate hail production given different climatic changes. Phewf! Finally, I can relax!

So, what have the models taught us? Well, If you're living where it's typically cool and dry, you can expect an overall decrease in days with hail in the future, but an increase in days with large hail. Hence, the study predicts that in the Prairies, Plains States, and Western Canada, physical damage due to springtime hail will possibly increase by upwards of 40%. That's a lot of cracked windshields! This might be a good time to invest in that Prairie door-to-door carport sales racket your brother-in-law's been on about...

On the flip side, if you live where it's hot and humid, God has taken pity on you and you are likely to experience a decrease in springtime hail damage due to climate change. No more wearing bike helmets in thunderstorms for you, Florida!

The study also specifically points out that there's going to be more hail damage in places like Alberta's "Hail Alley," which is not to be confused with my 22-volume manifesto "Hail, Allie!", a call to give Jane Curtin unilateral control of all national weather stations.

BREAKING: Rick Perry's smart-guy glasses aren't helping


Rick Perry, the head of the US Department of Energy, was asked if he thinks CO2 is the primary cause of climate change. His response was, "No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."

I have a followup question, "What's causing the ocean water and this environment that we live in to heat up?" Earth-spoiler alert: it is absolutely CO2.

Also, "this environment that we live in" is typically called the atmosphere. So, essentially, when asked "what's causing the world to heat up?" Rick Perry responds with "the world." Nice and simple. I once asked my two year old what he liked best about bananas, and he said, "bananas." So, I guess he could also head up the department in charge of all the US nukes.


Reduce fossil fuel production THEN stop building pipelines

Climate change is like having your kitchen on fire, and being against pipelines is like being against having a direct, flammable connection between your stove and your bookshelf. Obviously you want to preserve the Twilight collection as long as humanly possible, but just removing that connection isn't going to prevent the whole house from burning down. We need to stop throwing gas on the fire.

Stopping pipelines from being built does nothing to actually curtail the production of fossil fuels. So, the problem with halting pipeline production, with no plan in place to reduce fossil fuel production, is that this implicitly favours the transport of oil and gas by rail. Which doesn't leak as much, but does occasionally kill people.

Between 2004 and April 2017, in Canada, there were 1536 reported pipeline "incidents" (including leaks of oil, gas, and other hazardous materials) and zero of them are reported to have caused human fatalities or even serious injuries.

In that same time, in Canada, there were 3106 reported accidents involving trains carrying "dangerous goods". Out of those, 9 led to serious injury and 3 led to a total of 49 fatalities (47 of which were in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster).

So, if the plan is to just stop pipeline construction, and not actually curtail fossil fuel production, then we're just opting for rail, which is a more immediately dangerous, albeit slower, method of moving fossil fuels.

NOTE: when we do build pipelines, we still need to be careful where they are built. Clearly, it's a problem to build them on sacred land and/or dangerously close to water supplies.


US gov dabbles in science censorship

Last week, three USGS scientists coauthored a study about how much more coastal flooding there will be in the near future due to climate change-induced sea level rise.

But according to the news release, the authors published a study about how much more coastal flooding there will be in the near future due to the nature of time going forward.

That is not a very subtle difference. But hey, maybe the governmental press releasers just didn't realize that the underlying cause of the flooding will be climate change?

Nope! The Washington Post is reporting that, when reviewing the governmental press release, the authors were asked to delete the sentence, "Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding." You know, the whole premise of the entire study.

It's like when I wrote a review of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Harrison Ford told me I wasn't allowed to mention that they had lost the Ark, or that it was raided by raiders, or that climate change is real.

NOTE: I find it frightfully adorable (but more frightful than adorable) how the Trump administration thinks that if government departments are no longer putting out news releases with the term "climate change", and that .gov websites are no longer allowed to have "climate change" written on them, that the public will forget that climate change is real... Side note: Climate change is real.  

Run westward, forest! Run!

Unless you've been living under a very slow moving tree in the American South-East for the past 30 years, you probably haven't noticed that, over the past 30 years, trees in the American South-East have been shifting more westward than northward. (If this was an audio blog, this is where you'd hear an audible gasp from the audience and/or a record scratch.)

According to a new study published in Science Advances, Eastern-American trees are fleeing west at the sap-splitting pace of roughly 20 km per decade, and are only heading north at a humiliatingly slow pace of 11 km per decade. So, why are the authors of this study directional-growth shaming trees? Well, the authors, along with many other climate scientists, expected that warming temperatures in the North would lure trees northward. But, to their surprise, trees apparently have bought into the Canadian lumberjack stereotype and are scared and are heading west instead. Although, the authors claim that this is less out of fear and more due to the fact that climate change is making the South-East drier and making the Central states rainier.

The authors also claim that the directional difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms is "fascinating." FASCINATING! Are you fascinated yet? Have you been held spellbound by the irresistible allure that is angiosperm/gymnosperm spatial shift differences? I know I haven't! But, it is kinda interesting. Trees with flowers (angiosperms) tend to be more westward than they were in the 80's, and the non-flowering trees (with their lack of decency, unabashedly flaunting their naked seeds on cones and leaves and whats-have-you) tend to be more northward than they were in the 80's. 

So, really, it's just the flowering trees that are moving out West. Damn hippie trees!