Climate Change Anecdotes Volume 1: Sea Ice and Nuclear Reactors



1. a short account of a particular incident or event, especiallyof an interesting or amusing nature.

2. a short, obscure historical or biographical account.

Climate Change


A change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Climate change is real and human activity is the cause. The theory that we are fundamentally altering our planet’s climate is supported by overwhelming evidence. Prominent global warming skeptics have, in the face of such evidence, acknowledged that climate change is happening, and that humans are the cause.

And still climate change denial continues to persist.

In the last decade, we have passed a threshold where the reality of climate change is no longer a hypothesis buried in bar graphs or something to be assessed by minute changes in careful measurements, but an observable phenomenon. Rather than anticipating the effects of human impacts on the climate, we must now live them. Thanks to a well-organized and well-funded climate denial industry, we missed our chance to change course. If the last decade was the hurricane warning, than this decade is landfall.

This summer saw several major news events that point directly to a changing climate. It is true that “the plural of anecdote is not data“, but anecdotes are stories, and stories can provide a powerful narrative that moves people in ways that data cannot. It is also impossible to link any single even to anthropogenic climate change, but the confluence of so many events that so closely resemble the kinds of events expected to occur due to climate change, lends yet more support to the power of these narratives. The data, to reiterate, are overwhelming*. As new stories emerge, I’ll be documenting these anecdota of a changing climate.

Arctic Ice Melt

This summer, Arctic sea ice coverage reached a historic minimum. The record low set on August 24 was already broken, and with several weeks left in the melting season, sea ice coverage is still expected to decline. Not only was there less sea ice than ever recorded, but the rate of summer ice loss was 50% greater than predicted by most climate change models. The Northwest Passage opened this summer for only the second time since satellite-based observations began (the first was in 2008). Decreasing summer ice cover and the opening of a new shipping lane between the Atlantic and Pacific are just two of the many phenomena predicted by climate change research.

Nuclear Shutdown

On August 13 of this summer, a nuclear reactor in Connecticut was shut down due to concerns that the its cooling source was too hot to effectively cool the reactor. That cooling source was Long Island Sound, which tipped the scales at 76.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that the Millstone Nuclear Plant designers did not anticipate when they built the reactor. This wasn’t the only nuclear scare this summer. In Illinois, another nuclear plant had to get special permission to continue operation after the temperature of its cooling pond climbed to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. As climate patterns shift around the world, more and more of our infrastructure will be forced to operate in conditions not anticipated by their original design parameters.

If you have a Climate Change Anecdote from this summer, and there are many, please leave a comment in this thread.

*for a good, accessible, review of the evidence for anthropogenic climate change, check out Skeptical Science or pick up a copy of Global Climate Change: A Primer.

[Comment Note: The reality of anthropogenic global warming is not up for debate. While we welcome discussion and dissent regarding the importance or severity of climate change, as well as discussion of specific measurements or other relevant issues, we’re not interested in a tedious rationalizations by Climate Change Deniers. If you’re argument has been covered on Skeptical Science or any of the myriad Climate Change 101 sites,  please don’t post it here.]

August 28, 2012 • 10:23 am