The image is a satellite photo of the US superstorm taken on October 26, 2010. At the time, Bigfork, Minnesota reported the lowest pressure ever recorded in a U.S. non-coastal storm, 955 mb. It was just one of the many records broken in 2010 when the weather seemed to go a bit crazy.
If the paleoclimate record is anything to go by, our legacy for current levels of CO2 will be 2-3C temperature rise and 25metres, plus or minus five, of sea level rise. Remember that during the last glacial maximum the temperature was 5-6C lower and the sea level about 120 metres lower. On that record we should count ourselves lucky to get away with only 25 metres.
But the full effect of that would take centuries or even millenia. In another post at Climate Progress Joe Romm asks where would be the best place to live in 2035 or 2060? In other words, what is our legacy for our children and grandchildren?
In the first linked post above, those who are in a position to know tell us that the weather is likely to be considerably crazier. Meteorologist and former NOAA Hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters:
In my thirty years as a meteorologist, I’ve never seen global weather patterns as strange as those we had in 2010. The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability. Natural variability probably did play a significant role in the wild weather of 2010, and 2011 will likely not be nearly as extreme. However, I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame. We’ve bequeathed to our children a future with a radically changed climate that will regularly bring unprecedented weather events–many of them extremely destructive–to every corner of the globe. This year’s wild ride was just the beginning. (Emphasis mine)
Climate scientists are reframing the question of attribution. James Hansen:
Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not”.
“It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”
Romm thinks that sea level rise is going to impact seriously on coastal real estate prices in the 2020s in the US. Most responsible scientists are now reckoning on about 1.2 metres by the end of the century with 2 metres the likely maximum. Storm surges will be a big worry and within 50 years there might be movement of people and a premium on areas that are seen as safer. From memory (the information is in a comment in an old post not yet up on our present site) with 30cm of sea level rise, likely by 2060, a 100-year storm surge event becomes a one in three-year event.
Regional climate predictions are trickier. Some things are reasonably clear’ like the progressive melting of mountain glaciers and an expansion of the tropics, giving drier conditions in what are now some of the world’s prime grain producing belts. But who can tell you what the pattern of future of El Niño and La Niña events will be?
The really startling aspect for me in comments at Climate Progress was the common assumption that there would be social breakdown, that you would have to grow most of your own food and be prepared to defend your patch with a gun.
Does this represent the excesses of US individualism? At comment 80 bill mckibben said:
What’s going to be important in the future are strong, intact communities. Fossil fuel made us the first people on earth with no practical need of our neighbors, and as a result our communities have withered. But when times are tough, neighbors are what get you through. So settle in, go to church or synagogue or mosque or whatever, support your local food growers and other businesses, volunteer at the nursing home, be a useful part of a place. That will pay you more dividends (psychic and practical) than stockpiling food and oiling your guns.
Three comments later a commenter said “what utter tripe” and before JR snipped it, said kumbaya is not going to do it.
I’m with mckibben.
So what do you think? What will the world be like in 2035 and 2060? If you were buying real estate for you progeny, where would you buy?
One clue might be that the temperature will not rise as much in the tropics as it will in higher latitudes. And if you look for elevation, that makes it cooler than the coast. Atherton Tablelands, anyone?
If you want to see which coastal areas are going to go squishy you could try this flood map.
PS: I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and forgot to post it. people may be more motivated to think about other places given how the weather has treated them in recent weeks!