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Top Climate Stories of 2007

Andrew Freedman @ 10:00 AM

It's the end of the year, so it must be time for... a list! How exciting! Seriously, this is truly super mister, really just golly gee whiz swell.

Jason Samenow's Forecast

Forecast Confidence: MediumToday: Rain developing around noon, possibly mixed with sleet. Highs 39-44.
Tonight: Rain, possibly mixing with and changing to sleet and snow before ending around midnight. No accumulation. Lows 30-35 (suburbs-city).
Monday: Partly sunny, with highs 45-50.

A list of this kind is the only thing that can provide a weather/climate junkie with closure at the end of a long year of highs and lows, because once something appears on a year-end "top ___ of the year" list you can think about it for a moment, remember it, and move on. If that item were not on the list you'd keep thinking about it, mull it over from time to time in 2008, and it could lead to unnecessary reflection on your part.

For example, I loved the Radiohead album "In Rainbows," but until I read many music publications' year-end top albums of the year lists, I was confused and listless, wondering if it was truly among the best albums of the year. Now that I know that it probably was, I no longer have nightmares of rainbows being attacked by question marks.

Thus, read this list and be comforted by it, because if it's not on this list it means it wasn't important. Other members of the Capitalweather team will provide a year-end roundup of top weather stories of the year tomorrow.

Top 5 Climate Stories of 2007.

The IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report this year, known as the IPCC "AR4" in bureaucratic hipster speak. The report stated that warming of the climate system is now "unequivocal" and that it is "very likely" that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities were the cause of most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century. Overall, the AR4 laid out the need for taking action now to mitigate and adapt to warming temperatures and their associated effects, such as rising seas and more frequent extreme weather events.

The IPCC's work since its formation in 1988 was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize, which provided a rare moment of recognition for a group whose members have long toiled away in obscurity. In his Nobel acceptance speech, IPCC Chairman Dr. R.K. Pachauri of India stated that the question now before the world is, "Will those responsible for decisions in the field of climate change at the global level listen to the voice of science and knowledge, which is now loud and clear?"

Arctic Meltdown: This was a terrible year to be a patch of sea ice floating near the North Pole. Arctic sea ice, which was already in a precipitous decline since 1979, melted to such an extraordinary extent this year that a modern day gold rush for Arctic resources erupted between Arctic states. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, Arctic sea ice during the 2007 melt season fell to the lowest levels seen since at least when satellite measurements began in 1979. The famed Northwest Passage became ice free for the first time in a seriously long time.

In response, Russia planted its flag at the bottom of the Ocean at the North Pole, signaling its intent to lay its hands on as much of the Arctic natural resources that it can get. Canada began boosting its military presence in the Arctic, thereby providing confirmation that it still has a military, and the U.S. announced it was establishing a new Coast Guard outpost on the north coast of Alaska to respond to ships in distress in newly accessible areas.

Drought: The most boring yet damaging of climate events took hold in the U.S. this year and has yet to relinquish its grip. At the end of the summer drought had enveloped areas from the Rockies south to California and east to the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, including the cities of Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, which has nearly run out of water. Georgia's governor famously prayed for rain instead of developing a coherent water policy for his state.

Drought was a key factor in causing the devastating California Wildfires in October. Fed by long-term drought and powerful Santa Ana winds, wildfires torched southern California. According to one estimate, the fires burned more than 500,000 acres, destroyed 2,000 houses, and caused more than $1 billion in insured losses.

'Meh' hurricane season: After warnings that it would be another bad one, the 2007 hurricane season turned out to be the second underwhelming one in a row. Feeble storms limped towards the U.S. coast this year, while monster storms struck elsewhere in the world. Bangladesh, for example, was hit in November by the deadly Cyclone Sidr. The Atlantic hurricane season was longer than normal, lasting from May to December, but there were no land-falling major hurricanes in the U.S.

Al Gore earns every award possible for climate change work: Former Vice President Al Gore had a pretty good year, earning an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness about global climate change. He even scored a half-hour sit down meeting with President Bush, although that's not really a prize so much as it is a punishment these days.

In picking up all of these accolades, Gore simultaneously signaled the arrival of the eco-cool mentality and confirmed every American Gore-haters' suspicions that he's a condescending over-acheiver who should be ignored. In between awards ceremonies Gore sponsored the global "Live Earth" concerts that featured bands playing on all seven continents (yes, including Antarctica), laid the groundwork for a powerful climate change lobbying group, and chastised the U.S. delegation for obstructing progress at the global climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

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