My View: Fires, Heat, the New Normal under Climate Change Sinks In

Last week I was visiting my folks in San Luis Obispo.  After finishing the Vanguard, I prepared for a jog from the house I grew up in, down to my old high school and back.  It was a little different hitting the hills now as opposed to when I was 23, the last time I hit them.  One morning I left and it was nice and cool, in the 50s, now all of a sudden it was like I hit a wall of heat and the temperature rose like 20 degrees instantly.

Santa Ana.  With the heat wave hitting and the temperatures rising into the mid to upper 90s, we decided to head to the beach and allow the kids to play in the ocean.  But when we got to Avila Beach, about 10 miles away, something weird happened – it was hotter there than San Luis Obispo.

We found out on the news that night, the high in San Luis Obispo was 96, but it was 104 at Avila and 102 at nearby Pismo Beach.  The incredible thing about the 102 reading at Pismo Beach – the previous record high for the day was 80.  In other words, it broke the previous record high by a remarkable 22 degrees.

If this were just an anomaly, we could probably dismiss it as weather extremes and move on.  But, as a recent article in the NY Times demonstrated, this is happening around the globe.

Scientists with the World Weather Attribution project concluded in a study released Friday that the likelihood is that the heat wave currently baking Northern Europe is “more than two times higher today than if human activities had not altered climate.”

An op-ed by Steve Lopez this week in the LA Times notes that “California’s hellish summer really is a grave warning.”

He writes: “In the long, hot, smoky California summer of 2018, as we camp under ash-hued sunset skies, the scariest thought is that the future has arrived, and more intense weather extremes will continue to wreak havoc in years to come.”

Anecdotally, he noted an 81-year-old resident who told him that “summers have always been hot, but lately they seem to have been imported from Palm Springs.”  Perhaps more frightening, “Near Santa Cruz, a winery owner told me there are fewer foggy days and more high temperatures, shrinking what have long been prime grape-growing regions.”

I found Mr. Lopez’s column interesting as he engages with readers who are climate change deniers.  He found in a recent column that the reaction falls into four categories:

There is no climate change, and I’m a stooge to have fallen for a hoax.

Global warming exists, but it’s not man-made.

Climate change is real, but it’s silly to believe California’s environmental zealotry can measurably improve a global problem.

And lastly, if climate change is real and it’s here, what can we do about it legislatively and individually?

In response to a reader whose argument was there have already been record high days, Mr. Lopez responds: “Yes, unusually high temperatures have always existed, but scientists have now documented more frequent and intense heat waves of longer duration. Also, nighttime temperatures have increased, record highs now outnumber record lows by a 5-1 ratio and atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 250 parts per million to 400 parts per million, all of which has altered climates around the world.”

Then there is the reader who suggests Mr. Lopez look up the writing of “climate scientist Judith Curry, who has long attacked the views of many climate scientists as alarmist. Curry has not challenged the notion of global warming, but has questioned the causes, and whether there has been a rush to judgment.”

Mr. Lopez talked to Ben Santer, a climate scientist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Mr. Santer said: “Prof. Curry has argued (and continues to argue) that: 1) climate scientists routinely ignore important uncertainties in their efforts to quantify human influences on global climate; and 2) reality is too complex for us to comprehend; we will never understand the real-world climate system.”

He disagrees.

“In my line of research — climate fingerprinting — we routinely consider uncertainties in satellite temperature data, in model simulations of natural variability, and in model estimates of the climate response to human influences,” Mr. Santer said.

“Furthermore, we routinely look at other possible explanations for the observed changes in climate (such as changes in the Sun’s energy output and changes in volcanic activity). Uncertainty is an integral part of our work. We do not sweep it under the carpet, as Prof. Curry incorrectly asserts,” Mr. Santer said.

He added that, despite imperfect observations, it is clear “beyond any reasonable doubt” that evidence points to a “human-caused warming signal” related to greenhouse gas increases. And if we wait for more perfect data before responding, Mr. Santer warned, “humanity is in trouble.”

That is my view at this point.  Humanity is in trouble.  We are sitting around watching the world change, perhaps permanently and irreparably, and debating over cause rather than taking action.

Mr. Lopez echoes my thoughts here: “I grew up in California, lived in the Bay Area for 30 years and in Southern California for 20 more, and yes, climate variations have always existed. I can recall many extremes of dry heat and steady rain.

“But this looks and feels different. The hills are drier and more combustible, the heat is hotter and more stubborn, the fires are bigger and more frightening and I can only wonder what we’ll be passing on to my daughter and future generations.”

Mr. Santer suggested that people read “Climate Change Evidence & Causes,” a short summary that’s been neatly laid out by the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The only real question in my mind is how bad will we allow things to get before we are allowed to act?

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 Comments

  1. Keith O

    All you alarmists were quiet last year when the summer temps were more mild than usual. You alarmists always say it’s just weather when it doesn’t fit your agenda but somehow when it’s hotter than usual it’s climate change.

      1. Don Shor

        Specifically summer 2017 had more days with high temperatures above average than usual. Gardeners noticed the impact on tomato production.
        Here’s the overall trend:
        https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article210737534.html
        It’s undeniable. That won’t stop people from denying it.
        Distinct climate change signals in our area include the loss of Valley fog, and the persistence of the West Coast ridge in winter. Impact on chilling portions is noticeable, though impact on chilling hours less so to date. It’s an important distinction for some woody tree crops.
        Here’s my guest column in the Enterprise: https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/news-columns/per-capita-davis-what-can-valley-gardeners-expect-as-our-climate-changes/

  2. Ken A

    David is correct that we did have a hot July (and fires) last year, but we were having hot weather (and fires) before he was born (and EVERY year since he was born)…

    10 All-Time Hottest Weather Temperature Days in Sacramento

    June 15, 1961 – 115 degrees

    July 14, 1972 – 114 degrees

    July 13, 1972 – 114 degrees

    July 11, 1961 – 113 degrees

    June 14, 1961 – 113 degrees

    July 3, 1991 – 112 degrees

    July 18, 1988 – 112 degrees

    July 26, 1975 – 112 degrees

    July 25, 1975 – 112 degrees

    July 10, 1961 – 112 degrees

    It looks like some of Sacramento’s hottest days ever were in the 70’s when we were supposed to worried about “global cooling”…

    https://sacramento-ca.knoji.com/10-alltime-hottest-weather-temperature-days-in-sacramento/

      1. Ken A

        I’m not a “climate change denier” just like I don’t deny that there is an “achievement gap” the climate is always “changing” (it has NEVER been the same year over year and I don’t “deny” that the fossil record shows that we had an “ice age”) just like there has always been an “achievement gap” between students (even with identical twins that share the same DNA). I’m just in the camp that disagrees with Billionaire Tom Steyer and others who want billions of taxpayer money (given to his politically connected friends and companies) to fix the problem (aka stop the climate from “changing”).  There are people that think Solyndra in Fremont, CA could have “helped the climate” with just another billion or so in taxpayer money given to the politically connected rich guys running the firm…

  3. Alan Miller

    Humanity is in trouble.

    Could be.

    We are sitting around watching the world change, perhaps permanently and irreparably, and debating over cause rather than taking action.

    Doubt there’s much we can do, even if the whole world were California, and it’s not.  And if the cause isn’t humans, there’s nothing we can do.

    Strange, I was talking last summer with some old Davisites and we were talking about how we haven’t had those long strings of way-over-100-degree days like Davis used to have every summer, not in many years, and how much cooler it’s been.

    1. Keith O

      That’s how I remember last summer in Davis too.

      I keep looking for that 50 foot wall of fire moving rapidly towards Davis.

      It seems like a “crisis” per day when you read the “V”. I guess that sells.

       

      1. Ken A

        I’m wondering if Don thinks that an evil team of Republican “climate change deniers” have been secretly changing the historical records and hypnotizing old guys tricking them into thinking that we had a record number of days over 100 in 1988 (30 years ago) when it really never got over 85 or maybe (just “maybe”) Alan, myself and other “old guys” are correct when we remember more 100 degree plus days in not so distant past…

        https://weather.com/news/climate/news/100-degree-temperatures-us-cities-average-most-records

        1. Don Shor

          I’m wondering if Don thinks that an evil team of Republican “climate change deniers” have been secretly changing the historical records and hypnotizing old guys tricking them into thinking that we had a record number of days over 100 in 1988 (30 years ago) when it really never got over 85 or maybe (just “maybe”) Alan, myself and other “old guys” are correct when we remember more 100 degree plus days in not so distant past…

          No.
          Sacramento broke that record in 2016 with 11 days in a row over 100. Davis almost did, except that one of those days was only 99.
          Weather data for Davis is actually available online.

        2. Ken A

          Sacramento may have broken the most 100 degree days “in a row” record but I think that 1988 still has the record most 100 degree days “in a year” (I’m happy to admit I’m wrong if Don can post a link).

        3. Howard P

          Don… Your chart cited in your 9:30 post…

          Please note that it is labeled “over 100 degrees”… what I cited, recalled was from the Bee (have been unable to mine their history) about Sacramento area (which I cited, not just Davis) “~100 degrees” which, in my view, includes days 98 degrees or higher (who can really discern, without a thermometer, the difference between 98 and 100 degrees)… your data is not in dispute… but absent more info/data, I do not consider it refutation of what I recall the Bee publishing…

        4. Ken A

          I want to thank Don for the chart (that shows after 34 years of “global warming” Davis had a 50% drop in days over 100 degrees)…

          Don’s chart shows we do have climate “change”.  I have never met anyone (or heard of anyone) that “denies” this yet we have a large number of people that think there is a huge number of “climate change deniers” out there who think the climate never changes (many of these same people think that the Russians “stole the election” since not a single person in their Yoga class voted for the guy with fake orange hair)…

    2. Howard P

      Humanity is in trouble

      Always has been… different issues over the millenia…

      Mini-ice ages, real ice ages, war, famine, pestilence (remember the plagues and Spanish flu? Dangers to the ozone layer?)… perhaps the Jehovah Witnesses (and others) are right… we may be at the “end of times”

      Nothing new under the ‘scorching sun’…

      I’ll focus on hoping I will have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and hoping I’ll gain the wisdom to know the difference.

      I remember when the Sac region had ~100 days at/over 100 degrees (single calendar year), am thinking ~ 20 years ago… talk about a long, hot, summer… wonder what the CO2 concentration was then…

      1. Ken A

        Sure we had “Mini-ice ages, real ice ages, war, famine, pestilence (remember the plagues and Spanish flu? Dangers to the ozone layer)… ” but all of this could have been prevented if every castle in the middle ages was built to LEED “Platinum” (Gold would not have been good enough) standards and if castle developers were required to install solar power and electric chariot charging stations and bike racks (all low so even the serfs could easily rack their taxpayer funded electric bikes)…

      2. Don Shor

        I remember when the Sac region had ~100 days at/over 100 degrees (single calendar year), am thinking ~ 20 years ago

        That has never, ever happened here.

    3. Tia Will

      how we haven’t had those long strings of way-over-100-degree days like Davis used to have every summer, not in many years, and how much cooler it’s been.”

      That is like holding up a snowball in DC to disprove the presence of “global warming”. Just because we happen to live here doesn’t make us the harbinger of “global”.

  4. Jeff M

    Liberals screwed up by politicizing the scientific theory of global warming and casting blame on industrialism at the very time that conservatives politicized the economic explanation for the large and growing income and wealth gaps between the working class – who tend to be conservative, and the new professional class – who tend to be liberal.

    This was just one of a handful of liberals’ negative political branding opportunities that Trump was able to leverage to get elected.  The list includes:

    – Working class conservatives are icky and bad… they are racist, misogynist and xenophobic.

    – Sanctuary cities are good, illegal immigration is good, and our borders should be open to all… and who cares that the flood of poor and uneducated people depresses working class wages and the supply of jobs?

    – Globalism is good… we don’t need all those polluting low-wage manufacturing jobs here.

    – Fracking is bad… the world should run on green sustainable products produced by liberal billionaires like Elon Musk.   Who cares that hundreds of thousands of oil and gas industry jobs disappear?

    – Banning is good… banning logging, mining and manufacturing is good for the environment… who cares that all those jobs are lost?

    – The education system is fine the way it is… my liberal kids will be fine.  Those working class conservatives are just lazy… not doing their social sciences identity politics homework so they can get a higher GPA so they can get into a good college where they can get advanced social science identity politics training and learn why American should ban more things to stop all the raging wildfires in CA.

    And the funny thing is, liberals have not stopped with this stuff.  They have increased the frequency and volume of the same.  And adding that everyone that disagrees with them is an ignorant Nazi.

    1. Don Shor

      Liberals screwed up by politicizing the scientific theory of global warming

      There is considerable evidence that there has been a long, coordinated campaign against climate change legislation and seeking to exaggerate skepticism, sponsored by the fossil fuel industry and managed through various prominent think-tanks.
      There was once consensus across the political spectrum about climate change. Then it became evident to Republicans running for Congress that they could not get funding if they didn’t oppose climate change legislation and adopt positions that denied the evidence. Heartland Institute has been at this for more than two decades.
      Conservatives have the greatest share of responsibility for politicizing climate science and rejecting the actual consensus view.

      1. Jeff M

        Conservatives have the greatest share of responsibility for politicizing climate science and rejecting the actual consensus view.

        You just completely ignored the main point.  Liberals put the target on the Democrat party.  Thank Algore.

      2. Jeff M

        Another point directly related to the CA fire situation.

        By attempting to exploit the scientific theory of global warming to advance their politics and ideologies, the left has cause a lack of focus on the need for adaptive policies.

        For example, by California and Obama chasing stupid carbon credits and sustainable energy goals in the name of global warming (while China and the EU continue to spew greater emissions into the atmosphere) everyone gets all cool and fuzzy that we are “doing something”… and thus ignores the need to push adaption policies.

        If liberals controlling CA are so damn smart about this global warming science, they would also know that science has said that it cannot be reversed anytime in our lifetime and likely longer.  And thus the primary focus of policy should be adaption.  That should have meant greater water storage capability (instead of a $100 billion+ bullet train to nowhere) and increased fire-prevention measures.

        But then that would mean that there are no crises for Democrats in the state to leverage to advance their bonehead ideological agenda toward some utopia where nobody works, and everyone lives in batter-powered Tesla yurts, wearing clothing made of sustainable hemp and subsisting on wild rodents and tubers.

        1. Ron

          Don: Which will further allow for (and be used up by) an ever-increasing population (leaving us no better-off). With taxpayers picking up at least some (perhaps the majority?) of the tab.

        2. Howard P

          Ron… your 9:12 P post is telling… no one should be let into our “nice” community unless we are “better off”?

          We perhaps should revise Measure R (for residency) and have anyone seeking to live in Davis go to a “vote of the people”… and have to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that you and the rest of Davis be “better off” than today… perhaps we should also make that retroactive to ~ 1980… life was better here then…

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