Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The State of the Climate

At each COP, there has been a United States Center, which presents a series of talks highlighting some of the latest research and findings from the governmental organizations, notably NASA, NOAA and the State Department.  For those of you wanting to participate online, check out their events at  The events are streamed online with an opportunity for questions via twitter feed.   Upcoming presentations include: The New Normal? Extreme Events Today and What That Can Teach Us About Adaption for Tomorrow; Climate Change, Agriculture, and Drought – Lessons from the 2012 Growing Season; Understanding Climate Change and the Redistribution of Heat, Winds, Water, and Worries; Driving a Low Carbon Future: The Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development Strategies Program; and U.S. Climate Finance 2010-2012: Meeting the Fast Start Commitment.

Another feature of the US Center is the Hyperwall, providing data visualizations on a 3x3 panel video wall. While we watched the “State of Flux – World of Change,” other presentations include “Eyes on the Earth (3-D presentation),” “Looking Back and Looking Down” and “Landsat: 40 Years of Watching the Earth’s Surface Change – Water, Forest, Food, Urban Growth, Glaciers & Ice.”  

Tuesday’s presentation was “Taking the Pulse of the Planet: the State of the Climate.”  Presenting via Skype, Mike Brewer and Derek Arndt introduced the key charts that were published in the Annual State of the Climate Report for 2011. With 387 authors from 48 countries, this report tracks 43 climate indicators, both for 2011 and longer term. 

In terms of climate change, the changes are consistent with a warming world.  Sea level, temperatures and land temperatures are rising, while sea ice, snow, and glaciers are diminishing.  Two new climate variables were added for the 2011 report: ocean acidity (increasing) and albedo (decreasing).  They noted that there is “Arctic amplification,” with more rapid changes in the Arctic, likely because of the positive feedback mechanisms.  There was a record set for ocean temperatures, along with an increase in the hydrological cycle.  In the past ten decades, the average increase was just over .1° F; in the past three decades, the average increase was just over .3° F. At the end of the presentation one of the audience members summed up the mood: “How depressing.”

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