Florida shivers; Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern is back

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:36 PM GMT on December 14, 2010

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Cold air sweeping southwards behind the fierce snowstorm that roared through the Upper Midwest over the weekend is bringing record low temperatures over much of the Southeast this morning. However, preliminary indications are that Central Florida's orange groves fared better than expected, and there were no reports of widespread damage to the orange crop. Record lows this morning included 32°F at West Palm Beach, 50°F in Key West, and 20°F in Jacksonville. Cold air flowing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are creating heavy lake-effect snows, with 5 – 9 inches of new snow expected near Cleveland, OH today, and 2 – 5 inches near Syracuse, NY.

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents
I'm in San Francisco this week for the world's largest gathering of Earth scientists, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference. Over 15,000 scientists have descended upon the city, and there are a ridiculous number of fascinating talks on every conceivable aspect of Earth science, including, of course, climate change. One talk I attended yesterday was called, "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents: Hemispheric Impacts of Arctic Change.” The talk was given by Dr. Jim Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, one of the world's experts on Arctic weather and climate (I spent many long months flying in the Arctic with him during the three Arctic field programs I participated in during the late 1980s.) Dr. Overland discussed the remarkable winter of 2009 – 2010, which brought record snowstorms to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, along with the coldest temperatures in 25 years, but also brought the warmest winter on record to Canada and much of the Arctic. He demonstrated that the Arctic is normally dominated by low pressure in winter, and a “Polar Vortex” of counter-clockwise circulating winds develops surrounding the North Pole. However, during the winter of 2009-2010, high pressure replaced low pressure over the Arctic, and the Polar Vortex weakened and even reversed at times, with a clockwise flow of air replacing the usual counter-clockwise flow of air around the pole. This unusual flow pattern allowed cold air to spill southwards and be replaced by warm air moving poleward. This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar--the refrigerator warms up, but all of the cold air spills out into the house.


Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of how Arctic sea ice loss affects winter weather, from NOAA's Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts web page.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
This is all part of a natural climate pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which took on its most extreme configuration in 145 years of record keeping during the winter of 2009 – 2010. The NAO is a climate pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. It is one of oldest known climate oscillations--seafaring Scandinavians described the pattern several centuries ago. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic Low and the Azores High, the NAO controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic. A large difference in the pressure between Iceland and the Azores (positive NAO) leads to increased westerly winds and mild and wet winters in Europe. Positive NAO conditions also cause the Icelandic Low to draw a stronger south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward. In contrast, if the difference in sea-level pressure between Iceland and the Azores is small (negative NAO), westerly winds are suppressed, allowing Arctic air to spill southwards into eastern North America more readily. Negative NAO winters tend to bring cold winters to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, but leads to very warm conditions in the Arctic, since all the cold air spilling out of the Arctic gets replaced by warm air flowing poleward.

The winter of 2009 - 2010 had the most extreme negative NAO since record keeping began in 1865. This "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern", resulting in a reversal of Polar Vortex and high pressure replacing low pressure over the Arctic, had occurred previously in only four winters during the past 160 years—1969, 1963, 1936, and 1881. Dr. Overland called the winter of 2009 – 2010 at least as surprising at the record 2007 loss of Arctic sea ice. He suspected that Arctic sea ice loss was a likely culprit for the event, since Francis et al. (2009) found that during 1979 - 2006, years that had unusually low summertime Arctic sea ice had a 10 - 20% reduction in the temperature difference between the Equator and North Pole. This resulted in a weaker jet stream with slower winds that lasted a full six months, through fall and winter. The weaker jet caused a weaker Aleutian Low and Icelandic Low during the winter, resulting in a more negative North Atlantic Oscillation, allowing cold air to spill out of the Arctic and into Europe and the Eastern U.S. Dr. Overland also stressed that natural chaos in the weather/climate system also played a role, as well as the El Niño/La Niña cycle and natural oscillations in stratospheric winds. Not every year that we see extremely high levels of Arctic sea ice loss will have a strongly negative NAO winter. For example, the record Arctic sea ice loss year of 2007 saw only a modest perturbation to the Arctic Vortex and the NAO during the winter of 2007 – 2008.

However, the strongly negative NAO is back again this winter. High pressure has replaced low pressure over the North Pole, and according to NOAA, the NAO index during November 2010 was the second lowest since 1950. This strongly negative NAO has continued into December, and we are on course to have a top-five most extreme December NAO. Cold air is once again spilling southwards into the Eastern U.S. And Europe, bringing record cold and fierce snowstorms. At the same time, warm air is flowing into the Arctic to replace the cold air spilling south--temperatures averaged more than 10°C (18°F) above average over much of Greenland so far this month. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model predicts that the Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern will continue for the next two weeks. However, the coldest air has sloshed over into Europe and Asia, and North America will see relatively seasonable temperatures the next two weeks.

For more information
The NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.

NOAA's Arctic Report Card is also a good source of information.

Francis, J. A., W. Chan, D. J. Leathers, J. R. Miller, and D. E. Veron, 2009: Winter northern hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L07503, doi:10.1029/2009GL037274.

Honda, M., J. Inoue, and S. Yamane, 2009: Influence of low Arctic sea-ice minima on anomalously cold Eurasian winters. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08707, doi:10.1029/2008GL037079.

Overland, J. E., and M. Wang, 2010: Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus, 62A, 1.9.

Petoukhov, V., and V. Semenov, 2010: A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., ISSN 0148-0227.

Seager, R., Y. Kushnir, J. Nakamura, M. Ting, and N. Naik (2010), Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14703, doi:10.1029/2010GL043830.

Jeff Masters

Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub (UnobtrusiveTroll10)
At my house. Their little heat has created a tiny viewing hole.
Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub
Berry Cold Strawberries (lshunter)
Astin Farms in Plant City, FL waters their strawberry crop to prevent damage from frost as temperatures drop into the 20s overnight on December 14, 2010. More cold temperatures expected tonight.
Berry Cold Strawberries

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Thanks for allowing me to rant tonight, folks. I know that a majority of folks do not agree with my views, but I've seen enough of the other side, that I had to put my .02 cents worth again. Now, back to lurking.!!
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bappit - Looks like the US finally has something that they/we can sell to the Chinese. We have more COAL than they do!
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Quoting pottery:

I knew they were on 'fast-forward', but did not realise how fast!
Incredible!
Any idea how many years of coal reserves they have?

Wikipedia has a table of coal reserves by country. Not sure how this plays out against consumption.

Edit: oops, next table down. 38 years for China.
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I see my art and science theory is still being tested...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
Inyo:

Honestly, I think what the Republicans in power really think is that yes, we might be changing the climate, but it isn't worth doing anything about because of the economic consequences of action. I don't agree with this, but I'd rather people up and say it rather than just try to obscure the issue.

CapeCoralStorm:

I have been watching this blog for about 5 years now. It is sad what it has become. The same people always spewing the same garbage mostly to eachother back and forth. Its become a joke.

CapeCoralStorm, why do you think that is? (Hint: see Inyo's post quoted above.)
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Pottery that's actually true. In fact it's somewhat faster. In 2007 China announced as part of their energy plan 562 coal power plants to be built between 2007 and 2015. That's a little over 4 coal fueled power plants every 3 weeks. For each year since 2006 (except 2009) China's increase in electricity consumption has been greater than the United Kingdom's total consumption. The increase this year is expected to exceed the UK's total electricity consumption again.

I knew they were on 'fast-forward', but did not realise how fast!
Incredible!
Any idea how many years of coal reserves they have?
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Howdy all. A warm evening here on the beach...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
#452 - You choices seem to sum up how I feel. Either way, going "green" and reducing our dependance on oil is a good thing.

There is so much debate on GW/CC I don't know what to believe or disbelieve. Even Al Gore, whose movie is very compelling, gets a 'B' from Doc Masters.

Here are my candid thoughts: (yours will vary and that is ok, you are entitled in the USA to your opinion)

1. Is the EARTH warming? Probably.
2. Are humans the cause of it? Maybe.
3. Can we make the Earth a healthier place to live. Absolutely.
4. Am I going to give up driving? Nope.
5. Will I embrace new "green" technologies. Yes.
6. Will I pay more money to use "green" technologies. Maybe, but more likely no.

I prefer the term climate change, since it sure isn't any warmer in Florida during the winters lately. Global Warming tends to make me believe that overall everything, everywhere is getting warmer.

I would *love* to be able to put a PV array in my house, but its cost prohibitive at the moment. I do run BioDiesel when I can find it.
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Quoting Inyo:
Good post, Quad.

Big toe, in addition to some of your comments being offensive in general (I think intentionally), you are mashing two things together: global warming and our response to it. Both need to be discussed, but just because most people (of any political persuasion) use cars and electricity, does not mean that global warming isn't happening. There are lots of reasons to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and many of them have nothing to do with any environmental issues at all. This doesn't necessarily mean giving up our mobility or freedom, just using different ways to provide us with power. as Quad says, we have to do this anyway at some point.

Ok, back to what I was talking about before...

here's a little diagram I drew



Not exact, perhaps, but when you look at it that way, pretty darn dramatic. It's from the latest GFS run, I think 94 hours out.

Nice graphic. Warm arctic, cold continents I think. So is the Patriots game on Sunday evening going to be a snow bowl?
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Quoting pottery:
We are just Victims of Comfort,



Yup.
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We are just Victims of Comfort,

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Like your post Quadranit. Thanks for taking the time to compose all that. :)
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479. Inyo
bigtoe: sorry if i responded to a post addressed to someone else! Sometimes it's hard to tell on this board.

Ossgss: the 'new north pole' thing was meant to be silly but I did realize after I posted it that it's probably going to confuse one of those people who thinks the axis of the earth can shift... so yeah, if I draw another one I will take that out.

Anyway, time to walk home. It's 15F out - cold!
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Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!
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Quoting CapeCoralStorm:
I have been watching this blog for about 5 years now. It is sad what it has become. The same people always spewing the same garbage mostly to eachother back and forth. Its become a joke.

Happy to make you laugh, then.
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Its Times like this...when I am glad i moved to Hawaii....Ft. Lauderdale looks AWFULLY COLD THIS YEAR
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Inyo..... Was not aiming that remark in your direction.
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New North pole? Has the Earth tilted and changed its axis in relation to the Sun? That is the only way that actually happens.......

Don't forget, without the Sun you reach absolute Zero very quickly ;)

Burrr, I feel a Monkeys song coming on with a twist, LOL --Oh my!








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Quoting BigToe:
The Chinese are bringing one coal fired plant a week online. My money's on India.

One coal fired plant a week????
But in any case, that will not stop them from working on alternatives.
They are already doing that, I am sure.
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I have been watching this blog for about 5 years now. It is sad what it has become. The same people always spewing the same garbage mostly to eachother back and forth. Its become a joke.
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471. Inyo
Quoting BigToe:

You cannot divorce one from the other. If you get on this blog every night (and although I do not post on here often, I do lurk almost every day) and post the same dire warnings day after day, you should be the first to change your lifestyle and quit using fossil fuels as much as you can. Just sayin'


Honestly, I think what the Republicans in power really think is that yes, we might be changing the climate, but it isn't worth doing anything about because of the economic consequences of action. I don't agree with this, but I'd rather people up and say it rather than just try to obscure the issue. Then we can talk about it as a country and figure out something that WORKS.

I don't post the same thing here every day, I am a very sporadic/inconsistent poster, though I read pretty much all of Dr Masters' blog entries.

I don't think judging other people's actions (re: fossil fuels or anything else) is all that helpful. I know some 'liberals' can be judgemental but they are not the majority, any more than all conservatives are bigots or racists. Most people are good people trying to do what is right, given the information they have. Unfortunately, the people in power (government, media, corporations) don't always give us unbiased information. Scientists are better at that, though the current system isn't perfect by any means.

Dover, the blog isn't actually exclusively about tropical weather this time of year. Talking about the implications of climate change (in a civil way) are definitely within the appropriate range of topics here, IMHO. if the admins disagree... well, i'll find out soon enough I guess.
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Quoting Inyo:
Yeah, I have my own opinions on climate change and fossil fuels (obviously) but I would really like people's thoughts on the jet stream, also, putting aside more long-term stuff. What would be the consequences if we always had a two-part buckled jet stream, instead of the normal polar jet stream? It would be an overwhelming change for much of the country - I think in many places the winters would get much colder.

Well, I dont have the knowledge to add to your theory.
But for sure, any change in jetstream flows would affect weather, big time! And not just in the US, surely.
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The Chinese are bringing one coal fired plant a week online. My money's on India.
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Good evening all. I remember the 1983 freeze quite well! We had just got a dog, or should I say the dog got us. Our next door neighbor's dog had puppies and my neighbor went out of town and took the mama dog with him leaving the puppies to fen for themselves! This one particular puppy kept crawling under our neighbor's fence and into our yard. My dad would keep putting it back and it would just come back over.

My dad finally had a change of heart Christmas eve and it slept in our bathroom. It kept us all up that night howling! Needless to say it became our dog and we named it pepper.
Member Since: October 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 112
Quoting Inyo:


BigToe, a lot of good people are working on this. A lot more good people would be working on it if we could get past intentional obstructions by the oil companies and the Republican party. I don't think very many people expect that we can or should immediately stop all use of fossil fuels. The point is we need to find something else as soon as we can. And while I am not always an optimist, I do believe in this case we (the USA) can definitely do this once we get past this bickering and obstructionism and extremism (from all sides)

There was a very good discussion/debate a couple of weeks ago, on BBC radio.
The question asked was ''who or what is the reason that we are not taking man-made climate change seriously" ?
After a lot of good debate, it was generally agreed that regardless of Governmental and Political foot-dragging (for reasons we all know), it will be Capitalism (in the positive use of the term!) that will find the solutions to the problems of alternative fuels, reduction of waste etc etc.

My money is on the Chinese and Indians on this one...
India has, by far, a stronger entrepeneur base than does China at the moment (most Industry is still State run, in China which is a "slowing" mechanism).
Although the Indian economy is more dynamic, the Chinese undoubtedly have the technical people.
Will be fun to watch the race develop....
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Super Comment Quadrantid.
Theories are the basis of physics which is the basis for explaining the nature of what is.
Thank-you!
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Admin Notice: When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself. Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.
==============
I'm sorry and I stand corrected. I just get on for the weather, myself



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Big toe, in addition to some of your comments being offensive in general (I think intentionally), you are mashing two things together: global warming and our response to it. Both need to be discussed, but just because most people (of any political persuasion) use cars and electricity, does not mean that global warming isn't happening. There are lots of reasons to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and many of them have nothing to do with any environmental issues at all. This doesn't necessarily mean giving up our mobility or freedom, just using different ways to provide us with power. as Quad says, we have to do this anyway at some point.

==============
You cannot divorce one from the other. If you get on this blog every night (and although I do not post on here often, I do lurk almost every day) and post the same dire warnings day after day, you should be the first to change your lifestyle and quit using fossil fuels as much as you can. Just sayin'
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462. Inyo
Yeah, I have my own opinions on climate change and fossil fuels (obviously) but I would really like people's thoughts on the jet stream, also, putting aside more long-term stuff. What would be the consequences if we always had a two-part buckled jet stream, instead of the normal polar jet stream? It would be an overwhelming change for much of the country - I think in many places the winters would get much colder.
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Inyo,
Great diagram!
Very interesting idea that you have there!
Hope you get some discussion out of it, too.
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460. Inyo
Quoting BigToe:
@ 452. Nicely stated and on the whole, very thought provoking. And now, if you can think of a way to put your thories and ovservations to work, and come up with a viable way to quit burning fossil fuels, while keeping the human race from retreating back to the stone age, I'll be the 1st to sign up. I never said that we should not keep advancing in development of alternative ways to power our way of life, just don't retreat and go back to lighting our homes with lamps, or riding a horse and buggy to work.


BigToe, a lot of good people are working on this. A lot more good people would be working on it if we could get past intentional obstructions by the oil companies and the Republican party. I don't think very many people expect that we can or should immediately stop all use of fossil fuels. The point is we need to find something else as soon as we can. And while I am not always an optimist, I do believe in this case we (the USA) can definitely do this once we get past this bickering and obstructionism and extremism (from all sides)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
459. Inyo
Good post, Quad.

Big toe, in addition to some of your comments being offensive in general (I think intentionally), you are mashing two things together: global warming and our response to it. Both need to be discussed, but just because most people (of any political persuasion) use cars and electricity, does not mean that global warming isn't happening. There are lots of reasons to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and many of them have nothing to do with any environmental issues at all. This doesn't necessarily mean giving up our mobility or freedom, just using different ways to provide us with power. as Quad says, we have to do this anyway at some point.

Ok, back to what I was talking about before...

here's a little diagram I drew



Not exact, perhaps, but when you look at it that way, pretty darn dramatic. It's from the latest GFS run, I think 94 hours out.
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Quoting misanthrope:

Hey BJ! You might want to wipe that little bit of spittle off of your chin.

lol. Greetings, people-hater. (I mean that in the nicest way)
Quoting gustavcane:


That 8 F (1989) on December 23 1989 was the coldest temperature that Baton Rouge Louisiana has ever had.
I was there, then. Brr.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
But I have to ask: what's a "libratard"? That sounds like a one-piece garment worn by someone born during the first week of October. (FWIW, I'm a Virgo.)
===================
I'm sure you look lovely.
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Quadrantid, post 452.
Very nice post.

But, you have not "proved' anything at all, in the view of those that will not see.
Still, we must keep trying...
Your point that the result of our follies will probably result in some positive effects (work and spending-money etc) is a good one.
It is difficult to see where the meaningful benefits will come from, with a continuation of trashing the Planet though.
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@ 452. Nicely stated and on the whole, very thought provoking. And now, if you can think of a way to put your thories and ovservations to work, and come up with a viable way to quit burning fossil fuels, while keeping the human race from retreating back to the stone age, I'll be the 1st to sign up. I never said that we should not keep advancing in development of alternative ways to power our way of life, just don't retreat and go back to lighting our homes with lamps, or riding a horse and buggy to work.
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Quoting BigToe:
I just LOVE tweaking libratards

Congrats on admitting to trollish behavior! It saves one of the more mature forum members from needing to call you out on it. Acceptance is the first step, you know.

But I have to ask: what's a "libratard"? That sounds like a one-piece garment worn by someone born during the first week of October. (FWIW, I'm a Virgo.)

;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Quoting BigToe:
Neapolitan 12:38 AM GMT on December 16, 2010
Quoting BigToe:
It's not "Global Warming" anymore, It's now called " Climate Change". Soooo, It's CC, not GW. "Hope and Change" we cleared up. (Puts hands on temples, tilts head , and stares at the camera) :-)

Nature doesn't give a fig what we call it: Global Warming. Climate Change. The Big Melt. Exxon's Gift To Man. Denier's Disaster. The Coming Climate Catastrophe. Fossil Fuel's Final Foolish Folly. Whatever. All nature knows is that things are getting rapidly warmer--and most scientists know that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels is the primary reason why.

========================
The sky has been falling for a long time, my friend. Just ask Chicken Little. The Sun, valcanos and natural fluctuations of Mother Earth have had a FAR greater impact on our weather than humans have ever had. I've seen studies tha claim that we are about to enter into another ice age. The oceans have NOT risen as ALGORE claims they are doing, just as all of the other Chicken Little claims over the years. In the late 70's, it was all about global COOLING. Follow the money in all of the bluster coming from the CC/GW tripe and you will get your answers. BY THE WAY.... How do YOU get to work every day... How do YOU heat and cool your home.... and lastly, how do YOU power up your computer and get online EVERY FREAKIN" day to say the same thing OVER AND OVER????


I do wish people on both sides would quit turning this into a question of who can make the wittiest and most cutting/incisive/sarcastic comment, and would stick to the science. All it does, from both sides, is cloud the issues and make it personal. Maybe that's what people on one side or the other of the debate want -- I don't know, but it's certainly true that if you tribalise the debate, and demonise some of those arguing, you're more likely to get the general public and news media inflamed/involved with your side than you would with pure science alone. That's depressing, but true, and does seem to work from both sides.

As a Solar system astronomer, though, I have to take issue with the continual arguments people put forward that the currently observed trends are the result of external cycles -- either down to the changes in Solar irradiation, or long-term variations such as the Milankovic cycles. Both those assertations are, simply, provably incorrect, and are, at best, tinsel used to cloud the issue.

Climate variation based on the Milankovic cycles (which have rightly been linked to the last ~2 Myr of glacial and interglacial periods) occurs on longer timescales than the changes we're observing today. The rate at which the planet's temperature is observed to be changing is wholly incompatible with an explanation based on these cycles (the direction of the change doesn't fit either, but that's a less important point). As for insolation, as an astronomer I'm well aware that the Sun has actually just gone through it's least luminous period for a long, long time -- so in fact, if that were the climate driver, we should be seeing the climate cooling, rather than warming. Instead we see the opposite.

For me, all the evidence I'm presented with supports the hypothesis that the Earth's climate is warming. I grew up in the UK, where there is certainly less big-business involvement in the media and elective process (although there is still too much), and even there, you still find large numbers of people who believe that GW is a myth. Just because they think that, though, doesn't mean it's true.

Part of the problem, as I've mentioned before in my very rare posts here, is to do with the way that science is taught vs. the way it is carried out. When you're at school you're taught about theories being proven, things like Newtonian gravity being fact. Unfortunately, science doesn't work that way -- you can never prove a theory. It's not possible. What you can do is disprove it. A theory is, after all, just a model for explaining the way the world works - the fact that if I throw an apple in the air a million times, then we should observe it to fall back to Earth one millions times doesn't prove the theory of gravitation -- all it does is fail to disprove it. Each set of new observations that fails to disprove a theory adds weight to that theory. If the theory is disproven, a new one is thought up that takes its place -- and usually (with some exceptions) the theories evolve in ever smaller steps towards finding the "truth" of the matter. So Newtonian gravitation, which works amazingly well, isn't actually true. In fact, it's been proven wrong, and superceeded - by General Relativity. However, Gen Rel is far, far harder to deal with, so for many applications, people still use Newtonian Physics (it's still an incredibly good model, even if it breaks down under certain circumstances). So for me, looking at the evolution of objects in our Solar system, I'm perfectly fine using Newtonian Gravitation, whereas if you tried using purely Newtonian things for GPS satellites, people would drive into rivers even more often than they do now.

The problem with all that is that the public are brought up to think science is fact, theory is absolute. So when a scientist says of a weather event "We can't absolutely link this to global warming", people get confused/upset, and think either they're being lied to, or that global warming can't be correct -- after all, if the theory was right, you could absolutely link each event to it, right? That then gives a lever for people who want to muddy the situation to play with, and to sow confusion and disorder. And they do it really well, sadly.

---

Based on the evidence I see, and I'm not a climate scientist, but rather an astronomer who does some work that has a bit of overlap with climate, the theory that best explains the observations is that the planet is warming, at an ever increasing rate. The only mechanism of those proposed that explains both the rate of change, and the scale of it, is that the change is the direct result of the increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - so, to me, the most likely explanation is that the warming is anthropogenic. However, the theory will never be proved -- it can't be -- that's a philosophical impossibility. The evidence will get stronger, and stronger, and stronger (unless something comes along and shoots it down, of course), but all we'll ever be able to say is that it is almost certain that we're the cause. Is that enough? I think so.

Thing is, though, there are two main models discussed -- the extremes -- i) the climate is warming, and we're the cause, ii) we can't do anything to change the climate.

There are two ways we can act -- a) do something to change our ways, or b) do nothing...

In case i -- if we take route a, we may avert catastrophe, and prevent loads of death, illness, sadness, and all the rest.

In case i -- if we take route b, woe, death, destruction and all the rest will happen.

In case ii -- if we take route a, we won't do anything to change the planet's climate, but we'll create huge numbers of jobs (in R and D), which will increase people's standard of living through spinoffs. We'll reduce pollution, which is intimately linked to the burning of fossil fuels, increasing people's general health etc. And we'll preserve the precious oils that are left for other uses. If we take route b, we won't get those benefits, we'll keep polluting, and we'll run out of oil in the end and have to work on the new technologies anyways.

So my point of view is -- regardless of whether you believe in AGW or not, either way, attempting to do something to reduce our dependence on, and waste of, fossil fuels, has to be a good thing. There are so many other benefits that doing nothing just seems foolish.

Maybe another analogy is russian roulette. You have a gun... it has six chambers, one of which may hold a bullet. Regardless of whether you believe the bullet is there or not, it makes sense to avoid putting the gun to your head and pulling the trigger.
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Quoting P451:


NYC had 4 feet of snow. You can google quite a few pics of it.

And, well, if those types of totals happened again today, believe me nobody is getting around for quite some time either.


I don't need to google it, I took my own pictures.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Here's a picture of Grothar waiting for the primordial Earth to cool.

IR


Now that was Global Warming.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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