December 24, 2013
Colder North America And Warmer Rest Of World

Wondering what the extensive snow cover in the US says about the climate of the rest of the world? The US and Canada are the outliers. The rest of the world is warmer. Scroll down to the November 2013 NASS GISS global temperature anomaly map at that link. Alaska is warmer than normal and the rest of North America is colder than normal. Siberia is much warmer than normal.

Bottom line: heavy snows in North America are not a sign that the world is cooling. Unless you have time machine the future of global climate is hard to predict. Since a lot is riding on future trends in climate I'd really like to know what is going to happen.

On the NASA Earth Observatory site you can look at sea surface temperature anomalies (deviations from historical averages) in an animation over 2002 to 20011 and the same for land surface temperature anomalies. I think they should combine those into a single animation series for land and sea.

The sea surface temperature anomaly series certainly shows a warming Arctic region.

I am especially curious about where the rain will fall in a warmer world. This NASA IPCC Sept 2013 sim shows heavily on the equator and less almost everywhere else.

However, this different sim from a NASA site shows Central America and the US southwest drying up but the northern states and Canada getting more rain. More rain in Siberia too. Both sims show a much wetter equator and wetter southeast Asia. Also, the Mediterranean dries in both sims.

You can find more animated precipitation simulations here.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 December 24 12:37 PM 

Ronald Brak said at December 24, 2013 2:44 PM:

Down Under we are far from sure what will happen thanks to global warming, but our CSIRO agress with NASA that there is a real risk that temperate Austalia will get drier while tropical Australia will get wetter. This is not good as temperate Australia is already very dry and any decrease in rainfall will reduce agricultural output and make cities more dependant on expensive desalination. And as everyone knows, the tropics are less agriculturally productive than temperate regions. Pests are one reason, but humidity is a major cause. As humidity increases transpiration drops, reducing photosynthesis, so if humidity is high agricultural production will be low even if water, sunlight and other requirements are met. This means wetter tropics can reduce production further. And of course heat stress reduces production as well.

Ronald Brak said at December 24, 2013 2:56 PM:

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Tom Billings said at December 27, 2013 11:30 AM:

Ronald, one of the major solutions to tropical soil infertility was invented 2,500 years ago, in the Amazon Basin. It is presently called "Terra Preta do Indios", or "the Black Earth of the Indians". It was made by the Amazonian civilizations to an extent that some estimate it covered 15-25% of that part of the Amazon Basin above flood stage at one time. That meant mostly the ridgelines above the rivers. It was made not by the "slash and burn", introduced with European steel axes, but by what might be called "Chop and Char".

The smaller limbs of trees and woody brush being cleared from orchard areas (83 tree species have good food value in the Amazon) could be quickly chopped, or even torn off even by hand, and tossed on a pile. The pile would then be covered with dirt and lit to make a low-temperature charcoal with large vesicles that held charged ions of nutrients well. Those nutrients could be added to the pile with human waste, food waste, etc. After about 5 years of that, it is now found that productivity is quite high.

Selection of crops for tropical climates will also be needed. Trying to grow wheat in the tropics can be very iffy. Australia might have to change its diet. Indeed, I was told once that the difference, between the prolonged dark ages after the 6th century and the Little Ice Age actually stimulating changes leading to industrialization, is that Europeans after the 6th century hung on to old crops, like exclusively growing wheat, for centuries, even when the climate was too wet to reliably grow many grains in the summer, west of the Vistula.

Ronald Brak said at December 27, 2013 1:55 PM:

Tom, adding char to soil, or biochar as it's often called, can improve the quality of soils throughout Australia. However, it remains very much a niche process compared to methods such as clay spreading which has a greater ease of application. While it is currently hardly used, a moderate carbon price that gives credit for locking up carbon in soils could result in widespread biochar soil amendment. A large and sustained increase in food prices could also result in wider use of biochar, but that's a disaster I hope we can avoid.

Russ in Texas said at December 29, 2013 9:31 AM:

Agreed. I've done some basic biochar research in my "home laboratory" and found it very good for improving the quality of crap clay soil...but dear Lord, would it be hard to pull off on an industrial scale.

Morgens said at January 2, 2014 3:59 PM:

I agree that climate models are far more meaningful than actual climate data, which has been slashed to almost nothing by budgetary cuts globally.

Models can tell you what you want to hear, which is more than you can say for real observations!

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