CALIFORNIA STEAMIN' FORECASTERS PREDICT HELLACIOUS SUMMER, WORLD'S HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD.
The hottest prediction for '07: the hottest world temperature on record. The hellish forecast for Los Angeles: a summer hotter than last year's record smoker.
Stubborn greenhouse gases and the return of El Nino will likely turn 2007 into the world's hottest year on record, climate researchers predicted Thursday.
That's bad news for California, singed last year during its hottest-ever summer.
``We are going to suffer,'' predicted Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. ``Last summer was a preview of coming attractions.
``There's definitely a disturbance in the force on global temperatures. Between hot days and heat waves on the rise, we're looking at hotter temperatures this summer in Los Angeles.''
The nation's leading climatologists endorsed a prediction made Thursday by British scientists that a resurgent El Nino, coupled with persistently high levels of greenhouse gases, will likely make this year the hottest on record.
Britain's Meteorological Office forecast a 60 percent chance that 2007 would surpass the global record set in 1998 of 1.20 degrees over the long- term average.
``In general, temperatures will continue to rise as greenhouse gases increase, and El Ninos add an extra boost,'' said Tom Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, who concurred with the British prediction.
``With each succeeding El Nino event, we are more likely than not to set new record global temperatures,''
Experts say California, the world's 12th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, could suffer dire consequences as temperatures rise locally and around the globe.
Higher temperatures strain power plants and increase the risk of statewide blackouts and catastrophic wildfires.
They also can also decrease mountain snowpack and jeopardize water supplies.
Heat wave killed
Last year, 160 Californians died during a soaring heat wave that taxed farms and livestock and strained air conditioners.
In July, mercury at the Woodland Hills station soared past 100 degrees for a record three consecutive weeks. In all, temperatures shot above the 100-mark for 24 days, another record.
On July 22, temperatures at Pierce College topped out at a Sahara-like 119 degrees -- a Los Angeles County record.
Climatologists say that, when it comes to global warming, nine out of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the past decade.
``We're in a global-warming world,'' said David Neelin, professor of climate dynamics and a specialist in the effects of El Nino at the University of California, Los Angeles. ``If you have a threshold -- say 100 degrees -- that many find uncomfortable, you're going to exceed that threshold more and more often.''
But California is leading the nation in the battle against global warming.
In addition to renewable energy policies, the Golden State has enacted landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse emissions generated by vehicles and industry.
An initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by power plants and other industries took effect Jan. 1.
``The governor has said that the science of climate change is real and he will continue to shine the spotlight on the important issue of reducing greenhouse emissions in his second term,'' said Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The governor stands in stark contrast to President George W. Bush, who has refused to sign the international Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse emissions.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the new chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has vowed to make greenhouse gases a priority, with hearings expected to begin this month.
``Nowhere is there a greater threat to future generations than the disastrous effects of global warming,'' Boxer said in a recent statement.
While Boxer has yet to unveil greenhouse legislation, she has called on Congress to follow the ``California approach'' in regulating emissions.
While the moderate equatorial current known as El Nino could warm the ocean and atmospheric temperatures, climatologists warned that a major event such as a volcano could severely cool its impact.
Climate out of kilter
The current El Nino has warmed Washington, D.C., enough to cause the cherry trees to bloom this winter, while inflicting severe drought on Africa and Australia.
While forecasters say it's difficult to predict how El Nino might affect specific regions such as Southern California, all agreed temperatures are on the rise.
In the past century, average temperatures in Los Angeles have shot up 5 degrees, with a 3-degree increase in offshore ocean temperatures.
In the past half-century, late-summer heat waves have also increased, said Patzert, who is studying heat-wave trends in Woodland Hills, the hottest spot in Los Angeles.
``I tell my students, `Forget about science -- major in air conditioning,''' the rocket lab researcher said.
Richard Somerville, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, praised California's greenhouse programs, but said the world must follow suit.
``This is a political problem,'' Somerville said. ``The best thing that people can do is not recycle cans, put in low-impact fluorescent light bulbs, bike to work and drive a high-mileage car.
``You've got to tell the politicians that this is important. You've got to wean the world away from fossil fuel.''
Staff Writer Lisa Friedman contributed to this report.
A record forecast
SOURCES: University of East Anglia; Hadley Centre; NOAA; Oak Ridge National Laboratory