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Top Wildfire Fighter: “We’ve Had Climate Change Beat Into Us”

Just posted to the National Wildlife Federation blog on how climate change is fueling the Arizona wildfires and may be permanently changing Western wildlife habitats. Watch more as Scott Pelley of CBS's 60 Minutes interviews Tom Boatner, the federal government's chief of fire operations, on the front lines on the connection between global warming and wildfires:

Climate Change Gave Virginia Record Heat in 2012 – Will 2013...

Wind storm damage in Lynchburg, Virginia - June 2012Hottest year on record in DC, likely the hottest year on record in Richmond, the greatest U.S. drought since the Dust Bowl year of 1939 ... and New Scientist warns that because global warming is melting Arctic sea ice, 2013 could see even more extreme weather:
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]

Research in 2012 implicated the fast-warming Arctic in a slowing of the jet stream. This is bringing extreme weather to mid-latitudes, including prolonged cold spells in Europe, Russia's 2010 heatwave, and record droughts in the US in 2011 and 2012. Watch out for more weird weather in 2013.

Learn more about how global warming is fueling extreme weather.

Virginians Connect the Dots Outside of Dominion’s HQ in Richmond

On Saturday, concerned Virginians met in Richmond outside of Dominion Virginia Power's headquarters to take part in Climate Impacts Day, a global day of action bringing awareness to the issue of climate change.

Concerned Virginians also gathered in Blacksburg, Yorktown, Hampton, a Harrisonburg farmers market, local vineyards, and elsewhere to "connect the dots" between extreme weather events and climate change.

Environmental groups such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), the Sierra Club, 350.org, and many others also took part in this day of action as part of their mission to reign in the forces that are driving climate change.

One of the main forces driving climate change in Virginia has been Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia's largest utility. A look at Dominion's 2011 Integrated Resource Plan says it all.

Over the next 15 years, until 2026, Dominion intends to increase its renewable energy piece of its energy portfolio from 2.4% to 2.8%. That's 2.8% renewable energy by 2026. So where is the rest of Dominion's energy going to come from?

Will TV Forecasters Acknowledge Climate’s Contribution to Crazy January Weather?

The DC area's forecast for Friday calls for temperatures near 60 degrees with thunderstorms. In January.

But you won't catch our television weather presenters attributing the bizarre forecast to global warming loading the dice for extreme weather! No, sir! Expect to hear lots of things like, "Wow, tropical weather in January. Uh ... weird!"

If they mentioned our changing climate, they might get angry calls from viewers who find climate reality doesn't fit in with their political views. Here in the DC area, unless your name is Bob Ryan, you're likely to figure it's better to keep quiet about the facts than risk standing up for inconvenient truths. Or maybe, like Topper Shutt, you're a climate science denier yourself.

Learn more about why some TV weathermen aren't straight with their viewers about climate science at ForecastTheFacts.org.

Paucity of Climate Change Media Coverage Stands in Stark Contrast to...

Now that 2011 is over, may the media reflections begin! 2011 was a year to remember, as well as a year to forget, for any number of different and varied reasons. The Arab Spring brought a wave of democratically-styled popular uprisings that have reshaped politics in the "crucible of empires" (i.e. the Middle East). 2011 also witnessed a historic do-nothing U.S. Congress who appeared more willing to send the U.S. into a global sinkhole than to compromise on matters of ideology (I'm referring to the GOP, of course).

Sadly, all of the momentous news stories that made 2011 a memorable year also overshadowed the issue of climate change in the media. According to The Daily Climate's archive of global media, there were 19,000 climate change-related stories in 2011, a 42% decline from the peak year of 2009. The dip in climate change coverage ironically came amid some of the world's most extreme and devastating natural weather events. The wildfires in Arizona, famine in the Horn of Africa, devastating hurricanes across broad swaths of the U.S., and the historic drought in Texas all occurred in 2011. In the U.S. alone, we witnessed 12 "extreme" natural disasters in 2011, a record-breaking number (extreme natural disasters are quantified as having caused $1 billion in damage or more).

With these extreme weather events so prominent across the globe, it would have been sensible for the media to refocus its attention on climate change. After all, isn't the media supposed to be an institution that looks out for "the people"? It seems clear in hindsight that the media coverage surrounding climate change was at odds with the severity of the dangers posed by this phenomenon.  

Senate GOP Blocks Aid for Hurricane Irene Victims

Honey, I'm Home!Why bother governing responsibly when you can play politics instead?
Republicans blocked an effort Monday by Senate Democrats to quickly pass a $7 billion aid package for victims of recent natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest and the South and floods along the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers.

On a 53-33 vote, the Senate rejected an attempt by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring up a bill that Democrats had hoped to use to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency's depleted disaster fund. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the measure.

A better question: Why would any victim of any of 2011's natural disasters vote Republican?  

A Decade of Global Warming-Fueled Extreme Weather

Full and flowing 9-9-11 Burke LakeI moved to Virginia in June 2002. Just since then, some of the records set in Washington, DC and at National Airport in Arlington:Capital Weather Gang looks at some of this week's highest rainfall totals, with Fort Belvoir's 8.82" ranking among the highest on record. Joe Romm has a good look at this month's East Coast flooding through a historic lens as we continue getting triple-teamed by tropical storms. The scary part is we're still in the very early stages of climate change. What kind of extreme weather world will our children face even a couple of decades from now?

But no need to cut our climate pollution, right John Boehner, Eric Cantor & Mitch McConnell? Best to just keep waiting it out, cashing coal & oil checks, and blaming ... uhhh, moon volcanoes! Cosmic rays!

Major Flooding Paralyzes Northern Virginia

Heavy - perhaps historic - rains and flooding are inundating parts of Northern Virginia tonight. Some Huntington residents are being urged to evacuate due to flooding. As of 7:35pm, the Beltway was closed in both directions in Alexandria. WTOP reports Cameron Run threatens to overtop the Beltway. Check the Washington Post's @PostLocal Twitter feed for the latest updates.

According to the Post's Capital Weather Gang, "Some rainfall totals in southern Fairfax County in just the [6-7pm] hour have been 3-4"!" The photo at left was taken tonight above the Reston north commuter parking lot for the Fairfax Connector.

And it's not expected to improve much in the next few hours. CWG says, "Areas currently experiencing heavy rain may not see signficant improvement until after midnight. Rain is not moving quickly. This may have some in­cred­ibly bad consequences."

I just drove from Richmond to my home in Falls Church. It was sunny when we left Richmond, but the drive from Fredericksburg north featured some of the heaviest rain I've ever driven through - and I drove through Hurricane Floyd in 1999. I couldn't see tail lights further than 50 yards in front of my car. Fortunately, everyone slowed down to about 35mph & we didn't see any accidents.

How was your drive home? What are you seeing in your community? Let us know in comments.

UPDATE 8:46pm: @BreakingNews cites AP as reporting floods have killed two people in Northern Virginia. The Washington Post reports one of the victims was the child earlier reported washed away by Piney Branch Creek in Vienna. Reports of I66 west closed near Route 50 & VRE trains being forced to turn back on the Manassas line due to flash flooding.

UPDATE 9:40pm: CWG reports Fairfax County Schools will be closed on Friday.

Photo via Laura Cochran

Dangerous Friday Forecast: Heat Index of 116 in DC, 118 in...

Can I use the term "breaking news" to describe a weather forecast for a sunny day? Yup. That just happened.

Last month, I asked If June Is This Hot, What Will July & August Be Like? Now we have the answer from Jason Samenow of WashingtonPost.com's Capital Weather Gang:

NOAA has upped its peak heat index prediction for D.C. Friday to a stunning, sweltering 116 degrees. Remarkably, it predicts there is a 90 percent chance it will reach at least 110 and a 100 percent chance of at least 105. Earlier today, NOAA was predicting a maximum heat index of 109 Friday.

And poor Richmond, Va.! NOAA projects its heat index will soar to a stifling 118 degrees.

So far, 2011 has been the 11th-warmest year on record. And from NOAA's State of the Climate update, a stat even The Green Miles didn't know:

Should Coal-Fired Pollution Get a Tobacco-Style Warning Label?

Ohio Valley VistaJust the particle pollution from coal-fired power plants kills 13,000 Americans each year through heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, birth defects & premature death, according to the American Lung Association. That number doesn't even consider threats from other pollutants like arsenic & mercury or the dangers of coal mining.

And carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is a prime driver of global warming, which is fueling more climate-connected extreme weather events that have helped turn 2011 into the Year of the Natural Disaster.

All that leads Tom Toles to ask in today's Washington Post: Cigarettes come with warning labels - why not coal-fired power plants?