Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In "Holy Crap" News

I just strolled through my morning Google Alerts and they're almost enough to make you jump in a bunker and slam the hatch shut over your head. And so, we begin.

You know that storm that has brought devastating floods and killer tornadoes to the southern US before driving into Canada yesterday? It's not done. In fact, it's headed for the already flooded UK and will bring a "weather bomb" to Iceland later this week.

The vigorous low pressure system that helped spawn devastating tornadoes in the Dallas area on Saturday is forecast to explode into a monstrous storm over Iceland by Wednesday.
And the storm will batter the United Kingdom, reeling from recent flooding, with another round of rain and wind.

Computer model simulations show the storm, sweeping across the north central Atlantic today, rapidly intensifying along a jet stream ripping above the ocean at 230 mph.

Ahead of the storm, the surge of warm air making a beeline towards the North Pole is astonishing. In the animation below, watch the warm temperature departures from normal, portrayed by red shades, explode towards the Pole between Monday and Wednesday.

The North Pole is expected to reach 32F on Wednesday, about 50F warmer than normal. Some experts put the difference at 70F.

Okay, so much for that. Nunatsiaq Online reports that new studies show that a lot more methane is being released in the Arctic than previously believed.

The amount of methane gas emitted from the ground in the Arctic during the long cold period each year is likely much higher than estimated by current climate change models, says a new study carried out in Alaska by a team of researchers led San Diego State University.

Their study, published Dec. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found methane, a potent greenhouse gas that intensifies atmospheric warming, is being released from the Arctic permafrost even during the winter.

In California, research has found some 888 million trees are suffering from the ongoing drought of which 58-million may already be beyond recovery. The state, meanwhile, is looking at having to spend billions of dollars to replace infrastructure being destroyed by land subsidence, mainly resulting from heavy pumping of groundwater resources. 

Four years of drought and heavy reliance on pumping of groundwater have made the land sink faster than ever up and down the Central Valley, requiring repairs to infrastructure that experts say are costing billions of dollars.

This slow-motion land subsidence — more than one foot a year in some places — is not expected to stop anytime soon, experts say, nor will the expensive repairs.

The Guardian offers a scathing indictment of Britain's political caste for ignoring all the warning signs of the climate devastation now hitting the UK.

Ministers cannot plead ignorance. Four years before the NAO report, around the time of the 2010 general election, a lengthy study from the Government Office for Science, Foresight Land Use Futures, warned that 57% of our best (grade 1) land and 13% of grade 2 occupied flood plains. Not for nothing did it describe these golden acres as “an important asset in terms of national food security”.

Today we produce 62% of our own food, down since our 1984 peak of 78%. Alarmed by government complacency, the National Farmers’ Union calculated earlier this year that the country has the potential to reach 85% self-sufficiency, with higher productivity, more investment in research and development and, of course, greater emphasis on flood defences to withstand future tidal surges and rising sea levels. Do nothing, says the NFU, and domestic food production will assuredly fall below 50%.

What we have lacked is an informed debate on the pressures facing our land – increasing demand for food, energy, water and housing – when we should be adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change. But that means planning ahead, prioritising resources and, yes, borrowing as a nation to invest in and safeguard our future – unlikely at a time when the very concept of planning, still less long-term investment, has become a pejorative term. (Sound familiar?)

The USCentre of the London School of Economics has an interesting analysis of how rightwing politics has the sea level rise threatening Virginia in a deathgrip of inaction in the State legislature.

Bad as the situation may be in Virginia, Grist.org reports it's worse, much worse, in Florida where it says the GOP is killing off the state.

Florida is disappearing. For those who think of the state only as a swampy backwater populated by alligators and meth heads, this may seem like a good thing. But it’s not a joke: Florida is disappearing.

Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about visiting Miami Beach in a recent issue of The New Yorker. What she saw there was frightening: city streets that regularly flood with the high tide, with residents marooned on stoops and porches watching their trash cans bob in the street. “For the past several years,” Kolbert wrote, “the daily high-water mark in the Miami area has been racing up at the rate of almost an inch a year, nearly ten times the rate of average global sea-level rise ….

Now the state has fallen to a governor, Rick Scott, who not only denies the reality of climate change but has forbidden state officials from mentioning it and a GOP senator/climate change denier, Marc Rubio. Good luck with that, Florida.

Let's wrap it up with the latest on heatwaves - in Buenos Aires, Australia and, of course, Florida.  The Argentine capital is being hammered by a prolonged heatwave that has predictably led to power outages. When temperatures soar and the air conditioning goes out, it's the formula for a lot of deaths.

South Australia, meanwhile, is bracing for a week of above 35C temperatures. Even northeast Florida, which usually experiences cooler conditions in the winter is enduring a heatwave that's causing an infestation of bugs, especially mosquitoes.

That's it, I'm done. I could go on about other problems such as biodiversity but I'm already in climate change overload. If you've read down this far I expect you are too. Here's the thing. I posted all these summaries and links to try to drive home the point that this isn't going away. We're in a mess right now - not some time in the future, not tomorrow, it's here today - and we're going to have to dig our way out as best we can. Looking the other way is not an option. We have to realize what is happening and begin figuring out how best we can respond if only to safeguard ourselves and prepare the Canada we want to leave to our grandkids.

As citizens, this has to be at the top of our agenda if we want it to be at the top of our political caste's agenda.


chris said...

That storm has been blasting the Maritimes all day. It's a real nor'easter and quite the change from Christmas midmorning coffee on the deck in shirtsleeves.

Buckle up, Iceland!

Toby said...

The Guardian can offer all the scathing indictments it wants but if the masses don't read and react it's just a waste of paper and bytes. We are in a hell of a mess but most people I know think it's hype and you and I are blowing hot air. This is not going to end well.

The Mound of Sound said...

Seasons no longer operate as they did in the past, Chris. There is no more "winter" as we once knew it. Out here it resulted in the mass infestation of pine beetles that have now crossed the Rockies and are heading your way through the Boreal forest. In the Sahel, a nomadic herder loses half his cattle one year to drought and the next the survivors drown in flash floods. Climate change, in all its permutations, is coming on harder and faster than we ever imagined possible just a few years ago. Change is happening today that I thought my kids might not see in their lifetimes. Our resilience is about to be tested and we're not ready.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Toby - you're right and the apathy is the hardest thing to accept about this conundrum.

Toby said...

With all the unseasonable floods in England will PM Cameron draw the right conclusions? Will he decide to actually address the climate problem? I doubt it.

Bill said...

Mound up here in my neck of the woods the normal daytime temperature at this time of year is minus thirty C.give or take 10 degrees. The next week we will be back up to minus 5 which is where it has been since early October. Heating costs are half so I should not complain I guess but as you have been saying for years it is getting scary.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Bill - your temperature observation reminds me of a February day a couple of years back when Atlanta, Georgia went through a cold snap that left the city frozen solid, its expressways jammed with stuck vehicles that resembled an apocalyptic scene from The Walking Dead while a village near Barrow, Alaska was basking in 62F temperatures. It was mind boggling.

As a society we're able to dumb ourselves down enough that we ignore the consequences inevitable in this sort of weirdness.