The World Bank called for urgent action on climate change on Sunday after it released a report that examined the economic, ecological and human impacts that a 7.2°F rise in global temperature would have on the world’s population.
The report, entitled, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” underscored how developing nations are likely to be hit the hardest by the impacts of global warming. Food shortages, water scarcity, and coastal flooding associated with droughts, heat waves, and rising sea levels are likely to be the most severe in areas that are the least prepared to adapt to them.
The Gabura region of Bangladesh has been hit by increasing flooding in recent years – causing salt water to enter fresh water supplies and making many forms of farming unviable. Catching shrimp fry is one of few ways left for people to earn a living.
Credit: Oxfam GB / International
The report is novel in two key ways. First, it signals a change in policy for the World Bank, a policy that places more emphasis on the relationship between poverty and climate change. Under the leadership of its new President, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank has indicated that mitigating and adapting to climate change is essential in the fight against global poverty.
“We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change,” said Kim on a press conference call on Friday, “It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today.”
(Kim also wrote an op-ed for the Guardian about the release of the World Bank report. In it, he said he hopes that the level of catastrophe described in the report “shocks” people to action, and he argued that there can be a vibrant economy in a low-carbon world. )
Second, the report examined the poten...
By Climate Central
With a month and a half to go before 2013 begins, it’s still technically possible that 2012 won’t end up as the warmest year on record for the continental U.S. It’s possible, but it’s not likely and won’t be easy.
The graphic below shows just how cold the next six weeks would have to be to keep 2012 out of the record books.
The graphic, based on data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, shows that 1998 (white line) was the warmest year on record for the continental U.S. (each triangle marks the average temperature to date for a given month, so the October triangle, for example, represents the year’s average through October).
So far 2012 (red line) is way above the 1998 average. If temperatures stay well above normal for the rest of the year (orange line), we’ll beat 1998 easily. If temperatures are about normal, we’ll still set a record.
Only if temperatures plunge to well below normal for November and December would we have a shot at sneaking in under the 1998 average.
Is it possible? Definitely. But with every passing day, it’s looking less and less likely.
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By Marit Larson
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the discussion of how New York City’s shoreline can be protected has taken on new urgency. So-called “soft” measures, such as wetlands and oyster reefs, are seeing a burst of new attention as possible alternatives to “hard” measures such as storm surge barriers.
Wetlands can be very effective protection, but only if there are enough of them. In the New York City region, more than 80 percent of the coastal wetlands that once formed a ring of green around Jamaica Bay and our tidal streams are filled and developed. Were those wetlands still here, and had the development remained upland of them, the destruction from Sandy would have no doubt been significantly less or not occurred at all.
A salt marsh recently restored in Bronx with waterfowl barrier (string and stakes), undisturbed by Hurricane Sandy's destructive force.
Credit: Marit Larson
But development is here to stay, so we now have to ask about the costs and benefits that are possible starting from where we are now. How much storm surge protection could be achieved, either by restoring historic wetlands or constructing new ones? How much wetland is practical to build given costs and competition for space?
We know that we can successfully restore and reconstruct salt marshes. We have done more of this in New York City than many residents realize. We do it either by excavating thousands of yards of landfill and waste that was placed on top of them, or by adding clean dredged sand onto former wetlands to achieve a sustainable elevation.
These restored and reconstructed...
By Adam Sobel
A vortex is a flow pattern in a fluid that has rotation about a center: water spiraling down the bathtub drain, the swirling eddies made by a canoe paddle, or a hurricane.
A marker dropped into the flow near a vortex -– a cork dropped into the water, for example -- will orbit about the vortex center. At the same time a vortex itself can also behave like a marker dropped into the fluid and move, like a cork, with the larger-scale flow in which it’s imbedded. If you paddle your canoe in a river, the vortices your paddle leaves behind will float downstream just like a cork would.
Infrared satellite image of Hurricane Sandy as it transitioned into a hybrid tropical/extratropical storm off the Carolinas on Oct. 27.
If two vortices come close enough to each other to get caught in each other’s flows, then each one acts like the cork; its center moves in the flow swirling around the other one. At the same time, if one is moving, the center about which the other is moving is itself moving, and vice versa, and the two carry out a joint maneuver. Or a dance. Hurricane Sandy is moving into position to do this dance with the upper-level trough whose eventual predicted merger with it has led to the “Frankenstorm” nickname.
How the dance goes depends on the two vortices’ directions of rotation and their relative strengths. If they are spinning opposite ways but are identical in every other way, they will move in parallel straight lines, perpendicular to the line through the two vortex centers. If they have the same spins, they will circle each other, both...
By Adam Sobel
If Hurricane Sandy manages to make landfall on the East Coast of North America early next week, as the majority of the computer forecast models now have it, it be right to call it a hurricane any more. Or even a tropical storm, even if the winds are “tropical storm strength.” probably be a hybrid storm that shares characteristics of two parents: Sandy, a tropical cyclone (the broader term including hurricanes and tropical storms); and an extratropical “trough,” or upper-level low ressure system associated with a big wiggle in the jet stream.
Each type of storm – tropical and extratropical -- is named for the part of the world where it typically forms (“extratropical” just means “not tropical”) but the differences go deeper than that. A tropical cyclone gets its energy from the warm tropical sea surface. It will die if it goes over land, or cold water.
Forecast from the ECMWF model for this Sunday. The contours are surface pressure; colors are geopotential height on the 500 hPa pressure level, corresponding roughly to upper level pressure. The upper trough is the dip of the cooler colors southward and eastward over the eastern U.S., capturing Sandy (the bullseye in the pressure field off the Southeast U.S. coast).
Credit: Unisys Weather
An extratropical storm, on the other hand, doesn’t care as much what the temperature of the surface is beneath it, or even whether that surface is land or water. The extratropical storm gets its energy from the temperature contrast between the warm tropics and cold pole. The jet stream is tightly coupled to that temperature contrast. The contrast in temperatures between air masses is ultimately what drives the jet stream, and the stronger the , the stronger the jet stream will be.