Radical Abrupt Climate Change in 1 Year

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It’s Happened Before

We’ve always thought of climate as just the longer term view of the weather. You might be able to look at the moon and tell the next day’s weather, but you can’t look up there and say what will happen next year.

Much of the computer models we use to predict climate change caused by global warming is based on long term observations of the climate in the past. We’ve always thought the longer the term, the more accurate the models. When we see in these observations a gradual shift in things like CO2, temperature, rainfall, we believe that indicates the gradual nature of climate change. But that view was shattered recently.

Scientists examined an ice core sample and determined that the last glacial period ended in a single year. The online edition of Scientific American reports:

‘Roughly 14,700 years ago the weather patterns that bring snow to Greenland shifted from one year to the next—a pattern of abrupt change that was repeated 12,900 years ago and 11,700 years ago when the earth’s climate became the one enjoyed today—according to records preserved in an ice core taken from the northern island. These speedy changes—transitions from warming to cooling and back again—in the absence of changes in greenhouse gas could presage abrupt, catastrophic climate change in our future.’

The scientists reported evidence of a 20 degree temperature increase over the course of a few decades following the abrupt shift. Other evidence indicated a change in global weather patterns immediately following the shift. Variations in the amount and origin of atmospheric dust, and the amounts of certain hydrogen and oxygen atoms can be observed in each layer of ice in the sample. The scientists were able to make measurements accurate to a resolution of one year.

‘Roughly five years after this change in dust levels, the levels of heavy hydrogen ensconced in the ice indicate that weather patterns were shifting and driving precipitation over Greenland that had originated in evaporated water from a different area of the ocean than had previously been the source of the island’s rain. And this change happened in as little as a year. “During the glacial period, abrupt warmings show change of the atmospheric circulation from year to year,” says glaciologist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, also of the University of Copenhagen, who participated in the study as well.

Following this abrupt shift, as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) of warming occurred over the subsequent decades—a change that ultimately resulted in at least 33 feet (10 meters) of sea-level rise as the ice melted on Greenland.

Greenland can change quickly, even living up to its name, according to another paper in this week’s Science. Sediment cores from the ocean show that forests of spruce and even fern grew on Greenland just 125,000 years ago. That means Greenland’s ice sheet—potentially responsible for as much as 75 feet (23 meters) of sea-level rise if it all melts—has grown and shrunk far more frequently than previously known.’

Go Swimming At The North Pole

The Independent reports that there’s a better than 50:50 chance that the North Pole will be ice free by the end of August. In human history, this has never happened. From that article:

‘Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.’

Computer models predict that the polar regions will feel the effects of global warming both earlier and more intensely than lower latitudes. Last year, the ice melted in the far northern latitudes enough to create a temporary shortcut from one side of the planet to the other. Local sea ice melted as close as 700 miles from the pole. All of that ice is expected to melt easily this year. The more the ice melts, the warmer the waters become, helping more ice to melt. Again, from The Independent:

‘Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, who was one of the first civilian scientists to sail underneath the Arctic sea ice in a Royal Navy submarine, said that the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented melting of the ice at the North Pole.

“Last year we saw huge areas of the ocean open up, which has never been experienced before. People are expecting this to continue this year and it is likely to extend over the North Pole. It is quite likely that the North Pole will be exposed this summer – it’s not happened before,” Professor Wadhams said.’

Tipping Points, Mass Extinctions, and the Chairman of Exxon

Twenty years ago this week, Jim Hansen testified before Congress on the subject of global warming. This week, he again presented a statement to Congress, saying that global warming was indisputably caused by humans, and that we were very quickly running out of time to do anything about it. Quoting his prepared statement:

‘The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation. Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity’s control.
Changes needed to preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, are clear. But the changes have been blocked by special interests, focused on short-term profits, who hold sway in Washington and other capitals. I argue that a path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible. It requires a transformative change of direction in Washington in the next year…

…The disturbing conclusion, documented in a paper I have written with several of the world’s leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation…

Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes…’

One Year

Jim Hansen was right 20 years ago. My bet is that he’s right, now. He says we have one year at the most to DO something about it. We don’t have time to plan elegant solutions. We don’t have time for committees and studies and cost estimates and other things which are there explicitly to slow us down. We need to be doing something.

We need to Stop investing in anything coal or oil. We need to stop calling it ‘alternative’ energy, and move it to ‘mainstream’. We need to be digging deep and working hard to get a handle on this. It’s getting hot. We know now that radical changes in the climate can occur in a matter of months. We see the polar ice melting like it’s never done in the history of mankind. We see mass extinctions taking place all around us. We see deserts expanding, once huge lakes drying up.

And we see our political and business leaders doing everything they can to hide from us the awful truth: They are more concerned with making record profits and controlling the world through energy idiocy. We simply do not have the time to play with these guys. The changes are upon us already. The world they think they will control won’t exist in a few years if we keep on our present course. They are, to put it bluntly, stupid.

Like I’ve heard people say, “We need to be keeping it real” with these so-called leaders. We cannot afford short-sighted corporate greed, whether for power or for money, to get in our way any longer. A runaway climate would most likely kill billions of us. But we’re smart. We’ve faced threats before and here we still are. If we put forth a real effort, we can change this planet, eliminate our dependence on finite and dangerous energy sources, and grow the global economy all at the same time. If these leaders are not part of the solution, then as part of the problem, there must be a solution to them, as well.



I am Jon, a peaceful man, being backed into a corner.



Read more about this at Scholars and Rogues and TerraDaily.

For a follow-up of the info presented in this article, read Arctic Methane and Oh Crap, Arctic Methane Confirmed.

5 Replies to “Radical Abrupt Climate Change in 1 Year”

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  2. Pretty dire warning. I definitely think, sadly, a lot of people aren’t going to make any major changes to their lifestyles until the evidence is at their front door – which hopefully won’t be too late.

  3. My opinion is similar. ‘Unofficial’ polls, in other words, just conversations with folks I meet, make me believe that folks are more apt to be selfish, demanding their ‘lifestyle’ until the day they die.

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