On Nov. 21, the Times Free Press reported that Chattanooga has broken 17 weather-related records in 2019.
That's not normal. In 2018, Chattanooga saw only five such record-setting days.
Especially not normal, according to the story reported and written by Times Free Press reporter Mark Pace, was the autumn weather that precipitated his report: a long fall heat wave that set 13 record high temperatures between Sept. 12 and Oct. 4 — including the last two days of that streak when the mercury topped out at 100 degrees.
Think about that: 100 degrees. In October. In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
"Basically, it seems like whatever pattern we got into this year, we just stayed stuck in it longer," meteorologist Derek Eisentrout of the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee, told the Times Free Press. "So we had prolonged periods of rain and long periods of dry, which is not the most common."
But "not the most common" is becoming the new normal.
On Tuesday, a new United Nations report offered a grim assessment of just how much the world — and especially America — has squandered the time we had to stave off the worst effects of climate change. We're now so off-track that global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius — that's 7 degrees Fahrenheit — by the end of the century, according to the annual U.N. "emissions gap" report, which assesses the difference between the world's current path and the changes needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
Under the Paris accord, which President Donald Trump recently officially signaled he's pulling us out of, world leaders had agreed to hold warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels.
Record weather in 2019
Feb. 6: record high 70 degrees
Feb. 7: record high 80 degrees
May 11: record rainfall 2.16 inches
May 26: record high 95 degrees
Sept. 12: record high 98 degrees
Sept. 13: record high 103 degrees
Sept. 15: record high 97 degrees
Sept. 16: record high 98 degrees
Sept. 17: record high 100 degrees
Sept. 26: record high 96 degrees
Sept. 27: record high 95 degrees
Sept. 29: record high 95 degrees
Sept. 30: record high 97 degrees
Oct. 1: record high 97 degrees
Oct. 2: record high 100 degrees
Oct. 3: record high 100 degrees
Oct. 4: record high 95 degrees
The bottom line now is that our current trajectory is nearly twice the Paris pact's lofty but once-achievable goal.
"Bleak" was the word in most headlines for the new report. Disgusting is a better descriptor.
Chattanooga's 2019-to-date record-setting weather is not a singular trend. And we can wager our futures that it is just the beginning of more extreme years like it. (Spoiler alert: More on wagered futures on Monday.)
This year's national weather records got an early jolt in January with a severe cold wave caused by a weakened jet stream that brought the U.S. an Arctic polar vortex. The cold mostly hit the Midwest and eastern Canada, killing at least 22 people as it made its way west and locked over the Canadian and American West. The end result was the coldest temperatures in more than 20 years to most locations. Here, we got rain. Lots of it.
Fast forward 11 months to November, when many headlines looked like this one in The Washington Post: "Cold snap of historic proportions hits East Coast, over 300 records fall." That was when we shivered out of short sleeves and dragged out our winter coats. Meteorologists said this was the most severe early November cold snap in more than a century, setting record lows that were 20 to 30 degrees below normal over the eastern third of the nation. Memphis saw its coldest fall temperature ever when the mercury there plunged into the upper teens. Chattanooga registered three nights of hard freeze in the 20s.
Climate change is not just about global "warming," though nine of 11 months this year in Chattanooga have been warmer than average, according to National Weather Service data collected at the Chattanooga airport.
But the more operative word for climate change may be "extremes," and those extremes — heat waves, cold spells, droughts and deadly downpours — are often the result of stalled weather patterns, like what the Morristown National Weather Service's Eisentrout described as what brought Chattanooga a string of overheated September and October days.
Thus it seemed quite timely on Nov. 13 that Science Daily reported on a new study from Rice University: "Stalled weather patterns will get bigger due to climate change."
The Rice research indicates that climate change will increase the size — not just the frequency — of stalled high-pressure weather systems called "blocking events." Those blocking events already have produced some of the 21st century's deadliest heat waves, the study notes. What's more, the study extrapolates that the size of blocking events in the northern hemisphere will increase by as much as 17% due to climate change.
The message from Trump and most Republicans — certainly those who won't brook any difference with the doddering leader of their party — is much like what they say to everything else: We can't hear you. Get over it.
Well, we won't. In mid-September, a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly four in 10 Americans described climate change as a crisis, and two-thirds said President Trump is doing too little to tackle the problem. Moreover, about eight in 10 said they believe human activity is fueling climate change, and roughly half believe action is urgently needed within the next decade.
There are solutions. We'll examine some of the market solutions Monday. For today, we'll close with one really important political fix. Vote Trump and other Republicans out of office next November.