This is not how it was supposed to happen. The standard climate change predictions said that people in the tropics and the sub-tropics would be badly hurt by global warming long before the people living in the temperate zones, farther away from the equator, were feeling much pain at all.
That was unfair, because it was the people of the rich countries in the temperate zone – North America, Europe and Japan, mainly – who industrialised early and started burning large amounts of fossil fuel as long as two centuries ago. That’s how they got rich.
Their emissions of carbon dioxide over the years account for 80 percent of the greenhouse gases of human origin that are now in the atmosphere, causing the warming, yet they get hurt least and last.
Well, what did you expect? The gods of climate are almost certainly sky gods, and sky gods are never fair. But they have always liked jokes, especially cruel ones, and they have come up with a great one this time.
The people of the temperate zones are going to get hurt early after all, but not by gradual warming. Their weather is just going to get more and more extreme: heat waves, blizzards and flooding on an unprecedented scale.
“In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one-in-250-years event,” British opposition leader Ed Milliband told The Observer newspaper last Friday. “If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on.”
The “something” is abrupt climate change. In Britain, it’s an unprecedented series of great storms blowing in off the North Atlantic, dropping enormous amounts of rain and causing disastrous floods.
In the United States and Canada, it’s huge blizzards, ice storms and record low temperatures that last much longer and reach much further south than normal. Welcome to the “temperate” zone of the northern hemisphere.
There have been extremes in the “temperate” parts of the southern hemisphere, too. Australia has just had the hottest year ever, with record-breaking heat waves and severe bush-fires. Argentina had one of its worst-ever heat waves in December, and parts of Brazil had record rainfall, floods and landslides. But that is probably just the result of gradual, relentless warming. The abrupt changes seem to be mainly in the northern hemisphere.
Geography may explain the differences. There isn’t all that much land in the southern temperate zone, and the vast expanses of ocean that surround it moderate the land temperatures.
Moreover, the polar jet stream in the southern hemisphere simply circles the Antarctic continent, and does not operate over land – whereas the northern polar jet stream flows right across North America and Europe. And it’s the jet stream that matters.
The extreme weather trend in North America and Europe is less than five years old, so the science that might explain exactly what is happening is still quite tentative. The first hypothesis that sounded plausible, published in 2012 in Geophysical Letters, blamed a slowing of the northern hemisphere’s polar jet stream.
The paper, entitled “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes,” was written by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University and Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other climate scientists have challenged the authors’ methodology, but I think that in the end Francis and Vavrus will turn out to be largely right. That is not good news.
They start with the fact that the Arctic has been warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, so the difference in temperature between the Arctic air mass and the air over the temperate zone has been shrinking. Since that difference in temperature is what drives the jet stream that flows along the boundary between the two air masses, a lower difference means a slower jet stream.
Now, a fast jet stream travels in a pretty straight line around the planet from west to east, just like a mountain stream goes pretty straight downhill. A slower jet stream, however, meanders like a river crossing a flood plain – and the big loops it makes extend much further south and north than when it was moving fast.
In a big southerly loop, you will have Arctic air much further south than usual, while there will be relatively warm air from the temperate air mass in a northerly loop that extends up into the Arctic. Moreover, the slower-moving jet stream tends to get “stuck”, so that a given kind of weather – snow, or rain, or heat – will stay longer over the same area.
Hence the “polar-vortex” winter in North America this year, the record snowfalls in Japan in 2012 and again this winter, the lethal heat waves in the eastern US in 2012 – and the floods in Britain this winter.
“They’ve been pummelled by storm after storm this winter (in Britain),” said Jennifer Francis at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago last week. “It’s been amazing what’s going on, and it’s because the pattern this winter has been stuck in one place ever since early December.” There’s no particular reason to think that it will move on soon, either.
(Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.)
Comment: i have lived in the same general area of the USA [No. California] for the last 30 years--within ~a 100-mile radius of my present address. we are having a drought in California, but it is neither the first nor the worst [so far]. the well-known 'la nina' weather pattern is in effect here. and it has both a definition and a known 4-12 year cycle, tending to cycle/alternate with the 'el nino' pattern. please look up these terms if they are new to you. and both these little 'children' are WEATHER PATTERNS and are about temperature CHANGES in parts of the OCEANS, too!
the weather changes all the time. the global CLIMATE has been getting warmer since the last ice age, has it not? that would be more like 10,000 years than 80.
correlation is not causation, no matter how one's political bread is buttered--no matter how much one wants to get paid for mindlessly parroting something 'everybody knows'. and yes, i saw where the weather 'science' came out that it was "...ALMOST certain that the climate change is now CAUSED by humans--consensus is GROWING!" ...JUST before the Warsaw gathering, wasn't it? L0L!!! what a pathetic joke these fear-mongering climate propagandists are!!!
i used to live 'back East' and when i was a boy, i grew up on extreme winter cold. it was caused by 'Arctic Highs'. now the SAME weather [not CLIMATE] phenomenon is called a 'Polar Vortex'. i say again: this is the SAME meteorological phenomenon as the o.l.d. 'Arctic High'. t.r.u.e. just a n.e.w. name for it!
the year i left the US North-East to move to California, 3 decades ago, it was 25 degrees below zero [F.] there for SIX WEEKS! that spell of freezing WEATHER was CAUSED by an Arctic High, which would now be called a Polar Vortex. the weather is always CAUSING records for something, somewhere. weather sets records every day.
stupidity records are caused by lack of education and an inability to think clearly, coupled with too much propaganda, all added to a political agenda. and: a PhD. or captive audience of 'students' or 'a readership' with the same credentials, seems to help with the STUPIDITY record-setting, too.
correlation is NOT causation. this inconvenient FACT is the 'fly in the ointment', and even though the climate 'scientists' are ALMOST ready to call correlation CAUSATION, even those bozo's can't quite get it up hard enough [for their political and economic puppet-masters], to tell THAT whopper! so far. anyone who thinks current flooding is 'unprecedented' may want to re-read what Noah was up against when the last Ice Age was receding during HIS mythic time. the same Ice Age is STILL receding, and the climate IS getting warmer, or the ice would not CONTINUE to melt, with lawful variance in and around this 100-CENTURY trend, now, would it? the idea that humanity is CAUSING this trend was also given in the Biblical record(s), where it was [allegedly] CAUSED BY human wickedness, which needed to be 'washed away' along with ALL its practitioners.
however, any of this is very difficult to PROVE due to the Einsteinian fact that the reference system we are measuring [the globe/Earth/world-part of our Solar System] can neither be controlled nor changed enough [alternative reference frame not readily available to MEASURE FROM] to PROVE this THEORY.
now: if you threaten enough 'climate scientists' with 'financial or physical beheading', they will ALL tell you it [human-caused warming THEORY] has been proved, won't they? THAT is about the only 'experiment' i can see operating, here. conclusion: one need not deny global climate warming [obviously a scientific FACT, given the 100-century ice-receding record] in order to deny that anyone can PROVE it is CAUSED by human beings either being wickedly sinful OR burning sticks and stones [coal] or goo [oil]. as i have postulated elsewhere, this MAY all just be a convenient ruse to 'not notice' what atomic energy and wastes are doing to the planet. Fukushima is poisoning/possibly 'killing' the Pacific Ocean & its food-chain, which WE are ALL part of. but that is swept 'under the rug' while the entire human dialogue is dominated by lies and bull-shit propagated by the UN SC P5 ATOMIC powers, who want everyone to 'believe' THEY are not a danger: YOU are! YOUR behavior must be controlled to avoid catastrophe, not THEIRS!
Date: 24/02/2014 07:27:50
Comment: We live in a smart connected world. Surely we need holistic approach by looking into what atomic energy and wastes are doing to the planet.
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