May 16, 2019
Tom and JD once again take the helm of the U.S.S. Blue Streak Science (DD-981). Our voyage takes us down to the Challenger Deep, and all the way up to the Moon. Along the way we make port calls in England and New Zealand.
Permission to come aboard? Permission granted!
This journey to the Challenger deep spent hours in that extreme environment and not only was there life, there is a thriving ecosystem. Life finds a way…but so does our garbage.
We’ve reached the quarter-mark of the year so it’s as good as ever to have a sit-down with planet earth and have our quarterly discussion of how it’s doing. It’s like an employee evaluation in that Earth is responding to our directives of never-ending greenhouse gas emissions, but unlike an employee evaluation Earth’s reactions to our “discussion” can lead to the boss, us, getting fired.
A lot has happened over the first four months of 2019. Honestly, in the US a week feels like several years. So four months is roughly equivalent to 42 years. Some major global climate disasters that have occurred so far: we’ve had two major cyclones make landfall in Mozambique in March and April bringing unbelievable destruction to that African nation. We’ve had recording breaking river flooding across the central United States, which is saying something. In fact, the US is experiencing its least amount of drought on record because it’s been so freaking wet. Meanwhile, Australia experienced its warmest January on record. and hot temperatures extended to South America, too. Let us know what extreme weather has affected you so far in 2019. Or just your general thoughts on the year so far. Basically, what I’m saying is that I’m lonely and want to talk with you.
Now that this segment has gotten real let’s dig into some specifics. Temperatures first. From the beginning of the year through March 2019 has gotten off to the third warmest start on record, and including April is still on pace to be either the 2nd or third warmest year on record. Could things be not as warm going forward? Sure, but it would still see us only drop to 4th or 5th because, um, climate change… you’ve listened to this segment before right? Now you may be thinking “what makes a year more likely to break a record since not every year is expected to set new heat records year after year?” The major influence is El Nino. When waters warm abnormally in the tropical Pacific it acts to increase global temperatures, too. And with a weak El Nino favored to last through the fall, it’s possible 2019 will set a new record. But more likely to place in the top 3 as we continue this march upwards into the unknown.
Enough with the air, what about the water? After all, upwards of 90% of extra heat from greenhouse gases gets absorbed by the oceans. Well, ocean heat content for the upper 700 meters and 700-2000m of the ocean are at record highs. Unlike Air temperatures, ocean heat content is likely a better measure of climate change as there is year to year variability, and most of the extra heat ends up there anyway. 2019 is likely to set a year OHC record and the long term record shows an acceleration consistent with what you’d expect. YAY
Oh, and sea levels also continue to rise with an overall rise of 8.5cm since the 1990s and 22cm since the 1880s.
Arctic sea ice has also been at or near record lows for most of 2019 and while this doesn’t mean we will set a new record low later this September, it ain’t good folks. A normal summer now has nearly half as much sea ice in the Arctic than it did in the 1970s and 80s.
So to end this evaluation, I’m going to mark down a grade of F. Not a grade for the Earth mind you, it’s not its fault. This poor grade is on US. Because while we are taking much better action and talking about climate change more, it still isn’t enough.
That concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.
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This show is produced by the Blue Streak Science team, and edited by Pro Podcast Solutions.
Our hosts today were Tom Di Liberto and me, JD Goodwin.
Thank you for joining us.
And remember…follow the science!