|Opinion: Global warming’s impact to be felt more in 2013||
Our weather continues to be unrecognizable. Last summer was the hottest ever recorded at Baltimore/Washington International Airport. And across the 48 contiguous states, 2012 was the warmest on record by a huge margin.
Globally, the heating trend — fueled mostly by the combustion of fossil fuels — proceeds apace. The years 2000-2009 were the warmest decade in 120,000 years.
A new paper published in Climatic Change examined the increased frequency of record-breaking monthly temperature records over the past 130 years and found that these records are now five times more likely to occur due to global warming, with much more to come.
With these data in hand, I would like to offer a few not-so-bold predictions for 2013. First, superstorm Sandy will return this year with equal vengeance under a new name.
Second, ferocious land-based storms like last year’s derecho will kill a troubling number of our citizens while knocking out power to tens of millions of us (again). Third, we can expect much more drought in 2013, triggering historic closures of parts of the Mississippi River.
Fourth, wildfires will continue to devastate our Western forests with record consequences.
How are such predictions possible? The answer is simple — and it lies in part in superstorm Sandy itself. After the storm, everyone asked: Did global warming cause this monster?
The answer is: yes, yes, and again yes.
As the famous linguist George Lakoff said after Sandy, it was “systemic causation” that triggered the full power of the storm.
We have, beyond dispute, altered many of our planet’s most powerful physical systems in recent decades. There is 40 percent less ice in the Arctic Ocean today than in the 1970s. Satellite photos prove it. We’ve transformed the basic ecological systems that govern the great polar North.
That’s just one example. We’ve simultaneously altered, thanks to global warming, the great systems that give rise to huge hurricanes.
Ocean surface temperatures are way up. Moisture levels in the atmosphere are climbing. And we’ve caused the oceans themselves to rise.
Hard-core skeptics can (wrongly) question human involvement in the warming, but they cannot deny these systems are changing. Higher temperatures, increasing moisture, rising waters: These are measurable, observable facts. And they are also the primary drivers of highly destructive hurricanes.
(Mid-Atlantic waters, for instance, were a full 5 degrees above normal when Sandy slammed into New Jersey and New York.)
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