Tuesday, February 27, 2018

No Big Deal - Episode 2

Arctic warming has given scientists the willies. The freak phenomenon of above-freezing temperatures in the midst of the blacked-out Arctic winter began a few years ago with a brief warm spell or two. This winter, however, Arctic temperatures have averaged 20C above normal.

An alarming heatwave in the sunless winter Arctic is causing blizzards in Europe and forcing scientists to reconsider even their most pessimistic forecasts of climate change.

Although it could yet prove to be a freak event, the primary concern is that global warming is eroding the polar vortex, the powerful winds that once insulated the frozen north.

The north pole gets no sunlight until March, but an influx of warm air has pushed temperatures in Siberia up by as much as 35C above historical averages this month. Greenland has already experienced 61 hours above freezing in 2018 - more than three times as any previous year.

Seasoned observers have described what is happening as “crazy,” “weird,” and “simply shocking”.

“This is an anomaly among anomalies. It is far enough outside the historical range that it is worrying – it is a suggestion that there are further surprises in store as we continue to poke the angry beast that is our climate,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “The Arctic has always been regarded as a bellwether because of the vicious cycles that amplify human-caused warming in that particular region. And it is sending out a clear warning.”

Fortunately, we don't have to worry. Our prime minister is on top of this. What, he's busy with bitumen, pipelines and supertankers? We're screwed?


Northern PoV said...

"There is open water north of Greenland where the thickest sea ice of the Arctic used to be."

Run-Away Global Warming... RAGW ... get used to it.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's sure beginning to look that way, isn't it NPoV? We should all reflect back on the logic used to justify slashing greenhouse gas emissions back 10 or 15 years ago.

Back then we were introduced to the concept of "tipping points." We were told that we had to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Failure risked passing tipping points that would trigger natural or positive feedback loops.

These feedback loops - a variety of phenomenon such as the loss of Arctic sea ice, the release of seabed or lake bed frozen methane clathrates, the thawing of the permafrost and the subsequent release of all the methane sequestered there, etc. - would lead to the release of massive volumes of powerful greenhouse gases, i.e. methane, beyond any human control. These would trigger a variety of knock-on effects such as the melting of glaciers and ice caps, more wildfires of greater range and duration, on and on and on.

The ever timid IPCC warned us that, if we didn't get man-made emissions under control, we risked crossing these tipping points within a matter of a decades. As always they were way too optimistic in their timetables.

Curiously, as we've approached and passed these tipping points, discussion of tipping points, feedback loops, etc. has died off. Yet they were the key raison d'etre to the global warming campaign at the outset.

The science types have moved on. Geo-engineering is again being considered seriously even though we know what may help in one place will probably bring devastation elsewhere. Some science types tell us our only hope now is to develop technology that will suck the GHGs out of the atmosphere. Some have warned that, barring an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry (which is looking ever less likely in recent years), it's over.