This post is in response to Systemic Disorder commenter Palloy who thinks that peak oil will save mankind and that global warming “will not be as bad as +1.5°C.” I want to answer the question of what degree of warming we are already committed to if industrial civilization were to disappear off the face of the Earth right now.
Palloy is overlooking the part that aerosols from industrial activity play in temporarily cooling the planet. James Hansen called this the Faustian Bargain:
…Human activity modifies the impact of the greenhouse effect by the release of airborne particulate pollutants known as aerosols. These include black-carbon soot, organic carbon, sulphates, nitrates, as well as dust from smoke, manufacturing, wind storms, and other sources. Aerosols have a net cooling effect because they reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground and they increase cloud cover. This is popularly known as “global dimming”, because the overall aerosol impact is to mask some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases.
Hansen’s new study estimates this aerosol “dimming” at 1.2 degrees (plus or minus 0.2°), much higher than previously figured. Aerosols are washed out of the atmosphere by rain on average every 10 days, so their cooling effect is only maintained because of continuing human pollution, the principal source of which is the burning of fossil fuels, which also cause a rise in carbon dioxide levels and global warming that lasts for many centuries…
The average global temperature rise thus far is about 0.85°C since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Once industrial activity ceases and its accompanying aerosols fall out of the atmosphere, the average global temperature will jump to about 2°C, but it won’t simply stop there because Palloy forgets that there is a lag time involved with CO2 emissions. The effects we are feeling now were from our emissions 40 years ago:
…The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.
With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s. This thought should send a chill down your spine!…
This “committed warming” of past CO2 emissions whose effect will be manifested in the coming decades is about 0.6 degrees Celsius. Adding up the current warming of 0.85°C from the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the loss of aerosols with global dimming at 1.2°C, and the “committed” temperature rise from the 40-year lag time of CO2 emissions equal to 0.6°C, we get a total of 2.65°C. If all industrial activity stopped right now, we would already be committed to 2.65°C, a global average temperature rise of three times what we are currently experiencing. With all the drought, flooding, hurricanes, landslides, fires, and other manifestations of climate change that we are undergoing now, I shudder to think what the world will be like in 2050 and yet humans continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels at breakneck speed. According to the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all emissions have been produced in the past 25 years.
(1) An increase in temperature decreases the area covered by sea ice as it melts leaving a larger area of exposed ocean.
(2) This decreases the reflection of sunlight as ice is far more reflective than the newly exposed ocean.
(3) Reduced reflection increases the area’s absorption of heat from the sun.
(4) This increases the temperature of the area, amplifying the original increase in temperature mentioned in (1).
A recent study calculated that the loss of Arctic ice reflectivity from 1979 to 2011 added an amplifying feedback to human warming equivalent to 25% of the heat captured by CO2 emissions during that same time.
We know that we don’t live in a linear world and that climate change is a non-linear phenomenon. Recent studies on abrupt climate change in Earth’s history reveal that temperatures have changed rapidly by 5°C in just 13 years. With the grand experiment mankind has irrevocably and haphazardly embarked on, the de-thawing of vast stores of permafrost and clathrates measured in the gigatons has commenced, creating the possibility for a sudden catastrophic release of such gases at any time. Methane, for about the first 10 to 20 years of its initial release before it breaks down into CO2, is many fold more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Humans are too busy calculating everything in terms of economic profit with regards to newly exposed resources and shorter shipping routes in the Arctic to take the time to fathom what damage they have done. Industrial civilization has permanently disrupted the stable period known as the Holocene within which mankind and civilization have been allowed to prosper.
Thus, we can see that the world is changing quickly into an environment that may well be outside the habitability for humans. The timing of human near-term extinction is likely academic.
Apneaman left this message here just a short time ago:
Journalist Dahr Jamail & Professor Peter Wadhams say the resulting release of methane will lead to massive climate disruption, and that we have reached a point of no return.
CO2 Takes Just 10 Years to Reach Planet’s Peak Heat (Not 40 Years)
In a study that could have important ramifications on estimating the impacts, costs and benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, new research shows that CO2 brings peak heat within a decade of being emitted, with the effects then lingering 100 years or more into the future…
…The research, published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, provides policymakers and economists with a new perspective on how fast human carbon emissions heat the planet. Back-of-the-envelope estimates for how long it takes for a given puff of CO2 to crank up the heat have generally been from 40-50 years. But the new study shows that the timeframe for CO2 emissions to reach their maximum warming potential is likely closer to 10 years…. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/co2-emissions-peak-heat-18394
In keeping with what I said earlier, I’m taking a break for a couple weeks from in-depth blogging, but until then I will post or reblog articles that happen to catch my eye.
Has mankind triggered the trip switch for his own extinction? Looking at just the headlines below and the comment from the Chemist, I would say the answer is a resounding “Yes!” This conclusion brings me no pleasure, but immeasurable depths of angst and depression. The so-called “doomers” are perhaps the most humanistic amongst the population. They see things as they are, not what people hope them to be or what many idealize industrial civilization to be. Nothing hides under the Sun.
I have finally come to the conclusion without a shadow of a doubt that humanity is irredeemable. People are repulsed by my belief that our fate of extinction has been sealed. I no longer even use the caveat of “with business as usual” because business as usual always persists, no matter how dire the empirical evidence of global environmental collapse. No amount of anoxic dead zones, extinguished species, or toxic groundwater will curtail business as usual. In fact, humans spin off new business ventures like fish farming, animal cloning, and water purification in lieu of changing the status quo. A recent headline proves my point:
It’s not just bad news for the polar bear,” said Gail Whiteman, a researcher at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and a co-author on the paper, published in Nature. “It’s a global economic time bomb.
The obliteration of the Arctic is just another milepost in mankind’s headlong race down the one-way road to oblivion. Notice that the above quote implies the economy is the primary yardstick for measuring human well-being. Everything is modeled into Dollar$ and Cents and nothing holds any intrinsic value except what humans, particularly those at the top of the exploitation pyramid, can extract from it. Don’t you think the economy should be re-examined for its supposed function as a “wealth-building” system if it’s killing the planet as well as the human species. But no, this sort of introspection will never take place; instead capitalist industrial civilization will roll onward crushing and pulverizing everything in its path until it runs out of energy and crosses a critical threshold without notice.
…Still, the situation is not hopeless, the authors said. Abating global warming buys time for intensive geo-engineering research into strategies for dealing with methane release, noted Dr. Wadhams…
Of course geo-engineering is the expected response when your economic system of eternal growth and expansion hits a little snag like planetary tipping points. In today’s disposable society, humans build and price things to be thrownaway when they break; but since spare planets are hard to come by, out comes the box of amazing techno-gadgetry fixes to save the day. We’ve already terraformed and geo-engineered the Earth into a planet which looks to be transforming itself into a place inhospitable for most lifeforms. And we think we can unravel this Gordian knot? Are they going to geo-engineer a solution for the accompanying problem of ocean acidification as well? These sorts of schemes are always billed as “buying us time”, but buying time is simply a euphemism for delaying the executioner. Christ, humans really are eternal optimists! I think that a future headline from some alien race would be the following (just replace Mars with Earth):
Yeah, that catastrophic event would not be an asteroid, but abipedal organism called Homo economicus. So what are the options for humans domesticated into the life of industrial civilization? According to famed climate scientist James Hansen, we’re between a nuke and a hard place. He says nuclear energy is the best way to go to “preserve our lifestyles” while reducing carbon, and he gives his view on people who think “renewable” energy can fill the hole of our fossil-fueled civilization:
Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewable will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”
So people like blogger Robert Scribbler can go pound sand when they accuse me of propagandizing for the fossil fuel industry. I’m just being realistic. People misinterpret my worldview as overly pessimistic, but Big-Busine$$ interests control the corrupt political machine, the jaded masses, and the corporate media shills; therefore, no solution can come from something so rotten. I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d love for nothing more than to wake up from what seems like a nightmare, but it looks like the fat lady is already starting to sing:
I’m reminded of the recent farewell note by environmentalist Michael McCarthy who saw the endgame:
…People are doing this(ecocide). Let’s be clear about it. It’s not some natural phenomenon, like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. It’s the actions of Homo sapiens. What we are witnessing is a fundamental clash between the species, and the planet on which he lives, which is going to worsen steadily, and the more closely you observe it – or at least, the more closely I have observed it, over the past 15 years – the more I have thought that there is something fundamentally wrong with Homo sapiens himself. Man seems to be Earth’s problem child. We humans have always thought ourselves different in kind from other creatures, principally for our use of language and our possession of consciousness, but there is another reason for our uniqueness, which is becoming ever clearer: we are the only species capable of destroying our own home. And it looks like we will…
Techno-Narcissism Looking at the just-completed 5.5 million square foot mega-building in Chengdu China, one could hold the mistaken belief that there is no ever-worsening ecological crisis of Earth or that mankind’s dominion over nature, built on a once stable and predictable weather regime, is not in serious jeopardy. The report that just came out a few days ago describing America’s energy infrastructure as “a sitting duck in the face of climate change” can be applied to all of the world’s infrastructure as well. So why is humanity continuing to build ugly monstrosities that will be ripped apart by torrential flooding, epic hurricanes, and other continent-sized storms as described by James Hansen in his book “Storms of My Grandchildren”? Because it’s all about growth, and capitalist carbon man is propping up his “growth” with the Viagra drug of QE money printing and accounting fraud, but Mother Nature ain’t amused and will bobbitize man’s conceit in short order. Industrial civilization’s relentless construction of such projects under the pall of climate chaos is the height of foolishness. We seem to be saying, “Why worry about deadly air pollution, runaway climate change in the Arctic, and a dangerously deformed, agriculture-destroying Jet Stream when you can create an artificial ecosystem complete with its own “sun” and a man-made beach free from algae bloom pollution?”:
…But most impressive of all is the artificial sun. Being an industrial hub, Chendu is known for its rather serious smog problem, with air qualities ranking in the mid to high 100s (unhealthy for people with allergies or respiratory problems). Hence the reason for the 24 hour, 150-meter-long LED screen that serves as a stand-in for the horizon. While inside, people do not have to worry about grey skies preventing them from getting a little warmth and a possible tan.
With this last aspect, China may now lead the world in terms of creating buildings that are more akin to self-contained ecosystems than anything else. In addition to this being a major building milestone, this structure may represent the way of the future for a nation that’s running out of healthy spaces to put its people. It’s no secret that China, with roughly 1,354,040,000 people as of 2013, is severely overpopulated, but even more problematic is the fact that urban population densities and air and water pollution continue to grow apace, leading to hundreds of thousands of respiratory and pollution-related deaths a year.
As more people move to the city, air and water quality becomes more problematic, and more living space needs to be created, the only solution may be to build structures that contain all the facilities needed to make life complete. This would include sun, surf, air circulation and vacation spots – everything that makes indoor living feel like an outdoor experience.
The idea of building such self-contained super structures to house an overpopulated planet from the natural world we are fast destroying is a psychosis of epic proportions. It illustrates the extreme level of detachment industrial civilization has reached in relation to its dependence on a healthy and irreplaceable environment. With the exception of space colonies, insanity and hubris are rarely illustrated on such a grand scale. As a last-ditch effort to survive climate chaos, perhaps hermetically sealed ‘space’ colonies, complete with wall-to-wall and overhead display screens simulating what the ‘outside’ used to look like when we could actually go outside, are what we will soon be building right here on a wrecked planet.
Another behemoth construction plan that caught my eye is this one:
Deep beneath the Bohai Sea, Chinese engineers may soon begin boring the longest submarine tunnel on the planet. At an estimated 76 miles (123km) long, it would surpass the combined length of world’s two longest underwater tunnels—Japan’s Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France. To connect the bustling northern ports of Dalian and Yantai, the engineers will have to tunnel through two fault zones that have caused a slew of deadly earthquakes in the last century…
…Provincial leaders of Shandong and Liaoning hope the tunnel will stimulate economic growth by connecting China’s northern rustbelt region with the upper reaches of the wealthy eastern coast. A member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering projected annual revenue of $3.7 billion, largely from freight, meaning the project would potentially pay for itself in 12 years. And if that’s not rationale enough, there’s bonus of claiming another world record (the government seems to have a fondness for superlative infrastructure)…
…But depth and length are only part of the challenge—the Bohai Tunnel also will need to plan around two major fault zones…
…Throughout modern Chinese history, the Tanlu and Zhangjiakou Penglai fault zones have been the source of chronic seismic activity. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed between 250,000 and 650,000 people, is the most notorious, though as you can see in the map above, there have been others. Perhaps the most concerning historical earthquake for the tunnel engineers to consider is the 7.4-magnitude quake of 1969 that occurred under the bay itself.
What exactly is there to do about it? Li Sangzhong, a maritime geology professor at Ocean University of China, told Caixin that the solution was simply to reinforce the strength of the tunnels walls so that it could “withstand at least a magnitude eight earthquake.
Yes growth at any cost and through any tectonic fault line, especially if you can rack up a world record or two, is the undying belief of homo economicus. “Mine is bigger than yours” is the game being played by a species living high on the fumes of fossil fuels and lust of money… madness to the Nth degree. But of course this isn’t madness in the context of an organism simply exploiting an energy source to its full potential under the social cues of capitalism, now is it?
The Reality of Eco-Apocalypse
Despite AMEG’s(Arctic Emergency Methane Group) techno-narcissist support of geoengineering our way out of this environmental crisis, they are one of the more clear-minded groups of scientists when it comes to the severity of our civilization-ending predicament. Here are excerpts from a presentation given by AMEG at the “Davos Atmosphere and Cryosphere Assembly DACA13”, July 12, 2013:
We’re in the midst of a global extinction event and facing mass starvation, yet the world is building even more colossal monoliths to the failing God of global industrial capitalism. The superorganism of capitalist industrial civilization is suicidally barreling down a one-way road which cannot be diverted by the likes of passionate, yet small-numbered groups of activists and conscientious whistleblowers. This thing has a mind of its own and won’t go down for good until the annihilation of eco-apocalypse reshapes its megacities into moth-eaten hulks of concrete and steel.
The gasping beast fell down with a thunderous boom, and all was still and quiet over the war-ravaged Earth. The vanity of man laid claim to the land no longer.
The ratio of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is flirting with 400 parts per million, a level last seen about 2.5 million to 5 million years ago, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego….
…The speed at which Earth’s atmosphere has reached that density of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, has scientists alarmed.
Scientists estimate that average temperatures during the Pliocene rose as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea levels during that 2.8-million-year epoch ranged between 16-131 feet higher than current levels, according to Richard Norris, a Scripps geologist.
“I think it is likely that all these ecosystem changes could recur, even though the time scales for the Pliocene warmth are different than the present,” Norris said. Heating the ocean probably will cause sea level rises and change the Ph balance of the ocean, affecting a wide array of marine life, he said. “Our dumping of heat and CO2 into the ocean is like making investments in a pollution bank,” he said…
Let’s go over and update the major tipping points again(covered earlier here and here) which are currently in play:
Jason Box speaks the language of Manhattans. Not the drink—the measuring unit.
As an expert on Greenland who has traveled 23 times to the massive, mile thick northern ice sheet, Box has shown an uncanny ability to predict major melts and breakoffs of Manhattan-sized ice chunks. A few years back, he foretold the release of a “4x Manhattans” piece of ice from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, one so big that once afloat it was dubbed an “ice island.” In a scientific paper published in February of 2012, Box further predicted “100 % melt area over the ice sheet” within another decade of global warming. As it happened, the ice sheet’s surface almost completely melted just a month later in July—an event that, in Box’s words, “signals the beginning of the end for the ice sheet.”
Box, who will speak at next week’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., pulls no punches when it comes to attributing all of this to humans and their fossil fuels. “Those who claim it’s all cycles just don’t understand that humans are driving the cycle right now, and for the foreseeable future,” he says. And the coastal consequences of allowing Greenland to continue its melting—and pour 23 feet’s worth of sea level into the ocean over the coming centuries—are just staggering. “If you’re the mayor of Hamburg, or Shanghai, or Philadelphia, I think it’s in your job description that you think forward a century,” says Box. “They’re completely inundated by the year 2200.”…
3.) Unleashing of Tundra methane clathrates and sub-sea methane deposits from (1) and (2):
Courtesy of the work by Sam Carana, the multitude of reinforcing feedback loops from the loss of the Arctic Ice Sheet are listed below:
Albedo feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic speeds up the decline of ice and snow cover, further accelerating albedo change.
Methane feedback: Methane releases in the Arctic further add to the acceleration of warming in the Arctic, further contributing to weaken Arctic methane stores and increasing the danger that methane releases will trigger runaway global warming.
Currents feedback: Sea ice loss can cause vertical sea currents to weaken, reducing the cooling effect they had on the seabed. This can thus further cause sediments to warm up that can contain huge amounts of methane in the form of free gas and hydrates.
Storms feedback: Increased frequency and intensity of storms can cause substantially more vertical mixing of the sea water column, causing more warming of the seabed, thus further contributing to the warming of sediments, as above.
Storms feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic can result in more storms, causing mixing of cold Arctic air with warmer air from outside the Arctic. The net result is a warmer Arctic.
Storms feedback: More open waters can result in more storms that can push the ice across the Arctic Ocean, and possibly all the way out of the Arctic Ocean.
Storms feedback: Storms also cause more waves that break up the sea ice. Smaller pieces of ice melt quicker than large pieces. A large flat and solid layer of ice is also less susceptible to wind than many lighter and smaller pieces of ice that will stand out above the water and capture the wind like the sails of yachts.
Storms feedback: Storms cause waters to become more wavy. Calm waters can reflect much sunlight back into space, acting as a mirror, especially when the sun shines under a low angle. Wavy waters, on the other hand, absorb more sunlight.
Fires feedback: More extreme weather comes with heatwaves and storms. Thus, this is in part another storms feedback. The combination of storms and fires can be deadly. Heatwaves can spark fires that, when fueled up by storms, turn into firestorms affecting huge areas and causing huge amounts of emissions. Storms can whip up particles that when deposited on ice, snow or the bare soil, can cause more sunlight to be absorbed.
Open doors feedback: Accelerated warming in the Arctic causes the polar vortex and jet stream to weaken, causing more extreme weather and making it easier for warm air to enter the Arctic.
Two papers released last week in the journal Nature Geoscience provide evidence that warming and melt in West Antarctica are occurring at levels that are highly unusual compared to natural variability.
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet contains about 2.2 million cubic kilometers of ice; enough to raise global sea levels by 3 to 4m. What’s making glaciologists nervous is that the ice rests on bedrock which is below sea level; this makes it vulnerable to attack from below by a warming ocean as well as attack from above by increasing air temperatures.
As some of us were heading off for the Easter holiday weekend, the Brazilian government was quietly releasing deforestation trends showing an increase in deforestation for the first time in five years.
These numbers use the DETER rapid response satellite system, a system that provides estimates of deforestation rates every month. Over the time period documented, August 2012 to February 2013, the rates increased an estimated 26.82% and an area of the Amazon larger than the size of the city of London disappeared.
In absolute numbers, that means 1,695 square kilometers (654 square miles) of forest have disappeared. That equals an area the size of 237,000 soccer fields…
…The increase in deforestation rates can be directly attributed to the Brazilian government’s systematic dismantling of the laws and agencies that protect the Amazon…
…President Dilma Rousseff’s approval of a new Forest Code, a law that provides amnesty for crimes committed after 2008 in the Amazon and reduces large areas of protected land, paved the way for the increase in deforestation. The president also structurally weakened government agencies like IBAMA, the federal environmental enforcement agency, so unfortunately it won’t be a surprise if deforestation continues to rise in the Amazon…
After more than a decade, the mountain pine beetle epidemic that surged through British Columbia appears finally to be in remission. Having devastated the province’s lodgepole pine forests, the insect is running out of food.
But forest managers now see new beetle infestations appearing at the edge of the Boreal Forest, in Alberta, and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories — areas well outside the insect’s historical range. As a warming climate lifts the temperature limitations that once kept the beetle in check, scientists fear it may continue its push across the continent, perhaps as far as the Atlantic Coast…
…Without debating the causes of global climate change the effects of forest dieback can be viewed factually. The earth is warming and droughts are increasing in severity and magnitude. Temperature and drought are major contributing factors to forest dieback, so more trees will be dying in the future. As more carbon is released from dead trees, especially in the Amazon and Boreal Forests, more greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere. Increased levels of greenhouse gasses increase the temperature of the atmosphere. The negative feedback loop is reinforced and the biological adaptations of the species determine its survival. Projections for dieback vary, but the threat of global climate change only stands to increase the rate of dieback. The issue is complex and models are intricate, so scientists have serious work ahead of them.
Scientists do not know the tipping points of climate change and can only estimate the timescales. When a tipping point, the critical threshold, is reached a small change in human activity can have long-term consequences on the environment. Two of the nine tipping points for major climate changes forcast for the next century are directly related to forest diebacks. Scientists are worried that forest dieback in the Amazon rain forest and the Boreal evergreen forest will trigger a tipping point in the next 50 years.… – source
7.) The Sahara and Sahel in Africa
It is difficult to estimate the overall ability to increase food production, but a recent analysis suggests that human consumption may be approaching the limits of the net primary plant production (NPP) — that is, the maximum photosynthetic production that is possible on the planet.
It is “not whether humans will reach the global NPP boundary but when they will do so.” It seems probable that the developed countries will continue their excessively high levels of consumption. The emerging economies are likely to continue to eat more protein and a larger slice of grain production in countries with an appropriate climate for grain production will be diverted to feeding animals, or ethanol to drive automobiles. A child born in the Sahel today could belong to the first generation to come to maturity in the contemporary world where the ability to feed large numbers of ecological refugees may well diminish. It is also possible that the secondary effects of the collision of population growth and climate change could create what scientists call an “asymmetrical uncertainty.” The possible consequences of this asymmetrical uncertainty on political processes and violence could range from a slow worsening of the current situation to extremely serious conflict over resources and threats to security. Biologically, adverse factors can interact in ways that can cause a rapid downward spiral. For example, as noted above, ambient temperatures over 29°C (84°F) lead to a rapid decline in crop yields.
[At least 95% of the food production in the Sahel is based on rain-fed agriculture. The agricultural sector employs, directly or indirectly, more than half of the Sahel’s population…Global warming will mean that in temperate lands, where much of the global crop production occurs, the most productive regions will migrate away from the equator. While the net aggregate change as a result of climate change at a global level may be slow, the regional effects in the Sahel will be more rapid, significant, and adverse.] – source
8.) The El Nino Southern Oscillation(ENSO):
Climate models appear to be unable to accurately predict ENSO changes. Although scientists can predict some large-scale and long-term effects of anthropogenic global warming, there remains a lot of unknowns about specific regional effects.
The problem may lie in the models’ inability to reproduce the cycling between the ENSO’s El Niño and La Niña phases, especially given that many scientists think that La Niña is the major driver of drought in the southwest. The ENSO “behaves much messier in the real world than in climate models”, says Jessica Tierney, a climate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who has investigated the role of the ENSO in East African rainfall variability2. “We’re not sure how it has varied in the past, and we don’t know how it might change in response to climate change. This is really one of the big uncertainties we’re facing.”
In addition to their failure to reproduce El Niño and La Niña, existing models do not fully capture other factors that influence rainfall, such as clouds and vegetation. But Smerdon adds that the atmospheric and oceanic dynamics that inhibit rainfall and favour prolonged drought may be essentially random and so almost unpredictable.
Last week’s findings highlight the broader challenge of predicting how precipitation patterns will change as the global climate warms. Models are often at odds over the very direction of regional changes. For example, different projections prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board disagree on whether mean precipitation in the state will increase or decrease by 2050 (ref. 3).
But the uncertainties don’t change the larger picture, scientists say. “Climate models are not perfect, but they do the big things really well,” says Tierney. “We can be pretty confident that the southwest will warm and that water will become scarcer.
…since the 1970s the atmospheric circulation patterns over the Pacific have tended to favor La Nina conditions over El Nino ones. And, they write: “The overall trend towards a stronger, La Niña-like Walker circulation is nearly concurrent with the observed increase in global average temperatures.”
We know from historical data that from these two climatic events – the Medieval Warm Period(the long stable warming period over Europe) and the Little Ice Age(a well-known described historical event) – that the temperature changed, and our big question is, “Does the ocean also respond in this very short time scale?”
And one of the major results and maybe one of the biggest prices is that the ocean and the thermohaline circulation(THC) respond to these thermal drivers within just a decade.
…What we are mostly concerned about is that there is a certain threshold which is then reached, a certain point of no return more or less. So we will have a trend where it’s getting warmer and warmer and warmer, and there will be no return from this warming… and that will change the whole system, the whole flow of the system, and the thermohaline circulation may be changed…
The major threats we see right now to the thermohaline circulation mainly derive from the Arctic region. We see increased melting from the Greenland Ice Sheet. We see a retreat of Arctic See Ice. We see large reorganizations in the Arctic ocean system which accumulate fresh water. All of these things are components which may affect the thermohaline circulation.”
The most important factors affecting changes in the conditions of the thermohaline circulation are:
1.) Global warming itself caused partly by greenhouse gases from human activity.
2.) From AGW, there will be more rainfall in the higher latitudes causing glacial melt.
Density in the water is a key factor for the THC driver mechanisms. Cold surface water temperatures make the water denser and high ocean salinity cause these waters to sink. These are the main engines that run the THC, but now more fresh water is entering the ocean through the melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice sheets.
When this is integrated into the models, a new development of the engines is revealed. In a warmer climate state, the engine of the Labrador Sea seems to simply collapse…
10.) The Indian Summer Monsoon:
…Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Potsdam University in Germany said increasing temperatures and a change in strength of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the Pacific Walker circulation in spring could cause more frequent and severe changes in monsoon rainfall.
The Walker circulation usually brings areas of high pressure to the western Indian Ocean but in El Nino years this pattern gets shifted eastward, bringing high pressure over India and suppressing the monsoon, they said.
Computer simulations show that with future global warming the Walker circulation is likely to bring more high pressure over India even without an increase in El Nino events.
These failures of the monsoon system suggested by the simulation, defined as a 40 percent to 70 percent reduction in rainfall below normal levels, were unprecedented in the researchers’ observational record, taken from the India Meteorological Department dating back to the 1870s.
“Our study points to the possibility of even more severe changes to monsoon rainfall caused by climatic shifts that may take place later this century and beyond,” lead author Jacob Schewe said. – source
Indeed if humans were able to set aside their anthropocentric view of the world, we would be frantically changing our behavior and rearranging our economic and social activities in order to prevent our own demise. But alas, if things aren’t right between one’s ears, then everything else is moot.
(Edit on 3-9-2015: The following video has been made “private”, but it can be viewed in its entirety here.)
After eating dinner at Arizona’s historic La Posada hotel in Winslow, I walked around the building and discovered a large section of the second floor filled with paintings by artist Tina Mion. I wondered why such interesting and subversive paintings would be featured in a touristy establishment. Ah, she owns the place with her husband. One particular painting struck me as emblematic of the eco-apocalyptic times we are living in. Of course if you simply watched the mainstream news and listened to their talking heads, then you really have no idea what I’m writing about. For you, the most earth-shattering news as of late is the Armageddon of the Carnival cruise ship, the Triumph, and its horror of “no working toilets, limited power and scarce food.” Ironically, this scenario is what the human race will have to look forward to in the larger context of modern man’s ecological overshoot; the Earth’s life-support systems continue to degrade and collapse from the weight of industrial civilization’s ravenous over-exploitation and consumption. Meanwhile, the masses are shocked and dismayed at the breakdown of a luxury liner. Nevermind that such cruise ships, packed with party-going consumers, sail across dying oceans that have been trawled clean of most fish species. Such is the ‘selective awareness’ of industrial capitalist carbon man.
Getting back to Tina Minion’s painting which I took a picture of because I think it’s so symbolic of the present day:
What are the latest headlines which have grabbed my attention?…
Warming is particularly problematic for moose in northern Minnesota. The moose population in the northwestern part of the state plummeted from about 4,000 animals in the mid-1980s to less than 100 animals by the mid-2000s.
Biologists attribute most of this decline to increasing temperatures: when it gets too warm moose typically seek shelter rather than foraging for nutritious foods needed to keep them healthy. They become more vulnerable to tick infestations, which have proliferated as the region has warmed.
Ticks leave moose weakened from blood loss and with hairless patches where they tried to rub off the ticks. Without protective hair, these animals can die from cold exposure in the winter. Individual moose infested with 50,000 to 70,000 ticks — ten to twenty times more than normal — have been documented…
As you might expect, moose are also in trouble in the few other portions of the U.S. where any are left at all, including some areas where moose were essentially gone until fairly recent, still tenuous recoveries. NWF’s Wildlife Promise blog offered this observation yesterday:
Moose were once found as far south as Pennsylvania before over-hunting and habitat destruction wiped them out from much of the eastern United States. Populations in places like Massachusetts are still re-establishing a foothold.
But in New Hampshire, the impact of warmer temperatures on moose are clear and dire. Researchers say New Hampshire moose are literally being eaten alive by ticks. Moose there have to deal with 30,000 ticks at a time in a normal year, but in recent warm years, moose carry as many as 150,000 ticks.
The moose die of anemia, a lack of healthy red blood cells. After the unseasonably warm winter in 2011, they think that it’s likely that all calves born the previous year were killed along with 40 percent of adults.
Being the apex predator won’t save us from the same fate of other large mammals that our currently dropping like flies all around us in what one reader has called “The First Mass Murder of Life on the Planet”. Seeing how extensively we have disassociated ourselves from the natural world, i.e. the foundation for our existence, I would wager that man is probably the only living creature on the face of the earth that cannot innately sense that its time is up. Elaborate and contorted twisting of reality is a special talent of the human species.
…It turns out that aspens generally use shallow soil moisture, which evaporated quickly with increased temperatures during the summer drought of 2002. They then looked at climate data finding that these high temperatures were part of a long-term increasing trend, likely linked with climate change, a unique feature of this drought that separates it from earlier less damaging droughts.
“Forests store about 45 percent of the carbon found on land,” remarked William. “Widespread tree death can radically transform ecosystems, affecting biodiversity, posing fire risks, and even harming local economies. Rapid shifts in ecosystems, particularly through vegetation die-offs could be among the most striking impacts of increased drought and climate change around the globe.”…
…This study pinpoints the trigger of this loss — summer temperature was the most important climate variable for explaining aspen death by drying out surface soil and stressing the trees’ water-transport system. Joe Berry, a co-author and Carnegie staff scientist, noted that understanding how and where the trees get their water was key to unraveling cause and effect in this study. “Since there is a very strong upward trend in Colorado summer temperatures, they could link tree death to climate change,” said Chris Field, director of the Carnegie department. This study is a milestone in linking plant-level physiology measurements with large-scale climate to predict vulnerability to climate change in these forests.
Interestingly, this type of climate-change hot summer drought actually occurred again in 2012, which could indicate more tree die-offs are in the pipeline for the near future.
No, we won’t survive the global die-off of forests. Fake plastic trees and monoculture forests won’t help.
And about that methane clathrate gun:
Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster.
“This really changes the trajectory of the debate” over when and how much carbon will be released as permafrost thaws due to ever warmer temperatures in the Arctic, says researcher Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina…
…“All the evidence, in my opinion, suggests we’re on our way to a three to five degree C world,” Watson told participants at the symposium.
When Watson was chair of the IPCC from 1997 to 2002, optimism was high there’d be a global agreement to limit emissions. “We were hopeful that emissions would not go up at the tremendous rate they are rising now,” he told the Climate News Network, a UK journalism news service.
“(Now) all the promises in the world, which we’re not likely to realise anyway, will not give us a world with only a two degree C rise.
Well, at least we’ll be able to feed ourselves, or maybe not…
To make the future even more brutish and short for any survivors, pathogens once thought to be conquered are building resistance to all antibiotics:
A successful book in the genre of science fiction or horror is said to have effectively created the “suspension of disbelief” in the reader. I say that industrial civilization uses this same tactic to make you, one of its countless minions, believe that all is well under the dominant socio-economic system, that human progress will continue, that nature is an intrinsically worthless entity unless it’s dominated and rapaciously exploited by man, and that the accumulation of material wealth is the end-all and be-all of life. If you reject these precepts of our current social paradigm, then you quickly realize how empty and doomed the system is that we currently live and toil under. Paradoxically, my stress level has been reduced after I came to the conclusion that most everything valued and sought after in the proverbial “Rat Race” of global capitalism is an absolute fraud and joke. Once you realize we’re being lead to a smoking pile of ruin, most things you thought were important suddenly lose all value and significance.
Somehow I just don’t think anyone will be selling T-shirts that say, “I survived climate change and the eco-apocalypse.”