There are dozens of climate models, and for decades they’ve agreed on what it would take to heat the planet by about 3° Celsius. It’s an outcome that would be disastrous—flooded cities, agricultural failures, deadly heat—but there’s been a grim steadiness in the consensus among these complicated climate simulations.
Then last year, unnoticed in plain view, some of the models started running very hot. The scientists who hone these systems used the same assumptions about greenhouse-gas emissions as before and came back with far worse outcomes. Some produced projections in excess of 5°C, a nightmare scenario.
The scientists involved couldn’t agree on why—or if the results should be trusted. Climatologists began “talking to each other like, ‘What’d you get?’, ‘What’d you get?’” said Andrew Gettelman, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, which builds a high-profile climate model.I know one climate scientist who probably doesn't find these revelations bizarre or disturbing. He's the guy who runs the climate science lab at the University of Hawaii, Camilo Mora. His team's modeling predicted a new phenomenon they called "climate departure" that was expected to set in early in the 2020s. (He also addresses overpopulation) Their study was published in the journal, Nature, in 2013.
To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature.
Unprecedented climates will arrive even sooner in the tropics, Dr. Mora’s group predicts, putting increasing stress on human societies there, on the coral reefs that supply millions of people with fish, and on the world’s greatest forests.
“Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.”When Mora's team released its paper it created a stir, a short-lived stir that lasted just a few days before it was flushed down the memory hole. Since then other climate scientists have come to the same conclusions. Again, down the memory hole. Now we have Bloomberg reporting on how the major climate models are inexplicably changing, predicting major changes in the Earth's temperature. As the song goes, "Something's happening here."
Today's missive from the science guys who bring you the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It's about heat - the enormous amount of heat being generated that is cooking the planet. They've invented a new metric, the Hiro. That's the measure of how much heat was created by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WWII.
The Earth today is heating at the rate of five Hiros per second. That's 300 Hiros per minute. 18,000 Hiros per hour. Damn, that's a lot of heat.
...the use of Hiros has one major upside. Earth and especially its oceans have been accumulating such a vast amount of heat due to human-caused global warming that it’s difficult to comprehend. Most people have little if any sense what 10 zettajoules per year—the amount of heat energy absorbed per year by the Earth—means. That’s why climate communicators have searched for a metric of comparison that the public can grasp. It’s relatively easy to visualize five atomic bombs detonating every second, and consequently comprehend the vast amount of energy being absorbed by the Earth’s climate system.
For those who nevertheless object to the Hiros analogy, perhaps microwaves offer a more palatable comparison. The heat accumulating in Earth’s oceans over the past 25 years is also equivalent to every person now on Earth running 35 standard household microwave ovens nonstop during Justin Bieber’s entire lifetime
The good news: the rate at which we’ve been adding heat to Earth’s climate hasn’t changed much over the past two decades. The bad news: to avoid a potential climate catastrophe, global heating needs to begin declining soon and rapidly, which will require international implementation of numerous ambitious climate policies.
So far, many governments appear more inclined to keep increasing fossil fuel extraction than taking the necessary steps to slow global heating. Political leaders in many countries can implement these destructive policies without fear of losing power because too few people grasp the urgency of the climate crisis. Perhaps visualizing global heating as five atomic bomb detonations per second will help convey that sense of urgency to more people.Hmm. Political leaders "inclined to keep increasing fossil fuel extraction." I wonder who that could be?