Thursday, August 9, 2012

The New Normal -- Literally

We have arrived at an interesting place. ENSO and the solar cycle are the two major short-term influences on global temperatures (absent a major volcanic eruption.) They are now both as neutral as neutral can be:

Zero point zero. ENSO is balancing on the head of a pin. Now the solar cycle:

Looking at the smoothed values, the peak of the last solar cycle hit about 190, and the trough was at about 70. The average is (190 + 70)/2 = 130. And where is the blue line now? Right about 130.

Temperatures are as normal as they are gonna get. Shall we take a peek out into the world and see how the new normal is treating it?

Greenland still looks bizarre:

It's no longer melting over 96% of its surface . . . that's a comfort. But it's hard to look at these albedo numbers and think that all is well. This is some disturbing shit. A difference of 5% in the albedo compared to the average? That's a lot of joules . . . right where we don't want them.

Looking northwards, Dr. Jennifer Francis has a great presentation on how the changes in the Arctic are changing our weather. Key slide here:

And speaking of extremes, the contineintal US had its hottest July ever, and more importantly, drought and heat in the US have sent food prices skyward:

In July, food prices jumped 6%, after three months of declines, according to the United Nations' monthly Food Price Index released Thursday. The main drivers behind the increase? Grain prices. And more specifically, corn prices, which have hit record highs in recent weeks.
According to the U.N. report, global corn prices surged nearly 23% in July, exacerbated by "the severe deterioration of maize crop prospects in the United States, following drought conditions and excessive heat during critical stages of the crop development."
Since we so recently learned that big thunderstorms can chew up the ozone layer over North America, perhaps we should check on thunderstorms in our new world:

 Note that the graph ends in 2011. The crazy thunderstorms that have wracked the Midwest and Northeast over the last two months don't show up yet.

Torn to pieces by an Arctic cyclone, the thin sea ice up north is rapidly giving up the ghost.

Both the cyclone, and the thinness of the ice that got walloped, were fueled by Arctic warming and accelerate it further.

In the upper left you can see a huge chunk of the ice sheet break off and go its own way. This is not, to say the least, a common occurrence, and the ice sages at Neven's seem to be in agreement that this has never been seen before in thirty years of satellite observations.

Both solar activity and the ENSO index are still rising. Be interesting what the world looks like in an extra-warm year, won't it?


  1. At the risk of being overly nitpicky, doesn't the temperature response to both ENSO and solar activity lag by a few months? If so, what we're seeing now is the result of the slightly negative ONI and somewhat lower solar activity of a few months ago.

  2. In terms of ENSO, 0.0 is the three-month average (May-June-July). At this exact moment 3.4 is +0.6C. So that should be close to null.

    The solar average is more approximate because we don't know what the height of this solar cycle will be. It changes quite slowly over the course of its 11-year cycles, so a few months between friends is not going to make a huge difference.

  3. There are of course other factors that influence temperature. What we are seeing (as shown by your graphs) is still extreme. Yes such extreme events seem to be happening more often (see the recent Hansen 3-sigma paper) but they aren't normal. Not yet.

  4. For them to be happening somewhere in the world is normal.

    What true normality is is obviously debatable.

    The point, I'd say, is that -- unlike, say, 1998 -- we've reached the point where the short-term warming factors do not need to be in alignment with the long-term warming factors in order to see dramatic, destructive, explain-it-to-your grandmother climate change.

    Up next, alignment of El Nino, the top of the sunspot cycle, and 15 more years of greenhouse gas warming. Should be interesting.