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Climate Change


How’s the weather, America? We want to hear from you

We’re cool and comfortable as usual up here in the Pacific Northwest, but we hear it’s hot out there for the rest of you. Like, hella hot. And dry. And on fire. And under water. And stormy. And covered in mayflies. It's downright apocalyptic, people.

The sun over the Waldo Canyon wildfire in Colorado. (Photo by Chris Sgaraglino.)

The only upside of all this destruction and misery is that it just might be convincing doubters that climate change is a real thing. After all, when no one can stop talking about the weather, it starts to dawn on you that maybe it’s not just weather anymore.

Commiseration can help ease the pain in any kind of disaster. Plus, extreme weather makes for extremely awesome (in the literal sense of the word) photos. So, we’re asking you, Grist readers: How’s the weather where you live? If you have photos of this summer’s crazy weather or its aftereffects -- lightning storms, dried-up lakes, raging wildfires -- we’d love to see them. We’ll put the best ones on the website in the next few days.

Read more: Climate Change


A dry run from hell: Drought hits the smallest farms the hardest

There is something distinctly pathos-inducing about a corn plant dying of thirst. Maybe that’s why coverage of the 2012 drought has focused on commodity crops, especially corn. Reading the reports, you almost expect Tom Joad to step out from between the brown-baked stalks, as if Steinbeck were writing the copy.

For non-commodity farms -- a category that includes many diverse, organic, and locally supported operations -- the story is about much more than maize. A month into summer, the drought has walloped small Midwestern farmers, the very same farmers already struggling to survive a weak economy, a market dominated by rapacious agribusinesses, and, oh yeah, climate change.

For one thing, the ferocious drought has exposed a great lack of irrigation equipment on small farms. In a typical year, summer rain is common in the Midwest, and many of the region’s fruit growers have never irrigated their orchards. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) farmers also tend to lack the infrastructure to water everything they grow.

“You drive around the countryside and whoever doesn’t have irrigation doesn’t have much of a crop,” says Tom Kercher, who grows tree fruit and vegetables in Goshen, Ind.


More bad drought news: Drought makes hotter temperatures more likely

Which sounds best: DroughtMill? GristDrought? DroughtDrought? We're just giving up and changing this site into your all-drought, all-the-time news source.

Our David Roberts anchors the 6 p.m. newscast.

Climate Central has some news that makes the bad news about the drought even worse: Droughts increase the likelihood of hot weather, according to new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It's a feedback loop -- heat leads to droughts, droughts worsen heat.

This occurs because of feedbacks between the ground and the air: as the soil and vegetation dry, more of the sun’s energy is able to go into heating the air directly, rather than going into evaporating moisture from plants and the soil.

With drought conditions intensifying during mid-summer, the study suggests that the U.S. may be in for particularly brutal Dog Days of August.

Read more: Climate Change


People who don’t accept climate change also don’t accept that it’s hot


Yesterday, we noted that people are once again inclined to accept climate change, given how hot it has been. Here's one thing they may not be willing to accept, however: how hot it has been.

Turns out that perception of the temperature is correlated to political belief. To repeat: political philosophy influences whether or not you think a heat wave exists. From Ars Technica:

Both droughts and floods passed the simple test. These showed a clear trend in response to precipitation changes, and the trend was in the right direction—people perceived more floods and fewer droughts when there was more rain. And, in the statistical analysis, ideology and political affiliation had a weak effect on the accuracy of recollections, having about as much influence as education.

Things were completely different for temperatures. In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people's perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people's perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.

And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you'd expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn't gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.

Read more: Climate Change


Hot out? Guess that means that everyone believes in climate change again

These people believe.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 110th birthday of the air conditioner. (Happy day-after-your-birthday, air conditioner!)

We illustrated that post with one of the oldest photos of an air-conditioning system we could find, a unit installed in the Capitol in 1938. It's a huge thing, all pipes and bolts and such.

And installing it was obviously a major, major mistake.

You see, yet again, it turns out that more people believe in climate change when they feel hot.

In the four months since March there has been a jump in U.S. citizens’ belief that climate change is taking place, especially among independent voters and those in southern states such as Texas, which is now in its second year of record drought, according to nationwide polls by the University of Texas.

In a poll taken July 12-16, 70 percent of respondents said they think the climate is changing, compared with 65 percent in a similar poll in March. Those saying it’s not taking place fell to 15 percent from 22 percent, according to data set to be released this week by the UT Energy Poll.

Please note that this is not the same survey as the one in May or in February or last September. This is a whole new survey suggesting that belief has risen again after falling after each of those previous studies.

Read more: Climate Change, Politics


‘Climategate’ investigation winds down with a whimper

Our sources indicated that this sleeping bloodhound was in charge of the investigation. (Photo by SuperFantastic.)

Well, the Norfolk Constabulary has wrapped up its investigation into who hacked the University of East Anglia's computers and stole the emails that formed the basis of the …

Look. I'm just going to cut to the chase. This is about 45 miles down a rabbit hole that, yeah, we could explain, but either you already know the details or you don't. Right? Like if your ears pricked up at the mention of East Anglia, you'll be interested in this story. If they didn't, I'll level with you. This ain't Agatha Christie. You're not going to find this super fascinating.

And, besides, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard already did a great recap. Here's the news, as she outlines it:

The police in Norfolk, UK announced on Wednesday that they have ended their investigation into the theft of a bunch of emails from climate scientists at the Climate Research Center at the University of East Anglia in 2009 -- with no actual conclusion. That means we might never know who was behind what led to "Climategate," an ongoing smear campaign against climate science and scientists.

Read more: Climate Change


How’s the weather, America? July 18 edition

It's time for everyone's favorite gameshow: Let's Make Jokes About the Horrible Weather In Lieu of Weeping! Current summary: droughty.

The drought is still no joke.

We outlined the impacts of the drought earlier this week: the impact on food prices, the record temperatures, the ongoing dryness. The Week relayed some of the numbers around the drought, including that Indianapolis hadn't had a drop of rain from June 1 to July 16, breaking a record that stood since 1908.

Read more: Climate Change


China’s per-person carbon emissions rival Europe’s, but U.S. is still on top

CO2 seeds.

From The Guardian:

The average Chinese person's carbon footprint is now almost on a par with the average European's, figures released on Wednesday reveal.

... [T]oday's report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) show that per capita emissions in China increased by 9% in 2011 to reach 7.2 tonnes per person, only a fraction lower than the EU average of 7.5 tonnes.

The population of Europe is 595 million. The population of China is 1.35 billion. In otherwords, China emits 9.75 billion tons of CO2 to Europe's 4.46 billion. Less per person, but far more overall.

Read more: Climate Change, Coal


The highest low temperature ever recorded: 107 degrees

Photo by Pedro Szekely.

Not that I was under any illusions that Death Valley, Calif., is a temperate place to live, but this is nuts: The overnight LOW on July 11-12 was 107 degrees F. That ties for highest-recorded daily minimum. (The previous 107-degree night was last year, in Oman.)

Read more: Climate Change


Watch the formation of an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan

These images from NASA's Earth Observatory show Greenland's Petermann Glacier calving an iceberg -- watch the lower right quadrant of the image to see the split go from a hairline crack to a visible break. The resulting iceberg is twice as big as Manhattan.