Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Climate Change


Photos of train tracks and airplane runways melting in the heat

Last weekend's heat played havoc with transportation in the D.C. area, but at least we got some cool photos out of the chaos. The  heat-buckled highway was just a heat-buckled highway -- they've been all over the country this summer -- but check out this plane sinking four inches into the tarmac at Reagan National Airport:

Read more: Climate Change


Gambling advice: Don’t bet that the warm weather is just a fluke

Every month, NOAA's National Climactic Data Center releases a "State of the Climate" report, analyzing weather trends and climate anomalies in the U.S.

This morning, they released the report for June 2012. As part of it, they did some math.

During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

Brad Plumer quotes Jeff Masters from, who writes:

[W]e should only see one more 13-month period so warm between now and 124,652 AD -- assuming the climate is staying the same as it did during the past 118 years. These are ridiculously long odds, and it is highly unlikely that the extremity of the heat during the past 13 months could have occurred without a warming climate.

It is over 40,500 times more likely that you'll pick the right number in roulette than that warm weather isn't due to climate change. (Photo by stoneflower.)
Read more: Climate Change


This video proves we’re living in a disaster movie

This video was edited together from news footage by Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week, and it could EASILY be the scene from a disaster movie showing a news footage montage right before everything goes to hell. (You know what I mean, right? The 21st-century equivalent of the spinning-headline shot? Like in Shaun of the Dead.)

Read more: Climate Change


June’s 3,282 heat records, in one handy chart

In the U.S., June heat broke 2,284 daily maximum temperature records and tied a further 998, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Here's what that looked like for the lower 48 states: basically, a horrible case of heat rash.

Read more: Climate Change


Cities are leading the charge on climate action

Seattle skylinePhoto by James Arnott.

While many national governments struggle to take comprehensive action on climate change, major cities around the globe are acting on their own.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) recently released a report [PDF] tracking initiatives cities are taking to address their greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these municipal governments -- plagued by heat waves and flooding -- recognize the urgent need to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Cities account for 70 percent of global emissions [PDF] while occupying just 2 percent of dry land. The 53 cities that publicly disclose citywide emissions together produce more than 977 million tonnes of CO2 -- or the equivalent emissions of Germany.

Read more: Cities, Climate Change


Europe goes crazy for coal — and we can blame ourselves

London, during the coal-caused "Great Smog" of 1952. (Photo courtesy of Geograph.)

Germany just set a new record in solar energy production, creating 14.7 terawatt-hours of electricity over the first six months of 2012. Solar energy covered between 10 and 50 percent of the country's peak hour demand on average every day. Nice work, Germany!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe (and also in Germany):

Demand for coal, the dirtiest fuel for making electricity, grew 3.3 percent last year in Europe while sales of less-polluting natural gas fell 2.1 percent, the steepest drop since 2009, according to a BP Plc report.

Oh man, Europe, what happened? We thought you were cool.

But even with some European Union member nations implementing efforts to increase the cost of carbon pollution, coal is still less expensive than the alternatives. And Europe has its enablers:

Cheaper coal was made possible partly by a 49 percent jump in first-quarter imports from the U.S., Energy Information Administration data show.

The fracking boom in the U.S. has led to a big drop in coal use, meaning that we're now free to export that coal to Europe.

Ha ha. Um, sorry, guys.


Journalists and climate disclaimers

Earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wrote a great column connecting the recent heat waves to climate change. As one of the very few mainstream journalists willing to do so, he deserves kudos, or props, or big-ups, or whatever kids are calling them these days.

However, much like the rest of the tiny handful of journalists making the connection, he felt the need to include this disclaimer:

This is the point in the column where I’m obliged to insert the disclaimer that no one event -- no heat wave, no hurricane, no outbreak of tornadoes or freakish storms -- can be definitively blamed on climate change. Any one data point can be an anomaly; any cluster of data points can be mere noise.

This kind of thing drives my friend Brad Johnson crazy. In an email, he says it's "just false, and not useful."

This gives me an excuse to make a point about media coverage of this stuff. In a nutshell, I agree with Brad that it's not useful -- not useful for climate advocacy purposes, but also not useful as journalism -- but disagree that it's false.

Read more: Climate Change


Top U.S. science official: ‘Climate change is having consequences in real time’

A version of this article originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Jane Lubchenco. (Photo by NASA.)

One of America’s top science officials says the current onslaught of extreme weather in the U.S. is raising awareness of climate change among Americans.

Speaking at a university forum today in Australia, Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Americans are increasingly connecting the dots between climate change and the severe heat, drought, wildfires, and storms hitting the country. The Associated Press reported on her comments, made at the University of Canberra:

“Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it’s having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events,” Lubchenco told a university forum in the Australian capital of Canberra.

“People’s perceptions in the United States at least are in many cases beginning to change as they experience something first-hand that they at least think is directly attributable to climate change,” she said.

Read more: Climate Change


Warming waters pose a huge threat to the world’s coral

Photo by Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There's a reason people focus on the preservation of coral reefs. They're an oddity (animals that look and behave like plants), a beauty (see photo above), and a ecological asset (reefs are enormously diverse ecosystems). The world has thousands of reefs in various sizes and at various levels of health.

Image courtesy of NASA.

And, according to a new study, they are all at enormous risk due to climate change.

For years, researchers have examined the expected impact of global warming on the reefs. Overfishing and pollution have long been identified as stressors for coral, with some scientists arguing that those factors are more critical threats. But a new study from researchers at Florida Institute of Technology suggests that coral has been decimated by warmer waters before.

The research from doctoral student Lauren Toth and advisor Richard Aronsen, published this week in Science, involved taking core samples from reefs, boring an aluminum pipe into dead reefs off the coast of Panama (nice work if you can get it). When they extracted the samples, they were surprised to find that two-and-a-half millennia of expected growth was missing.

Read more: Climate Change


How’s the weather, America? July 5, 2012 edition

Basically: hot.

Everything west of the Mississippi is still on fire.

Also, some spots east of the Mississippi. Maybe also the Mississippi.

InciWeb tracks wildfires currently burning in the United States; right now, there are literally hundreds of thousands of acres on fire or recently burned. (Grist List has a horrifying, sad video from a family that visited the "moonscape" that was once their neighborhood.)

On the plus side, people are more and more willing to point at climate change as the culprit. Here's Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano drawing that connection.

Read more: Climate Change