Watching the Hurricane’s Path

8 09 2017

I can really relate to this latest article by Richard Heinberg….  I still get people saying to me “you’ve been saying this for twenty years, and look, nothing’s happened…” Yet, every day, we are one day closer to the inevitable outcome, just like watching the hurricane coming from your favourite armchair…

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heinbergIt’s an eerie experience. You’ve just heard that another hurricane has formed in the Atlantic, and that it’s headed toward land. You search for NOAA’s National Hurricane Center website so you can see the forecast path for the storm. You’re horrified at the implications, and you bookmark the site. You check in every few hours to see forecast updates. You know in general terms what’s coming—devastation for the lives of thousands, maybe millions of people. Then a few days later you begin to see the sad, shocking photos and videos of destruction.

Thanks to modern science and technology—satellites and computers—we have days of warning before a hurricane hits. That’s extremely helpful: while people can’t move their houses and all their possessions, they can board up windows, stock up on food and water, and perhaps get out of town. Huge storms are far less deadly than they would be if we didn’t have modern weather forecasting.

Science and technology have also enabled us to forecast “storms” of another kind. Using computers and data about population, energy, pollution, natural resources, and economic trends, it’s possible to generate scenarios for the future of industrial civilization. The first group of researchers to do this  in 1972, found that the “base case,” or most likely scenario, showed essentially the collapse of society: in the early-to-middle decades of the 21st century, industrial production would peak and begin to decline sharply; so would food production and (with a lag of a few years) population. For decades scientists have been updating the software and plugging in new and better data, but ever-more-powerful computers keep spitting out the same base-case scenario.

One of the factors the 1972 researchers thought would be of increasing significance was climate change. Now, 45 years later, many thousands of scientists around the world are feeding their supercomputers data on carbon emissions, carbon cycles, carbon sinks, climate sensitivity, climate feedbacks, and more. They likewise see a “hurricane” on the way: we are altering the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans so significantly, and so quickly, that dire consequences are almost certain, if not already here. Later this century we’ll see storms, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires like none on record. Agriculture will likely be impacted severely.

Ever since I read the 1972 report on Limits to Growth, I’ve had that same eerie feeling as when looking at the charts on the NOAA website. Only the feeling is deeper, more pervasive, and (of course) long-lasting. A storm is coming. We should batten down the hatches.

But, 45 years down the line, the storm is no longer far away. In fact, the photos and videos of destruction are starting to come in. No nations have bothered to make sensible efforts to minimize the storm’s impact by reducing fossil fuel consumption, stabilizing population at 1970s levels, or reconfiguring their economy so it doesn’t require continuous growth in resource and energy usage. Why didn’t we do those sensible things, even though we had plenty of warning?

Our failure to respond has a lot to do with the long time lag. We humans are much better at dealing with immediate threats than ones years ahead. In effect, we have an internal discount rate that we apply to possible disasters, depending on their temporal proximity.

Given a long-term threat, some of us are more likely to develop complicated rationales for doing nothing. After all, averting a really big disaster may require substantial inconvenience. Getting out of the way of a hurricane might mean packing up your most treasured belongings, driving a couple of hundred miles, and trying to find a motel that’s not already overbooked (that is, if you are among the fortunate with the resources to do so).  Minimizing the threat of global overshoot might mean changing our entire economic system—from how we grow food to how we get to work and what kind of work we do. Escaping the hurricane engages our survival instincts; we don’t have time to doubt the weatherman. But given a few decades to think about it, we might come up with lots of (ultimately wrongheaded but carefully reasoned nonetheless) reasons why our current economic system is really just fine, and why global overshoot really isn’t a threat.

Those of us who aren’t so good at coming up with such rationalizations are stuck with the eerie feeling that something very bad is about to happen—maybe in Florida this weekend, maybe everywhere before long. Here’s my recommendation, based on a few decades of watching all kinds of storm charts: please pay attention to the weatherman. Stop finding reasons why you really don’t have to change or prepare. Make your way to higher ground. And be sure to help your neighbors.

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A wake up call……?

9 06 2016

When I recently wrote about the spate of frosty mornings down here in Southern Tasmania, I mentioned that the high pressure system causing this was going to send bad weather to SE Qld, and that the rain might start again in the following week… what an understatement that was..!

Before settling on the Huon as ‘the right place’ to move to, I did a lot of research. This research told me that the Northern part of Tassie was more prone to fires and floods, and both have occurred in the past eight months since arriving here for good. In spades as it turns out.

While up north got hundreds of millimetres of rainfall, Geeveston barely received 65….. things have gotten soggy, the dam is full again, and I temporarily can no longer drive my ute as far as my shipping container – though I got close yesterday to store the last of the electrolyte I picked up in Hobart the day before… hardly worth a mention compared to the hardship, let alone the loss of lives others have had to endure through what has now been declared a national disaster. While it’s easy for me to gloat, this is clearly a case of when paying attention has actually paid off….

sydneystormThe whole East Coast of Australia copped it too before Tasmania was hit. The by now familiar pics of Sydney luxury houses teetering on the edge of the now not so Pacific Ocean have gone viral, and the arrogant “we will rebuild” mantra is making a comeback.

It’s difficult to not conclude that the people who lived in those multi-million dollar homes are climate deniers….  after all, nobody who understands climate change would, in their right mind, buy seafront properties like this.  Anyone in their right mind would be paying attention….  Anyone not reading The Australian would have known that the seas around the East coast were two degrees above normal and 20cm higher, and that the extra energy in those two degrees in the system would make the next storm event an extra bad one….. and it’s hardly surprising so many people look so surprised.

rain events

This is no one off either.  Elsewhere around the world, the weather has gone ballistic. Apart from floods, parts of India scorched under temperatures of 51°C. Yet, even now, climate change hardly makes a ripple in the running of the current election campaign. The Greens are making waves (sorry….) but all they can talk about is emitting more greenhouse gases to transition to 100% renewables.  Just as it’s fast becoming obvious, all emissions should stop, right now.

One woman I saw in tears on TV was telling anyone who’d listen that the loss of her swimming pool into the ocean was ‘unfair’.  I put it to you that the Earth thinks all our emissions are unfair too…… but who’s listening?

Will we the poor people, especially those of us trying our best to reduce our personal emissions, have to fork out public money to rebuild these people’s insensitive dreams?  Is this not throwing good money after bad…?

The time to rebuild is over.  It’s now time to face up to our stupid errors, admit to them, and retreat up the hill.  I fear, however, that it might very well take a few more of these events for these fools to wake up to themselves.

For me though, it wasn’t the millionaires losing their cool houses that brought home the wake up call message….. it was the poor farmers who have no choice but to live near rivers for watering their crops and animals, losing, sometimes, the lot… the effect of this weather event on food prices will not be felt for some time I expect, but as more and more such disasters become regular newsworthy items on TV, the cumulative effects will begin to be felt, I am certain.

Meanwhile, next month, Australia will elect another brainless government hell bent on jobs and growth, and we’ll all await the next unnatural disaster to make us feel guilty.

 





Warm Arctic Storm To Hurl Hurricane Force Winds at UK and Iceland, Push Temps to 22 Degrees C Above Normal at North Pole

28 12 2015

Reblogged from Robert Scribbler….

We’ve probably never seen weather like what’s being predicted for a vast region stretching from the North Atlantic to the North Pole and on into the broader Arctic this coming week. But it’s all in the forecast — an Icelandic low that’s stronger than most hurricanes featuring a wind field stretching over hundreds and hundreds of miles. One that taps warm tropical air and hurls it all the way to the North Pole and beyond during Winter time. And it all just reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate…

Freak North Atlantic Storm Featuring Extremely Low Pressures

Today, a powerful, hurricane force low pressure system is in the process of rounding the southern tip of Greenland. This burly 960 mb beast roared out of an increasingly unstable Baffin Bay on Christmas. As it rounded Greenland and entered the North Atlantic, it pulled behind it a thousand-mile-wide gale force wind field even as it lashed the tip of Greenland with Hurricane force gusts. To its east, the storm now links with three other lows. Lows that are, even now, drawing south-to-north winds up from a region just west of Gibraltar, on past the UK, up beyond Iceland, over Svalbard, and into the Arctic Ocean itself.

image

(GFS forecasts predict a storm bombing out between 920 and 930 mb over Iceland by Wednesday. It’s a storm that could rival some of the strongest such systems ever recorded for the North Atlantic. But this storm’s influence is unique in its potential to shove an unprecedented amount of warm air into the Arctic. A warm storm for the Arctic Winter time. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Over the next few days these three lows are predicted to combine into a storm the likes of which the far North Atlantic rarely ever sees. This storm is expected to center over Iceland. But it will have far-reaching impacts ranging from the UK and on north to the pole itself. As the lows combine, GFS predicts them to bomb out into an unprecedentedly deep low featuring 920 to 930 mb (and possibly lower) minimum central pressures by this coming Wednesday. These pressures are comparable to the very extreme storm systems that raged through the North Atlantic during the Winter of 2013. Systems that featured minimum pressures in the range of 928 to 930 mb.

It’s worth noting that the lowest pressure ever recorded for the North Atlantic occurred in the much further southward forming Hurricane Wilma at 882 mb. In the far north, a January 11 1993 storm between Iceland and Scotland featured 913-915 mb pressures. It’s worth noting that the GFS model currently puts the predicted storm within striking distance of setting a new record for the far north.Meanwhile, ECMWF models predict a somewhat less extreme low in the range of 940 mb. By comparison, Hurricane Sandy bottomed out at around 940 mb as well.

Regardless of peak strength, the expected storm is predicted to be both very intense and wide-ranging as both model forecasts feature numerous lows linked in chain with a much deeper storm center near Iceland. Among these and further north, two more strong lows in the range of 965 to 975 mb will round out this daisy chain of what is now shaping up to be a truly extreme storm system. The Icelandic coast and near off-shore regions are expected to see heavy precipitation hurled over the island by 90 to 100 mile per hour or stronger winds raging out of 35-40 foot seas. Meanwhile, the UK will find itself in the grips of an extraordinarily strong southerly gale running over the backs of 30 foot swells.

Warm Winds to Force Above Freezing Temperatures For the North Pole

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(By early Wednesday, temperatures at the North Pole are expected to exceed 1 degree Celsius readings. Such temperatures are in the range of more than 40 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

All along the eastern side of this storm, powerful warm winds are expected to funnel northward. Originating along the 35 degree North Latitude line west of Spain, these winds will force a train of warm air and moisture pole-ward ahead of our storm. The winds will rush up over a very riled North Sea, they will howl into a far warmer than normal Barents, and they will roar on past Svalbard — finally turning as they pass beyond the North Pole.

These winds will bring with them extraordinarily warm temperatures for the High Arctic region during Winter time. By Wednesday, the North Pole is expected to see temperatures in the range of 1-2 degrees Celsius or 41-42 degrees C above average (73-75 degrees Fahrenheit above the normal daily temperature of -40 F for a typical Winter day). Such an extreme departure would be like seeing a 120 degree (Fahrenheit) December day in my hometown of Gaithersburg, MD. Needless to say, a 1-2 C reading at the North Pole during late December is about as odd as witnessing Hell freezing over. But, in this case, the latest wave of warmth issuing from a human-driven shift toward climatological hell appears to be on schedule to arrive at the North Pole in just a few more days.

Arctic temp anomaly +4 C

(The Arctic region as a whole is expected to experience a [frankly quite insane] temperature anomaly in the range of 4 degrees Celsius above average by January 3rd of 2016. Note the broad regions over Northern Canada, Siberia, and the Arctic Ocean that are predicted to experience temperatures in the range of 20 degrees Celsius above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 baseline readings. For some areas — particularly in Northern Canada — this will mean near or even above freezing temperatures for tundra and permafrost zones in the depths of Winter. A set of conditions that has serious implications for permafrost thaw and related carbon store feedbacks. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

New Freakish Weather Patterns Concordant With Human-Forced Climate Change

The deep, northward-driving synoptic pattern associated with both powerful high Latitude storms and warm winds is only something we’ve begun to see during recent years. The warming polar environment itself generates weaknesses in the Jet Stream which tends to allow these warm air invasions. In addition the warming oceans — which hold heat for longer than land masses — generate pathways for warm air invasions of the Arctic during Winter time. The Barents Sea, for example, has been particularly warm during recent years which has resulted in numerous warm wind invasion events issuing northward over Svalbard and regions eastward during recent years.

A final ingredient to this highly altered weather pattern appears to be a cooling of the sea surface in the North Atlantic just south of Greenland. This cooling has been set off by an increase in fresh water melt outflows from Greenland as glacial melt there has accelerated concordant with human-forced warming. The cool pool of glacial melt water south of Greenland has aided in the generation of a dipole featuring cool air to the west, warm air to the east. This year, warm air has tended to flow northward over Spain, the UK, and along a region between Iceland and Scandinavia. During the Winter of 2015-2016, this warm air slot has also been the breeding ground for very unstable weather and a number of powerful storm systems.

Polar Vortex Ripped in Half Late Dec 2015

(It’s an El Nino year. But despite a climate feature that would typically strengthen the Jet Stream, what we see is another Arctic warm air invasion reminiscent of the recent polar vortex collapse events of Winters 2012 through 2014-2015. Note that the region of coldest air, which would typically tend to center over the North Pole has been driven south toward Greenland and Baffin Bay. A pattern that we’d expect concordant with world ocean warming and Greenland melt as a result of human-forced climate change. Image source: ECMWF.)

Unfortunately, this larger overall pattern marks a progression away from typical North Atlantic weather and toward a much more stormy environment. It’s an environment that is all too likely to be marked by features of warm air invasions moving up through the Barents and into the High Arctic during Winter. Of the Northern Hemisphere storm circulation tending to wrap around Greenland as the center of cold air shifts from the North Pole to the last bastion of dense glacial ice. And of a very unstable storm generating cold water and surface air temperature zone deepening and gaining an ever-stronger hold within the North Atlantic.

These are influences we see now. Ones that are impacting both the current powerful storm over Iceland and the unprecedented surge of warm air that is now preparing to invade the High Arctic. And though El Nino likely also played a part in the shifting of the storm generation zone toward Iceland, the far northward propagation of warm air into the Barents and High Arctic along with the extreme strength of the predicted storm are both likely new features of an overall altered pattern. What we witness here are both climates and weather features changing before our eyes in the form of what to us may seem a freak event — but what is actually part of a dangerous transition period away from the stable climates of the Holocene.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

ECMWF

Climate Reanalyzer

Very Low Minima of North Atlantic Cyclones During Winter of 2013

Warning From Scientists Age of Storms, Rapid Sea Level Rise is Coming Soon

Dr Jennifer Francis on Jet Stream Changes and Increasing Instances of Extreme Weather

NOAA Ocean Prediction Center Atlantic Analysis

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob (Remember — “Hot seeks Cold.”)





The heat is on

1 01 2014

stormClimate change deniers wouldn’t get a lot of sympathy around here right now…..  This Summer feels like the hottest and longest one so far…… and we’re not even half way through it.  Our house’s capacity to deal with extreme heat was truly tested last Sunday when the temperature reached 44ºC (111ºF) at 5:30PM under our insulated back verandah….  Last time it got remotely this hot was New Year’s day 3 or 4 years ago, can’t be sure.  We had friends come over for card games and a beer to escape the heat in their house!

I might have been complaining, but the hottest it got inside was 32ºC, which after all is not a bad effort without any cooling at all, a whole 12º cooler than outside in the shade.  I didn’t bother measuring the temperature in the sun, it might’ve melted my plastic thermometer!

As a result, we have bitten the bullet and installed three ceiling fans, one in the lounge where I’m typing, and two in the smaller bedrooms that don’t have the fabulous flow through ventilation available in the master bedroom.  ceilingfanBecause our raked ceilings make it very difficult to alter the wiring up there, I opted to buy fans with built in light and remote control….  this way, you an remove a light fitting and replace it with the fan/light combo using only the existing wiring.  The remote control allows you to switch the fan and light on and off separately and control the fan speed.  I first looked online, but the delivery times were more than I could bear, so we swallowed our pride and headed to Bunnings…….  where we got a win!  Before driving the 40km to get there, I checked their website to see what they had in stock, and it stated that such a fan was available for just $58, which was a steal.  I even rang to make sure they were in stock…..  however, when we got there, the fans with the remote controls cost $30 more than advertised, and after showing my displeasure, they went half way and sold them to us for $73 each…… and hopefully, they will help selling the house.  Even if our energy consumption will go up.

zucchiniNot only is it hot, it’s dry too.  The night of the 44º day we actually got a storm……  but when I checked the rain gauge in the morning, the grass underfoot was dry, and there was barely 3mm in the gauge….  And my prize Zucchini plant that was producing the best fruit ever just keeled over and died.  Not from lack of water either, I was really looking after it…..  it simply died of heat stroke.  I reckon it was so hot that when the rain hit the ground, it just vaporised….

In an attempt to revive those parts of the garden I have stopped watering from lack of water, I reintroduced our chickens in an enormous 16 m² tractor covered with a tarp and shade cloth.  I’ve been tossing food scraps, mushroom compost, and hay in there to encourage them to scratch the garden bed to a beautiful humus, and it’s working…  but the heat seems to be also affecting egg production with both flocks of ducks and chickens largely stopping laying eggs.compost-tractor

Come the day it actually starts to rain again, the worms will make a comeback, and I’ll be able to plant the bed out again in the soil the chooks made.  All worth the effort.

In the meantime…….  the forecast is for for 30º plus until who knows when… with 40º plus for the coming weekend.  Some long hot Summer…..  good thing we’re going for a proper reccie (Aussie speak for reconnaissance) in Tassie mid January…  Geeveston beckons more than ever now.





Sweet rain……

17 12 2012

It’s 3AM.  I’m writing this now because we were woken up by the most amazing display of lightning we’ve seen in at least 15 years (we think..).  Better still, it’s pissing down, best rain since the flooding we had in February. After another 40° day and at least 30° for maybe three weeks now, we’d left all the windows open overnight, and rain’s come in through the clerestory windows… but who cares, wet is good right now, we can mop the floors with pure rainwater!

It’s been so dry that it will take several such events to fill the cracks in the places I don’t have the water to apply to.  Our neighbours’ concreted in posts are loose in places along the fences because the earth has shrunk so much.  Our goats are drinking three times as much water as they usually do, there is not a scrap of moisture left in the grass.

That we have survived six months with hardly a drop of rain though is testament of how well Permaculture works.  All that effort to build up the soil to be moisture retaining, all that mulching, all the planting on contour, all of it has paid off…  While almost everyone around us has run out of water, we’ve been soldiering on with what we had left.  It had come down to moving water from the house tank to the garden by hand and watering the animals from “our tank”, but it was amazingly still half full yesterday morning.  It’s times like these having a water efficient house really comes into its own.  While it’s hard to gauge exactly how much rain we’re having in the pitch black, from experience I know there’s a chance we could have the garden tank 1/3 full again at sunrise, and I won’t have to water anything for the first time in months……

We’ve been living off Greek salads of late, using what’s growing well now, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil.  The bananas are pumping, and we just robbed another 35 kilos of honey two days ago.  And the corn is to die for, so sweet and moist…  Never let a small drought get you down (too much…!)  I have to say my respect for farmers who prevail out west without rain for years has risen substantially, though I doubt any of them would have a house garden in those conditions and would be buying all their food.  Why they stay out there always puzzles me.  How they do it doesn’t; with fossil fuels you can do anything…….

The rain and lightning have stopped, I’m going back to bed a happy Permie!