As meteorologists forecast this week’s sweltering heat and humidity to finally break tonight, here’s a recap of this week’s late-summer heat wave:
- Boston had its second-hottest night ever, never going below 81 in the early morning of August 29. Boston, Providence and Worcester all set records for warmest night for the date.
- New all-time record high set for August 29 in Boston and tied in Providence.
- On the same day, Worcester more than doubled its record rainfall for the date. (Via NBC10’s Matt Noyes.)
- 2018 is on pace to be the 4th-hottest year ever globally and would mean the last 4 years on Earth have each been among the 4 hottest on record.
How do we know global warming is loading the dice for heat waves exactly like the one we’re suffering through?
- Global warming is increasing heat waves.
- Global warming is also raising humidity, amplifying the deadliness of the heat.
- Nights are warming even faster than days, making nights not just more miserable but potentially lethal in a region like ours where many homes don’t have air conditioning.
But as usual, Google News searches turn up little coverage connecting the dots between the heat and the climate crisis. (If I missed any, please link to them in comments.)
The Boston Globe wrote about August’s potentially record-setting heat, but ignored how global warming is adding fuel to our fire. In the weather section, Dave Epstein continues his war on people saying global warming is causing global warming by saying, “One hot summer isn’t climate change, but this type of summer is what a change in climate looks like.” What does the first part of that sentence even mean? He then writes, “The fact that the past couple of decades has seen this kind of warmth doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t go back to a cooler regime.” Is the Boston Globe’s weather correspondent saying global warming could magically disappear?
Epstein seems to revel in being a contrarian who lectures climate scientists about going too far connecting climate patterns to daily weather. On a day when the Washington Post is running the clear-eyed headline “Climate change could render many of Earth’s ecosystems unrecognizable,” he makes the Globe’s climate coverage look painfully behind the times.
WCVB did not connect climate disruption to February’s record heat or the ensuing nor’easters fueled by incredibly warm coastal water. But they did run a story this week during the heat wave connecting the nor’easters to global warming without mentioning this week’s heat wave at all. Maybe this winter they’ll do a story about how climate change fueled the heat wave?
“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” leading climate scientist Michael Mann told CNN. “We are seeing them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires. And we’ve seen them all this summer.”
Maybe some day, Boston’s media will start covering global warming as the clear-and-present crisis that it is. But we haven’t seen it this summer.
Charley on the MTA says
The case of Epstein is really bizarre, and very disappointing. A few years ago he was cheerfully citing the thoroughly discredited and marginal scientist Roy Spencer. He strains to *not* find a climate signal in extreme weather events, like the flooding in the Carolinas in 2015. This is unfortunately typical of many meteorologists, who reflexively avoid talking about patterns in weather — partly for good reason. Not all weather *means* something.
But after a point avoiding such a discussion beggars common sense. Let’s say Dustin Pedroia was hit on the wrist by a pitch; his power and average dips, and his strikeout rates go up. Let’s say in game 120, he strikes out against Luis Severino. Now, do I *know* that he wouldn’t have struck out if he were healthy? Of course not! Is it foolish for me to link the two? Of course not!
The thing is that global warming doesn’t require more evidence. It is real and human-generated, beyond any sane doubt. There is an obvious pattern; there is extremely likely mechanism of causation — it’s real, and we don’t require any individual event as proof, But at this point it is logically overly-stingy to avoid linking an extreme weather event to global warming. Our recent weather is a data point that fits neatly into the already-established pattern. Very simply, as a matter of properly informing the public, it would defy common sense — ie. it would be stupid — not to say so.
Honestly, I have never expected the weather segment of a regular newscast to do a deep dive into the whys and wherefores behind what’s happening, just to tell us what is going to happen to the best of their ability.
This misses the point, though.
I am reminded of when we first publicly learned of the dangers of cigarette smoke. It seems incredible now, but there was a time when on-camera smoking was routine. When the case against cigarettes was beyond reasonable doubt, on-air smoking disappeared. Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson restrained themselves while on camera.
The scientific case for anthropogenic climate change is at least as compelling as the case against cigarette smoking was when on-air cigarettes were banned.
No “deep-dive” is required. The movement of weather systems across North America has stalled this summer, and that is a direct consequence of anthropogenic climate change. The entire west coast has been ablaze this summer, another consequence.
On-air meteorologists somehow find time to tell us to bring our umbrellas and overcoats when it rains. They somehow find time to make idle chit-chat about various things.
There is plenty of time in the weather segment to connect extreme weather events to anthropogenic climate change. The fact that it doesn’t happen is more evidence of the same bias that has paralyzed us from taking steps to reduce our contributions.
I really don’t think it’s as deliberate as you make it sound. People have used weather as idle chit-chat fodder since time immemorial. A weather forecast is immediate and quick, but I don’t think on-air meteorologists are climate deniers (and for the record I DO hear references to climate change from time to time).
I’ve mentioned here before that the Philippines Al Roker, Kim Atienza, is a bit of a clown who seems to take his fashion cues from Crocodile Dundee. That said, he was a proud observer at the Paris Accords. Even he loathsome Duerte
Climate denial is the original fake news and no paper of record or local station should employ anyone in a public facing position who espouses this ideology. Anymore than they would add credence by hiring vaccination skeptics or skeptics of tobacco’s cancerous consequences.
Even the loathsome Rodrigo Duterte has slammed the West for ignoring the developing world and not adhering to the Paris timetable, conceding climate change as a “day to day problem” for his island nation. Climate denial at the highest levels of government and media is a uniquely American phenomenon. One that we should not be proud of nor tolerate at the local level.
“[…] to the best of their ability” always includes details like telling us whether we’re in ‘season’ (including things like hurricane season), what the jetstream might be doing, conditions of any large bodies of water, whether any seasonal records might have been set or broken recently (implicitly scoping trends), whether or no el nino or la nina is at play, and, in general, contextualizing what’s happening over a far wider scale and scope than your particular environment.
Denying climate change is exactly like denying that we’re in hurricane season and therefore can’t be expected to see any hurricanes on the horizon. Nobody does that for hurricane season, because the cost of being wrong is decisive, but they do it for climate change… It’s bad enough the stupid and the untrained do something like this, but for those trained and focused daily upon meteorology to not, at least, push back on it is scandalous.
Because that’s also more immediate. We see a particular weather event on the horizon in the next few days so they report it is coming. Climate change is a longer term phenomenon.
And, yet, to think that not 9 months ago, here at BMG we lampooned how the GM of the T (briefly) lamented the “Siberian” temperatures that were masking his lack of effort.
The term ‘warming’ is just a second order measure of energy. There is more energy in the atmosphere. Hotter summers and colder winters, with more fierce storms for each season. The benign equilibrium that we’ve been enjoying for the past entire existence of the species is being re-calibrated out from underneath us and our predictive capacities do not extend to the new normal. All bets are off on understanding what’s going to happen other than to say it is, as Colbert says, now with more more.
In the 70’s we naively made a simplistic prediction of ‘more warming’ and since it’s more of everything, the opposition has been beating us over the head with the wrongness of our naive prediction. That’s why the ‘new’ term is ‘global climate change’ and not ‘global warming.’ Of course, now the opposition is trying to beat us over the head with our change in prediction.
In fact, the very fact of opposition is a problem: who is that opposes hurricanes? Nobody. Sure, nobody likes hurricanes, but nobody denies the impact of a hurricane either… (Except when Puerto Rico is concerned and they have to take a year to adequately determine the death toll from one hurricane). Who is it that denies snowstorms in February? Nobody. They simply can’t do it. Instead some use it to hide behind inaction.
The American Meteorological Society officially acknowledged the existence of climate change a few years ago and lost a small but significant portion of their membership because of their stand. A recent survey of their membership shows that 96% believe that climate change is now happening.
Linking specific weather events to climate change, however, is an extremely difficult and somewhat specious exercise. Linking weather to climate change trends, on the other hand, should be a constant reminder of what is actually happening and what we are doing to the atmosphere, the weather, and the climate.