Climate 411

Why melting polar ice is a debt we can’t afford to carry

Near Palmer Station, Antarctica. Photo: Alice Alpert

We now know it’s official – 2023 was the warmest year ever recorded.

Citizens across the globe felt the impacts long before it was confirmed. There were unprecedented wildfires in Canada that turned the New York sky orange. Phoenix saw a record-breaking 31 consecutive days with temperatures topping 110 degrees.

Along with these very immediate impacts, we also need to pay attention to the longer-term impacts of climate change. Specifically, when it gets hotter, ice locked in glaciers and ice sheets melts and ends up as water in the ocean. It takes a long time to melt, but eventually all that water raises the level of the ocean.

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Also posted in Arctic & Antarctic, Extreme Weather, Oceans, Science / Read 7 Responses

The latest on climate change in the U.S. – from the Fifth National Climate Assessment

A wildfire in California, 2021

The U.S. government recently released the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report that shows the harmful impacts of extreme weather and other climate hazards are increasing for people across the United States.

The Fifth National Climate Assessment confirms messages in previous reports but brings the details into sharper focus for U.S. regions.

Climate change is increasingly expensive. The direct cost of exacerbated disasters costs the country a whopping $150 billion a year. But there are additional costs as well, including missed workdays from wildfires and heat when the air is so unhealthy that it is too dangerous to work outside.

Scientists can now confidently attribute worsening extreme weather in the U.S. to climate change, including heatwaves, droughts, heavy downpours like those that caused dangerous flooding in New York City in September, and  the deadly wildfires in Hawaii and the West.

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Also posted in Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Science / Comments are closed

The science is clear – climate change is causing more damaging hurricanes in Florida

Flooding in Tampa from Hurricane Idalia. Photo: Andrew Heneen, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

(This post was co-authored by EDF Senior Climate Scientist Ilissa Ocko)

Hurricanes are complicated, and their characteristics depend on a number of factors, which makes it difficult to tease out certain trends and predict the future. But what is scientifically clear is that human-caused climate change is a key reason that hurricanes are more destructive – especially in Florida.

Hurricanes are becoming stronger and faster. They are less predictable and thus more dangerous because there is less time to prepare and evacuate. Flooding from hurricanes is worsening due to higher sea level, more rainfall, and slower storm speeds. 

Florida has always been more vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms than any other U.S. state because its exposed, southern location is surrounded by warm waters. There are almost twice as many hurricanes that hit Florida as Texas, the second most impacted state. But shifting atmosphere and ocean conditions from climate change – caused by heat-trapping gases emitted from human activities – are making hurricane season even worse for Floridians. Here’s how:

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Also posted in Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Oceans, Science / Comments are closed

Climate change threatens Louisiana’s future, but the state is taking bold action to increase its resilience

Louisiana has lost 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands in less than a century, threatening communities from sea level rise and more intense hurricanes. Photo: Leslie Von Pless, EDF

Louisiana represents the paradox of a modern state shaped by a history of fossil fuel-supported development and structural racism that is now dealing with the climate-driven and social impacts of those choices.

As it attempts to do so, it has become a center of climate adaptation and resilience practices, and more recently, climate mitigation efforts, while seeking the right balance for its people, economy and environment.

The results so far look like this:

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Also posted in Cities and states, Extreme Weather, News, Science / Comments are closed

What you need to know about hurricanes and climate change

Photo: NOAA

This post was co-authored by EDF Postdoctoral Climate Science Fellow Tianyi Sun

Today Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane, causing death and destruction. Louisianans and Texans in its path are now mourning and looking ahead to a long and painful recovery.

Laura had winds up to 150 miles per hour, making it one of the strongest hurricanes on record to ever hit the Gulf Coast in the United States. It tied the record for how quickly it intensified, driving questions about the role of climate change in creating and fueling this monster storm.

A look at the latest science

Scientists have been actively studying how climate change affects hurricanes for decades, and the evidence that it can influence several aspects of hurricanes continues to grow.

Overall, climate change is making these already dangerous weather events even more perilous. They are stronger, wetter, slower, and intensify more rapidly. Major storms are occurring more often and piling on heavier rainfall, and scientists anticipate the strongest storms will continue to increase in frequency. Sea level rise, along with stronger winds, are also worsening storm surges, causing more coastal flooding.

All aspects of hurricanes – from formation to track to strength to damages – can be influenced to some degree by climate change, through warmer waters, more moisture in the atmosphere, changing air patterns, and sea level rise.

For some connections, such as how climate change affects hurricane strength and its damages, the science is simple and robust. For other connections, such as how climate change affects hurricane formation and track, the science is more complicated and nuanced.

Here we break down what we know about how climate change affects four key aspects of hurricanes


1. Hurricane formation – competing factors at play
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Also posted in Extreme Weather, News, Oceans, Science / Comments are closed

Four takeaways on climate change and sea level rise in the latest IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published yet another alarming report about the dangers we face from the climate crisis.

The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate synthesizes the latest science on how the oceans and frozen parts of the world have changed, and will continue to change, because of global warming.

More than 100 scientists from 36 countries summarized findings from almost 7,000 peer reviewed research studies. The authors addressed over 30,000 comments from expert reviewers and governments in 80 countries.

A major focus of the report is sea level rise, a climate change impact that is especially serious to those who live in coastal regions – which is more than a quarter of the world’s population. Recent advances in science, such as higher quality data, improved physical understanding, and agreements across modeling studies have improved understanding of the threat of sea level rise.

Here are four of the report’s most important takeaways on sea level rise:

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Also posted in Arctic & Antarctic, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Oceans, Policy, Science / Read 3 Responses