Natural Perspectives: Current situation more like 'global weirding'

July 07, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • Solar panel installation at the Huntington Beach Central Library will be complete by September. Cars parked under the panels will be shaded, keeping them cooler during hot summer weather.
Solar panel installation at the Huntington Beach Central… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center's "State of the Climate: Global Analysis for Annual 2010" makes for some pretty sobering reading. Vic and I waded through the nine-page document over the hot Fourth of July weekend.

Looking at the combined global land and ocean surface temperatures, scientists determined that 2010 tied 2005 as the hottest year ever. That was for the whole world. But when they looked at just the Northern Hemisphere, there was no tie. For those of us living north of the equator, 2010 was the hottest year on record.

Vic and I know that there are people out there who still don't believe in global warming. But not believing it doesn't mean that it isn't happening. The facts are clear. The 10 warmest years on record, in descending order, are 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, 2002, 2009, 2006, 2007, 2004 and 2001. Nine of the hottest years on record occurred in the past ten years.


The increase in temperature is not a nice, smooth mathematical function. Nor is it uniform over the entire planet. For example, Russia, Europe and Asia had heat waves last summer that NOAA ranked as the most significant climate event of the year. But things were fairly normal here in Southern California.

Sometimes global warming gets confusing, like during a negative Arctic oscillation. That's when cold air from the Arctic slides south, allowing warm air to move north. The result is unseasonable warming in the far north and bitterly cold snowstorms in eastern North America, Europe and Asia. That is what was seen last year.

The record cold weather in the American South last year caused ocean temperatures in the Florida Keys to drop below 59 degrees Fahrenheit. That bleached and killed coral reefs, which aren't adapted to survive temperatures that cold. Conversely, Canada had its warmest winter since 1948 when it began keeping records. That's one reason why we call our current climate situation "global weirding."

Here in Huntington Beach, the weather stays fairly constant. But last year in Pakistan, temperatures soared to a record 128 degrees. Russia experienced a two-month-long heat wave, with a record-breaking 100.8 degrees in Moscow. That high temperature broke the previous high temperature record of 98.9, which had been set just four days previously. Sadly, that record-setting heat wave caused an estimated 15,000 deaths in Russia.

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