Abrupt Climate Change
While I am not a huge fan of You Tube, or even searching the internet in general, I have recently become a fan of videos related to climate science, and the recent information coming out of the Arctic, and the Antarctic. One of the major advantages of the electronic sources is that I am finding more recent information. Lets say a climatologist decides to write a book on climate science. After some few years of gathering their references, and collating their data, they then set down to write a book. After some months they write, finalize, then publish their book. By the time you read their books some months of even years later the data and references can be a few years or more old at the least. Not good enough in a rapidly evolving field of study that even the experts can not keep up with themselves.
I first looked into You Tube videos because of Guy McPherson who published a book titled "Going Dark". Guy's major premise is that we are doomed and the party is over, turn out the lights. While I bought and read his book, I wanted to see some of lectures for myself, so I went to You Tube. McPherson has some really good points, and lots of good references, although he is not a climatologist himself. One reference was Tim Garrett, and another one was Paul Beckwith who is a climatologist from Canada. Last but not least is Jason Box who has studied Greenland for the last few decades.
Tim Garrett is really interesting and the synopsis of his paper online takes a bit of chewing on. Garrett's major premise is that our industrial civilization is a heat engine that is leading inexorably to collapse. Wealth/money and energy are one and the same thing which equates to Carbon output no matter what we do. Energy efficiency due to the Jevons Paradox just leads to more energy consumption and CO2 output. In fact GDP and Carbon output are directly related which Garrett calculates at 9.8 milliwatts per 1990 dollar as of 2007. He pegs energy consumption at 15.9 Terawatts and economic wealth worldwide at 1,620 Trillion. Unless we can build one nuclear power plant per day for years he says we are headed for 1000 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. There just is no way to decarbonize our energy system in even one mortgage cycle.
I have really enjoyed the Paul Beckwith videos on You Tube. He takes you on tours of the satellite data of the planet as it is graphed on overlay on the globe. Little tidbits like the temperature being the same in Mexico and the Arctic Islands north of Norway just jump out at you. You not only get to the annual advance and retreat of the Arctic Sea Ice bit graphs showing how it is trending towards zero sometime in the next three years. The ice extent as well as volume is decreasing because it is getting thinner. The prognosis is good for a Blue Ocean Event in the Arctic by September of 2015, 2016, or 2017.
The breakdown and slowing down of the Jet Stream are key results of the Arctic Amplification here. Also it seems the AMOC Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AKA The Gulf Stream) is slowing down, which is disconcerting to say the least. About 11 inches of sea level rise off the east coast has been caused by the slowing AMOC. The reason for these changes is that the difference in the heat between the Arctic and the Equator has decreased, and this is what drives these circulation currents. More heat is now moving to the Southern Hemisphere because of the Arctic Amplification. I know many of you will be thinking "But John what about the cold winters we have been experiencing in North America for the last few years"? All I can tell you is move the the Arctic if you want warmer winter weather. There have been +20 degree Temperature anomalies in the Arctic with -20 degree temperature anomalies in North America during the Northern Hemisphere due to our now meandering Jet Streams. Global warming does not mean it warms everywhere equally.
Jason Box is another Climatologist worth watching. As a Greenland expert he has the goods on the changes taking place there. The changes in the albedo of the ice are particularly disconcerting. The melt rates for ice are increasing so if you peg you sea level rise to a linear rate as the IPPC tends to do you will be way off. Beckwith did a video in which he states we are due to seven (7) meters of sea level rise by 2070 due to these doubling rates. Melting rates were doubling every seven years but now seem to doubling every five years. Factoring sea level rise that way paints a vastly different picture.
The most scary thing about the Arctic is the release of Arctic Methane or Clathrates. There may be more Methane equivalent warming in the Arctic continental sea shelves and the permafrost then all the oil and gas we have burned so far. There is every reason to think we may have pulled the trigger on the Clathrate Gun in 2007. If so, even if our civilization were to abandon fossil fuels completely it may already be too late, as we may be headed for a run away warming due to these triggered Methane releases. Or as Guy McPherson says "Nature bats last."
Finally there is Antarctica which is the proverbial icing on our cake. The climate deniers have been having a field day recently pointing to the increases in sea ice there. Antarctica is a very different place the the Arctic and the confusion is understandable. Increases in sea ice there is not good news at all. As Beckwith points out there is very little difference between -45 C and -40 C ait temps as far as ice is concerned. Yet we are losing ice mass on the continent of Antarctica as measured by the Grace Anomaly gravity measuring satellites, so what gives? At least 90% of all the extra heat from global warming is going into the ocean. While it is hard to imagine, both the continent of Antarctica, and Greenland are below sea level. The mantel of the Earth there has literally been depressed to below sea level because of the tremendous mass of of a mile or more of the ice setting on top of these continents. This creates a grounding line where the ocean and ice meet. These grounding lines have been retreating further back into the continent. This causes the ice to flow faster and more calving causes more sea ice and mass loss. It looks like The West Antarctic ice shelves are going to go soon. The East Antarctic ice shelves are losing mass too but they have so much more mass to lose. The Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is on the move and it's contribution to sea level rise will make Beckwith's projection of 7 meters of sea level rise by 2070 seem rather pedestrian to say the least.
There are too many details concerning all these highlights which I have presented here to include in a short blog like this here. I highly recommend you go to You Tube and watch some of these videos for yourself. I tend to watch videos that are usually no longer then 20 minutes in length because videos use up so much bandwidth. Sometimes I will watch a longer video if I need to explore a bit more. Look for Guy McPherson, Tim Garrett (there are only a few for him), Paul Beckwith, and Jason Box. There are a few other video presentations by other scientist but these are the ones I have found to be the most interesting. I for one have been thinking of getting a T-Shirt made saying "What Happens in The Arctic doesn't stay in The Arctic" but it seems a bit obscure. All I can say is keep a watch on the Arctic for the next few years, the unfolding story of the Human experiment in altering the climate of a perfectly liveable planet will be plainly manifested there. Anyone up for water skiing the North Pole with me when we go Blue Ocean there? Sounds like it would be fun until you run into a Shell Oil Company oil slick!
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