If 2019 Was Second-Hottest Year In History, Why Did It Snow Last Night?
NASA animation

As seemed likely last summer when July became the hottest month in human history and the glaciers in Greenland were gushing melt water into the ocean, scientists have confirmed that 2019 was among the hottest years on record. A team of European climate scientists at the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service announced exactly that Wednesday, noting that 2019 was the second-warmest year on record, and that's only by a hair, because "the global average surface air temperature was 0.04 °C lower than in 2016, the warmest year on record." As the New York Times explains for USA people who use real non-socialist temperatures, that difference was "less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit."

Pretty sure I wouldn't be able to feel the difference sitting in my 1973 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, even with the broken AC (it's parked and my daily drive is a hybrid, shut up).

Also, the death toll from the Australian wildfires is now up to 27 humans and over a billion animals. One billion.

Also, kudos to the Times for this succinct summary of how global warming and climate change work. It's the best single-sentence version I think I've seen, and I intend to steal it, although I'll also keep referring people to the EPA's 2017 explanation, which has since been taken down by the Trump administration.

The finding [...] continues an unrelenting upward trend in temperatures as emissions of greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and change the climate.

The Copernicus press release also noted these handy and disturbing 2019 facts:

• The five warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 5 years, with 2019 coming in as the second warmest and 2010-2019 being the warmest decade on record
• 2019 was almost 0.6 °C warmer than the 1981-2010 average
• The average temperature of the last 5 years was between 1.1 and 1.2 °C higher than the pre-industrial level defined by the IPCC
• Europe saw its warmest calendar year on record, marginally ahead of 2014, 2015 and 2018

And yes, the researchers note that global carbon dioxide levels continued to increase in 2019. That's bad.

The worst warming, compared to the average for 1981 to 2010, "occurred in Alaska and over other large parts of the Arctic. Most land areas were warmer than average, especially eastern and southern Europe, southern Africa, and Australia." But hooray, parts of Canada were cooler than usual, so we're sure someone will cherrypick that one data point and exclaim, see, it's not GLOBAL, now is it?

Copernicus Director Jean-Noël Thépaut may have had that Canada data in mind when he said the long-term data makes clear this isn't a fluke:

The past five years have been the five warmest on record; the last decade has been the warmest on record: These are unquestionably alarming signs. Seeing one or more months much warmer than the recent reference period can be disconcerting but does not as such represent a climate trend, as monthly temperature deviations vary, and some regions may show below average conditions for a while.

And the effects, as the Times notes, were very, very real, and very noticeable:

Over all, Europe had its warmest year ever, with all seasons warmer than average. Summer was blisteringly hot, with heat waves in June and again in July. Single-day temperature records were set in Paris and other cities, and nuclear reactors in France and Germany were forced to reduce output or shut down because the cooling water became too warm.

Too hot to keep the nuclear plants running is pretty hot. The Copernicus study on 2019 warming, which is based on computer modeling (which by the by have proven remarkably accurate for decades), will be followed soon by reports from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and those are expected to show similar results.

This isn't just points on a graph or a temperature map. The effects of 2019's record heat were very real, and very deadly. The Guardian reports on an analysis by Public Health England that found that two heat waves in 2019 led to premature deaths of nearly 900 people, compared to average mortality rates for those dates.

Over the past four years more than 3,400 people have died early during periods of extreme temperature in England. Global heating is increasing the frequency of heatwaves and a cross-party committee of MPs warned in July that the UK was "woefully unprepared" for this impact of the climate emergency.

Virtually all parts of the country were affected, and for the most part, those who died were aged 65 or older, which is consistent with the ugly reality of extreme heat: It's inconvenient for the well-off and young, but turns deadly for the poor and the elderly.

"Tragically, many of these deaths are likely to have been preventable," said Bob Ward, at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. "Many of the people who are killed by heatwave conditions die in their own homes or in care homes. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) pointed out in July 2019 that the government has failed to set out a coherent plan for implementing the adaptations required."

And as in the USA, politicians in the UK figure it's OK if some old folks die, because prevention might be bad for business:

The CCC said it had been recommending new building regulations to ensure homes, hospitals and schools do not overheat since 2015, but that this advice had been rejected by ministers, who cited a commitment to "reduce net regulation on homebuilders".

While local governments in the UK are required to have plans to prevent deaths from extreme cold, there are no such requirements to keep people alive in extreme heat. You might think that would be something to work on.

[NYT / Copernicus Climate Change Service / Science / Guardian / Public Health England / Image: Gif conversion of NASA animation]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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