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Joe Romm

March Madness

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Dr. Jeff Masters: A spring heat wave like no other in U.S. and Canadian history peaked in intensity yesterday, during its tenth day. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many temperature records broken for spring warmth in a one-week period–and the margins by which some of the records were broken yesterday were truly astonishing. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, commented to me yesterday, “it’s almost like science fiction at this point.“

Yesterday, meteorologist Masters published a detailed statistical analysis that concluded, “It is highly unlikely the warmth of the current ‘Summer in March’ heat wave could have occurred unless the climate was warming.”

Among the stunning records set yesterday are:

- Pellston, MI: record high broken by 32°F
- Low temperatures beat the previous record high for the date at two stations
- Multiple Canadian cites break all-time April records for warmth in March

This off-the-charts event is just what scientists have been warning to expect if we kept spewing billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the air (see Hansen et al: “Extreme Heat Waves … in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 Were ‘Caused’ by Global Warming”).

Meteorologists and science writers have been struggling to come up with words to describe this super-charged heat wave: “This is not the atmosphere I grew up with” and it’s “not just breaking but obliterating records” and “OFF THE SCALE WEIRD; even for Minnesota.” Climate Central wrote:

In fact, the broad geographic scope of this heat event, along with the margins by which records are being broken, the time of year this is occurring, and the duration of the event are all indications that this may be an unprecedented event since modern U.S. weather records began in the late 19th century.

Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro calls the current heat wave “surreal” and explained that “While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell, given the nature of it and its context with other extreme weather events and patterns in recent years there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity.”

There is a must-see interview of Ostro on the Weather Channel’s website, in which he explains how “data and science” — see this big PDF – switched him from being a skeptic on climate change to someone who understands that humans are changing the climate now:

Watch the video here


We have entered the age of the exclamation point.

But the notion that this won’t be matched in our lifetime is to miss the impact global warming is having on heat records, according to the scientific literature.


Full Story: March Madness: ‘This May Be An Unprecedented Event Since Modern U.S. Weather Records Began In The Late 19th Century’
Source: Climate Progress, March 22, 2012

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