3Qs: What is 'global weirding'?

Mar 22, 2012 By Angela Herring
Auroop Ganguly, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern, is an expert in climate change and severe weather conditions. Credit: Mary Knox Merrill

Auroop Ganguly — an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering who heads Northeastern’s Sustainability and Data Sciences Lab — explains how global climate change and extreme weather, such as hurricanes and heat waves, could affect water sustainability, critical infrastructures and human health.

What is the difference between global "weirding" and global warming?

Global weirding, a term coined by Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder Hunter Lovins and popularized by New York Times op-ed columnist Tom Friedman, primarily concerns climate extremes. In certain situations, these need to be defined in terms of their impact on natural, engineered and human ecosystems.

Global warming, which addresses changes in average global temperature, does not begin to convey the range of severe weather-related events and changes in weather patterns that can occur as a consequence of climate change.

Depending on the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, average global temperatures could rise between 2°F and 11°F by the end of the century. But in Boston, for example, temperatures can fluctuate more than that in a single day. So why should that much global warming matter?

Global weirding is a concise way to express why. When we talk about average temperatures rising at the scale of the entire globe and over long time periods, the consequences on heat waves, heavy rainfall, or water stresses, for example, can be severe across different regions of the world.

In terms of climate change, is it surprising that this winter has been so warm?

This winter’s weather may not necessarily relate to climate change. First of all, science cannot conclusively link climate change to any single severe weather event, or even one unusually warm or cold season. Second, just as one single cold winter does not dispute climate change, similarly one single warm winter does nothing to reinforce our degree of belief in climate change.

While seasonal fluctuations over specific regions of the earth may occur for a variety of naturally occuring reasons, climate change refers to a longer-term trend in the average global temperature. This does not imply that climate change may not cause a seasonal warming over a specific region, just that current science does not afford that level of precision when delineating between the consequences of natural variability versus long-term change.

The culprit of the recent warm U.S. winter is most likely variations in a climate phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The positioning of this year’s jet stream has resulted in warmer temperatures and lower precipitation because of fewer incidences of clashing warm and cold fronts. The NAO, which influences the jet-stream air current, has experienced unusually low pressure this year. What caused the pressure drop in the NAO this year? Some speculate that global-warming-related loss of Arctic sea ice may be the driver.

Which other weather events play into "global weirding?”

Last year, research suggested that about seven percent of the intensification of heavy rainfall globally is a consequence of climate change. Our own research on heat waves showed that while geographical variability of heat waves is uncertain, the rising trends in the projected intensity, frequency and duration of heat waves are unmistakable.
On the other hand, our more recent research suggested that cold snaps may persist well into the end of this century. Thus, while the overall climate trend is one of warming, and heat waves are projected to intensify, extreme cold events on the average may continue to be as severe and long-lasting as they are currently.

The other aspect of the global weirding phenomenon is its impact on infrastructure, resources, species diversity and the economy. The impact of a warmer world and exacerbated extremes can be severe on both water and food security, especially in the more vulnerable parts of the world. According to the United States global Change Research Program, the consequences of climate change for the U.S. will include stressed water resources, challenges to crop and livestock production, storm surges in coastal areas and threats to human health.

View selected publications of Auroop Ganguly in IRis, Northeastern’s digital archive.

Explore further: Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate is warming - despite 'ups and downs'

Dec 28, 2010

Periodic short-term cooling in global temperatures should not be misinterpreted as signalling an end to global warming, according to an Honorary Research Fellow with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Barrie Hunt.

Climate change is already having an impact across the US

Jun 16, 2009

Extreme weather, drought, heavy rainfall and increasing temperatures are a fact of life in many parts of the U.S. as a result of human-induced climate change, researchers report today in a new assessment. These and other ...

Climate change: When it rains it (really) pours

Aug 07, 2008

Climate models have long predicted that global warming will increase the intensity of extreme precipitation events. A new study conducted at the University of Miami and the University of Reading (U.K.) provides ...

Recommended for you

Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

4 hours ago

Ospreys do not carry significant amounts of human pharmaceutical chemicals, despite widespread occurrence of these chemicals in water, a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Baylor University study finds. ...

User comments : 40

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (14) Mar 22, 2012
I guess now the Denialist Whack Tards will have to include Civil Engineers in the list of professionals who are against them, and who are part of the Global "New World Order" conspiracy.

Egleton
2.5 / 5 (17) Mar 22, 2012
Now, Now Vendicar, be gentle. They are humans too you know.

Let us put the kettle on and wait for them to arrive. They will be here any minute.
Shelgeyr
1.8 / 5 (21) Mar 22, 2012
Yeah, let's see... "an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering" equals having "to include Civil Engineers in the list of professionals who are against them".

Part for the whole...

Get help, VD. Seriously.
rubberman
2.8 / 5 (13) Mar 22, 2012
A week long stretch of 25 degree weather is perfectly natural for Ontario in the middle of march.....right shleppy? I guess by help you mean a jug of SPF200 and a parasol?
jet
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 22, 2012
HadCRUT4 1998-2010 temp diff .01C (for those that care that is with in any reasonable error bar.)

mememine69
1.8 / 5 (20) Mar 22, 2012
"Global warming is the greatest threat facing our planet today. A warming planet alters weather patterns, water supplies, seasonal growth for plants and a sustainable way of life for us, and the world's wildlife. Climate change has already started, but it's not too late to take action. There's still time for us all to be part of the solution." - Earth Hour
Auroop,
Do you look your own kids in the eyes and tell them they are doomed to a CO2 hell?
If there we legal consequences for these climate change crisis death warrants you issue to our kids, you wouldn't be spreading this needless panic. You climate change scientists have done to science what nasty priests did for the church.
axemaster
4 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2012
I'm always amazed at how the global warming deniers seem to ignore any evidence against their position. Given that recent surveys show that 97% of scientists agree that global warming is happening, is caused by humans, and is a threat to our society (yes that's a real number), I can never quite wrap my head around the seemingly endless legions of deniers.

Then I see all the personal attacks, anger, and outright ignorance, and I realize that they aren't operating on logic or reason. Which puts them completely outside the world I understand.

That's also the point where I start to wonder, why do I have to live with these people? After all, there's nowhere for me to run. I can't protect myself from the damage they're causing. I can't persuade them because they've decided on the Truth. All I can do is watch, and suffer along with them.

Rather horrifying, isn't it?
rubberman
2.3 / 5 (12) Mar 22, 2012
Kinda like being stuck in a dingy in the middle of the ocean with the two guys from dumb and dumber eh Ax?
jet
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2012
Firstly sight your source.. oh wait I will do if for you.
"An invitation to participate in the survey
was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists.
The database was built from Keane and
Martinez"

Survey contained 2 questions

1. When compared with pre-1800s (LIA)
levels,
do you think that mean global temperatures
have generally risen, fallen, or
remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant
contributing factor in changing
mean global temperatures?

3146 individuals completing the survey,
the participant (self selected)

of that number 10% said no rise (amazing really )
and 18% said man was not a significant cause

by winnowing down to those that agreed with the intent of the survey authors (show consensus) a select 74 of 77 generate the 97.4%

so rounding 1/5th of "scientists disagree that man a significant cause"

"Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough! - A.Einstein

Calls to majority are not science
axemaster
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2012
Kinda like being stuck in a dingy in the middle of the ocean with the two guys from dumb and dumber eh Ax?

I was trying not to say it like that, but yeah pretty much.

Actually it's even worse than that, because this is ACTUALLY HAPPENING. The trouble for me is that I really truly can't get inside other people's heads. I knew I was going to be a physicist since 2nd grade. I literally don't know how to see the world in an unscientific way.

So to be honest, I just get confused when people reject logic and data. I wouldn't have a problem if they didn't understand the data, but for them to comprehend and then reject it - that's something weird and alien to me.
rubberman
2.5 / 5 (13) Mar 22, 2012
I agree. When the laws physics say things will unfold in a certain way and the observed climatic responses match what is presumed to happen, to see certain data and not believe it or be skeptical is natural, but to see multiple data sets regarding multiple different observations and reject them all is just wilful ignorance. I don't get it either. As a result I get a little edgy and sarcastic at times, but as Vendi often displays, etiquette goes out the window in the face of wilful ignorance, blatant lies, or agenda driven "whacktards"....
jet
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2012
Accepting data that has been massaged and "corrected" is willful disbelief also..

As a physicist would you accept data that changes its base line (adjustments to supposed historical records ) every couple of years ?

Would you accept data from unverified (often proven poor ) sources as fact ?

Would you accept data interpretation from people that that actively try to hide or destroy data sets AFTER making sweeping statements ?

Do not believe me research the facts, start with the number of "good" stations for recording temp. (ground stations). Ask the pertinent question "how do you correct for urban heat island ?" Why change the data source from tree rings to ground temp stations ? How big is the grid box used to smooth the data from ground stations ?

These are not complex questions but all ones that a good scientist would ask.

Personally I would love to have less use of fossil fuel, and support any thing that can replace it effectivly.

jet
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2012
One more question to ask.. why make the start point the end of the little Ice Age instead of say the roman Period ?
Estevan57
2.1 / 5 (22) Mar 22, 2012
rubberman, axemaster, I too feel the frustration of having a reasonable discourse derailed or hijacked by the unreasonable statements of those who willfully reject commonly accepted science. I am not as formally educated in the sciences as I want to be and have been trying to use this site as an educational experience, but it is hard not to be drawn into arguments when such outragously nutty ideas are spewn forth.

Three inches of snow today, middle of Williamette valley, Oregon.
194 feet above sea level, strange. Third day of spring.

If you want answers to your questions, jet, why not research them yourself?

Use questions as a starting point to knowledge, not just argument fodder.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2012
The two areas of expertise in the survey with the smallest percentage of participants answering yes to question 2 were economic geology with 47% (48 of 103) and meteorology with 64% (23 of 36).

It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent
among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears
to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate
among scientists.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2012
"HadCRUT4 1998-2010 temp diff .01C" - JeTard

So current global temps in a La-Nina year (A cool Pacific), are now as warm as they are in a year, (1998), in which one of the strongest El-Nino events ever recorded caused a warm Pacific and warm global surface temps as a result.

So yep... jeTard's own comments show that the earth is still warming.

Poor boy. Poor intellectually inferior Tard.

Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2012
"why make the start point the end of the little Ice Age instead of say the roman Period ?" - jeTard

Why not make it the temperature of a candle flame?

The reason Tard Boy is that there weren't good records of the temperature of the Roman period when the scales were being developed.

However your whining isn't relevant anyhow since Climatologists are generally not working with absolute temperature figures, but rather changes in the temperature from location to location.

As a Tard, you don't know this, and probably don't comprehend it.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2012
"As a physicist would you accept data that changes its base line (adjustments to supposed historical records ) every couple of years ?" - jeTard

Yes of course. Experimentalists can produce some very accurate data, but can also produce imprecise data where measurements are difficult. Case in point would be the measurement of the Casimir force.

And in Astronomy the Hubble Constant was as a joke regularly referred to the Hubble Variable, since the precision in the measurements were originally so large.

Poor jeTard, you seem to know squat about science.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2012
"how do you correct for urban heat island ?" - jeTard

This is how...

BEST busts Urban Heat Island Myth

http://www.desmog...and-myth

It is the best research the Koch brothers in crime ever founded.
Short bloke
1 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2012
Axemaster, if you want an opportunity to view logic regarding physics that is being mostly ignored, go to The General Science Journal and download number 4039 for free. The title is Matter and Associated Mysteries. To understand the new physics contained therein, requires an open mind capable of imagining the dynamic realities attempted to be explained, and unhindered by a belief that science has developed beyond reproach or revision.
Axemaster, it may help the debate on global warming if you would apply your knowledge and logic derived from earning your Ph D to an assessment of the logic in the paper referred to above
axemaster
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2012
Axemaster, it may help the debate on global warming if you would apply your knowledge and logic derived from earning your Ph D to an assessment of the logic in the paper referred to above

I'm sorry, but I'm not going to read through a 150 page paper just to see if it means anything. Especially given that it contains no math (very bad sign). I just don't have the strength to make myself do it.

Also, I hate to tell you this, but in my opinion a true unified theory will probably be non-geometric in nature. Meaning that it would be impossible to visualize, since the elements in it would have no geometric interpretation. Quantum mechanics has some serious issues that probably result from it being a geometrically based theory. In other words I think people need to be asking themselves not "what is a particle/wavefunction" but instead "what is space".

But I am rambling. What were we talking about again? ;)
StarGazer2011
1 / 5 (10) Mar 23, 2012
" the rising trends in the projected intensity, frequency and duration of heat waves are unmistakable" -

So essentially this joker is saying that his models (projections) predict more heat waves, what does the actual data say?
StarGazer2011
1.5 / 5 (15) Mar 23, 2012
Oh and for the Roman Warm Period thread, some actual science published Wednesday, turns out the RWP was almost certainly global after all.

Scientists use rare mineral to correlate past climate events in
Europe, Antarctica
http://insidesu.s...letters/

I suppose just because it was warm in Antarctica, Europe and the USA during Roman times; the CAGW zealots will still try to deny the science.

(And call people 'tard' which is the best poor Vendicar can do with his congenital gullibility)
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2012
mememe makes nonono sense at all.

Might be the drugs.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2012
Yes, you can see the Roman Warm Period at the far left of the following plot of global temperature history.

http://www.global...ison.png

Oh, wait. There is nothing there.

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
The actual data says -28'C in Europe this winter with North American temps today 20'C above normal - a condition that has lasted weeks.

What happened to the North American Winter? It just didn't happen.

"So essentially this joker is saying that his models (projections) predict more heat waves, what does the actual data say?" - StarTard
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
The solution is found within your own name.

"Rather horrifying, isn't it?" - axemaster

Prep you culling list. The time is near.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
Those who are prone to magical thinking be it religion, or those of the free market faith, are well practiced at lying to themselves.

It is the only way they can maintain their disjoint and disconnected from reality, ideologies.

It is no coincidence that Religious faith is one of the defining characteristics of Conservatives, be they Christian ConservaTards, Muslem ConservaTards or Jewish ConservaTards.

"... but for them to comprehend and then reject it - that's something weird and alien to me." - Axemaster
Short bloke
1 / 5 (8) Mar 23, 2012
Axemaster, your reply appears to indicate that you are not very adventurous with regards to new physics; especially regarding a fundamental version of gravity and gravitation.
From my reading of the referred to work, it provides detailed explanations of the Pioneer anomalies; also what is referred to as a gravitational thermodynamic effect that would affect climate more so than CO2.
With regards to mathematics, there is the mathematical statement that claims the equal acceleration of a kilogram mass due to earths gravitation is slightly less (the amount and reason is provided) than the horizontal acceleration of a kilogram mass, therefore the statement regarding the exact equivalence of gravitation mass to inertial mass is contested.
rubberman
2.7 / 5 (12) Mar 23, 2012
IF AGW theory is all wrong and elevating CO2 levels above the million year baseline max of 280 PPM didn't trap enough heat to cause the industrial age warming trend we have OBSERVED. And IF the drivers are natural (solar output, lack of volcanic activity, gravitational thermodynamics...etc) or are the same as in the past (MWP, Roman warm period, PETM) The current level (of CO2) we have reached WILL CAUSE additional warming and therefore amplify anything natural that is going on. This warming initiates forcings via methane release and decreased albedo which again amplifies warming. Current data suggests these forcings are currently at play and the human race continues to add 4-6 PPM of CO2 per year to this equation. In the past the earth has reset to ice age conditions through natural mechanisms. By elevating CO2 prior to warming (and continuing to do so) we have altered this entire system. Climate scientists are telling us what to expect...they aren't making it up. Watch the news.
axemaster
5 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2012
it provides detailed explanations of the Pioneer anomalies

Actually more recent evidence indicates that the Pioneer anomalies are due to simple thermal effects due to light hitting the spacecraft.

appears to indicate that you are not very adventurous with regards to new physics; especially regarding a fundamental version of gravity and gravitation

Actually I am very interested in new physics. It's just that there is a huge difference between rhetorical and mathematical work. Math can be checked for consistency, whereas using just words one can make almost anything seem plausible.
jet
1 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
Yes, you can see the Roman Warm Period at the far left of the following plot of global temperature history.

http://www.global...ison.png

Encyclopedia Britannica... a well know right wing screed to be sure.
jet
1 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
Yes, you can see the Roman Warm Period at the far left of the following plot of global temperature history.

http://www.global...ison.png

I realize that refuting a source as unimpeachable on the subject of the roman warm period and by extension the Climatic Optimum as a chart with no legend, nor source of the data and the mighty provenance of "climate warming art" is a challenge... but for those that want to live out on the edge you could read

http://www.britan...n-Period

Encyclopedia Britannica... a well know right wing screed to be sure.


(apologies to the staff for editing error )
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
The pioneer anomaly has been shown to be the result of
differential radiation pressure rather than MOND.

It is good to have an open mind as long as it is not so open that your brain falls out.

"From my reading of the referred to work, it provides detailed explanations of the Pioneer anomalies; also what is referred to as a gravitational thermodynamic effect that would affect climate more so than CO2." - Short Bloke
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
It is hard to fathom why jeTard thinks he has posted anything of significance as nothing in his link refers to Global Warming during the Roman period.

"Encyclopedia Britannica... a well know right wing screed to be sure." - jeTard

On the other hand the plot I have provided shows that there is no reflection of the Roman Warm period in the Global Temperature Record.

More detailed study may find a small reflection of the Roman period on global records.

However the fact that there is none at present tells us that like the Little Ice age, the Roman period was largely regional in scope.

jet
1 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
Yes, you can see the Roman Warm Period at the far left of the following plot of global temperature history.

http://www.global...ison.png

Encyclopedia Britannica... a well know right wing screed to be sure.

jet
1 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2012
Late Roman Period (from the article)

After the 1st century ce there is evidence of a progressive rise in sea level. Roman buildings and peat layers were covered by the marine transgression in the Netherlands, southern England, and parts of the Mediterranean. At the same time, drying and warming trends were associated with alluviation of streams and general desiccation in southern Europe and North Africa. Similar alluviation occurred in the American Southwest. This warming and desiccation trend is evident also in the subtropics of the Southern Hemisphere. The solar activity record indicates a mean intensity comparable to that of the mid-20th century.

but as you admit that the Roman Period did warm but to you it is regional...

I guess that region is N.America, Europe, North Africa and the Sub-tropics of the southern hemisphere.

But I am all of of pearls for you VD.


Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2012
jeTard, I did not say the warming was strictly regional, since wind doesn't respect national or regional boundaries.

This is why I used the phrase "mostly regional".

It is interesting that this "mostly regional" warming - which no one questions - does not appear in the record of global temperatures. This may mean that it was not significantly high to mask natural variations in temperature, or that there was a cooling event of similar magnitude in another region that offset the warming trend.

It would appear that the answer is a combination of both those explanations.
Excalibur
2.8 / 5 (16) Mar 23, 2012
Accepting data that has been massaged and "corrected" is willful disbelief also.

Doesn't stop the denialists from using such, though, does it?

jet
1 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2012
on Global weirding from 4th chapter IPCC Special Report on Extremes

"There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change"

* "The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados"

* "The absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses"

The report even takes care of tying up a loose end that has allowed some commentators to avoid the scientific literature:

* "Some authors suggest that a (natural or anthropogenic) climate change signal can be found in the records of disaster losses (e.g., Mills, 2005; Hppe and Grimm, 2009), but their work is in the nature of reviews and commentary rather than empirical research."