Friday, February 26, 2016

El Nino Triggering Greater Arctic Instability And Record Heat, Melting

No automatic alt text available.
When climate scientists - real ones, not pretenders in the employ of the fossil fuelers - worry about records for low sea ice, or rapid melting of glaciers, or new heat records - are they exaggerating? When exactly is a climate record really a record? When is melting sea ice in the Arctic (or Antarctic) a record? When is collapse of the Greenland ice sheet a record? When is the increase in sea level a record? When is the increase in global mean temperature a record?

To the denier contingent, of course, there are no such things as any climate change records, because they are convinced it's all some grand, convoluted conspiracy by government and climate scientists. To these mostly brainwashed fools climate change is just an elaborate hoax. Never mind that, as in the case of rising seas, the Vietnamese are already having to build coastline dikes and massive seawalls to fortify earthen levees against rising seas. The latter are allowing seawater to penetrate as far as 60 km inland (in the Mekong delta) ruining rice crops.(WSJ, 'Vietnam's New Tack In Climate Fight', Feb. 25, p. A9)

Clearly, it's pretty easy to be a denier when your own life and livelihood isn't adversely affected, and you can just sit in your comfy chair and make vapid armchair pronouncements- when superior minds (scientific ones) actually have the data and first hand accounts.

The accumulating data over the past seven or eight years is now consolidating the current picture of the world we inhabit and it isn't pretty. It shows we may have already entered the world of initial climate anomaly that is likely to soon become permanent. This could be interpreted as meaning we are already on the cusp of the runaway greenhouse effect.  In that case, we're not just talking about global warming but warming on 'steroids'.

 New data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that January was, for the entire  globe, an extraordinary month. In particular the data showed the Arctic to take the brunt of heating (see graphic) with a temperature increase more than 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 1951 to 1980 average in this region. (This data constitutes a "zonal mean" temperature map, which shows how the temperature departures from average change based on one's latitude location on Earth.)

This Arctic heat emphasis exposed in the zonal temperature map dovetails with Prof. Gunter Weller's predictions (from the mid -1980s) - based on his ice core analyses- that future warming would be greatest in the Arctic.  This is  a phenomenon known as "Arctic amplification".

It also means we have much to fear in terms of climatic-based catastrophes. For example, a much warmer Arctic means a much more unstable polar region with more frequent intrusions of the polar vortex,  leading to frigid temperatures in parts of the U.S. but with the added potential of triggering severe, violent storms when the cold fronts spawned collide with warmer air

Let's now move on to records while we're at it. The Arctic heat anomaly has been accompanied by a new record-low level for Arctic sea ice extent during the normally ice-packed month of January, According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center more than 400,000 square miles of the region is below average  for the month. This in turn is closely tied to warmer Arctic air temperatures. According to Mark Serreze, Director of the Center:

"We've looked at the average January temperatures, and we look at what we call the 925 millibar level, about 3,000 feet up in the atmosphere. And it was, I would say, absurdly warm across the entire Arctic Ocean."

He added that the Center reports temperature anomalies at this altitude of "more than 6 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) above average" for the month. Bear in mind that a 6C increase for the entire globe would be associated with the onset of the runaway greenhouse effect, as Carl Sagan first pointed out in his essay, 'Ambush, the Warming of the World' in his book, 'Billions and Billions.'

The low sea ice situation has now continued into February, as Serreze observes:
"We're way down. We're at a record low for this time of year right now.  When it comes to the rest of 2016 and the coming summer and fall season when ice melts across the Arctic and reaches its lowest extent, we are starting out in a deep hole."

The cause is tied to El Nino which is also an offshoot of the global warming phenomenon as S. George Philander originally showed. (Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (March 31, 1998):Who is El Nino?’)   Philander pointed out that exacerbated ocean temperatures are largely tied to heating effects  in El Nino years. Notably,  for the past several months these ocean temperatures have reached 3.6F higher than normal - so no surprise at the record sea ice melt.

Jennifer Francis, a climate researcher at Rutgers who focuses on the Arctic has argued that Arctic changes are changing midlatitude weather by causing wobbles in the jet stream. We've actually seen multiple instances of this over the past couple months. According to her:

"We've got this huge El NiƱo out there, we have the warm blob in the northeast Pacific, the cool blob in the Atlantic, and this ridiculously warm Arctic. All these things happening at the same time that have never happened before."

And ultimately, they are all tied to climate change- global warming. Look for more records to be set this spring and summer.

No comments: