Global Warming: Heat Waves (Yes) – Rollercoasters (No)
The heat wave in the middle U.S. is now moving into the East. We had plans to take my son and a friend to ride rollercoasters at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA this Friday but the forecast is for 100F temperatures and heat indexes (what it feels like when adding in the humidity) likely reaching 110F. We must cancel because at these temperatures, it just is not safe for children to be out there waiting in lines. Sadly, last year in July we canceled a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure for the same reason: 100+ temperatures and high humidity.
Get used to the heat waves because they are going to become more frequent and more intense in the future.
Humans are overloading the air with too much carbon and that this carbon is causing the planet to dramatically warm. Increasing carbon will cause this warming to continue. (For perspective, the amount of CO2 that is added to the air every day by human activities, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is equal to the amount of oil spilled by 8,000 Gulf Oil Spills per day.) Virtually every publishing scientist and all international science academies agree.
The physics of increasing heat-trapping gases tells us:
1) We will experience more heat waves and these heat waves will become even hotter
2) Higher latitudes (toward the poles) will warm the most while lower latitudes (tropics) will warm less
3) Winters will warm faster than summers
4) Nights will warm faster than days
Recently, NOAA (2011) issued the latest 30 year climate normals for the United States, and as expected, points #2, 3, and 4 are evidenced in the graphics below:
Most locations have warmed and the greatest increases have occurred in higher latitudes, during winter, and during the overnight hours. Just as heat-trapping greenhouse gas warming should do.
Central Park “new normals” have been posted by the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office of New York City and appear below:
NY City has gotten warmer and wetter as would be expected due to increases in human emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Warmer air can hold more moisture so we are causing the atmospheric “sponge” to be bigger. When that sponge is “squeezed” by storms, more rain falls when it is warm and more snow falls when it is cold. (It should be noted that increased snowfall in winter does not contradict global warming. Even with global warming it can still be cold enough to snow during winter although it is true that winters are getting shorter in length and snow cover is disappearing earlier in the year.)
* I am very disappointed that the NWS forecast office for the NY City/Long Island Metro region made no mention on their home page nor Face Book page that human-caused climate change was the primary reason for the observed warming and increased precipitation. If the NWS does not connect the dots for us, what chance do we have to make informed decisions?
So what can New Yorkers expect in the future as humans keep pumping more and more heat-trapping gases into the air? New York summers in the future are likely to be similar to summer in South Carolina and Georgia today.
The number of heat waves will also increase:
Imagine as many as 25 days where temperatures reach 100F or higher in NY City during summer. Do you want to be out and about in that weather?
NY City is no exception. The figure below shows heat waves are expected to increase all across the US in the next few decades.
According to Stanford University scientists Diffenbaugh and Ashfaq (2010):
“In the next 30 years, we could see an increase in heat waves like the one now occurring in the eastern United States or the kind that swept across Europe in 2003 that caused tens of thousands of fatalities. Those kinds of severe heat events also put enormous stress on major crops like corn, soybean, cotton and wine grapes, causing a significant reduction in yields.”
Think it is hot now? You ain’t seen nothing yet! What can you do? Be more energy-efficient (see my personal examples here and here), tell people about how this hot weather will become the norm and that much worse heat waves are coming, and demand that carbon be priced in a way that will allow renewable energy choices such as wind and solar to become more price-competitive with coal and oil.
We need to reduce our emissions of carbon for the sake of our public health, national security, and economic competitiveness. Surely it is foolish to base our economic energy needs on sources that are dwindling in supply and increasing in price when, instead, we could move toward energy efficiency and cheaper-by-the-year, infinite sources such as the sun and wind. If we stay addicted to fossil fuels and do not begin investing in those technologies now, we will be buying them from China in the future instead of selling it to them, and, we will shake and bake while doing so.