The Hurricane and the Saildrone – by Porter Fox – The New York Times

“Throughout history, most sea captains have tried to steer their vessels out of extreme weather, but the whole purpose of SD 1045 was to steer into it. “The goal was not just to get into the hurricane but to get to the strongest quarter,” Jenkins said as we watched a video of the storm, shot from SD 1045’s masthead camera. “The big engineering challenge was to create enough sailing power to get in front of the storm, but not so much power that the storm destroys the boat.”

Jenkins and a crew of pilots in Saildrone’s cavernous mission-control room, set in a 1930s Navy hangar on the shores of San Francisco Bay, had been using a satellite link for months to maneuver SD 1045 and four sister ships into North Atlantic hurricanes. The boats were frequently caught in doldrums and set back by powerful ocean currents skirting the East Coast of the United States. That August, a sister ship, SD 1031, successfully entered Tropical Storm Henri, but only in its early stages. With a few weeks left in the 2021 hurricane season, SD 1045 appeared to be the last opportunity to get a Saildrone inside a major hurricane, where it would try to harvest data that could help scientists develop a more sophisticated understanding of why such storms’ intensity has spiked over the last half-century.

As climate change has accelerated, warmer atmospheric and ocean temperatures have increased the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a Category 3 storm or higher by 8 percent per decade. While the total number of tropical cyclones — including “typhoons” and “cyclones” — around the world has dropped over the last century, in the North Atlantic more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes made landfall in the United States from 2017 to 2021 than from 1963 to 2016. Globally, the number of major hurricanes, including a new breed of ultraintense Category 5 storms with winds of at least 190 m.p.h., could increase by 20 percent over the next 60 to 80 years. Once-established storm tracks are simultaneously changing as hurricanes last longer and penetrate deeper over land. According to a 2021 study by Yale University researchers, warmer waters will soon draw extreme storms north as well, threatening to inundate densely populated cities like Washington, D.C.; New York; Providence, R.I.; and Boston.”

“. . . . One presentation at COP26 addressed the scarcity of ocean-data collection vital to understanding tropical cyclones and climate change in general — not just in the developing world but everywhere. More than 80 percent of the ocean has yet to be mapped in high definition, and hardly any of it is being empirically monitored and measured regularly. Oceanographers often point out that appropriations for NASA’s deep-space exploration outpaces ocean exploration by more than 150 to 1 — to the point that scientists know more about the surface of Mars than they do about our own seas, which play an outsize role in the climate crisis and are far more important to the survival of our species. Forecasters and climate modelers, who rely heavily on ocean data, may have to use estimated numbers in their calculations, opening the door to potential large-scale errors in the planet’s carbon budget and all-important global-warming estimates.”

“. . . . Such are the perils of disturbing the equilibrium that Earth has maintained for millions of years, Murakami says. With average atmospheric CO2 content topping 417 parts per million for the first time in more than four million years, he points out another often overlooked and underreported fact: If we stopped burning fossil fuels today, additional warming would begin to flatten within a few years, as would the escalation of tropical-cyclone intensity.” . . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  NYT Comment”

“Oceanographers often point out that appropriations for NASA’s deep-space exploration outpaces ocean exploration by more than 150 to 1 — to the point that scientists know more about the surface of Mars than they do about our own seas, which play an outsize role in the climate crisis and are far more important to the survival of our species. Forecasters and climate modelers, who rely heavily on ocean data, may have to use estimated numbers in their calculations, opening the door to potential large-scale errors in the planet’s carbon budget and all-important global-warming estimates.” “. . . . Such are the perils of disturbing the equilibrium that Earth has maintained for millions of years, Murakami says. With average atmospheric CO2 content topping 417 parts per million for the first time in more than four million years, he points out another often overlooked and underreported fact: If we stopped burning fossil fuels today, additional warming would begin to flatten within a few years, as would the escalation of tropical-cyclone intensity.” . . . . Thank you. I just posted these paragraphs to my blog and facebook page, along with links to the entire, amazing, disturbing article. I really wish the NYT would release us from a limit of 10 shares for any articles on the climate crisis, especialliy since that NYT process is broken, and I get reset every month to just two or three shares.

David blogs at

The Challenge | UNECE

The Challenge

“Methane is a powerful greenhouses gas with a 100-year global warming potential 28-34 times that of CO2.  Measured over a 20-year period, that ratio grows to 84-86 times.

About 60% of global methane emissions are due to human activities. The main sources of anthropogenic methane emissions are the oil and gas industries, agriculture (including fermentation, manure management, and rice cultivation), landfills, wastewater treatment, and emissions from coal mines. Fossil fuel production, distribution and use are estimated to emit 110 million tonnes of methane annually.”

Source: The Challenge | UNECE

Extreme Rain and Drought Is Happening More Often, New Research Shows – The New York Times

“The study provides an emerging picture of distortions in the total amount of water both above ground and also in aquifers deep beneath the Earth’s surface, where most of the freshwater that humans depend upon comes from.

It relies on data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission, known as Grace, which uses satellites that can detect changes in gravity to measure fluctuations in water where other satellites can’t see. That way, it can provide information about locations where there are otherwise no gauges or wells.

“For most of the world, we just don’t have data on how groundwater storage is changing,” Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of earth sciences at NASA Goddard, said. “Grace sort of breaks those boundaries and provides information everywhere.”

In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Water, Dr. Rodell and Bailing Li, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, analyzed the satellite data to measure water-cycle extremes. They uncovered 505 wet and 551 dry episodes between 2002 and 2021, then assigned each one an “intensity,” in order to rank them. The intensity rankings took into account the severity of an episode as well as its duration and the amount of land area affected.”

David Lindsay:  Bravo. Oh shit. Here are the two top comments:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  2h ago

We were warned long ago. The following is from a 1981 paper by James Hansen that at the time hit the front page of the NY Times, all the predictions in it have either come to pass or are well underway. “Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.” From a 2012 paper, see the graph of western North America precipitation from 1900-2100 on p 555 of the paper, it makes the recent western drought look like a rainforest by comparison with what is projected to come.

Reply20 Recommended

Switzerland  57m ago

Valuable study. To those complaining about the short term nature of the data (18 years), the following might be considered: a. This data is what we have, and it is empirical and sound. b. Throughout the article, caveats from the writer and the scientists who are quoted make it plain that this data is preliminary and that more data is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. Sometimes it seems that the words ‘maybe’ and ‘could’ are invisible to some readers. c. We have to look at preliminary data — we are in rapidly evolving, dangerous situation and we need all the information we can get. If you start getting sharp pains in your chest you don’t wait to gather more data — you act on what you know and get to a hospital. One thing that is striking to me is the rapid rise in variability after 2018 — perhaps reflecting the increasing amounts of water vapor being carried from place to place in a warming atmosphere.

1 Reply19 Recommended
DL: Commenter Girl of NJ opined that she wanted a brief but spectacular explanation of how Grace could do this science, which promted this next comment:
Alfonso Bedoya
Meso-Connecticut2h ago

@Commenter Girl This link might begin to explain As I understand it, the distance measured between the two satellites correlates with the strength of the earth’s gravitational field directly below. More or less ground water in a given area will be reflected in those measurements, which can be matched with past measurements of that area.

In Reply to Alfonso Bedoya8 Recommended
And one more:
Tucson1h ago

With airplanes, not only do we weigh airplanes before they are allowed to fly, but we also perform “weight and balance” calculations to see if any section of the plane exceeds its posted limits. Climate Change is changing the weight and balance of Planet Earth by redistributing water and ice. In an airplane, we try to compensate for freight that shifted in flight with rudder and aileron. How will we compensate for shifting weight on Planet Earth? When Planet Earth’s trajectory changes and no longer remains in the orbit human survival depends upon, who will press the rudder to return us to the designated route? Yes, you guessed it. Donald is the answer. By all means, vote republican, ignore Climate Change and let the genius fix it.

Reply11 Recommended

Steamy Relationships: How Atmospheric Water Vapor Amplifies  – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

“Some people mistakenly believe water vapor is the main driver of Earth’s current warming. But increased water vapor doesn’t cause global warming. Instead, it’s a consequence of it. Increased water vapor in the atmosphere amplifies the warming caused by other greenhouse gases.

Earth's water cycle.
Earth’s water cycle. Credit: NASA

It works like this: As greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane increase, Earth’s temperature rises in response. This increases evaporation from both water and land areas. Because warmer air holds more moisture, its concentration of water vapor increases. Specifically, this happens because water vapor does not condense and precipitate out of the atmosphere as easily at higher temperatures. The water vapor then absorbs heat radiated from Earth and prevents it from escaping out to space. This further warms the atmosphere, resulting in even more water vapor in the atmosphere. This is what scientists call a “positive feedback loop.” Scientists estimate this effect more than doubles the warming that would happen due to increasing carbon dioxide alone.”

Source: Steamy Relationships: How Atmospheric Water Vapor Amplifies Earth’s Greenhouse Effect – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

Rose Abramoff | I Worked at a Government Lab and Was Fired for My Climate Activism – The New York Times

Dr. Abramoff is an earth scientist who studies the effect of climate change on natural and managed ecosystems.

“KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Shortly after the New Year, I was fired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory after urging fellow scientists to take action on climate change. At the American Geophysical Union meeting in December, just before speakers took the stage for a plenary session, my fellow climate scientist Peter Kalmus and I unfurled a banner that read “Out of the lab & into the streets.” In the few seconds before the banner was ripped from our hands, we implored our colleagues to use their leverage as scientists to wake the public up to the dying planet.

Soon after this brief action, the A.G.U., an organization with 60,000 members in the earth and space sciences, expelled us from the conference and withdrew the research that we had presented that week from the program. Eventually, it began a professional misconduct inquiry (it’s ongoing).

Then, on Jan. 3, Oak Ridge, the laboratory outside Knoxville where I had worked as an associate scientist for one year, terminated my employment. I am the first earth scientist I know of to be fired for climate activism. I fear I will not be the last.”

David Lindsay: This is a complicated story, and I had to take a breath, since my sympathies do not lie with the scientist making a scene at the conference.

Here is one of several good comments that articulate some of my concerns:

Washington Dc10h ago

I think this is a case where the agency acted properly. As Federal Employees we are not permitted to use official time, money or authority to advance a personal cause. Based on the author’s own comments she was at the event on travel and in an official capacity. There was no way to separate her official role from her capacity as a private citizen. Removal (firing) was a proper response for anyone improperly using official time and resources. This rule exists so that the public can have confidence government employees are acting impartially when they do their jobs. You can’t mix activism and the public business on the clock. I note the agency did not discipline her for her off duty activism even when it subjected her to arrest. They acted only when the activism occurred on public time. This seems to me to be reasonable even though they might have been able to make out a case that this off duty conduct adversely affected the efficacy of the civil service. They didn’t do that here and I applaud that decision For the record I am a layman when it comes to climate science. Having said that I fully support urgent action to address this existential crisis.

5 Replies226 Recommended
Oklahoma10h ago

I also am a geologist and emeritus professor with years of experience and more than 100 scholarly, peer reviewed publications. I and my students have given innumerable presentations at scientific meetings, at the local, national and international level. I do not know the particulars of the incident at the AGU meeting in question but having attended many AGU meetings and having been a member of AGU, I know that AGU and it’s membership are certainly not “climate deniers” and generally support peaceful political action regarding climate. I suspect that something more than holding up a sign happened at this particular meeting. I also know that scientific societies do not tolerate disruptive and violent behavior at their meetings. Not ever and not for any reason. I invite everyone to read the American Geophysical Union’s position statement on climate change:

7 Replies153 Recommended

Erik Frederiksen commented 8 hours ago

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC8h ago

I believe that those here supporting Dr. Abramoff’s firing do not appreciate the scale of the threat which climate change poses. Over the next several decades as drought and heatwaves and flooding intensify we will see increasingly severe impacts on agricultural regions driving massive famines and economic decline. Then weakened by that we’ll be faced with retreat from the coastal areas where most of our large cities are located as the West Antarctic ice sheet breaks and the rate of sea level rise accelerates dramatically along with maximum storm strength. It is easy to imagine the planet becoming ungovernable under those conditions. These climate scientists are fighting for the survival of human civilization and we’re about out of time on that score, hence the desperation among those who study this subject.

3 Replies148 Recommended

Earth’s Last 8 Years Were the Hottest on Record – The New York Times

“The world remained firmly in warming’s grip last year, with extreme summer temperatures in Europe, China and elsewhere contributing to 2022 being the fifth-hottest year on record, European climate researchers said on Tuesday.

The eight warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014, the scientists, from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, reported, and 2016 remains the hottest year ever.

Overall, the world is now 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the second half of the 19th century, when emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels became widespread.

Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus service, said the underlying warming trend since the pre-industrial age made 2022’s ranking in the top five “neither unexpected or unsurprising.” “

Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View – by David Wallace-Wells – The New York Times

“You can never really see the future, only imagine it, then try to make sense of the new world when it arrives.

Just a few years ago, climate projections for this century looked quite apocalyptic, with most scientists warning that continuing “business as usual” would bring the world four or even five degrees Celsius of warming — a change disruptive enough to call forth not only predictions of food crises and heat stress, state conflict and economic strife, but, from some corners, warnings of civilizational collapse and even a sort of human endgame. (Perhaps you’ve had nightmares about each of these and seen premonitions of them in your newsfeed.)

Now, with the world already 1.2 degrees hotter, scientists believe that warming this century will most likely fall between two or three degrees. (A United Nations report released this week ahead of the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, confirmed that range.) A little lower is possible, with much more concerted action; a little higher, too, with slower action and bad climate luck. Those numbers may sound abstract, but what they suggest is this: Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years.

For decades, visions of possible climate futures have been anchored by, on the one hand, Pollyanna-like faith that normality would endure, and on the other, millenarian intuitions of an ecological end of days, during which perhaps billions of lives would be devastated or destroyed. More recently, these two stories have been mapped onto climate modeling: Conventional wisdom has dictated that meeting the most ambitious goals of the Paris agreement by limiting warming to 1.5 degrees could allow for some continuing normal, but failing to take rapid action on emissions, and allowing warming above three or even four degrees, spelled doom.

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes As rising temperatures force animals to migrate, vector-borne diseases like those caused by the yellow fever, dengue and Zika viruses will proliferate via mosquitoes. To stop the spread, the biotechnology company Oxitec has engineered a breed of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that produce only viable male offspring, which are nonbiting. These mosquitoes are intended to mate with wild populations and lead, ultimately, to the collapse of those populations. The company led its first pilot project in 2021, releasing approximately four million mosquitoes into the Florida Keys. Here, a scientist transports genetically modified mosquitoes to release them.

Neither of those futures looks all that likely now, with the most terrifying predictions made improbable by decarbonization and the most hopeful ones practically foreclosed by tragic delay. The window of possible climate futures is narrowing, and as a result, we are getting a clearer sense of what’s to come: a new world, full of disruption but also billions of people, well past climate normal and yet mercifully short of true climate apocalypse.

Over the last several months, I’ve had dozens of conversations — with climate scientists and economists and policymakers, advocates and activists and novelists and philosophers — about that new world and the ways we might conceptualize it. Perhaps the most capacious and galvanizing account is one I heard from Kate Marvel of NASA, a lead chapter author on the fifth National Climate Assessment: “The world will be what we make it.” Personally, I find myself returning to three sets of guideposts, which help map the landscape of possibility.

First, worst-case temperature scenarios that recently seemed plausible now look much less so, which is inarguably good news and, in a time of climate panic and despair, a truly underappreciated sign of genuine and world-shaping progress.

Second, and just as important, the likeliest futures still lie beyond thresholds long thought disastrous, marking a failure of global efforts to limit warming to “safe” levels. Through decades of only minimal action, we have squandered that opportunity. Perhaps even more concerning, the more we are learning about even relatively moderate levels of warming, the harsher and harder to navigate they seem. In a news release accompanying its report, the United Nations predicted that a world more than two degrees warmer would lead to “endless suffering.”

Third, humanity retains an enormous amount of control — over just how hot it will get and how much we will do to protect one another through those assaults and disruptions. Acknowledging that truly apocalyptic warming now looks considerably less likely than it did just a few years ago pulls the future out of the realm of myth and returns it to the plane of history: contested, combative, combining suffering and flourishing — though not in equal measure for every group.

It isn’t easy to process this picture very cleanly, in part because climate action remains an open question, in part because it is so hard to balance the scale of climate transformation against possible human response and in part because we can no longer so casually use those handy narrative anchors of apocalypse and normality. But in narrowing our range of expected climate futures, we’ve traded one set of uncertainties, about temperature rise, for another about politics and other human feedbacks. We know a lot more now about how much warming to expect, which makes it more possible to engineer a response. That response still begins with cutting emissions, but it is no longer reasonable to believe that it can end there. A politics of decarbonization is evolving into a politics beyond decarbonization, incorporating matters of adaptation and finance and justice (among other issues). If the fate of the world and the climate has long appeared to hinge on the project of decarbonization, a clearer path to two or three degrees of warming means that it also now depends on what is built on the other side. Which is to say: It depends on a new and more expansive climate politics.

“We live in a terrible world, and we live in a wonderful world,” Marvel says. “It’s a terrible world that’s more than a degree Celsius warmer. But also a wonderful world in which we have so many ways to generate electricity that are cheaper and more cost-effective and easier to deploy than I would’ve ever imagined. People are writing credible papers in scientific journals making the case that switching rapidly to renewable energy isn’t a net cost; it will be a net financial benefit,” she says with a head-shake of near-disbelief. “If you had told me five years ago that that would be the case, I would’ve thought, wow, that’s a miracle.”

David Lindsay: This is an excellent magazine article by David Wallace-Wells on the climate crisis, with complicated negative comments, by many who feel it is childishly optimistic. I beg to differ. This is a cold-eyed piece of really good news, wrapped in an appreciation of failure. It calls me and you to work harder.

why is methane potentially a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide –

Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Even though CO2 has a longer-lasting effect, methane sets the pace for warming in the near term. At least 25% of today’s global warming is driven by methane from human actions.

Methane: A crucial opportunity in the climate fight › climate › methane-crucial-opportun…

Source: why is methane potentially a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – Google Search

What a reptile’s bones can teach us about Earth’s perilous past – The Great Dying | YaleNews

” “We now know that Palacrodon comes from one of the last lineages to branch off the reptile tree of life before the evolution of modern reptiles,” said Kelsey Jenkins, a doctoral student in Yale’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and first author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Anatomy. “We also know that Palacrodon lived in the wake of the most devastating mass extinction in Earth’s history.”

That would be the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which occurred 252 million years ago. Known as “the Great Dying,” it killed off 70% of terrestrial species and 95% of marine species.

Although a large number of reptile species eventually bounced back from this extinction event, the details of how that happened are murky. Researchers have spent decades trying to fill in the gaps in our understanding of key adaptations that enabled reptiles to flourish after the Permian-Triassic extinction — and what those adaptations may reveal about the ecosystems where they lived.”

Source: What a reptile’s bones can teach us about Earth’s perilous past | YaleNews

Failure to Slow Warming Will Set Off Climate ‘Tipping Points,’ Scientists Say – The New York Times

“Failure to limit global warming to the targets set by international accords will most likely set off several climate “tipping points,” a team of scientists said on Thursday, with irreversible effects including the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, abrupt thawing of Arctic permafrost and the death of coral reefs.

The researchers said that even at the current level of warming, about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, some of these self-sustaining changes might have already begun. But if warming reached above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the more ambitious of two targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the changes would become much more certain.

And at the higher Paris target, 2 degrees Celsius, even more tipping points would likely be set off, including the loss of mountain glaciers and the collapse of a system of deep mixing of water in the North Atlantic.

The changes would have significant, long-term effects on life on Earth. The collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, for example, would lead to unrelenting sea level rise, measured in feet, not inches, over centuries. The thawing of permafrost would release more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, hindering efforts to limit warming. A shutdown of ocean mixing in the North Atlantic could affect global temperatures and bring more extreme weather to Europe.”

David Lindsay:  In my humble opinion, there is nothing in the world more important than learning about climate crisis tipping points, and cascading events. If this beautiful earth were a raw egg, would you want to poach it?