The world’s largest gathering of Earth scientists is happening this week in New Orleans, and they are talking about some amazing science.
Mars appears to be lifeless, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bummer. Data gathered from hundreds of experiments during the total solar eclipse vary from solar physics to Earth science to space biology. And, surprisingly, Saturns rings are a relatively recent development.
One of the announcements, though, was more sobering.
Each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compiles studies about the effect of climate change on the previous year’s extreme weather events. Usually, the report shows that the fingerprint of man-made global warming is on every weather disaster, to varying extents.
This year, the compilation revealed that three significant weather events — one of which caused mass casualties — would simply not have occurred if climate change didn’t exist.
Deadly heat wave in Asia
For weeks during April and May, searing heat roasted India and Thailand. More than 500 people died because of the heat.
A small town in northwest India reached 123.8 degrees — the hottest temperature that country has ever measured. In Thailand, it was the longest heat wave in at least 65 years.
April and May tend to be the hottest months in northwest India, but 2016 was exceptionally so. Christopher C. Burt, a weather historian at Weather Underground, posited that the 2016 heat wave was the most intense ever observed in Southeast Asia.
“All of the risk of the extremely high temperatures over Asia in 2016 can be attributed to [man-made] warming,” says Yukiko Imada of the Japanese Meteorological Research Institute, who conducted the study.
Far-north Pacific Ocean warming
Thousands of exotic crabs showed up on South California beaches. A Galapagos sea turtle appeared near San Francisco. Mahi-mahi could be caught off the coast of Oregon. And a toxic algal bloom erupted along the west coasts of the United States and Canada.
All of this was possible because of the incredible warmth in the North Pacific Ocean.
Ocean temperatures were as much as 6 degrees warmer than normal in 2016. It was the second year in a row that the warmth was present, and scientists colloquially nicknamed it “the blob.”
“ ’The Blob’ sounds like a monster in a movie (in fact, it was, twice) — a mysterious, watery presence that disrupts wildlife, causes the weather to go haywire and sends humans into a panic,” The Post’s Sarah Kaplan wrote in 2015. “But unlike its horror film predecessors, this blob is entirely real.”
The blob doesn’t just affect wildlife — it’s also been linked to the weather pattern that caused the multiyear drought in California and super-cold winters in the eastern United States over the past two years.
John Walsh, a scientist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who led the study on the Pacific warmth, said it wouldn’t have been possible in a preindustrial climate.
Hottest year on record
Last year was Earth’s hottest on record — the third year in a row to earn the distinction. It comes as no surprise that without man-made global warming it wouldn’t have happened, said a team of scientists led by NOAA’s Tom Knutson.
Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, had a very concise way of describing the state of the climate in 2016, when we reported on the record earlier this year.
It “is a wake-up call in many ways,” Overpeck told The Post’s Chris Mooney. “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is serious.”