Waiting out the Warming

Waiting out the Warming

climate change

climate change

The summer has been quite a bit hotter than usual. Instead of air-conditioning during the day and windows open after dark to catch those errant breezes, it’s been AC 24/7. I’m probably going to see the next utility bill and have a stroke. But there’s no likelihood of waiting out the warming; this summer is just a harbinger of worse to come, according to a panel of Nobel prize-winning climate scientists.

This newest report runs an impressive (and largely unreadable) 594 pages and focuses not on the minutiae of climate change (like 2 degrees and the hockey stick curve) but on catastrophic climate events like heat waves and droughts, floods and failed crops, and even cyclones or tornadoes.

The link between climate change and tornadoes is tenuous at best. Added moisture seems to increase their power, but the absence of wind shear drains it off again. When it comes to earthquakes, most scientists have yet to find a definitive link. In any case, based on personal observation and the stories of my father, I would have to agree that weather in the last few decades has gotten wilder and woolier than it was during the earlier part of the 20th century. This includes a series of record-breaking floods in 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2008 (and they can’t all be 100-year floods)!

In any case, there’s not going to be any waiting out the warming this time; no praying for a mini ice age such as occurred in 1650, 1770 or 1850. We’re not going to be so lucky this time, scientists agree. It’s going to go from hot to hotter, because the biggest buffers against climate change are levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and methane, to name a few

In addition to these widespread cooling events, also known as Little Ice Ages, there have been a number of more regional cooling spells and increased glaciations in locations like Alaska, New Zealand and Patagonia (near the tip of South America opposite Chile). Most can be written off as the result of solar (radiation) minimums, increased volcanic activity where ash shields earth from the sun, and changes in ocean circulation, which is happening right now as the Gulf Stream (technically the Thermohaline Circulation) shuts down, giving Great Britain a taste of American Midwestern summer (hot, hot, hot!).

So far, 2012 has broken heat records, with Nashville getting its all-time high reading of 109 degrees (°F; Fahrenheit). The same thing happened in Denver, Colorado, with 100+°F readings on June 25. The heat would be more of a shocker if not for March, which came in like the proverbial lamb, bringing summer two months early across the north central region. Sweet! But also highly unsettling, like a crabby neighbor who bakes you cookies.

One of the best tools used to demonstrate this precipitous and disturbing warm trend is a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) animated graph based on a paper submitted by climate scientist extraordinaire James Hansen which shows temperatures from the 1950s forward, with the largest aberrations beginning in this century.

Climate change is, in Hansen’s words, “…here, and worse than we thought.” Ouch!

On September 3, Earth System Analysis department head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, Stefan Rahmstorf, asked what climate change deniers will say if 2013 also breaks heat and storm records.

His answer, that the denial machine will keep on churning, suggests that deniers might want to grease the slippery slope down which they will slide to large-scale extinction of a great many species, perhaps including man.

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