BAN #185: BAHFest, 2019 was the second hottest year on record

20 January 2020   Issue #185

[Spiral Galaxy M81 image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona]


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Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

I’m very excited to once again be a part of the ridiculously fun and funny BAHFest — The Bad Ad-Hoc Hypothesis Festival — where very smart people make up very bad explanations for a scientific observation, and then defend them earnestly on stage. I cannot express how awesomely entertaining this is! It’s the brainchild of Zach and Kelly Weinersmith (Zach writes Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and Kelly for some reason loves sticking parasites into fish brains; together they wrote “Soonish” which you must read).

Even better: I’m a judge (again), but not only that I’m giving the keynote presentation to kick the festivities off! I’m working on that now, and it will be at the very least mildly amusing.

BAHFest Houston is on Sunday, 8 March, at 7:00 p.m. I really hope to see y’all there.



Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is real, y’all

To the surprise of absolutely no one, 2019 was the second hottest year ever recorded on planet Earth.

I mean, the only surprise to me is that it wasn’t the actual hottest.

This is according to NASA, NOAA, and Berkeley Earth, y’know, those fly-by-night groups bent on alarming the public.

If only the truth weren’t so damn alarming.

[The annual global temperature anomaly — the change in temperature from an average, in this case from 1951 – 1980 — from several analyses shows 2019 is the second hottest year on record, going back 140 years. Credit: GISS / Gavin Schmidt]

If you think it being only in second place is a relief, then note that the record year, 2016, was also an extreme El Niño year, when this warming phenomenon was the strongest ever seen. So 2016 had a head start over 2019; if it weren’t for that then 2019 woud have been a stronger contender for the record. By the way, the five warmest years on record are all since 2015.

And not only that, but when you bin the temperatures over decades, then the previous decade just finished was in fact the hottest ever seen since records began. That may be more important to note, since year-to-year variations can fluctuate.

Berkeley Earth also found this striking fact:

“We estimate that 9.9% of the Earth’s surface set a new local record for the warmest annual average. In 2019, no places on Earth experienced a record cold annual average.” [Emphasis mine]

If the Earth weren’t warming, you’d expect about the same number of heat as cold records. This proves, again, that global warming is real.

The point: The Earth is heating up, and it’s doing it fast.

[Various global climate anomalies for 2019. Credit: NOAA (click that for larger image that is more readable).]

Which is the danger. The deniers love to say things like, “The climate has changed in the past,” and “It was warmer in the blah blah period” tens of millennia ago. That, like essentially every other claim they make, is garbage. The problem isn’t so much the temperature overall — though that is a problem — but how rapidly the temperatures are increasing around the planet. That steep rise is unprecedented as far back as our science allows us to look. That means the ecosystem doesn’t have time to adapt, and we see catastrophic extreme weather.

Like, say, Australia, where the continent is on fire. Deniers have been blaming that on arson, which is forehead-slappingly ridiculous. It’s not what started the fires that matters, its what gave them their enormous and heartbreaking scale. Climate change has severely impacted Oz, putting it into a vast drought and drying up the vegetation, making it ready for any spark to be transformed into an inferno.

And yet, and yet, we see repellant claims from the usual GOP brain trust, saying things like this:

It’s really hard to overstate how weapons-grade dumb this is. Happily, someone replied putting Paul’s comment in perfect framing:

While Australia is on fire, their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had the gall to promote coal (Australia is one of the largest exporters of coal in the world). At least he had the minimal sense not to do that from his vacation in Hawaii, where he was enjoying himself as hundreds of millions of animals and dozens of human beings perished in those fires.

And people wonder why I rail against the right wing.

In the midst of this nigh-unbelievable denial, there is some good news:

In Texas — TEXAS — wind power generation is likely to overtake coal in 2020, nearly having done so last year. That’s true in other places as well, in large part due to the increase of green energy use, of course, but also because (as I’ve written before) coal is dying. That’s good news, but one reason it’s dying is because it’s being replaced with natural gas fracking, which is just as bad (and may be worse, in that we don’t even really know how much methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, is released through fracking).

So yeah, even the good news is mitigated by the bad.

As always, it’s easy to feel despair seeing this. And I won’t lie, thing’s’ll get worse before they get better.

But we can fix this. There are two easy things you can do:

1) Follow my friends and climatologists Katharine Hayhoe and Michael Mann on social media, and retweet (or whatever) the hell out of their stuff (I also have a curated list of a few climate-related Twitter accounts that I like). Get the word out there. And

b) VOTE.

Seriously, VOTE. If you’re an American and your Rep and/or Senator denies basic science, get the word out, and vote them out of office. Make your voice heard at the ballot, and make it heard online too. Make it heard to them: Call your politicians and let them know how you feel. 5Calls.org has scripts and phone numbers if that helps. So does Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Heck, just search for “call senate climate change script” and you’ll find lots of help.

With Trump and his gang of gangsters in office, America is not leading on this most important issue, making it far easier for chuckleheads like Morrison to deny it as well. If we toss these planet-killing frauds out, then we can be at the forefront again, and maybe save the environment before it really is too late.

Oh: The GOP is doing its damndest to suppress as many votes as they can. Stories about this are legion. Make sure you’re registered! I have a calendar alert set to remind me every month to check on this. Nationwide the rolls are getting purged of millions of voters. Millions. Make sure you’re not one of them, and again, if you have the ability tell others as well.

If we’re to have any strength here, any chance, it’s at the ballot.

Vote.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[A wonderful video changes your perspective, showing you that you’re standing on a spinning rock in space. From Monday’s article. Credit: Eric Brummel]

Monday 13 January, 2019: Your world, unmoored

Tuesday 14 January, 2019: Three supermassive black holes? In the galactic chaos of NGC 6240, ALMA sees just two

Wednesday 15 January, 2019: A new Fast Radio Burst discovery only deepens the mystery of these powerful blasts of energy

Thursday 16 January, 2019: Weird dust clouds orbiting our galaxy’s central black hole may be weirder than we thought

Friday 17 January, 2019: Amazing photo of the Quadrantid meteor shower… from space!


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!