Autumn 2009 Climate Report – Huntsville, AL

5 12 2009

I’ve once again compiled recorded temperature data to create this chart which plots both average and actual high/low temperatures during the months of October, November and the first week of December 2009. The data shows that, for the most part, October 2009 was below average for high temperatures – arriving at up to 19 degrees below normal at one point during the month. November, however, showed a rebound in temperatures – recording above average temperatures for the most part of the month. You may click on the graphic below to show a larger, more readily readable version of it.

Autumn 2009 Climate Report - Huntsville, AL

Data was recorded at the Huntsville International Airport in Huntsville, AL. Please comment and describe any additional details you would like to see on future climate reports. I will be posting a climate report every 3 months until further notice. Any comments or suggestions? Post them. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Also, you may feel free to send me an email with the aforementioned suggestions if you want. My email can be accessed by clicking here.


Examining Global Warming’s Best Friend, N2O

29 08 2009

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are out of the way – a major success story in the fight against ozone depletion but a new menace is quickly becoming the top dog in the crowd of global warming fugitives. It took more than 20 years, but CFC’s are finally down and still sinking but nitrous oxide is hastily becoming our new arch-enemy. Nitrous oxide is now, according to a new report from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (NSRL), the most destructive and abundant man-derived greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Where CFC’s were in our minds and in the environment now lies Nitrous Oxide.

“The dramatic reduction in CFCs over the last 20 years is an environmental success story. But manmade nitrous oxide is now the elephant in the room among ozone-depleting substances,” said Ravishankara, lead author of the study and director of the ESRL Chemical Sciences Division in Boulder, CO.

The gas is quite common, even it’s natural occurrences, but never in this quantity. The gas is derived from the fertilization of agriculture, mainly, but can also be found in animal dung, dentists’ offices (“Laughing Gas”), sewage treatment, combustion engines, and the rearing of livestock.

CFC’s were abundant in use, especially in aerosol cans in the 70’s and 80’s but scientists soon found that it’s effects on the environment were to harmful to be allowed to continue. In an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to reduce the CFC input into the environment world-wide. The plan was a huge success, now 22 years later, as we can see the incredible reduction of it’s concentration in the atmosphere. Although this is true, even the scars left behind are still mending; in particular the gaping hole in the ozone layer situated above the South Pole. Will nitrous oxide be as dangerous to the environment as the CFC’s were? In short, yes.

Examination of Atmospheric Layers

If left unchecked, the concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere would continue to climb exponentially. We still have time to correct the problem before it gets out of control but it would take control to do it. The main target would certainly have to be the control of agricultural fertilization – fertilizers highly concentrated in the chemical. Although it does help the soil to produce more abundant (and vivacious) plants, it destroys the ozone layer – thinning it more and more.

What happens when the atmosphere gets thinner? More radiation enters the earth’s lower atmosphere which in turn actually harms the plants (and us). Imagine the worst sunburn you ever had. Multiply it. No one really wants to deal with the effects of global warming. “I don’t believe in it”. I guess it really doesn’t matter if you believe or not. It’s a decision that you’d have to make. A) Live with the changes you have to make today and be a little less “wasteful” or B) Ignore the warnings and live in a hotter, more naturally violent world potentially full of disease and famine. It’s up to you really….

Information derived from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image derived from
All information retrieved Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Hot Sea Running

17 08 2009

Guest Post from Dan Satterfield

A lot of tropical news this week. The 2009 hurricane season in the Atlantic has stirred to life quickly with two (Update Sunday: 3 !) tropical storms forming on Saturday. It’s not at all unusual to have little hurricane activity until August. The season runs from June 1st to November 30, but the prime season is from Aug, 1st to mid September. American forecasters have an old saying that there will almost always be a hurricane on the weather maps when Labour Day arrives.

From NOAA/NCDC. The bigger the dot the more the temperature was warmer or colder than normal.

These storms form in very warm ocean. The National Climate Data Center (NOAA) released the July global land and ocean temperatures on Saturday. Ocean temps were the warmest on record for July. The land and ocean temps were the 5th warmest on the instrumental record. This follows June 2009 which also came in as warmest.

Another interesting bit of tropical news this week is a new paper published in Nature on hurricanes of the past. One of the great debates in science right now is the question of whether climate change will bring more hurricanes or fewer. The debate has raged between two opposing groups. Kerry Emanuel of MIT has produced interesting evidence that we have seen an increase in hurricanes already due to the warming of the past 50 years.

Chris Landsea of NOAA has produced evidence that we are just detecting more tropical storms, and that there has not been an increase. I had a chance a couple of years ago to hear both of them present at the AMS meeting in San Antonio. I left with the firm conviction that the question remains open. Understand here, that this debate is not about climate change in general.Despite what you read on the Internet, science has moved on from that.

One thing that does seem very certain now is that hurricanes in the warmer world of late this century, will be wetter. Perhaps considerably wetter. The kind of catastrophic flooding we saw in Taiwan this past week, will likely be more common in the future.

Why you ask? Water vapour.

GOES Image of Tropical Storm Bill Early Sunday. from NASA MSFC
GOES Image of Tropical Storm Bill Early Sunday. from NASA MSFC

If the average temperature of the air over the oceans rises 1 degree F, the air can hold 4% more water. (This is one reason why more snow is likely in Antarctica as it warms, not less. A 3C rise in temp. by late this century would bring an increase of around 22% in the amount of water held in the atmosphere! (You won’t see that bit of science on these junk science sites)

Sea surface temperatures are a major factor in hurricane formation. If the sea surface temperature is below about 27C then hurricanes are not likely. Upper level wind shear and atmospheric water vapour are other important ingredients.

Other factors like wind shear in the upper atmosphere act to inhibit hurricanes. The El Nino that develops every 4-7 years in the Pacific, increases the wind shear over the Atlantic, and we usually see fewer storms. Will there be more wind shear in a warmer world? Possibly. Conditions could combine to produce about the same number of storms in the future. (Much wetter ones though)

Micheal Mann of Penn State University is the lead author of a fascinating paper in this weeks NATURE. His team used soil/silt cores in a series of locations to estimate past hurricanes. If a hurricane hits a coastline, the overwash of sea water will leave a deposit that can be identified in the cores. They used these sediment cores to estimate hurricane activity over the last 1500 years. In addition, they used a statistical model that factored in variables like sea surface temperature to estimate storms as well.

Reconstruction of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes. Nature 460, 880-883 (13 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08219;   Atlantic hurricanes and climate over the past 1,500 years  Michael E. Mann, Jonathan D. Woodruff2 et al
Reconstruction of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes. Nature 460, 880-883 (13 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08219; Atlantic hurricanes and climate over the past 1,500 years Michael E. Mann, Jonathan D. Woodruff2 et al

They found that during a period of rather warm Atlantic Ocean water around 1000 years ago, we saw as many hurricanes as we have over the past 15 years. This is a good confirmation that warmer seas, do give more hurricanes and perhaps more intense ones.

Chris Landsea of NOAA argues that the increase in storms over the past century is just an artifact of spotting them more easily with satellites and aircraft. One thing seems likely here, the hurricanes did increase in the past during a period of warmer oceans.

Whether or not a warmer world caused by human means, instead of natural ones, will do the same is still open for debate. The science, however, might just be beginning to tilt in favor of Mann and Emanuel.

Either way, with sea level now rising 3mm per year, and increasing, future hurricanes, will be wetter and cause more destruction. The current thinking is the IPCC will be adjusting their forecast of sea level rise up considerably in the next report.

This back and forth in the peer reviewed literature is how science advances. When we can answer the question of hurricanes in a warmer world, we will have gleamed another piece of fundamental knowledge of how are planet works.

I end with a book recommendation. Kerry Emanuel of MIT is one of the leading experts on hurricanes. He has written a fabulous book called Divine Wind. It combines poetry and science. It’s one of the best general audience  science books ever written.

Note this is a dual post- I wrote it as a guest post on Skywarn 256’s Weather Blog as well.


The Deadly Cycle – How Global Warming Causes Global Warming

16 08 2009

The Deadliest Cycle – How Global Warming Causes Global Warming

It is a process known as “feedback”. This process involves some sort of action or event which triggers another event which worsens the first event leading to another secondary event which worsens the first event even more. Confusing? I’ll explain.

A good example of feedback is the melting of the polar ice caps and it’s involvement with global warming. The ice naturally reflects heat energy in the form of radiation back into space. As the ice melts, it covers less area and reveals more water coverage. Less ice enhances the atmospheres heat energy (ice cools air just like it cools your summer drinks). With less ice, the remaining ice melts faster revealing yet more water. Water absorbs heat energy instead of reflecting it. This causes the ice to melt even faster.

There are several types of natural “feedback”: Ice Albedo feedback, water vapor feed back, arctic methane feedback, lapse rate feedback and more. These feedback types enhance global warming and are also, simultaneously, caused by global warming to some extent.

Ice Albedo Feedback

As discussed earlier, Ice Albedo Feedback involves the fact ice reflects more radiation than it absorbs. When ice melts it is replaced by land or water which absorbs more than it reflects. This causes more heat absorption which causes more ice melting which causes yet more absorption. This cycle is never-ending unless affected by an outside source.
Northern Hemisphere Glacial Regression

Water Vapor Feedback
Water Vapor is a Greenhouse Gas. As the earth warms, more water is evaporated leading to more water vapor. More water vapor leads to more warming which leads to more evaporation thus more water vapor. This cycle is never-ending unless affected by an outside source.

Lapse Rate Feedback
Temperature differences between the lower atmosphere and upper atmosphere is called the Lapse Rate. The higher the temperature of the upper atmosphere, the more radiation is emitted. Thus, if the upper atmosphere (which is supposed to be cold) is heated, it emits much more radiation than if it were cold. This cycle is never-ending unless affected by an outside source.

Methane Release
Warming of the earth has effects both on land and in the ocean in the form of methane release. As the earth’s temperature increases, certain areas of permafrost on the earth melt releasing long frozen and stored methane gas, which in turn, causes more warming since it’s considered a greenhouse gas. This cycle is never-ending unless affected by an outside source.

Cloud Feedback
Some types of clouds, particularly cumulus, are expected to increase in frequency and coverage in the future due to warming and higher, faster evaporation rates. Clouds of this type tend to reflect radiation back down to the ground thus enhancing the lower atmosphere’s ability to retain heat. This increases the earth’s temperature even more causing more cumulus clouds and more back-to-earth radiation reflection. This cycle is never-ending unless affected by an outside source.

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A Synopsis on Climate Change

15 08 2009

There has been skepticism during the entire lifetime of the theoretical atmospheric anomaly called “Global Warming”. Global Warming is a term coined to describe the unnatural rise of the mean low-level atmosphere temperature over a period of time called climate. Global Warming has also been described as Climate Change although it is not a deserved alias as the earth’s climate often changes in temperature over long periods of time (see ice ages and medieval warming). As such, Global Warming should have been coined as the 21st century Global Warming Trend instead of its current names.

Cycle of Greenhouse Gases

The evidence of Global Warming has seemed to pile-up over the time span of its coined existence. This could be due to the fact that more investigations into the global climate heating has resulted in both expected and unexpected evidence and it could be a result of ongoing changes that take place in real time such as the breaking off and thinning of glaciers. Some of the evidence already observed include a research study by various scientists and reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include a global mean temperature increase of 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) over the period of the last century although it seems variations in solar radiation and volcanic activity was the primary contributors before the pre-industrial times before 1950.

Temperature Changes
It is forecasted by the IPCC that the global mean temperature could increase yet another 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) by 2100. The uncertainty in the predicted temperature increases is partially due to the fact that different models have forecasted different amounts of chemicals such as Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere during varying spans of time. The prediction of 2 °F is a conservative guess but the 11.5 °F increase is also quite possible and would be, of course, the worst case scenario.

Temperature History

The NASA Goddard Space Institute estimated that 2005 was the warmest year globally since dependable and accurate modern satellite temperature monitoring began, exceeding the previous record established in 1998 by only a few hundredths of a degree. The high temperatures recorded in 1998 is thought to be a result of an unusually strong El Niño event – the strongest in over a century.

Since global temperatures have been monitored and recorded, various global locations seem to heat faster than others such as the difference in ocean temperatures relative to land-based atmosphere temperatures. Ocean temperatures rise approximately 0.13 °C relative to land-based atmosphere temperatures which rise an average of 0.25 °C during the course of a decade. Many factors contribute to the difference in temperature increases including the ocean having a vast depth and spread in which temperature is required to increase as well as the effect of evaporation on the air above the ocean. Liquids warm and cool much slower than the air, being more dense, thus the difference in temperature fluctuations. Also, the north hemisphere would warm much faster than the southern hemisphere mainly due to the fact that the northern hemisphere has more land area than does the south. With upper air currents in combination with the difference in temperature, the polar regions would heat much faster than regions closer to the equator, thus the rapid warming and thinning of the polar ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Due to the heat-retaining capacity of the oceans as well as the lifespan of Carbon Dioxide, even if all emissions were to cease the global temperature would continue to rise well after 2100.

Global Warming Projections

Another area which affects the global mean temperature is the effects of “Greenhouse Gases” originally discovered and coined by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. “Greenhouse Gases” are gases which emit and absorb infrared radiation in the planets atmosphere and enhance the atmosphere’s ability to withhold heat energy. “Greenhouse Gases” include but are not limited to: Water Vapor, Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide and Tropospheric Ozone. Higher concentrations of these gases lead to the planet’s atmosphere retaining more heat than it exerts thus raising the global mean temperature. Since the industrial revolution, global carbon dioxide levels have increased by 36% – ¾ of the increase is suspected to be a direct result of the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence extracted from deep ice pockets suggest that carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in the last 650,000 years – additional evidence is believed to indicate that levels are actually higher than they have been in the last 20 million years. Although most of the gases mentioned enhance the planets ability to retain heat, some chemicals known as aerosols which are either released naturally, as is the case with volcanoes, or by human sowing as is the case with some CFCs. These chemicals reflect radiation back into space from the upper atmosphere countering the effects of “Greenhouse Gases”. Although this may have been the case up until now, it seems as if the amount of “Greenhouse Gases” such as carbon dioxide and methane are well exceeding the amount of aerosol in the atmosphere. This may have been the reason that extreme global mean temperature increase was delayed during the latter half of the 20th century and only become urgent from the beginning of the new millennium onward. Methods have also been used by scientists to combat global warming indirectly and directly including the use of Biochar, Geoengineering and the like.

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Combating Global Warming One Pile at a Time

12 08 2009

So what has the world come to? All of a sudden, desperate people clinging to climate change destruction found a new way to combat global warming – burning poop. Aven manure to be exact. A conference was recently held in Boulder, CO on the topic of Biochar – a charcoal formed from burning organic materials in a low-oxygen environment. It is said to be like a “sponge” for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Not only does it soak it up and store it for up to a thousand years, it’s burning in a low-oxygen environment prevents the creation of carbon dioxide when it is burned.

The Infamous Chicken - The Infinite Possibilities

I fully understand every little effort helps against global warming but I don’t think I would ever be too large of a fan of spreading burnt poop all around the world. It’s a great and large endeavor to take on a project of this size and, although it’s impact on the climate would be minimal, those who wish to spread the poop can say that they assisted in the combat against climate change.

As a reminder, every little effort helps. Carpooling, riding a bike instead of driving, driving a hybrid, stopping smoking, planting more trees and other CO2 consuming plants as well as abstaining from burning fossil fuels can all add up when performed on a global scale.


Shared Beliefs

9 08 2009

I was just browsing around and came across a good post by a well known, albeit local, personality. Dan Satterfield is but a television meteorologist to some but an inspiration for others. Since 1995, I’ve been watching his forecasts and enjoying severe weather coverage with his excitable antics. The post I am mentioning here came from his blog, Wild Wild Weather Journal. It’s a good and startling read when you contrast today with tomorrow (figuratively).

Dan’s Wild Wild Weather Blog
Dan’s “Climate Change In Your Backyard” Blogpost