Friday, August 16, 2013

Now the bad news

Extreme heat waves are set to quadruple by 2040, according to a new study to make growing crops and surviving actually impossible. This will happen  regardless of whether humans curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Published in the Environmental Research Letters, the study tracks trends in heat increases, finding that "3-sigma" heat wave events, in which climates are warmed to 3 times their normal temperature for over 3 weeks in a row, have been on the rise since the 1950s. No amount of emissions mitigation can stop this frequency from doubling by the year 2020 and quadrupling by 2040, and by the latter year, extreme heat events will cover 20 percent of the globe. Furthermore, 5-sigma events, which do not occur presently, are expected to ravage parts of the world's surface by 2040. 3-sigma heat events will be common occurrences in 85 percent of the world, and 5-sigma heat events will occur in 60 percent of the world by 2100.

What 3 sigma refers to is 3 standard deviations, in this case 3 deviations above the mean. 3 standard deviations is about 99.7% so if you were to have data for 1000 heat waves, then a 3 sigma event would be within the three hottest. As the temperature increases, the peak temperature and the length of time of the waves most likely will increase as well but no, we're not about to be basking in 300° F temperatures any time soon. Likewise, the 5 sigma events predicted for later this century will not mean a five-fold increase in temperature but rather serves as an indication that when they arrive they will be severe: 5 sigma indicates the hottest heat wave in about every 2,000,000 events.

More simply (I hope), the worst heat waves of 50 years ago will become the norm while we have yet to experience what the worst heat waves of 2063 will be like.

The report comes as a record heat wave hits North Asia, killing dozens and sickening far more, flooding hospitals with heatstroke victims amid power shortages that are cutting off air conditioning in some areas. A National Resources Defense Council report predicts that, by the end of the century, 150,000 people in the U.S. could die as a direct result of heat waves alone, with the projected deaths from global warming overall being far higher.

Climate chaos will create resource wars around the globe- with many millions more killed. Man-made greenhouse gases will not be curbed, because that would cut too deeply into profits. And, not before too much longer we can expect massive methane releases. Russian researchers have already found kilometers wide columns of methane rising from the ocean. We are cooked. Well-done. 

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