Climate Change Anecdotes Volume 1: Sea Ice and Nuclear Reactors

anecdote 

noun.

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

2. a short, obscure historical or biographical account.

Dictionary.com

Climate Change

noun.

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.]

  1. In order to get excited about climate policy you have to believe.

    (1) Climate Change is real
    (2) Climate Change is caused by humans
    (3) It’s technically and sociologically possible to do something meaningful.
    (4) Politicians will get together and commit to #3. Not just in the US, but around the world (or at least the 5-10 largest economies).

    1 and 2 – we can agree. 3 – I doubt it. 4- I’ll buy a lottery ticket instead.

    Even if you can get people to concede 1 and 2, we’re still left with nothing except an ‘I told you so’. The political class can’t govern it’s way out of a paper bag right now.

    Any solution ultimately has to be both collective and negotiated. We have no chance of meaningful political action on the issue of climate change.

    Document anecdotes to your hearts content. Pretending anything will ever come of it is also denial.

  2. Ice can melt because the surrounding water is warmer than it was when the water froze. The planet has warmed a lot since the last glaciation and has been warming more or less regularly since the depths of the LIA until about 2001. The observation that arctic ice is melting is evidence that warmer water got to the arctic ocean but does not necessarily mean that the planet is still warming.

    Paraphrasing Richard Feynman: Regardless of how many experts believe it or how many organizations concur, if it doesn’t agree with observation, it’s wrong.

    The IPCC and many others perceive that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide was the primary cause of global warming. Measurements demonstrate that they are wrong.

    The average global temperature trend has been flat since 2001. No amount of spin can rationalize that the temperature increase to 2001 was caused by CO2 increase but that 25.2% additional CO2 increase had no effect on average global temperature after 2001.

    Without human caused global warming there can be no human caused climate change.

    Average GLOBAL temperature anomalies are reported on the web by NOAA, GISS, Hadley, RSS and UAH. The first three all draw from the same data base of surface measurement data. The last two draw from the data base of satellite measurements. Each agency processes the data slightly differently from the others. Each believes that their way is most accurate. To avoid bias, I average all five. The averages are listed here.

    2001 0.3473
    2002 0.4278
    2003 0.4245
    2004 0.3641
    2005 0.4663
    2006 0.3930
    2007 0.4030
    2008 0.2598
    2009 0.4022
    2010 0.5298
    2011 0.3317

    A straight line (trend line) fit to this data has no slope. That means that, for over a decade, average global temperature has not changed. If the average so far in 2012 is included, the slope is down.

    • The claim that “The average global temperature trend has been flat since 2001” is myth number 8 on Skeptical Science’s top ten list of climate change denial myths. It is simply not true. Interested readers should check out their article on that claim here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998-intermediate.htm

      You should probably check your math on that trend, since Foster and Rahmstorf did the exact same calculation in their 2011 paper “Global temperature evolution 1979-2010” and demonstrated that, when corrected for known short term variations associated with the El Nino Southern Osciliation and volcanic activity, that the signal for global warming was even more pronounced.

      null
      Average of all five data sets (GISS, NCDC, HadCRU, UAH, and RSS) with the effects of ENSO, solar irradiance, and volcanic emissions removed (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011)

      To put it bluntly, your claim that there has been no global warming since 2001 is dead wrong.

      Beyond that, it’s not simply enough to look at one parameter. The amount of heat absorbed by the oceans is orders of magnitude greater than that absorbed in the atmosphere and land, so by cherry-picking only atmospheric data, you are ignoring the most dramatic evidence for climate change.


      Total Earth Heat Content anomaly from 1950 (Murphy 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al 2008. Land + Atmosphere includes the heat absorbed to melt ice.

      I’ll leave this comment up, because I forgot to include the disclaimer, but in the future, if you’re argument has already been thoroughly discussed at Skeptical Science, in Global Climate Change: a Primer, or in numerous other reputable climate science sources, then we are not interested in rehashing well-trodden paths or giving already-debunked claims a second wind.

  3. Your view #4 is sad but true..today. But, if the composition of the House changes to blue, there is a chance, of survival. Carbon fee and dividend legislation (HR3242) would shift the market to Green energy and provide a tax refund. Dirty energy hates it, the TP hates it, but most Americans would support it.

    • Say the House changes blue in November. Have you been following the rest of the world lately?

      Even if the US has a perfect pro-climate political storm (we won’t), the rest of the world’s major economies are still preoccupied with serious issues. Europe is facing the collapse of the Euro, China is dealing with a real estate bubble and an economic slowdown, while India is also tackling a slowing economy.

      Yeah, the world will get right on that climate change solution.

  4. As long as the world of science only says a crisis “might” happen instead of “will” happen, the deniers will have won the war and the planet will have lost. We demand the world of science say there “WILL” be a crisis because as long as we condemn the voter’s children to their CO2 deaths, President Romney will be a shoe in. Where there is a “will” there is belief and support for CO2 mitigation. Has science let us down?
    Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
    -Socialist Canada killed Kyoto with a newly elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (death).
    -Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    -Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.