Scientist argues warming climate caused coronavirus outbreak

Florida drought

How far in the hole will Florida be for March rainfall when the month ends tomorrow? Looks like there will be big deficits everywhere, and it’s likely that drought conditions will expand when the new report by the U.S. Drought Monitor comes out Thursday. This map, posted by the National Weather Service in Melbourne, shows that the driest conditions have been in South Florida and South-Central Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)


MORE CLIMATE CHANGE CONSEQUENCES: Did climate change help trigger the coronavirus outbreak? A controversial professor in the United Kingdom says yes, that a warming climate caused bats to alter their movements and put them in closer contact with humans.

Jem Bendell, a social science professor at the University of Cumbria, believes if we don’t change course on climate change, there will be other pandemics and he told Bloomberg News that the idea of returning to normal after the coronavirus outbreak is a

Bailing out polluting industries like the airlines is a mistake, he said. “Keeping the most polluting industries afloat will increase the likelihood of future pandemics.”

Bendell believes that the first wave of climate change consequences have been more directly weather related — the wildfires in Australia, and super hurricanes in the Pacific and Atlantic. The next wave will be pandemics.

His theory, which he calls “deep adaptation,” was outlined in a 2018 paper called “A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”

To call Bendell a doom-and-gloomer might be an understatement. He says climate change will lead to war, famine, and disease — even the collapse of civilization — within the next decade.


RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville set another high temperature record Sunday with 91, beating the previous record for the date of 89 set in 1991.

Naples tied a record high with 90, matching the mark set in 1975; and Sanford busted a record high with 92. That beat the old record of 91 set in 1994. Leesburg set a record high with 91, beating the previous record of 90 set in 1991.

West Palm Beach and Key West tied record warm lows on Sunday with 75 and 78, respectively.

Pandemic could change weather patterns, hamper forecasting, experts say

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting weather forecasting — and at least temporarily clearing the air of some pollutants.

The drastic reduction in commercial and cargo air traffic is reducing the amount of data coming in for weather forecasting purposes, CNN reported Tuesday.

“Weather data collected by aircraft are crucial in forecast models that control daily weather predictions,” the news service said. “Aircraft-based observations also help in greatly reducing errors in weather forecasts.”

There has been an incredible 42 percent drop off in the number of reports from flights worldwide, from March 1 to March 23.

In addition, Weather Underground reports that the economic shutdowns that have been taking place worldwide could directly impact weather.

For example, the shutdown in India “has the potential to bring about a noticeable increase in the summer monsoon rains, since aerosol particles emitted by India have been shown to decrease the intensity of the monsoon,” Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters said Tuesday. (Masters is now a blogger for Scientific American but was quoted on Weather Underground.)

Also, levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide have “plummeted” in the Wuhan area of China, where the epidemic began.

“Similar drop-offs were detected over northern Italy after that hard-hit nation put in place severe restrictions on commerce and mobility,” Weather Underground blogger Bob Henson said. “And some U.S. cities are seeing big reductions in NO2 this month, as measured by Sentinel-5P and reported by the New York Times on Sunday.”


(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The cold front that is expected to kick off April next week could spawn some strong storms and produce significant rainfall, although it’s too early to start making  specific predictions, the National Weather Service in Miami said Wednesday. The storms could follow what is shaping up to be record heat around Florida this weekend.

In fact, after what is likely to be one of the driest Marches on record in Florida, the first week in April is forecast to feature above normal precipitation across the peninsula, but not the panhandle.

In the meantime, as mentioned in Tuesday’s post, dangerous wildfire conditions continue to build across Florida. The end of this week, and through the weekend, could see the worst conditions so far this spring, with very hot temperatures, dry air and winds that spread whatever fires get going.

NWS Melbourne: “The ongoing dry period will continue through this week. Until notable rainfall returns to the area, conditions will become more favorable for the development of wildfires. Record high temperatures will be approached, and possibly broken in some locations from mid to late next week.”

Weekend highs are expected to soar into the mid-90s in interior parts of the peninsula. With dry air, though, heat index readings won’t be much higher than actual temps, according to the National Weather Service.

“But it still could feel hot to those exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time outdoors,” forecasters for the NWS office in Miami said in their Wednesday morning discussion.

ECFL forecast highs

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Weather Service issues Wind Advisory for South Florida

Wind Advisory

(Image credits: NWS-Miami)

Peak gusts

HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT: There’s a Wind Advisory in effect for coastal areas of southeastern Florida through tonight, with gusts of up to 40 mph, the National Weather Service in Miami said.

“In addition, for the Palm Beaches, very minor and localized coastal flooding could occur starting tonight, especially around times of high tide,” forecasters warned.

In interior areas of southwest Florida, “the combination of breezy winds and a dry air mass may result in elevated fire-weather conditions,” forecasters said. “Near-critical fire-weather conditions will be possible across Coastal Collier County.”

The winds are being generated by a strong high pressure system to the north. Breezy weather is in the NWS forecast for South Florida through Monday.


CLOCK WATCH: Did you remember to set your clocks ahead? March 8 is the only day of the year with 23 hours, but we’ll get that hour back November 1 with a 25-hour day as we return to standard time.

That’s assuming Florida officials don’t get their way and institute Daylight Saving Time all year around. (The idea still needs congressional approval.)

The time changes in March and November have been sliced and diced many different ways over the years, but here’s one reason why business loves the change: Consumers spend more money.

I posted a blog on the Canadian study last March on my Headline Health site.

Consumers change their buying habits when they’re sleepy, which happens for a time after DST begins. When they’re shopping, people put a wider variety of products in their carts if they are suffering from sleep deficiency, according to a study released just before last year’s spring time change.

“The day after daylight savings people tend to be sleepier as they get less sleep, on average about 30 to 60 minutes,” said Charles Weinberg, a professor or marketing and behavioral science at the UBC Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“So, we wanted to see how this would play out in the real world, and through the study we’re seeing that you tend to buy more different types of candy bars, for example, on the day after daylight savings time than you would on other days of the week. That’s even after controlling for how many candy bars you choose.”

Daylight Saving Time ends this year on November 1.


KEVIN COSTNER HAD IT RIGHT: The Earth was once a water world, with oceans covering the entire planet, a new study says. We may be headed that way again in the future, if you believed the 1995 box office “Waterworld” bomb, but that scenario was definitely part of the past — 3.2 billion years ago, researchers at the Iowa State University say.

“An early Earth without emergent continents may have resembled a ‘water world,’ providing an important environmental constraint on the origin and evolution of life on Earth as well as its possible existence elsewhere,” geologists Benjamin Johnson and Boswell Wing wrote in a paper just published online by the journal Nature Geoscience.

Life began in the oceans and the same thing may be happening in some of the other far-away “waterworlds” that have been identified by NASA.

‘Tea leaves’ starting to suggest another active hurricane season, expert says

Forecast models are trending toward La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific for late summer and early fall — potentially bad news for the 2020 hurricane season, Weather Underground’s Bob Henson said Wednesday.

In a blog post, Henson said that the “tea leaves now on the table suggest that 2020 could be the Atlantic’s fifth season in a row with above-average activity.”

La Niña — cooler than average temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific — tends to reduce wind shear in the Atlantic, leading to more tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño, on the other hand, warmer than normal water temps, tamp down tropical storm development in the Atlantic because of higher wind shear.

He says models show a 35 percent chance of La Niña by the August-October period, versus a 20 percent chance of El Niño and a 45 percent chance of neutral conditions.

But Henson notes that some models are more bullish on La Niña, although the period of time from February to May is often called the “spring predictability barrier,” which means longer-range forecasts aren’t as reliable as the rest of the year.

“It’s still noteworthy that multiple models are now trending in the La Niña direction,” he said.

On average, La Nina returns every three to five years.


ECFL highs

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

THURSDAY MORNING POST-COLD FRONT TEMPS: It was in the upper 30s in the panhandle and the low 40s in North Florida. Temps were in the upper 40s to low 50s in Central Florida, and the mid- to upper-50s in South Florida, except low 60s in the Miami area. The Keys were in the upper 60s, according to Weather Underground.

Expect chilly weather, with lows in the 40s in interior areas of South Florida and into Central Florida, until Sunday when the winds swing around to the east and a slow warm-up begins.

Until then, even Miami may not hit 70 degrees for a high with lows in the low- to mid-50s. Orlando may struggle to reach 60 with lows around 40.

When the warm-up kicks in, look out — Orlando’s forecast high is 76 on Monday and 87 on Wednesday.


HOLY COW! SOME GOOD CLIMATE NEWS: We may be approaching peak meat, Bloomberg says. That’s the Bloomberg news service, not the presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

Beef production and consumption has been increasing since the 1970s, but at an ever-slowing rate since the early 2000s, according to columnist Nathaniel Bullard. The amount of land used for grazing has been reduced by 1.2 percent worldwide.

Poultry and pork production, while increasing, “has been flattening,” Bullard said in a column published today.

Why is this good and what does the trend have to do with the weather? Cattle emit a lot of methane and in fact account for a third of all methane production, so it’s a major factor in climate change.

“A world with a slower rate of growth in meat consumption is, of course, a long way off from a world of less meat consumption per capita,” Bullard says. “But even a slowing rate of growth in meat production could have massive implications for our climate and resources.”

The data cited come from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Key West ties 93-year-old high temperature record

Key West record

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Meteorological spring begins a week from Sunday, but spring-like temperatures are already in place across the Florida peninsula, with some 90-plus readings in inland parts of South Florida.

In Broward County, Weston hit 90 and an observer near the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport reported a high of 92.

In the Keys, Key West tied a 93-year-old high temperature record Monday with 84. And in Central Florida, Leesburg tied a record warm minimum temperature with 65.

Toasty temps are set to continue until Friday, when a cold front knocks temperatures back into the 60s and 70s for the weekend. until then, expect more record warm temperatures.

“Naples will have to be watched as the records there are mid to upper 80s and we will certainly be in that ballpark,” the National Weather Service said in its Tuesday discussion from Miami.


FINANCIAL STORM WARNING: There are plenty of pins that have the potential to pop the economic bubble that has been pumped up by artificially low interest rates set by world banks over the last 10 years. One of them is the spread of the coronavirus, which is already doing damage to the Asian economies.

Here’s another one: extreme weather.

A paper published Monday by experts at the University of California at Davis argues that there’s too much unpriced risk in the energy market due to weather-related events, especially excessively high temperatures.

“Unpriced risk was the main cause of the Great Recession in 2007-2008,” said author Paul Griffin, an accounting professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “Right now, energy companies shoulder much of that risk. The market needs to better assess risk, and factor a risk of extreme weather into securities prices.”

Excessive heat has the ability to impact agriculture, interfere with delivery of energy and water, and disrupt transportation.

“Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk to company market valuations,” Griffin said in the paper published by the academic journal, Nature Energy. “Loss of property is what grabs all the headlines, but how are businesses coping? Threats to businesses could disrupt the entire economic system.”

He added: “While proprietary climate risk models my help some firms and organizations better understand future conditions attributable to climate change, extreme weather risk is still highly problematic from a risk estimation standpoint,” he concluded in the article.

“This is because with climate change, the patterns of the past are no guide to the future, whether it be one year, five years or 20 years out. Investors may also normalize extreme weather impacts over time, discounting their future importance.”

Climate change shocker: Third of all species could be extinct by 2070


An Alligator Juniper in Prescott, Arizona. The species is being pushed up into the mountains by climate change, a new study says. (Image credit: Tom Check via Wikimedia Commons)

Most people consider sea level rise the biggest problem related to climate change, and that is a critical issue, especially if you live in coastal areas and states like Florida. But here’s another dire consequence: a third of all plants and animal species could be extinct in the next 50 years.

Researchers at the University of Arizona looked at localized plant and animal extinctions in the past that have occurred in specific areas. They found that up to 50 percent of species suffered local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius and 95 percent if they increased by more than 2.9 degrees.

As a result, the rate of extinction is highly dependent on how much warming occurs in the coming years, according to the researchers, Cristian Román-Palacios and John Wiens, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

“In a way, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure,'” said Wiens. “If we stick to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070. But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results.”

As one example, they considered the Alligator Juniper tree in Arizona. In flat lands, the plants are dying due to rising daytime temperatures. “Repeated surveys have shown that this species is literally being pushed up the mountain slopes under the impact of climate change,” the university said in a news release.

Here’s the kicker: Extinctions are projected to be two to four times more common in the tropics than in temperate regions. “This is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics,” Román-Palacios said.

Both plant and animal species will be equally affected, the researchers said.


SPRING IN THE AIR: Clear skies with plenty of sunshine will give temperatures a boost through at least Thursday of this week, with highs rising into the low 80s on the East Coast and as high as the upper 80s in southwestern parts of the Florida peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.

Beyond that, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for below normal temperatures in all of Florida from next Saturday into the following week.

NOAA will release its full March forecast on Thursday. The latest long-range CFS model shows cooler weather hanging on the first week of March followed by above normal temperatures as we head into the second half of the month.

RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach posted a record warm low Sunday of 71 degrees. It beat the old record of 70 set in 1965.

Nice week on tap for Florida peninsula; January was record warm worldwide;

With strong easterly winds and a cold front stalled out over the Keys, some decent rainfall totals were occurring over southeastern Florida and the Keys. A CoCoRaHS observer for the national precipitation network reported 1.54 inches in Key Largo from Saturday through early Sunday morning.

An observer in North Miami Beach reported 1.24 inches; and an observer in Fort Lauderdale reported 1.45 inches.

Palm Beach County reported around a quarter of an inch. Lighter amounts fell along the Treasure Coast.

Another nice warm-up is scheduled for the coming work week, but then a cold front knocks temperatures back to below normal next weekend, just in time for the start of the exhibition baseball season.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for February to go out on a slightly cooler note, especially the southern tier of states from New Mexico all the way to the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic States on the East Coast.


Global temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

ANOTHER JANUARY, ANOTHER RECORD: Earth had its warmest January in the 141-year-old record, the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) said on Thursday.

Temperatures worldwide were 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, which beat the previous record for the warmest January by 0.04 of a degree. That occurred in January 2016.

“The four warmest Januaries on record have occurred since 2016, while the 10 warmest Januaries have occurred since 2002,” NCEI, a NOAA agency, reported. “The only Januaries with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average above 1.0°C (1.8°F) occurred in 2016 and 2019.”

The contiguous U.S. had its fifth warmest January, with records in that category going back 126 years. Hawaii had its second warmest January but Alaska had its coldest January since 2012. In fact, it tied 1970 as the 13th coldest January on record.

Every state in the Lower 48 had above normal temperatures, including Florida, which was above average but not record warm. Highest temperature anomalies were found in Texas and Oklahoma, the Great Lakes States, and the Northeast.

The Caribbean had its second warmest January, also behind 2016.

So I figured it was a good time to take a peek at sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and the Main Development Region of the tropical Atlantic. It’s early, of course, but very warm water temperatures seem to be setting up shop from the coast of Africa all the way west into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Particularly high temperature anomalies are in place off the U.S. East Coast, with the highest being in the Mid-Atlantic.


(Image credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)