Winter ‘heat wave’ hits San Francisco Bay Area: How hot will it get?

Amy Graff, SFGATE

Feb. 8, 2022

People enjoy their leisure time on a beach in Half Moon Bay in California, the United States, Feb. 28, 2021. 
People enjoy their leisure time on a beach in Half Moon Bay in California, the United States, Feb. 28, 2021. Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Call it California living — beach weather in February. 

Record-breaking temperatures are heating up Northern California this week with afternoon highs expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above normal, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s will be widespread by mid-week and some locations including the beach in Santa Cruz are likely to break into the 80s.

“We have an extreme forecast index and this event is on the higher end of being a rare occurrence for us,” said Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Monterey office.

The warmest day of the week will be Thursday when San Francisco is forecast to top out at 75 degrees and the Santa Rosa Airport 80.

The winter warm up is the result of a mass of anomalously warm air sitting over California and it’s expected to stick around until at least Saturday with desiccating onshore winds adding to the heat.

Bingaman said there is “strong confidence” some locations will break records this week, especially Wednesday through Friday. 

Take San Jose that’s forecast to hit a high of 78 on Thursday and 77 on Friday. The current same-day record for both days is 73 degrees.

Other locations will flirt with records. Oakland is expected to top out at 76 on Thursday and the current record for that day is 76.

“If for some reason temperatures are higher than forecast, then that will increase confidence that we’ll break more records,” Bingaman said.

Temperatures are expected to start a cool down on Sunday and into next week as the warm air mass shifts to the east and south.

It hasn’t rained in the Bay Area for over 30 days and there’s no indication that the dry period will end anytime soon. This isn’t good news in a region plagued by drought.

“We were expecting a warm, dry break this winter given that it’s La Niña year,” Drew Peterson, a forecaster with the weather service, said. “We were anticipating it lasting only three or four weeks, but the long-term trends still look particularly dry through at least the next couple weeks. This is becoming a protracted midwinter dry spell, which isn’t unheard of. If this continues, we’re going to start pushing into top 10 dry spells during the winter period.”

The U.S. West has been warmer and drier in the past 30 years due to climate change, according to scientists. As global warming continues, researchers predict more intense and longer droughts.

The Polar Vortex starts to behave strangely, cooling down to record levels and going into overdrive, shaping the weather as we head for Winter finale

By: AuthorAndrej Flis

Posted onPublished: 06/02/2022

CategoriesGlobal weather

The Polar Vortex is starting to power up unusually in the late Winter Season, reaching record cold levels in the lower stratosphere. This is not without consequences, as it will strengthen the polar circulation into late winter and will be ready to continue into early Spring, influencing the weather in the United States and Europe.

The Polar Vortex is a powerful short-to-medium term weather component during the cold season. It is strongly connected all the way from the ground up into the higher levels of the atmosphere.

For this reason, we always take great notice of the activity high above in the stratosphere and monitor it all the time. In the next days, the Polar Vortex will behave a bit unusual, as it will kick into overdrive, reaching near record-high power values for this time of year.

First, we will quickly and simply learn what the Polar Vortex really is and how is it so influential. We try to explain this in most of our winter articles, as this is an important part of every winter season.

Such powerful yet simple knowledge really helps to understand the bigger picture of how the weather works in the large picture.



The Polar Vortex can be simply explained as a very large cyclonic circulation, covering the whole north pole, down to the mid-latitudes. It has a strong presence at all levels, from the ground up into the middle atmosphere, having different shapes at different altitudes.

The Polar Vortex is so large that we have to divide it into two altitude parts. One is the lower (tropospheric) part and the second is the upper (stratospheric) part. The stratospheric polar vortex plays an important role in weather development, while the lower tropospheric polar vortex actually circulates the weather that we experience.

But what is this stratosphere? Well, the atmosphere has different layers. Our weather is found in the lowest layer of the atmosphere called the troposphere. It reaches up to around 8 km (5 miles) altitude over the polar regions and up to around 15 km (9-10 miles) over the equator.

Above it, we have a much deeper layer called the stratosphere. This layer is around 30 km/18.5mi deep and is very dry. The Ozone layer resides in the stratosphere. You can see the layers of the atmosphere on the image below, with the troposphere and the weather on the bottom and the stratosphere with the ozone layer above it.


The image below shows a typical example of the upper Polar Vortex at around 30km/18.5miles altitude in the middle stratosphere during winter. It has a very nice circular shape, with the temperature dropping quickly towards its inner core.


strong Polar Vortex usually means strong polar circulation. This usually locks the cold air into the Polar regions, creating a milder winter for most of the United States and Europe.

As a contrast, a weak (wavy) Polar Vortex can bring very dynamic weather. It has a much harder time containing the cold air, which can now escape out of the polar regions, into the United States and/or Europe. Image by NOAA.



In the next image below, we have the polar vortex at a much lower altitude, around 5km/3miles. The closer to the ground we go, the more deformed the polar vortex gets because it has to interact with the mountains and overall terrain and also with the strong weather systems.


Be aware of the cold “arms” extending out of the polar vortex. They bring colder air and snowfall into the mid-latitudes. These arms pack a lot of energy and can create strong winter storms, like for example Nor’easters in the United States or very strong wind storms across the North Atlantic.

For an even better idea, we produced a high-resolution video for you, which nicely shows the Polar Vortex spinning over the Northern Hemisphere at the 30mb level, around 23km/14miles altitude.

Video shows the NASA GEOS-5 analysis for late January. Notice how the polar vortex covers a large part of the Northern Hemisphere. You can nicely see how it spins over the Northern Hemisphere, driving also the winter weather with its circulation.

Polar Vortex circulation (click to play)

   Hurricane Marie moving across the Eastern Pacific – SWE / MK

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But why (and how) does the polar vortex even form every winter season?

Every year as we head into autumn, the polar regions start to receive much less sunlight. This way, cooling begins over the north pole. But as the polar temperatures drop, the atmosphere further south is still relatively warm as it continues to receive energy from the Sun.

You can see the winter solstice on the image below when the polar regions receive little to zero solar energy, compared to regions further south.


So, as the temperature difference towards the south increases, this also means pressure changes. A large low-pressure (cyclonic) circulation starts to develop across the Northern Hemisphere from the surface layers, far up into the stratosphere. This is known as the Polar Vortex.

While the stratospheric polar vortex is spinning high above our weather, it is still directly connected to the lower levels and can shape our daily weather in many ways, driving it as one large circulation over the entire hemisphere.


When looking at the polar vortex in the stratosphere, we tend to use the 10mb level. That is around 28-32km (17-20 miles) in altitude. This layer is considered to be in the mid-stratosphere and provides a very good representation of the general strength of the stratospheric polar vortex and its downward connection.

The strength of the polar vortex is most often measured by the power of the winds that it produces. This is typically done by measuring the zonal (west to east) wind speeds around the polar circle (60°N latitude).

On the image below we have the seasonal average zonal wind speed for the Polar Vortex at 10mb level. The black line is the long-term average. Winer season last year is the red line, and the blue line is the current winter season 2021/22. The yellow area shows the daily historical min/max wind speeds. Image from


It is obvious that this season, the polar vortex is having a near-constant power increase. It was fluctuating up/down but kept a steady uptrend in power. Looking at the black “average” line, the polar vortex typically starts the seasonal weakening in mid-January.

Below we have an extended ensemble forecast for the 10mb winds. It shows the polar vortex currently being quite stronger than average. The forecast keeps it at a very strong level, reaching unusually high power for this time of year.


Looking at the pressure anomalies over the polar regions in the past three months, we can notice an interesting progression. The next image below shows pressure anomalies from the surface into the upper stratosphere.

You can observe the strong low-pressure buildup in the stratosphere in late November. That was a strong polar vortex, connecting easily down to the surface levels in early December. But strong high-pressure anomalies have emerged over the polar circle in December, which pushed back against the stratosphere, “disconnecting” the upper and the lower polar vortex.


In late January, we can see the strong buildup of low-pressure anomalies in the stratosphere. That corresponds to the high power and circulation of the stratospheric polar vortex. It is currently not fully connected down on a hemispheric level but has a more local connection.

Looking at the current polar vortex development, we can see that the vortex is in a good shape. It has a slightly oval shape, but a strong and stable wind field. There is a semi-persistent high-pressure area in the North Pacific and East Asia pressing against it, creating its oval shape.


Taking a look at the temperature profile at the 50mb level (19km/12mi), we see its cold-core over the Arctic regions and Greenland. This altitude is considered to be the lower stratosphere and is more connected to the weather circulation in the lower levels.


Coming soon: Climate lockdowns?


Coming soon: Climate lockdowns?


Just In…

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The past two years have been a checklist for the worst impulses of government and public sentiment. COVID allowed for supposedly temporary measures to morph into two years of “emergency” restrictions. But what if COVID was only the opening act, and another proclaimed crisis is the main event? Implementing significant but partial restrictions, one by one, in the name of the common good can allow for encompassing government control that results in relatively little backlash. Fear over climate change could lead to long-term soft lockdowns, given the precedent of immense growth of government power and significant support for sweeping state actions. 

This isn’t a right-wing fever dream. Calls for harsh government measures in the name of saving the environment are already in the parlance of influential organizations and figures. In November 2020, the Red Cross proclaimed that climate change is a bigger threat than COVID and should be confronted with “the same urgency.” Bill Gates recently demanded dramatic measures to prevent climate change, claiming it will be worse than the pandemic. Despite millions of people having died from COVID, former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney last year predicted that climate deaths will dwarf those of the pandemic. Lockdowns, which significantly reduced carbon emissions during 2020, could be the solution. After all, the EU’s climate service gloated, the first COVID lockdown may have saved 800 lives. 

What would climate lockdowns look like? Most likely, cities and states would begin a gradual and discrete ramp-up of restrictions. During the early days of the pandemic, millions of Americans worked from home; this could become the permanent norm if special carbon taxes are put in place. Such taxes could be imposed on companies, limiting driving or air miles, and extend to individual employees. Drive to work in a car? You get hit with the tax. Children could be impacted by climate lockdowns, too. Schools, especially those heavily influenced by teachers’ unions, could impose permanent online-only days. Delhi, India is already using a version of this concept to crack down on smog pollution.

At the same time, either through direct government fiat or due to ineffective green energy policies, some areas of the country could regularly experience California-style rolling blackouts. And as fossil fuels (and nuclear power) go by the wayside, consumers may be prevented from buying new gasoline cars, lawnmowers, or chainsaws. 

Significant measures are already being planned to combat climate change. California will ban the sale of gasoline cars in 13 yearsas will Germany. Britain plans to do the same in just eight. Prohibiting internal combustion engines could save the planet, the argument goes. As each negative weather event is blamed on climate change, government will increasingly use its restrictive tools.

While deaths from natural disasters have fallen by two-thirds over the past five decades, mostly thanks to technological innovations, elites insist that climate change is the “biggest threat modern humans have ever faced.” Climate lockdowns and other restrictions will be framed as saving the people of the United States, and the world, from themselves. What goal could be more noble? 

Anyone against such measures could be labeled a “climate denier” who stands against progress — or simply a “domestic terrorist.” Defectors likely won’t have much choice, anyhow. Facial recognition and plate-reading software, coupled with the impressive scope of drones, could lead to severe enforcement. Don’t like the restrictions on your gas guzzler? The government could easily track its location and send automatic tickets — or worse. The ability for officials to depend on a significant minority of zealous supporters to enforce measures is invaluable, as well. How many COVID “Karens” justify their fanaticism by contrasting themselves with uneducated, rural Donald Trump supporters?     

But don’t expect the new rules to apply to everyone equally. During the pandemic, elites don’t wear masks in private — only their servers, drivers and cleaners do. You will be held responsible for your personal carbon footprint, enforced by either law or social convention. But climate evangelists such as Jeff Bezos or “climate czar” John Kerry will receive special dispensations for their carbon use. 

The pandemic proved to be the precedent of 21st century governance. The initial lockdowns were a desperate attempt to understand more about the virus and shut it down. In hindsight, the overreaction will simply provide a backdrop for the next major government overreach. If COVID could kill millions, imagine the powers the government will assume against a threat that could kill billions. 

Political leaders have learned that fear prompts the public to accept dramatic curtailing of freedoms for vague promises of safety — they must realize the incredible power at their fingertips. COVID gave the government mouse a cookie, and power-hungry officials and bureaucrats can utilize the precedents of the past two years to institute a much longer, much more comprehensive lockdown.

Greenland ice cap loses enough water in 20 years to cover US: study

Melting ice from Greenland is now the main factor in the rise in the Earth's oceans, according to NASA
Melting ice from Greenland is now the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA.

Greenland’s immense ice sheet has lost enough ice in the past 20 years to submerge the entire United States in half a metre of water, according to data released this week by Danish researchers.

The climate is warming faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet and melting ice from Greenland is now the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA.

Since measurements began in 2002, the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 4,700 billion tonnes of ice, said Polar Portal, a joint project involving several Danish Arctic research institutes.

This represents 4,700 cubic kilometres of melted water—”enough to cover the entire US by half a meter”—and has contributed 1.2 centimetres to sea level rise, the Arctic monitoring website added.

Polar Portal’s findings are based on satellite imagery from the US-German GRACE programme (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which showed the ice melt to be most severe near the coasts of the Arctic territory, at the edge of the ice sheet.

In these peripheral zones, “independent observations also indicate that the ice is thinning, that the glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land, and that there is a greater degree of melting from the surface of the ice”, the website said.

Greenland ice sheet retreat
Greenland ice sheet retreat.

The west coast of Greenland is particularly affected, according to the data.

Climate change is particularly alarming in the Arctic, which scientists say is warming at a rate three to four times the global average.

According to a study published by NASA in late January, the accelerated melting near Greenland’s coasts can be explained by the warming of the Arctic Ocean.

The phenomenon “is melting Greenland’s glaciers at least as much as warm air is melting them from above”.

Glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land
Glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land.

Melting ice from Greenland is currently the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans and the territory’s glaciers are now retreating six to seven times faster than they were 25 years ago, the US agency added.

According to climate scientists, the Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise the oceans by more than seven metres, and the ice sheet in Antarctica contains enough for a rise of almost 50 metres.

Arctic sea ice cover, although its melting has no effect on sea levels, has also shrunk considerably, losing almost 13 percent of its average surface area every 10 years.

Explore further

Simulations show long lag in the effect of global warming on Greenland’s ice sheet volume

by Bob Yirka ,

Simulations show long lag in the effect of global warming on Greenland ice sheet’s volume
The left subpanel shows the ice thickness used to initialize the model (shading) and the contemporary coast line (black contour line) while the right subpanel depicts the corresponding bedrock topography. These data are derived from the ETOPO1 data set. Credit: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0259816

A team of researchers working at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research has found via models, that due to a long lag time, the Greenland ice sheet could continue losing ice over the next century whether global warming is brought under control or not. They have posted a paper describing their findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Prior research has shown that the volume of Greenland’s ice sheet is growing smaller nearly every year as the planet grows warmer. In this new effort, the researchers suspected that reductions in the volume of the ice sheet will likely continue for many years no matter what climate changes happen now, because the ice sheet takes a long time to react. They note that prior research has shown that inner ice in the sheet does not melt as soon as air temperatures rise because it is protected by outer ice. But as outer ice melts away, the inner ice starts feeling the impact of the warmed temperatures and starts to melt. Scientists have found that this cycle of melting and freezing has been going on for thousands of years—but the time lag has always been there.

To make estimates regarding how the ice sheet might fare due to warming conditions today, the researchers created several models that described different aspects of the ice sheet as it reacted to multiple changes in atmospheric temperatures going back approximately 125,000 years. The data included both the increased atmospheric temperatures and the slow melting that occurred during and after. The researchers then added data to the models to describe current atmospheric temperatures and those that are projected for the year 2100. This data included increases in atmospheric temperatures going back to the late 1800s and the amount of ice that has melted already. The researchers then used data from the models to create a simulation of projected events.Play00:0001:05MuteSettingsPIPEnter fullscreenPlayEvolution of the Greenland ice sheet. Credit: Yang et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (

The simulations showed that changes in atmospheric temperatures over the past century will very likely have a major impact on the ice sheet’s volume for many years to come—from hundreds to thousands of years—regardless of whether global warming is brought under control. They further note that such melting will have a significant impact on global ocean levels. They conclude by warning that if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control, CO2 levels by the end of this century could reach those not seen for approximately three million years, a time when there was no ice sheet covering Greenland.

Explore furtherRain on Greenland ice sheet signals climate change risk

Domino effect could heat up Earth by 5 degrees Celsius — despite Paris climate deal

Even if the Paris agreement is successfully implemented, the planet could still heat up by 5 degrees Celsius, scientists warn. This “hothouse” climate would make parts of the world uninhabitable.

Man walking with dog on cracked, dried earth of Alcora Lake in Spain

A joint study by international climate scientists from Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Australia presents a bleak prognosis: Even if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are achieved and global warming is limited to maxiumum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels, the climate system could still pass a devastating tipping point.

“Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth,” said Will Steffen, lead author of the study and climate researcher at the Australian National University and the Swedish research institute Stockholm Resilience Centre.

“Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2 degrees Celsius may trigger other Earth system processes, often called ‘feedbacks,’ that can drive further warming — even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases,” he said.

The global average temperature in such a case would in the long term settle between 4 to 5 degrees warmer compared to pre-industrial levels, their study found.

Sea levels would rise 10 to 60 meters (33 to 197 feet), flooding numerous islands and coastal cities such as Venice, New York, Tokyo and Sydney. Such major population centers would have to be abandoned.

Scientists call this a “hothouse Earth” climate scenario.

Read moreThe global heat wave that’s been killing us

  • A man sitting on a park bench in Lisbon, PortugalTHE HEAT WAVE GOES ON … AND ONPortugal: Sitting is good …This man in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, seems to be enjoying the feeling of sun on his face. And Portugal has been having plenty of it, as the Iberian Peninsula bakes in warmth coming over from North Africa. The country has already had near-record temperatures this year, but nothing yet to break the 47.3° C (117.1° F) recorded in 2003 in Amareleja. Still, large parts are on red alert.


Climate domino effect

In the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the international research team analyzed the complete climate system of a 2-degree warmer world across several models.

Interactions and chain reactions among melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, bacteria in the oceans and weakened carbon sinks were discovered.

Read more: When nature harms itself — five scary climate feedback loops

As a result of these feedback processes and tipping points that lead to abrupt changes in the climate system, forests and permafrost transform themselves from “friends” that store CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane into “enemies” that uncontrollably release stored emissions into the atmosphere.

As such, the individual feedback processes could potentially snowball, explained Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Extreme weather is one consequence of climate change that is becoming ever more palpable

“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominos. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth toward another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over,” he said.

The Earth would then warm at an accelerating tempo — even if humans stopped producing greenhouse gases entirely.

“Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if ‘hothouse Earth’ becomes the reality,” Rockström added.

Read moreCurrent heat waves are linked to climate change, scientists confirm

Minimizing ‘self-amplifying’ change

While the 2015 Paris Agreement, agreed to by 197 nations, settled on a 2-degree target, it is unclear whether this is enough to avert a climate catastrophe, warned Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK and co-author of the study.

“We still do not know if the climate system can be safely ‘parked’ at 2 degrees,” he said.

That is in no way to say that the Paris climate agreement is futile and should be abandoned — as United States President Donald Trump did in June 2017 when he pulled the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter out of the deal.

Trump referred to a tiny temperature increase when he announced US withdrawal from the landmark Paris climate agreement

“Fully implementing the Paris climate agreement by following a path of rapid decarbonization through socio-economic transformation minimizes the risk of triggering self-amplifying climate change,” Jonathan Donges, a PIK researcher and co-author of the study, told DW.

He said that meeting the Paris goals — or even better, aiming for a more ambitious target — remains “the best-known strategy to minimize the risk of triggering self-reinforcing feedbacks in the Earth system that could lead to a hothouse climate state.”

To avoid a potential chain reaction, much more needs to be done than just reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers point out.

Humanity must protect the ecosystem as a whole; create more natural carbon sinks; stop deforestation; consume less; control population growth; invest in technologies that extract CO2 from the atmosphere; and much more. For Donges, such “stewardship” of the Earth will also require “transformed social values.”

Read more:  Earth Overshoot Day: Time for a radical rethink

‘Positive message’

Despite the study’s apocalyptic findings, co-author Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen said they are not trying to present a hopeless doomsday scenario.

“I think our study has an incredible positive message,” she told DW, adding that real action on climate change requires increased awareness of its potential effects. 

“What we are really doing is understanding ever better our role in the Earth’s system, and acting accordingly,” Richardson added. “We would be screwed if we didn’t recognize the fact that we are just not doing enough.”

  • 48 celsius degrees in Seville, Spain (Imago/Agencia EFE)2017: DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGESweltering heatUnprecedented heat waves swept across the globe in 2017, leading to droughts, wildfires and even deaths. Australia started the year with temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the “Lucifer” heat wave brought the mercury above 40 degrees Celsius throughout Southern Europe in July and August and scorching heat hit India’s most vulnerable people. Get ready for next summer…



US climate report confirms: 2017 among hottest years everOur planet has failed its annual physical — global warming is melting the poles, heating up oceans, making sea levels rise and contributing to extreme weather, an NOAA report has confirmed. (02.08.2018)  Climate change and farming: ‘Unpredictability is here to stay’In many parts of the world, droughts are getting longer, more intense and more frequent. Alex Jones, climate and environment director at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, tells DW about the risk to food security. (31.07.2018)  Will extreme weather become even deadlier?Flooding in Japan and a heat wave in Canada have killed hundreds. With extreme weather causing unimaginable disasters, and extreme weather events on the rise, some experts believe many more could die if nothing is done. (12.07.2018)  

‘This is just the beginning’: How high heat of 2021 drove catastrophic weather

Year-end climate reports show signs of a new and warmer normal that scientists say is likely to lead to more weather extremes.Link copiedSAVECreate your free profile or log in to save this articleJan. 28, 2022, 3:30 AM PSTBy Monica Hersher

Norbert Koll, a vacation-rental owner in Ahrweiler, Germany, said that record-breaking floods that struck the area last July “hit him like a brick.”

The flood filled homes with mud, destroyed roads and killed more than 200 people across Germany and Belgium, including an elderly couple staying in one of Koll’s rentals in Ahrweiler, about 100 miles west of Frankfurt.

Koll and his wife saw that a storm was coming when they checked radar maps earlier that week, but the magnitude of the flooding caught him by surprise.

“We didn’t expect the worst,” Koll said.

Image: Norbert Koll's vacation apartment rental business in Ahrweiler days after the July 2021 floods in Germany.
Norbert Koll’s vacation apartment rental business in Ahrweiler days after the floods in Germany.Courtesy Renate Koll

In Portland, Oregon, where multiple temperature records were smashed in late June in an extended heat wave that stretched across the Pacific Northwest, Laura Golino de Lovato said such extremes also came unexpectedly.

“Nobody really believed it was going to happen and nobody was prepared,” she said.

Leading scientists say events like these that have surprised so many across the world are more likely in a warming climate. And they say the pattern will only grow.

Each January, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the European Union Earth observation agency Copernicus publish reports on the previous year’s temperature data. Copernicus ranked 2021 as the fifth-hottest year since 1850, while NOAA and NASA ranked it as the sixth-hottest since 1880.

An NBC News analysis of global weather stations with data going back for at least 30 years found that 691 weather stations out of 8,892 recorded their highest temperature ever in 2021.

To distinguish unprecedented heat from everyday weather, scientists measure whether a region’s temperature during a particular time period is above or below the region’s historical temperature for the same time period.

Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said that measuring these temperature anomalies helps scientists tell the difference between day-to-day weather and longer-term climate changes.

“It shows us the direct effects of global warming,” Otto said.

In 2021, as Europe recorded its hottest summer, June’s weather anomalies in North America were so significant that the continent recorded its hottest June in 171 years, according to the January Copernicus report.

The record-breaking heat was even more notable, scientists say, given that 2021 was a La Niña year, in which climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean produce cooler temperatures across the globe.

An August 2021 United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report concluded that climate change caused by humans “is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.”

Otto, who helped write the report, said that last year’s weather events proved 2021 was “a year that made the evidence unavoidable.”

Scientists say damaging spring frosts – such as the one that destroyed winemakers’ crops in France last April – are an example of a weather event that is more likely in a warming world.

Denis Lesgourgues, co-owner of Château Haut Selve, a vineyard in southwest France, lost 60 percent of his crop during last year’s spring freeze. Warmer winters have caused grapevine buds to grow earlier in the year, leaving them vulnerable to previously harmless early spring frosts. Lesgourgues said that now if the buds are out when the frosts hit, they die and are unable to grow grapes.

“When I was growing up, I remember that the buds were starting to open by April or May,” said Lesgourgues, “but now it starts happening in March and even the end of February.”

In other parts of the world, the increased heat can become a matter of life or death. In Portland, the June heat wave sent temperatures up to 116 degrees, shattering heat records by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) and killing hundreds of people in the region.

“There was a feeling that, we’re in the Pacific Northwest — it never gets really cold, it never gets really hot,” said Golino de Lovato, the executive director of the Northwest Pilot Project, a housing-relief organization for seniors headquartered in Portland. “We don’t have to worry about being ready to respond to extreme weather, because it’s never going to hit us.”

Heat waves are especially dangerous for vulnerable populations, including people without air conditioning or homes.

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Jennifer Coon experienced that firsthand. Coon, from Portland, said she remembers not being able to find relief or to even lay down during heat waves in her time living on the street.

“Inside of a tent oftentimes it’s even warmer because of the way the layers of the plastic and tarps trap heat,” said Coon, who is now a peer support specialist at Blanchet House in Portland, an organization that helps the city’s homeless population.

The malnutrition and substance abuse prevalent in the homeless community, she added, makes people more susceptible to becoming dehydrated in high heat.

Robert Vautard, director of the French climate research group Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, said that aggressive, record-breaking heat waves are more likely in a warming world.

“You expect records to be broken by one degree [Celsius], and exceptionally, by two degrees, but five is absolutely amazing from a meteorological standpoint,” Vautard, another author of the August U.N. climate study, said. “This event would have been absolutely or extremely unlikely without climate change.”

The New York Times

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Heat waves can be dangerous, particularly for people with underlying chronic health issues or whose work and living situation expose them to relentless high temperatures.

Brittney Le Blanc, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, said her chronic migraines – exacerbated by weather changes and high temperatures – were so bad at the height of the heat wave that she retreated to an air-conditioned hotel room to wait it out.

“It got to a point where even taking showers multiple times a day and trying to drink cold things was not really doing anything,” said Le Blanc. “You had to get out of it.”

Oregon farmworker Sebastian Franscisco Perez didn’t get the opportunity to escape last summer’s heat. Perez was one of at least five people in Oregon who died at work, said Ira Cuello, climate policy manager at Pineros Y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, a union for farmworkers and Latino families in Oregon.

“Farmworkers continue to harvest in those conditions because one, they recognize the work needs to get done and, two, their income levels are so low they can’t afford to miss out on work,” Cuello said.

Even conditions indoors can be dangerous when temperatures spike as high as they did last June.

“Heat waves are by far the deadliest type of extreme event,” Otto, from the Grantham Institute, said. “It’s not like tornadoes where people basically drop dead in the street. They die quietly in their poorly insulated houses. And so you don’t see it. But the numbers are there.”

Tony Evans was one of these people. Evans, 71, had struggled with drugs and alcohol and lived in a small storage building with no air conditioning behind his landlord’s garage in Vernon, British Columbia. During the Pacific Northwest heat wave, temperatures in British Columbia reached 110 degrees on consecutive days.

Evans’ sister, Esmé Comfort, said that the people who usually checked up on him were preoccupied with the heat themselves.

He was found dead on July 1. The cause of death was dehydration, the medical examiner concluded.

“As the climate continues to deteriorate, the first people to go are going to be the poor and the disadvantaged, and that’s so wrong,” Comfort said.

But the tragedy of heat-related death extends beyond high temperatures. Vautard, from Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, said heavy precipitation, which caused the deadly July flooding in Germany, is more likely in a hotter environment because warmer air holds more water.

“I always say in my lectures that extreme heat and extreme precipitation are two sides of the same thing,” Vautard said.

With temperatures projected to keep increasing, scientists say more extreme weather like these communities experienced is most likely on the horizon.

“What we’re seeing now in terms of extremes is just a little bit of the future,” Vautard said. “Societies should be prepared for much bigger.”

‘We’re in trouble:’ U.S. envoy urges faster action on climate goals

Valerie VolcoviciMon, January 24, 2022, 6:53 AMIn this article:

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By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The world is “not on a good track” to meet a global goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and must intensify efforts to move away from fossil fuels this decade, John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, said on Monday.

“We’re in trouble. I hope everyone understands that,” Kerry told an event called Building Momentum to UN COP27 hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and officials from Egypt, the host of the next UN climate summit.

Kerry told the event he is concerned about the recent uptick in the use of coal globally and about plans to build new coal plants without carbon capture technology.

In November, Egypt will host the next UN climate summit, known as COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh where the government will look to showcase its own work to phase out coal in power generation, improve management of waste water, and launch construction of public transportation projects.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry said as the host of the UN climate summit, Egypt aims to be a voice for mobilizing climate finance to support developing nations and transferring clean energy technology to African nations who are among those hurt most by climate change.

“We will be listening to the needs and priorities of Africa and other developing countries who have suffered greatly from the negative effects of climate change,” said Shoukry, who will be the president of COP27.

Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad said Egypt’s goal is to generate 42% of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

Kerry said actions countries have taken do not meet the severity of the problem, even though “a huge amount of good” came out of the COP26 summit in Glasgow last November, including concluding the “rule book” for executing the Paris Climate Agreement.

The UK COP26 president, Alok Sharma, also raised concern about the road ahead from Glasgow in a separate speech on Monday, saying that countries are struggling to find ways to deliver on the promises they made in Scotland.

He cited the struggles facing the United States, where President Joe Biden has struggled to get through a multi-billion dollar spending bill that is needed to carry out his administration’s climate pledges.

Kerry did not address the uncertain fate of the congressional bill and focused on other countries.

He said the recent uptick in coal use over the last year and plans by countries to continue building coal plants will worsen global warming and urged countries to change course.

“Most countries have the ability to deploy very significant additional amounts of renewables and they’re not choosing to do that,” he said, adding that sticking with coal or planning to build out natural gas infrastructure would lock in decades of additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Many Chamber of Commerce members support building more natural gas-fired power plants while the country transitions to renewables, and Kerry told the group he “is for gas” but only if it includes carbon capture technology.

“If it’s abated – terrific. If you can capture 100% (of the carbon and methane emissions} and it makes it affordable – that’s wonderful. But we’re not doing that,” he said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)

Why Russia’s thawing permafrost is a global problem

January 22, 20225:04 PM ETHeard on All Things ConsideredLISTEN· 5:445-Minute ListenAdd toPLAYLIST

NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Joshua Yaffa, Moscow correspondent for the New Yorker, about a major climate change threat confronting Russia.


While climate policy may be a way to challenge Russia in the future, climate change is threatening that country now. That’s especially true of its permafrost, that soil that remains frozen year-round. Permafrost is warming much faster than scientists had once thought. That’s dangerous for Russia because two-thirds of the country rests on permafrost. When it melts, the ground is less solid, and that could be disastrous for cities and critical infrastructure like buildings and oil pipelines.

Joshua Yaffa recently wrote about all this for The New Yorker magazine. He’s their Moscow correspondent and traveled to Siberia to track the changes to Russia’s permafrost. When we spoke, he explained why this melting is concerning for Russia and the world.

JOSHUA YAFFA: It’s worrying for two reasons. The first is, let’s say, local. As the ground essentially thaws, in some cases, large ice wedges melt, turning to water, creating large underground puddles. Of course, what’s ever built on top of that earth begins to buckle and sway and even collapse, and we’ve seen that in Russian cities. We saw that in the summer of 2020 with the collapse of a large diesel tank in the city of Norilsk that led to an environmental catastrophe that Greenpeace compared to the spill of Exxon Valdez. So we have these issues that affect local infrastructure, local ecosystems.

There’s a second issue, which I think is more worrying for all of us, really, and that has to do with the greenhouse gases that are released from permafrost as it thaws. Permafrost is, essentially, a really wonderful and efficient natural cold storage facility. It’s swallowed up all manner of organic material, from tree stumps to woolly mammoth haunches, over the millennia and kept it locked in a kind of long-term cryogenic slumber. But as the permafrost thaws, that material defrosts. Microbes in the soil begin to awaken, and a process of decomposition begins. And that process releases both carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. So what we’re seeing happen is massive amounts of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, which is not a local problem, of course, but really a global problem.

MARTIN: So let’s talk about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He’s not unlike a lot of world leaders in the sense that he used to dismiss climate change. He said that he once said that climate change simply means that Russians will spend less on fur coats. Has he changed his tune? And how does this factor into his vision for the country now?

YAFFA: You very much have seen Putin and other top Russian officials speak with real clarity and alarm about the risk from climate change, both for Russia’s own national interest as well as globally. Last year, Russia’s environmental minister proposed a nationwide system to monitor changes in the permafrost due to climate change, noting that permafrost thaw could cause more than $60 billion worth of infrastructure damage. That certainly, I think, made a lot of Russian officials, including Putin himself, sit up straight.

Russia, while it has pledged to limit its emissions, it’s essentially doing that through a kind of accounting trick and saying that it will limit its emissions to a level dating back to the early ’90s, when, as part of the legacy of a project of Soviet heavy industry, it was producing and polluting quite a lot. So it’s essentially picked the most convenient baseline to say it will now produce less than. In fact, that baseline is so large it would allow Russia to emit even more than it does today. So on the level of rhetoric, you’ve seen a shift, but I’m not sure you’ve really seen much of a shift on action.

MARTIN: Around the world, we’ve seen young people really get energized about this. You know, they’re deeply anxious about their future and rightly so. And you’ve seen kind of a youth movement that I think has probably done as much to get, you know, adults energized as anything else because, you know, people tend to pay attention when their kids get mad, right? So is there any similar phenomenon in Russia? I guess what I’m wondering is, is there any sense that Russians understand this threat to themselves and to the world as a matter of general public concern?

YAFFA: I do certainly think that the Russian public understands the basic facts and science of climate change as well as sort of any other polity around the world. That said, for reasons outside the bounds of this conversation, it’s a whole other conversation about the nature of Russian politics and society circa 2022. The process or even the prospect of citizens banding together to try and influence or impact change on a governmental level – well, that’s a story I think you and your colleagues have covered extensively over the past year of what that story has meant and looked like in Russia in terms of the unprecedented crackdown, really, and a wave of repression we haven’t seen since the – really the days of the Soviet Union. And all of that combined creates an environment in which the notion of grassroots activism of any kind looks all the more unrealistic and perilous, really, whether it’s on climate or any other issue. So we’re not really seeing the kinds of public manifestations of collective action and collective calls for change that you might see in other parts of Europe and the United States.

MARTIN: That’s Joshua Yaffa. He’s Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker. He’s author of the book “Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, And Compromise In Putin’s Russia.” He’s with us from Moscow. Joshua Yaffa, thank you so much for your reporting.

YAFFA: My pleasure. Thank you.


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California wildfire triggers evacuations, closes highway


2 minute read

Wildfire burns in Rocky Point, Monterey County, California, U.S., in this handout photo taken over the night of January 21st or 22nd, 2022. DEBI LORENC/Handout via REUTERS

Wildfire burns in Rocky Point, Monterey County, California, U.S., in this handout photo taken over the night of January 21st or 22nd, 2022. DEBI LORENC/Handout via REUTERS

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Jan 22 (Reuters) – A 1,500-acre fire near the coastal community of Big Sur, California triggered evacuations and closed part of a major highway, state and local officials said on Saturday.

The Colorado Fire, which has been active since Friday, was 5% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

A 20-mile stretch of State Highway 1, a scenic north-south route on the Pacific Coast, was closed from near the beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea to Andrew Molera State Park.

About 400 people in Monterey County were evacuated from 1,100 structures, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said, citing county reports.

Four people and a pet stayed overnight at a shelter in a local school, the Red Cross said.

California has long had an active wildfire season, but in recent years, fueled at least in part by climate change, it has grown longer and more punishing.

Last year, the wildfire season started unusually early amid an ongoing drought and low reservoir levels, Cal Fire said. In January 2021 alone, the state battled 297 fires on 1,171 acres, the office said.

The Colorado Fire is the only fire listed on Cal Fire’s incident list so far in 2022.

This year, California is also grappling with the Santa Ana winds. A high wind warning was in effect for the area, with possible gusts of up to 70 miles per hour (112.65 kph), according to the National Weather Service.

But winds had improved and were forecast to remain light throughout the weekend, the Red Cross said.