Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Sure Prediction: Even More Climate Catastrophes in 2012!

As we wind down one of the worst years for global climate catastrophes, including heat wave records broken over 800 times for many U.S. municiplaities, we're now on the cusp of yet another year of tumultuous climate change, havoc and vast destruction. Will people begin paying attention, force their reps to act in the long term interests of humanity, or continue the status quo? The answer to questions such as this hold our lives and those of future generations in the balance.

As Physicist Michio Kaku observed on a recent MSNBC documentary: "For the first time in history, humans have the potential to alter the destiny of a whole planet."

On the same documentary ('The Last Days of Planet Earth') astrophysicist Neil Degresse Tyson put it another way:

"Imagine the irony of our species having the intellect to stop an asteroid impact, but lacking the intellect to moderate the worst effects of global warming. It boggles the mind!"

Indeed, because it's inexcusable! Further, I go so far as one British climatologist who opined in the same documentary that so-called "climate mavericks" and their skeptic pals who are holding back bold changes, are no different from Holocaust deniers. (Who in a number of countries, such as Austria and Germany can be jailed for making public pronouncements).

Is this an incursion of liberty or "free speech"? Well another question: If a fire breaks out in a crowded theater and several 'maverick' voices yell 'There is no fire, stay put!' and all the people perish, what is their accountability (hint: they sneak out after yelling the injunction to stay put)? Should they not face lengthy prison terms? The same situation applies to the global warming deniers whose defective PR has postponed necessary, timely action, which will make the difference between a moderately-warmed, tolerable planet and an intolerable one in the maw of the runaway greenhouse effect.

In this light, the failure of the recent climate conference in Durban to accomplish anything significant or durable is an ominous portent. According to The Economist (December 17, p. 138):

"Its terms - even assuming they are acted upon - are unlikely to prevent a global temperature rise of of more than 2 C, which was the stated aim of the whole UN climate 'process'. Indeed, they might easily allow a 4C rise"

The latter would be catastrophic and on top of the existing (hitherto) 1.2 C increase, bring us to the precipice of the runaway greenhouse. Carl Sagan noted in an interview (with Ted Turner) ca. 1989 (still have it on tape) that the limits for catastrophic climate change- we're talking species exterminating magnitude with a runaway greenhouse - are not as high as many think. In fact, he cited the tolerance increment of six degrees Celsius.

This position was reinforced in Sagan's essay: 'Ambush - the Warming of the World', p. 98, in his last popular book, Billions and Billions, Random House, 1997.

Is this all "scare mongering"? That is what the flat Earth, Denier cultists want you to believe, so they can wreck the world on the basis of pure economics with no thought of the morrow or how our children and grand children will forever curse us for putting our comforts and stock profits over their welfare.

In a blog two years ago, I warned about the impending signs of ice sheet breakup and melting in Greenland in connection with the phenomenon known as "Jokulhlaup" (cf. ‘Jokulhlaup Observed in Greenland ice sheet’, appearing in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 89, No. 35, 26 Aug. 2008, p. 221). The cited paper specifically noted an increased frequency in occurrence of “jokalhlaups”or sudden glacial bursts of melting runoff from glaciers. It was this phenomena that also played a role in the “unusual cracks" that set off the separation of a “chunk of ice the size of Manhattan” (19 sq. miles)from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northern Arctic.

Since then, many more drastic break-ups of glaciers have been observed and documented and now readers can access this material directly at the following link:

Anyone watching this documented evidence who isn't terrified, has lost most of his or her brain neurons.

We also know that this process provides one of the nonlinear drivers toward catastrophic climate change. Melting of ice caps and glaciers (already occurring) results in diminished albedo (fraction of solar radiation reflected back into space), a darker Earth surface - with more infrared radiation (e.g. HEAT) being absorbed - reinforcing and enhancing global warming. As more ice melts from the polar regions, the positive feedback from lowering albedo proceeds faster. The overall (mean) ocean temperatures continue to rise - ultimately becoming too hot for any marine life- and reaching equilibrium temperature somewhere in the next 500 years. All ocean currents, circulation systems will, of course, eventually cease. With atmospheric circulation soon following (as on Venus) , all solar energy going into heating the oceans until their specific heat capacity is reached. We then will have vaporization.

Even now, before the runaway has set in, we know the acidity of sea water has increased nearly 30% since the Industrial Revolution. Given that sea life, including corals, fish, and the critical phyto-plankton (which provide most of our planet's oxygen) can only exist within very narrow pH levels this may be most disturbing. It means that there is the potential for humanity to suffer devastating famines and loss of life long before the Runaway Greenhouse charges up.

Given all this, 2012 looks to be an even more devastating year, climate-wise, than 2011. Look for many more F4-F5 twisters pummelling the South and central plains from late March or even earlier and also torrential rains in many other areas. Expect heat waves that rival or exceed those seen last summer in Texas and Oklahoma and especially enhanced record breaking night time temperatures - the prima facie signature for global warming. Lastly, drought will continue its grip over much of the southwest and even the midwest. Mexico, which had to slaughter 1.7 million starving or thirsty cattle last year, will see even worse this next year.

Can all this be halted? Unlikely. But there's still a chance to stop the worst of it, though I fear this next year will be the last opportunity we have. If so, look for the full runaway to commence sometime in 2045 if not before.

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