Bad Times-Image courtesy Earth Nullschool
Bad Times-Image courtesy Earth Nullschool
Lake Erie Algae map- summer 2015

GreenWatch: WNY Climate Connections

by / Dec. 31, 2015 10am EST

The year-end wrap up for the state of the environment and climate change here in WNY and across the world is not good. Clearly we are in a state of climate emergency.

On the heels of the horribly inadequate climate change “economic agreements” that have come from the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris (COP21) last month are an ongoing series of historic and devastating storms.

If you have a heartbeat you are well aware of our local changes reflected in this very warm and dry autumn and beginning of the winter. If you are at all connected to the media you are well aware of national weather events on going holiday season.

You may not be aware of the totality of global weather patterns this week. The same storm system that we have been experiencing here -“Goliath”, a huge storm that has been wreaking deadly havoc across the U.S. with tornado’s and rain and causing the severe and historic flooding in the mid-west and around Dallas, St. Louis, and beyond is wrapped around much of the far northern part of the planet. This system which in the UK is called “Storm Frank”, has come with severe rains and flooding throughout much of the UK with severe impacts in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England.

Yesterday, December 30 2015, this system caused temperatures at the North Pole to top 50 degrees above average for this time of year.

Meteorologists describe this very unusual system as a “bomb cyclone.

What we do not see in the U.S. media is any critical analysis of how these storms are linked to climate change. They are. It is here big-time. (it will get worse)

Here is a primer published by the Union of Concerned Scientists that will help set the relationship table for you. “Is Global Warming Linked to Severe Weather?

Here are some more links to this storm system from news sources across the globe.

Freak storm pushed North Pole 50 degrees above normal to melting point Washington Post December 30, 2015

Bomb Cyclone predicted for north Atlantic as storm cycles collide

Warm Arctic Storm To Hurl Hurricane Force Winds at UK and Iceland, Push Temps to 72+ Degrees (F) Above Normal at North Pole


Climate Emergency is Here, Now.

In November of 2013 a startling report was released saying that methane gas (hydrates) on the arctic seafloor (subsea permafrost) was being released at twice the previous estimates. This is startling because methane, or natural gas, is one of the most severely impactful greenhouse gasses. It is described as 30-50 times more negatively consequential than carbon. The 2013 report is also startling because it states that this arctic release “will only strengthen over time”.

This is the same gas that many of us use in our homes and which has been the subject of much controversy in our area because of concerns about hydrofracking wells and storage and infrastructure issues including the building of a massive natural gas storage facility under and around Seneca Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region.  We are Seneca Lake

-An ongoing disaster regarding leaking methane from a California site near Los Angeles (Porter Ranch) is perhaps one of the most underreported stories in this years news.

The 2013 arctic hydrate release report helps us to better underdstand continuously emerging “feedback loops,” which is a way of describing exponential warming consequences of the life systems on the planet that are breaking down due in large part to the warming trends.

These feedback loops are driving the speed and enormity of climate change. In this case as the arctic temperatures warm, more trapped gas is released, which leads to more warming, which leads to more gas releases and other consequences including habitat loss and species extinction. Some say that the exponential consequences are leading to imminent collapse of ecosystems. Human survival is at great risk.

In August of 2015 Rolling Stone published an important article “The Point of No Return, Climate Change Nightmares are Already Here”. The article refers to a study released last July by James Hansen, former NASA climatologist and a group of scientists that identifies a new feedback mechanism (climate consequences are exponential) that indicates that sea level changes are actually occurring at 10 times the predicted speed of some climate models.

The article also points out that within the oceans, rising temperatures are changing the life and capacities of the rapidly failing ocean ecosystems.

Late in 2015 and mostly coming since the end of CON21, The Paris Climate “negotiations”, a new wave of scientific reports and studies cataloging ongoing and mounting consequences related to the atmosphereric variability and instability that characterize climate change have been released.

Here are some important stories about those studies and reports that you may have missed:

-Russia Warming Faster than Rest of Planet Common Dreams December 25, 2015

-A report released just before Christmas by NOAA (Arctic Reportcard 2015) says that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the earth. The consequences of this are just starting to impact our thinking.  Unfortunately, they are not impacting our actions. This reality has been impacting our economy, our social stability, and our capacity as a species to survive this crisis for some time, apparently unnoticed by most humans in the USA.  We are like the proverbial frog in the pot, slowly heating up until we are cooked, and by then we have no capacity to get out of our own way. 


Western New York Climate Connections

If you have ever read GreenWatch, you know that we have highlighted algal growth in the western basin of Lake Erie as a major threat to the human ability to use this water for drinking or any other life sustaining process. In recent years the algae near places like Toledo has incapacitated urban drinking water, and caused a lack of access to this resource for millions of people.  Until now there have been two major culprits formally identified. The excess use of chemicals and fertilizers for industrial agriculture, and inadequate urban sewer systems throughout the system. 

In February of 2014 the International Joint Commission issued a substantial and important report “A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie

This report urged emergency measures to reduce phosphorous and other loads from these sources into Lake Erie. Unfortunately in the two years since the report was released, precious little has been done to address these measures.

In November of 2015 NOAA issued a special bulletin about Lake Erie algal blooms stating that the 2015 bloom in the western basin was the most severe in this century. It describes that how last summer the bloom moved from the shorelines into the central basin which while lessening the impact along the shorelines, “the bloom was unusual in that it started early, in mid-July, achieving maximum biomass in mid-august. Over a 40 day period from late July until the end of august, the biomass detected from satellite exceeded that of any other time period that we have monitored except for the fist seek of August 2011.”

A new study released last week by the American Geophysical Union demonstrates that lakes are warming rapidly across the globe, twice as fast as the oceans.

The report has a focus on the Great Lakes, and includes extreme concerns about Lake Erie.

The new report identifies climate change and rapid warming of the lakes as the new nightmare enemy. The report says that all of our actions regarding chemical and sewer runoff (which amounts to a little discussion but no actions since this IJC report was released has not amounted to a hill of beans. In fact the new report says that even if we adopted all of the measures proposed in the Balanced Diet for lake Erie report were adopted immediately, it would not be enough to save the lake because of its rapid warming and because algae growth and its spread is one of the this is one of the exponential characterizations of climate change.

The economic consequences of this will continue to impact us in WNY.  When the algae gets here it will affect our ability to use the water for drinking. We already have accelerated beach closings, and the outlook remains grim for reversing this process. We may have some solutions, but they will cost money.  The first thing we need to to is recognize that climate change has enormous impacts in our region, and in our community. We need to declare a climate emergency, and then we need to find ways to act. We do not have a lot of time.

Here are some recent stories and links to the Great Lakes Lake Erie algae disaster that is upon us.

Toxic Algae Blooms Could be the New Normal”- Smithsonian Magazine

Climate Change Rapidly Warming the World’s Lakes“ Eureka Alert/Washington State University

Number of Severe Algae Blooms to Double in Lake Erie”- Ohio State University 16 December 2015

Scientists predict huge Lake Erie Algae Blooms”- Toledo Blade

Dire Predictions of Severe Water-fouling Algae Lake Erie”- Post Gazette

World’s Lakes at Risk of Algae Blooms“-Nature World News


And just to wrap the horrible year of 2015 up-

“Growing connection between climate change and terrorism” Newsweek December 2015

Will 2016 be better? You had better get to work.


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