Arctic Heat Wave Sets off Hottest Ever Winter-Time Temperatures, Major Melt, Disasters for Coastal and Interior Alaska

Major melt in the midst of winter. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it? We tend to think of winter as the time of freezing, as the time of ice accumulation. Not the time of melt and thaw.

Now try this — major melt in Alaska in the midst of winter. Average temperatures 40 degrees hotter than normal in the midst of winter. Rainfall over snow and ice causing avalanches, major road blockages and ice dams to rivers in the midst of winter.

In this instance we have been transported from the somewhat odd into a reality that is completely outside of our previously ‘normal’ context. In this instance we are transported to a time that may well seem like the beginning of the end of the age of ice on planet Earth.

And yet this is exactly what is happening: one of the coldest regions on the planet is experiencing melt and related record heat in January.

For the state of Alaska, the consequences are a strange and freakish winter heat wave, one that features the extreme temperatures mentioned above. For the city of Valdez, as we shall see below, the situation is far more stark.

valdez-avalanche

(Massive Avalanche set off by rainfall, winter warmth, cutting off Richardson Highway to Valdez Alaska and forming a dangerous ice dam of the ironically named Keystone Canyon’s Lowe River. Image source: Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.)

Hottest ever Winter-time Temperatures for Alaska

On Sunday, a collapse event that flooded the Arctic with heat and ripped the polar vortex in half began. A freakish high amplitude ridge in the Jet Stream that had been pumping warmth over Alaska and into the Arctic for ten months running strengthened. The result was that many regions throughout the state experienced their hottest temperatures ever recorded for that day, month, or season.

Global Temperature Anomaly Reanalyzer

(Global Temperature Anomaly Data vs 1979-2000 mean with focus on Arctic for January 29. Note the extreme Arctic deviation of +5.58 degrees Celsius and the pool of 36+ F high temperature deviations still lingering over Alaska. Also note that global anomalies are +.32 C above the 1979-2000 mean which is, itself, about +.5 C above average temperatures during the 1880s, for a total of about +.82 globally. The above measure is an excellent illustration of both extreme polar amplification and very rapid warming coinciding with a strong negative Arctic Oscillation, related warm air influx, and polar vortex separation. Source: Climate Change Institute.)

According to reports from Weather Underground, Homer Alaska, for example, experienced an all time record high for the day of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 degrees hotter than the previous all-time high set just a few years earlier. And Homer was just one of the many cities sitting in a broad region of extraordinary, 40 degree hotter than normal temperatures. A region extending from the interior to the southern and western coasts. Bolio Lake Range, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks in central Alaska, saw temperatures rocket to 60 degrees, just 2 degrees short of the all-time record high for any part of the state during January (the previous record high of 62 was set in Petersburg, nearly 700 miles to the south and east).

Typically colder high mountain regions also experienced record warmth for the day. A zone 10,600 feet above Fairbanks hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, the highest temperature ever measured for this region during any winter-time period from November through February.

Even before the most recent extreme Arctic temperature spike, January saw numerous powerful heat influxes for Alaska with Nome, Denali Park, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, and Talkeetna each setting all-time record high temperatures during the month.

These records come on the back of a long period of rapidly increasing Alaskan heat stretching all the way back to the 1970s. In many cases, we are seeing all-time record highs broken with 5-10 year frequency. In the most extreme cases, these records fall again after only standing for 1-5 years.

Taken in this context, what we are seeing is the freakish continuation of an ongoing period of inexorable Arctic warming providing yet one more major insult to the Alaskan climate during the winter of 2013-2014.

Rain and Melt Sets off Major, Spring-like, Outflows From Streams and Rivers

The same anomalous Jet Stream pattern that has acted as a conveyer belt continuously transporting heat into the high north over Alaska has brought with it an almost endless series of rain events to coastal Alaska. Storm after storm, fueled by heat and high rates of evaporation over the northern Pacific, slammed into the Alaskan coastline, disgorging record levels of precipitation.

With temperatures freakishly high, mirroring conditions typically present during late spring or early summer, much of this precipitation fell in the form of rain. Valdez, Alaska, for example, has likely experienced its wettest January ever with rainfall measures just 1.35 inches short of the record on Sunday and a series of strong storms rushing into the city on Monday and Tuesday. Given the nearly endless train of storms lining up to sweep over Valdez, it is possible that its previous record of 15.18 inches for January could easily be surpassed by an inch or two at month-end.

The storms and cloudiness make it difficult to peer down and get a good view of what all this heat and rainfall is doing to the Alaskan snow and ice pack. But, for brief respite, on January 25th, just ahead of the most recent influx of rain and warmth, the clouds cleared, revealing the land and sea surface. And what we witness is extraordinary:

Alaska Melt Rain Sediment January 25

(Southern Coast of Alaska with major sediment outflow from snow and ice melt, record heat and rainfall in January 2014. Image source: Lance-Modis)

The entire southern coast of Alaska from Prince William Sound to Cook Inlet are visibly experiencing major snow and ice melt along with flooded streams and rivers flushing out a massive volume of sediment into the Gulf Alaska. Clearly visible in the satellite shot, the sediment now streaming into the ocean is more reminiscent of a major late spring flood event than anything that should be ongoing for Alaska in the midst of winter.

Yet here we are. A situation of continuous, never-before seen heat for Alaska during winter time bringing on a flooding thaw that is far, far too early.

Rainfall over Glaciers, Snow Pack Triggers Massive Avalanche that Cuts off Valdez

The constant assault of heat and record temperatures combined with an almost endless flow of moisture riding up from the Gulf of Alaska set off a devastating and freakish event near Valdez on Saturday. Severe and record rainfall over the mountain regions have continuously softened glacial ice and snow packs above this major Alaskan city. On Monday, the continuous insults of heat and water passed a critical threshold.

As the warm water filtered down through the colder snow and ice, the anchoring base was lubricated even as the capping snow grew heavily burdened with water. Eventually, the insults of heat and rainfall became too great and a major snow and ice slope system above the main road linking Valdez to mainland Alaska collapsed. The immense volume of snow and ice unleashed, spilling down to fill the base of Keystone Canyon, blocking both the Lowe River and the Richardson Highway running through it.

This snow and ice dam rose as high as 100 feet above the Canyon floor, causing the Lowe River to rapidly flood, inundating the already snow-and ice buried road under an expanding pool 20 to 25 feet deep and filled with ice-choked water.

You can see the massive avalanche-created ice dam and related road inundation in the video provided by akiwiguy below:

(video source: akiwiguy)

Warming-related rainfall events of the kind that has now cut Valdez off from the mainland are just one of the extraordinarily dangerous consequences of human-caused climate change. They are a phenomena linked to the massive glacial outburst flood that killed thousands in India this year together with other dangerous snow and ice melt events. Should such major heating and rainfall events impact Greenland and West Antarctica, the consequences could be even more extreme than what we are currently witnessing in Alaska.

Conditions in Context

In the context of our present extreme Jet Stream pattern that is setting off warmest-ever conditions for Alaska during January together with dangerous melt-outburst related events while at the same time periodically flushing Arctic air and extreme winter weather south into the United States, it is important to remember a few things. The first is that the Arctic is now experiencing never-before observed warmth with stunning frequency. Scientific papers now show that the Arctic is hotter than it has been for at least 44,000 years and possibly 120,000 years.

By comparison, the cold snaps, that could very well be seen as the death gasps of the Arctic we know, impacting the eastern US are relatively minor when put into this larger, more ominous context. Similar cold events were last seen about 20 years ago in the US. And so there is simply no comparison that can generate a rational equivalency between the, hottest in an age, Arctic temperatures and the, coldest in a few handfuls of years, temperatures in the Eastern US.

And if you’re one of those sensitive, perceptive souls who feels that the weather events you’re seeing, the extreme swings from very hot to somewhat cool temperatures, the extreme swings from drought to record rainfall, and the extreme events now accelerating the melting of the world’s ice and snow, are freakish, strange, and terrifyingly abnormal, then you are absolutely correct. Don’t let anyone, be they friends or family, or journalists in the media, tell you otherwise. There is reason for your discomfort and there is very serious cause for concern.

Links:

Colorado Bob’s Climate Feed

Weather Underground

NASA: Lance-Modis

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Climate Change Institute

Alaska All Time High For This Date, Warmer than Alabama

The Glacial Megaflood

Arctic Experiencing Hottest Temperatures in at Least 44,000 Years

Arctic Heat Wave to Rip Polar Vortex in Half

akiwiguy

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99 Comments

  1. Hey Robert,

    Do you know how these extreme events are interlinked with ongoing drought in California? Are you planning to write a blog to cover drought in California?

    ~SJ

    Reply
    • The same ridge in the Jet Stream contributing to the Alaskan ‘heat wave’ in winter is locking the US west in warm and dry conditions. This blocking pattern has been in place for ten months running.

      Reply
      • It’s pretty scary and dry here in SoCal. Plus no snow in Mammoth or hardly any in the Sierra range, I’ve lived here since the late 60s and not sure if I remember such dry weather. I’ve heard talk that it’s caused by microwaves (not the kind that heat food of course) What do you think?

      • Sorry, you’ve lost me. It’s caused by the human production of greenhouse gasses. Anyone telling you different hasn’t looked at climate science much lately. And with so much information available, there is little excuse for that.

  2. David Goldstein

     /  January 28, 2014

    Robert – just wrote this article for Huffington Post that references the Arctic Amplification and blocking patterns: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidgoldstein/cocacola-climate-change-c_b_4666482.html

    Reply
  3. David Otness

     /  January 29, 2014

    I live in Cordova and have been noting the changes with trepidation for many years now.
    Alaska also experienced record summer temps last year.
    Our own high was 57 F the day before yesterday. In August/Sept of 2012 as that blocking ridge was set up along the west coast of the Lower 48, we experienced 127″ of rain. The winter of 2011/12 we had 42′ of snow.
    Watching the rain events in Alberta and Colorado last summer along with the ongoing fires bordering the precipitation extremes has given me plenty of pause.
    And I’ve been preparing for this as best I can having seen it coming.
    Now let’s see how much longer the agricultural regions of the world hold out. We’ve dealt ourselves a terrible hand.

    Reply
  4. Harry

     /  January 29, 2014

    My unease grows daily and Guy Macpherson’s stance appears ever less extreme. 2012 was England’s wettest year on record (and the UK’s second wettest). The bookies are offering 4/5 on 2014 being even wetter. This may well turn out to be the wettest January on record.

    Everywhere I look I see anomalies and freak events. We had a tornado here in Sussex on Monday. It may be pure paranoia but I am starting to see strangeness in the formation of clouds and the colour of the skies.

    What to do though? I am utterly locked into, and dependent on, the fossil-fuel powered superstructure. I try not to be wanton in my use of energy but I am under no illusions about my part in all this. It seems like, in theory, nothing less than the rapid shut-down of the global economy will leave an inhabitable planet for my children – and yet without the global economy my family starves or freezes in short order. Furthermore, in the absence of a global economy every last bit of biomass will be burnt to the detriment of the environment and our untended nuclear power stations will unleash their terrible poisons. So, seriously, what to do?

    Even if you have no answers I thank you Robert for chronicling these developments with such elan.

    Reply
    • Harry,

      “In theory, nothing less than the rapid shut-down of the global economy will leave an inhabitable planet for my children – and yet without the global economy my family starves or freezes in short order”

      I can understand the moral dilemma. To extend Tom’s point, everyone of us is already at Beach of Doom. It is just that only a very few of us have actually realized it. We have taken our “Red Pill” and woke up in the land of destruction. Everyone else is still living their illusion “Matrix” energized by fossil fuels.

      “Furthermore, in the absence of a global economy every last bit of biomass will be burnt to the detriment of the environment”

      I think it is one of the most bitter truth. It is only because of the fossil fuel based global economy we have not deforested the entire planet yet. Many ancient civilizations teach us that even without fossil fuels, you can destroy your local environment.

      ~SJ

      Reply
    • Most of us are captive consumers in a system that needs to rapidly change to survive. So your story is our story.

      My opinion is there is still a window, rapidly closing, in which we might scrape through with difficulty. The first order of business would be a rapid power switch and decarbonization of industry. This would be an extraordinary task, but I believe it is possible given my research. Ag will probably have to shift to permaculture, urban farming and polyculture where still possible and to indoor/hydroponics where not. Water management will be a huge challenge. After these major changes we may have to make some tough and costly choices RE geoengineering and atmospheric carbon capture. But these efforts are very likely to fail without the decarbonization mentioned above.

      Reply
      • Harry

         /  January 29, 2014

        My heart sinks reading your response because, whilst I agree that swift action of the type you outline could theoretically right the ship, it would require a united effort of will such that the world has never seen and honestly I don’t think we’re capable of it. People seem to respond only to immediate existential or otherwise glaringly obvious threats and will rarely defer sensual gratification when given any kind of choice. Half the parents I know struggle to show their own children compassion let alone the wider species.

        I vacillate between thrashing around wildly looking for evidence that we can make the necessary changes and resigning myself to the reality that we cannot. The very traits that so successfully transported us from savannah to air-conditioned appartment will now be our undoing.

      • Occasionally, during terrible disasters or war that roses to the level of existential crisis, it happens. Still doesn’t provide a lot of hope, as you need to respond to climate change before the darkest hour. But, now and then, I find some hope for us confronting this well. Not that we are doing much of this currently, however.

        What we may need is a climate change Pearl Harbor. A point on which everything pivots. Let’s hope we get one soon and that, when it happens, the signal is not interrupted. Sandy should have been a wake up call for the US. Yet here we are with schizophrenic energy and climate policies as well as almost zero awareness of how underlying economics continues to make the problem worse.

        Best to you, sir.

  5. Tom

     /  January 29, 2014

    Harry, welcome to the Beach of Doom. We all get here by realizing what you just wrote. It takes some people longer than others to realize our predicament, and some refuse to see it (but it is no less real). There are no answers – live your life with grace and be thankful we have what little time left that we do. Make the best of each day (whatever that means for you).

    Reply
    • Thanks Tom. That was an very honest and the most realistic response I have even seen on the internet. I have actually started learning Buddhist Philosophy once I realized I was at the “Beach of Doom”.

      Reply
      • Harry

         /  January 29, 2014

        The beach of doom is indeed where I find myself. Thank you for the welcomes.

        I am forty now and it was only last year that the very grave nature of our predicament fully sunk in. On that basis I shouldn’t be unsurprised by the amount of people who still don’t get it and yet I am. I suppose I was so preoccupied with providing for my kids and staying sane that I overlooked the big picture, and that must still be the case for many. Nevertheless, the cognitive dissonance is huge as I carry on in my 9 to 5, which is why I am so thankful for websites like this.

        Perhaps there is some way forward with a swift transfer to genuinely sustainable technology along with a sea-change in human attitudes and priorities but my gut tells me that we are doomed by our very natures.

        I too have been delving into Buddhism and Advaita as a means for ‘innoculating’ my family and I against suffering. The very spiritually aware understand the trouble we are in: Eckhart Tolle speaks of impending systemic failure and the collapse of all ego-based structures; Adyashanti has spoken about coming to terms with our mortality not just as individuals but as as species. Interesting times.

      • Our natures do make this a very hard road. And you’re right. That’s probably the most difficult obstacle of all.

  6. Rick

     /  January 29, 2014

    First of all, Robert, thank you so much for all that you do to bring these issues to the attention of a wider audience. Your command of the language and your spot on analyses are among the best out there! As to our collective fate, I guess I have known longer than most but I am, nevertheless, terrified at the pace of change and the enormity of the events that are unfolding before our very eyes… Peace to all!

    Reply
  7. Hi Robert,

    This is a helpful piece and thanks for it. In regards to comparison of the current heat wave in the Arctic, I created a comparison on my new blog. See: http://a4rglobalmethanetracking.blogspot.com/

    I find similar events on the same dates in the past – but not at the same intensity as this year – and not just in Alaska.

    Also, the University of Maine is creating a great set of Arctic temp anomaly graphics. See: http://cci-reanalyzer.org/DailySummary/index_ds.php for the daily graphics,

    The main website is a great resource for tracking temps, precip and more. See: http://cci-reanalyzer.org/

    A4R

    Reply
    • Thanks for the amazing resources and the fantastic work! I’ve already taken a good look at the reanalizer. Amazing tool. Very glad to see these resources posted here.

      Reply
  8. Gerald Spezio

     /  January 29, 2014

    Who predicted the beach of doom in 1971; or why we are going to die soon?

    Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and the Nobel Prize in economics

    In the postwar period, it has become increasingly clear that economic growth has not only brought greater prosperity. The other side of growth in the form of pollution, contamination and wastage of resources has increasingly emerged as perhaps the greatest challenge of our time.

    Generally one can say that traditional – neoclassical – economic theory basically claims that an additional investment in technical and economic development is the only solution to the environmental problems. Biotechnology and other technical advances make it possible to minimize resource and energy use and reuse waste products. Nature is fundamentally robust and resilient. Many so-called neoclassical environmental and resource economists have used cost-benefit analysis, welfare and price theory to extend the traditional economic theory to include also applications to environmental issues. However, this has not resulted in any paradigm shift in the perception of growth and the environment. It has mostly confined itself to quantify the societal costs associated with negative externalities on the environment.

    Against this view of the link between economic growth and the environment, ecologists have argued that environmental problems can lead to irreparable damages to nature. Against the neoclassical theory’s view on the economy as a balanced and harmonious system, where growth and the environment go hand in hand, ecological economists object that it can rather be characterized as an unstable system that in an accelerating pace consumes energy and matter, and thereby pose a threat against the very basis for its survival.

    The Romanian-American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994) argued in his epochal The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971) that the economy was actually a giant thermodynamic system in which entropy increases inexorably and our material basis disappears. If we choose to continue to produce with the techniques we have developed, then our society and earth will disappear faster than if we introduce small-scale production, resource-saving technologies and limited consumption.

    Following Georgescu-Roegen, ecological economists have argued that industrial society inevitably leads to increased environmental pollution, energy crisis and an unsustainable growth.

    Georgescu-Roegen and ecological economics have turned against the neoclassical theory’s obsession with purely monetary factors. The monetary reductionism can easily lead to that one ignores the other factors having a bearing on human interaction with the environment.

    I wonder if this isn’t the crux of the matter. To assert such a thing really is to swear in the neoclassical establishment church and nullifies any chances of getting the prestigious so-called Nobel Prize in economics.

    After a radio debate with one of the members of the prize committee twenty years ago, I asked why Georgescu-Roegen hadn’t got the prize. The answer was – mirabile dictu – that he “never founded a school.” I was surprised to say the least and wondered if he possibly had heard of the environmental movement. Well, he had – but it was “the wrong kind of school”! Can it be stated much clearer than this what it’s all about? If you haven’t worked within the neoclassical paradigm – then you are excluded a priori from being eligible for the The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel!

    Reply
    • A testimony to societal blindness. The inability to change expectations and transition away from the growth paradigm, when confronted with limits, is up there as one of the top reasons civilizations fail. Those that succeed, on the other hand, sacrifice the old sacred cows and embrace the change that is all too necessary.

      Reply
  9. climatestate

     /  January 29, 2014

    Robert, please consider to install this plugin, in case you like to streamline the process of content sharing (with full control) http://wordpress.org/plugins/repostus/ It is used by ClimateCentral and SkepticalScience as well.

    Reply
  10. Gerald Spezio

     /  January 29, 2014

    NEVER FEAR – OUR PRESIDENT, LAWYER MAN BECOME METHANE MAN WILL LIGHT THE WAY.

    Methane Man

    At the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama said that the all-of-the-above energy strategy he announced a few years ago is working, describing natural gas as the bridge fuel that can power our economy.

    Just do NOT tell them the monster exists

    President Obama said: “Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.”

    President Obama added: “And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

    http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/

    Reply
    • climatestate

       /  January 29, 2014

      Blaming just Obama for the fossil exploration is a very narrow view.

      Reply
      • Harry

         /  January 29, 2014

        I don’t think pointing out Obama’s hypocrisy here is unjust and I don’t see GS making the case that Obama is solely responsible for our predicament. He is one of the few people in the world who, theoretically at least, has the power to enact meaningful change. It is a great shame that he is not.

      • climatestate

         /  January 29, 2014

        He may short-cut Congress but i still wait for meaningful action, maybe this is the start. Granted 100 billion for natural gas is kind of a bad idea. Need to see more details.

      • The industry went on ahead and pushed for Fracking. Obama didn’t stand in the way and likes to talk about the expansion of US nat gas in speeches. I’d say this is the dark side of his climate policy.

        That said, Obama has done far more to reduce US emissions and increase renewables than any President of the past 40 years. We got increased CAFE standards, a push for electric vehicles, a push for wind and solar and an EPA that attempts to regulate carbon emissions.

        I’d say that’s far better than any Republican alternative which would go full bore gas, coal, oil and drill baby drill us into a very rapid oblivion.

        Gerald is right in the sense that we need better climate policy and he loves to bash Obama for his short comings. If it were possible, I’d love to see a climate hawk for President and one who wouldn’t be afraid to stand up to the big corps. That’s a tall order given current politics.

        In general, though, I’d be more happy if Gerald blamed the source of the problem — fossil fuel industry — and stop blaming minor players (Obama) or those who have nothing directly to do with the problem (Lawyers or the poor) or captive consumers who must either choose exile from modern civilization or becoming contributors to the problem.

        The wealthy oil, gas and coal companies who continue to enforce dependence and gain an iron grip on nations policies via lobbying and political influence are the ones driving this crisis. Those demanding growth that primarily only benefits the wealthy are driving the crisis. The rest of us may contribute to one degree or another, but we’re mostly being dragged along for the hellish ride.

    • Harry

       /  January 29, 2014

      Tbh the sort of changes we need at this juncture are so beyond the capabilities, not to mention outside the narrow self-interests of, existing political structures that it would be naive to place much hope in politicians.

      Reply
  11. Most extensive fire since World War II

    The fire in Flatanger on the West Coast of Norway is the most extensive fire catastrophe in Norway since World War II. More than 139 houses and buildings have been destroyed.

    The fire in Flatanger in the county of Nord Trøndelag started late Monday night, and only ten days after 40 houses burned to the ground in Lærdalsøyri, also on the West coast.
    http://www.norwaypost.no/index.php/news/latest-news/29482

    Reply
  12. December 2013 featured an extremely active, and very intense
    low pressure track across the North Atlantic ocean basin. Below is a full loop containing all the Atlantic surface analysis charts, beginning
    December 01 00Z and ending December 31 18Z.

    A few interesting statistics:
    ◾There were 14 unique instances of hurricane force wind events. These include tip jets in the vicinity of the Greenland coast.
    As a reminder, hurricane force winds mean ocean surface winds exceed 63 knots.

    ◾There were 10 unique low pressure systems that deepened quickly enough to be classified as having undergone “bombogenesis”.
    At the OPC, these are called “rapidly intensifying” low pressure systems. As a reminder, this means the central pressure of a system decreases by at least 24 mb in 24 hours.

    ◾The lowest pressure was analyzed as 929 mb, occurring December 24 06Z, and again December 24 18Z.

    ◾Aside from the lowest analyzed pressure of 929mb, there were 5 other lows to have a central pressure analyzed below 950 mb:

    ◦942 mb Dec 12 18Z | 946 mb Dec 15 12Z | 948 mb Dec 18 00Z | 940 mb Dec 19 12Z | 943 mb Dec 27 00Z
    http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/Loops/Atlantic_December_2013/Charts2.php

    Reply
    • As as reminder, Sandy hit 938. These are Sandy class storms. 929 is freakishly powerful.

      Foreshadowing ‘The Storms of my Grandchildren?’

      In any case, no wonder the coast lines of the British isles are being reshaped.

      Reply
  13. Sensitivity of carbon cycle to tropical temperature variations has doubled

    Date:

    January 26, 2014

    Source:

    University of Exeter

    Summary:

    The tropical carbon cycle has become twice as sensitive to temperature variations over the past 50 years, new research has revealed. The research shows that a one degree rise in tropical temperature leads to around two billion extra tons of carbon being released per year into the atmosphere from tropical ecosystems, compared with the same tropical warming in the 1960s and 1970s.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140126134647.htm

    Reply
    • The sinks/stores are becoming sources. First a 90 + megaton methane release in the Arctic and a 2 gigaton carbon release from the tropics. This is roughly an 18 percent addition to human carbon emissions (just counting the carbon).

      Reply
  14. Last year we were lucky with global harvests and arctic ice retreat. This year we get to roll the dice again – and each year the dice are weighted subtly more against us. I think when things really start to fall apart it will come deceptively fast as weather (noise, if one will) in the system is still a dominant influence (notwithstanding the underlying trends). Therefore we could suddenly be shunted into another level of crisis similar to the food price spike from 2007 onwards (with the ensuing unrest and violence that is still rumbling on now), but quite possibly much larger and more significant.

    It is a mistake to presume upon a linear progression, of a subtle worsening year on year, when the system is dominated in the short term by noise and variability (even now). it should also be noted that positive feedback dynamics apply to human systems as well as the earth system. Globalised markets for key commodities such as energy and food, the dynamics of social instability, the vicious circle of warfare in relation to agricultural output – the risks and inherent volatibility of the situation are rapidly increasing, whether we perceive them directly and personally or not. As with people who refuse to even acknowledge the presence of the threat due to it’s perceived distance from them, we should remain vigilant in our ability to attempt to assess the scale and immediacy of the threat in the same vein. We also should remember that for some people it is already here and now – it is not in the future any more. It is also worth emphasising that there is no sign the rich and powerful who run the show are going to make the common sense decisions on the scale required to help the poor and vulnerable and reinforce the integrity of social structures.

    I personally believe the window for action to transform our current civilisation is gone now and appropriate planning is for handling the collapse scenario.

    And would like to emphasise again that the progression of collapse will not necessarily be a gradual gentle decline, but rather a series of sudden lurches impossible to predict much more than a few months ahead (due to the importance of weather and the global harvests, and the fact that people respond to anticipated future conditions, not just immediately present ones).

    By the time collapse is here, it will be far too late to prepare or plan for it. This last point of failure compounds the matter, assuring a far worse and more absolute descent than might otherwise be possible.

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  January 30, 2014

      “And would like to emphasise again that the progression of collapse will not necessarily be a gradual gentle decline, but rather a series of sudden lurches impossible to predict much more than a few months ahead”

      This is why emphasis should be on living in a way that will alleviate some of the impact rather than attempting to make predictions or understanding full dynamics. It’s similar to how in Buddhism they focus not on understanding nature but on practical day to day behaviors and thoughts which if followed will lead to Enlightened action; understanding is retroactive.

      It is in all our power to start doing this on a personal level and becomes exponentially easier as you work through it.

      Reply
  15. Steve

     /  January 30, 2014

    I’ve been reading Robert’s blog for probably a year and a half now and during all that time I have only made one post mentioning the bible. Unfortunately, most people are very uncomfortable talking about what the bible really says. Most religions teach things that the bible clearly does not and as a result many are confused. At this time, it appears that many who post here now see that man is going to destroy much if not all life on this planet. So I think now is a good time to hopefully direct some of you to a real hope.
    The bible did foretell that things would get very, very, bad. In fact, it will get so bad that unless God steps in, man would bring human life to an end. (Matt 24:21,22)
    Most religions that believe this, teach that God will take good people to heaven and destroy the wicked and the earth. But that isn’t what the bible teaches. Genesis 8:21,22 contains God’s promise that the Earth will be here forever. Psalm 37:29 tells us that the righteous will live forever on earth. These are just a couple of the many scriptures that tell us that God’s original will is going to take place. For those of you who see no hope, what would it hurt to look at the bible?I think you will be surprised what it really teaches.

    Reply
    • mikkel

       /  January 30, 2014

      Steve, by your estimation how many Christians are open to being righteous and would work with people who live the spirit if not the Spirit, if you catch my drift?

      Reply
      • It may sound odd, with so many Christians seeming to be right-wingers these days, but a number of friends and family members are involved in a climate action group through the Episcopal Church. They do things like raise money for the emergency food and shelter kits Colorado Bob has talked about or even work to fund raise for building solar panels for church roof tops.

        In my view, at this time, every church should be working to provide solar energy not only for their churches but for members of their parishes.

        The Episcopal Church tends to take a liberal view of these things and are also supportive of gay rights. Social and environmental justice are often core principles of action.

      • Miep

         /  January 30, 2014

        “In my view, at this time, every church should be working to provide solar energy not only for their churches but for members of their parishes.”

        Now there’s an idea. They could take up a collection and use it to fund low-interest loans, where the payments and interest went back into the funding pool. I’m sure there would be a way to do this that would be legal.

      • Absolutely. And all under the umbrella of a not for profit venture.

        The civil rights activists first organized through the church system. Why not use it as a launching pad for environmental protection, justice and stewardship of the Earth? For living within reasonable means, rather than taking on the destructive paradigms of the day? The church, in this way, would be fighting to reduce the harm and forge a livable future for its parishes.

        I would think this the very form of gracious action that the bride, at her best, aspires to.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        Miep, they can do it through forming a credit union. In the US it actually a legal requirement that all credit union members have a formal association in some manner, typically through their trade or religion. Geographical area works as well, although the problem there is that it’s hard to get enough participants.

        Interest groups such as “climate activist” is borderline and specifically simply signing up and paying dues does not meet the criteria. Legally they would have to show some association that is non-financial in nature and connects to common life in some way. Technically this would probably require a national non-profit to be created that has local chapters which meet on a regular basis for social reasons or political coordination.

        All of this is to say that actually religious organizations are the best positioned for this type of fund because they have the bureaucracy in place already and can count national numbers towards meeting the criteria.

      • Miep

         /  January 30, 2014

        “All of this is to say that actually religious organizations are the best positioned for this type of fund because they have the bureaucracy in place already and can count national numbers towards meeting the criteria.”

        That was what I was thinking. Good point about credit unions.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        There is a greater point about credit unions which becomes apparent if you understand fractional reserve lending.

        If you are outside the banking system you must raise capital in order to fund the project. So for example a church by itself could decide right now to start a fund and take collections that paid back into the pot to finance further installs, say $100k @4% interest that could provide 10 installs up front and then half of one per year from the interest.

        However, if you are inside the banking system, you can make loans based on deposits — subject to risk criteria. For things like mortgages you can create 10x leverage, but I’d reckon solar would probably be about 5x. This means that a) if they got $100k in deposits then they could fund $500k of installs and b) now you are talking merely about deposits instead of capital, so the available amount is incredible. How much would a church have if half of its members moved their bank accounts to the institution?

        And just like a normal bank, the deposits have government guarantee, although technically not through FDIC.

      • I suppose that would depend on how into debt a church wished to go and how much ability to fund-raise they were able to muster.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        Robert, it needn’t be the church itself as the credit union would be an independent entity similar to how the Naval Federal Credit Union is not part of the Navy but you have to have an affiliation with the Navy at some (tenuous) point. The NFCU has $50 billion in assets from 4 million members.

        If a few ten million people that wanted to see change got together and pooled their deposits then it would easily reach over $1 trillion in potential projects.

      • Now that, my friend, looks like a blue-print for organization. Hmm?

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        Robert, in Growth Shock you present a well rounded picture of where we are and where we need to go.

        I believe this financing is the piece that fills the middle of that picture and provide the power it needs.

        The challenge is preventing it from blowing up. If the organization rushed out and spent $1T on windmills and solar panels then the entire grid would collapse. It must support a dynamic reorganization and development in the sort of life affirming mentality you wrote about.

      • Mikkel, you’re a very smart and well-organized individual. May I pick your brain? How do you imagine such a plan unfolding?

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        The first steps have already been done. These steps were done by the hard work of people who have exposed the issues and possible solutions on a theoretical then applied level. It has been in progress for 50-60 years, and now is rather fleshed out for both good and ill.

        A small but significant percentage of the population (1-3%) is starting to live these principles and demonstrate that they are practical. A significant percentage (15-20%) of the population aspires to and is held back by basic day to day concerns or lack of direction. These are the people that need to be ushered in and from there you hit a critical point where the rest is self sustaining.

        In order to do this there has to be the creation of an alternative parallel economy. Stuff like farmers’ markets are OK as such, but there is too much leakage in that most of the money the farm spends then goes right back to general society instead of closing the loop by spending it with their customers.

        Therefore, we must support people in their conversion by helping them reduce costs (giving less resources to the existing system), develop skills that are useful to the parallel economy (instead of working desk jobs or machinations of modernism) and provide markets so everyone can figure out how to participate with each other. There is a lot of room for both non-profits and profit oriented businesses to participate in this, as long as the profit oriented businesses recognize the nature of profit.

        Russell Brand said where ever there is profit there must be deficit, and that is true. In our society the deficit is on the land and the people; this alternative economy would invest the profit back into those and have the deficit on the power structures.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        The way I am personally inclined towards this is to find keystone individuals that ideologically understand this but have the experience and credibility to exist in the current power structures if they so choose.

        These individuals are the best placed to understand the weak points of our system and therefore offer suggests about how the alternatives can out compete. They also can sell the alternative to forward looking organizations who see the writing on the wall.

        For instance, in one of my projects I recruited someone who has worked in the utility industry for 30 years and knows all the players. He was already on board with the principles I’m talking about but just needed a concrete plan. Our particular plan is to highlight energy efficiency, which then creates good ROI that he can go to organizations to fund.

        One interested group is actually a utility company because they see how electricity will continue to get more expensive due to global warming and so are seeking to diversify their income streams.

        Similarly I have an ex-Wall Streeter on board who left because they are all sociopaths. However, he knows exactly how to craft investment documents and present propositions to the government, etc. in a way they respond to. Those people care not one whit about what we do with our take from the exercise.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        We are then investing the profits from the activities back into soft skills like providing a place for people to learn hand craft and will eventually be put into supporting permaculture developments. While the initial resources come from choking off the flow to the status quo, I think rather quickly we will be creating opportunities for people to trade with each other and have needs that will bring in all sorts of jobs.

        Then it is merely about taking this approach and applying it in different domains so that little bubbles start forming all over — until eventually they coalesce into a big one.

        The crux is to get the keystone individuals and those that can provide guidance/leadership. Once the alternative is large enough, it will grow on its own as more people join. At this point, entire fields should start migrating, such as scientists and a core cadre of engineers/doctors. Ultimately we want to get to the point where it’s hard to even keep the existing stuff up because people would rather do it the right way.

      • This reminds me a bit of the Foundation series by Asimov.

      • mikkel

         /  January 30, 2014

        And of course the young should be brought into the fold immediately because they are the ones that are most alienated by how things are now and have the most to fight for. They are also insanely cheap and creative, so if given guidance then you can get an enormous contribution that makes them resist giving in to the 9-5 job their parents keep bugging them about finding.

        So on a practical basis, this is the strategy I see and it just needs to be wrapped up in a manifesto of sorts so that those on board will fall out of the wood work. The financial institutions can be set up and solicit funds from both members of the movement and sympathetic people that feel stuck for one reason or another (I recently read about how a large percentage of the civil rights movement was secretly funded by families such as the Rockefellers even though they never proclaimed it publicly.)

        As long as the groups stay in coordination and form cooperatives in order to share resources/talent, then the whole movement should be able to evolve organically with money as the energy.

    • I think it dangerous to use the bible, or any other religion, for that matter, to absolve ourselves of responsibility. In any case, there is little hope in Revelation which clearly indicates that among the most harshly judged will be ‘the destroyers of the Earth.’

      It is, perhaps, the strongest imperative to attempt to prevent or reverse the harm we are causing in this religious work. So those who would seek to find comfort, take heed. There is no absolution of responsibility here.

      Reply
  16. Steve

     /  January 30, 2014

    Mikkle, Far too many Christians think very little is expected of them by God. Many fail to consider Jesus warning in his sermon on the mount at Matthew 7:21-27. Many who accept him as their Lord will be considered workers of lawlessness because they failed to do his will. Learning what God’s will is and doing it is imperative for each and every one of us.

    Reply
  17. Steve

     /  January 30, 2014

    Robert/Miep. The bible makes it clear that no man knows when the end will come, but it does say to be observant and gives many details of what would be occurring when the end is drawing near. It does say that there would still be some sense of normalcy when it does occur Matthew 24:36-39.
    I never thought that weather would actually come into play when I would be thinking about where we are in the stream in time. But based on what we’ve seen take place in the last year , I’m having a hard time seeing things being “normal” for too much longer. It sure seems that things are ramping up quickly and harshly. That being said, I don’t think any social issue is anywhere near as important as preaching the good news of God’s kingdom!

    Reply
    • And this is where I disagree with you, fundamentally, Steve.

      Love requires action, especially in the face of so much potential pain. Simple re-reading and re-hashing of old scripture renders the bible dead, unless it applies to directly help those who need it most.

      Too often religion is used to retreat from the world rather than seen for its imperative to go out and be the love we see in the ideal.

      The chain was broken long ago when the old religions fell upon the weak and dishonorable teaching that simply pretending to believe is enough. Faith and belief are entirely different entities. Faith requires a leap and terrifying action.

      And as for sin, in the context of Christianity, there is no greater sin than the destruction of Earth. And we are doing this. This is us-caused. Not God-caused.

      So no, I do not let you off the hook. The God of love requires faithful action.

      Reply
  18. Steve

     /  January 30, 2014

    I can understand you thinking that way if you don’t believe that God is going to act anytime soon. I however believe that mankind has failed miserably at self rule and God very soon is going to act. I don’t consider spending my time sharing that hope with others a passive activity. It appears most of the world is also near a financial cliff as well. I don’t see how putting a lot of time and effort towards social efforts in a world that I think could collapse at any moment is going to help people more than them hearing about what God’s kingdom promises to bring. You can see by many of your posters comments how bleak people are about the future.

    Reply
    • So when God comes along and asks you what you did to prevent the wrecking of his creation, what will you tell him? Will you say you did nothing while you sat around and waited for God?

      Reply
      • Steve

         /  January 31, 2014

        I admire your love for the environment because it’s a love that I have as well. I’ve never met anyone who enjoys trail running as much as myself. I have no guilt for how I’ve lived and am living my life in that regard. There have been several times in the past that I’ve dropped a piece of paper in the wind and have gone to great lengths to pick it up so I wouldn’t litter. That just gives a glimpse of how concerned I am about how I live. Still driving my Honda Civic I bought in 95. So I don’t take that for granted.
        That being said, based on what I see and what I’ve read in the bible, I view this world as a sinking ship and it is taking on water fast. I don’t think there is a better way to spend my time than to direct people to where the lifeboats are.
        You made a prior comment about this being man’s doing. I completely agree. We were warned that things would get very bad, but not because God is punishing us. The bible refers to Satan as the god of this system of things.(2Co 4:3,4) There is still time for people to seek God and get to know him, but his patience does have a limit. (2Peter 3:9)

  19. Migrating monarch butterflies are in “grave danger,” according to a report that shows their colonies in Mexico now occupy the smallest area since records began in 1993.
    The number of migrating monarchs is plummeting for a few reasons: widespread loss of a plant called milkweed, which their young rely on for food; extreme climate fluctuations in North America, including freezing temperatures and heavy rain; and deforestation. (Watch video: “Growing Up Butterfly.”)
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140129-monarch-butterflies-mexico-animals-science-environment-migration-nation/

    Reply
    • Miep

       /  January 30, 2014

      Colorado Bob: I’m in the Mexican migration path, and there were virtually no monarchs here last fall. I read that they got confused previously by unusual weather and migrated at the wrong time, so their eggs en route did not survive (dried up) and that this contributed to the crash.

      I need to get some local milkweed seed, but I do have Tithonia naturalized and usually I get hordes of monarchs for a few weeks at least in the early fall.

      Reply
      • Miep -
        These folks sell milkweed seeds :
        Monarch Watch -
        http://www.monarchwatch.org/

      • Miep

         /  January 30, 2014

        Thank you, Bob. From what I’ve read it works best with local varieties, and I am not in a position to roam around and look for them. What I need is regional seed, I’d definitely give that a shot. I’ll check out the link and thank you so much.

      • They’re in Wichita , I’m sure they’ll be of help . Besides Tithonia, for a adult food source, try Red sage , it can stand up to your climate as well.

      • Thanks again Colorado Bob. But what’s red sage? There is a “cardinal sage” I think that people grow here. But there are a lot of species of Salvias. Also other genera are called sages at times.

  20. Climate change is ‘killing Argentina’s Magellanic penguin chicks’
    Penguin chicks in Argentina are dying as a direct consequence of climate change, according to new research.

    Drenching rainstorms and extreme heat are killing the young birds in significant numbers.

    The study, conducted over 27 years, looked at climate impacts on the world’s biggest colony of Magellanic penguins, which live on the arid Punta Tombo peninsula.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25950906

    Reply
  21. Tel Aviv Marks Driest January on Record

    Rain hits a record low in the Tel Aviv area. Jordan Valley without rainfall for the first time in nearly 60 years
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/176891#.UuoyUZt3vIU

    Reply
  22. SMAVAERET, Norway, Jan. 30 (UPI) — More than 300 people were evacuated from the island of Froya in Norway due to a brushfire sweeping through the villages on the island, officials said.
    The fire broke out Wednesday, destroying about 90 buildings in Hasvag and Smavaeret, forcing the evacuation of 33 residents from those villages, TheLocal.no reported.

    Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2014/01/30/300-evacuated-due-to-fire-in-Norway/UPI-26151391090733/#ixzz2rtZw9Dd3

    Reply
    • Firefighters face ‘a new reality’

      January 30, 2014

      UPDATED: As firefighters struggled to gain control over the second major brushfire this week, experts were warning that Norway faces a new seasonal reality regarding fire danger. Emergency crews simply didn’t expect they’d need to fight such fires in the middle of winter, but a changing climate with unpredictable weather is now sparking calls for new levels of preparedness.

      This photo was taken by a surveillance flight from the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) that was sent to help firefighters get a better overview of the brush fire sweeping across the Flatanger peninsula. Strong winds made it difficult and dangerous for helicopters to fly in the area. PHOTO: Kystverket/LN-KYV
      This photo was taken by a surveillance flight from the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) that was sent to help firefighters get a better overview of the brush fire that swept across the Flatanger peninsula. Strong winds made it difficult and dangerous for helicopters to fly in the area. PHOTO: Kystverket/LN-KYV

      “Just a month ago, no one would have said there was a threat of brushfires in Trøndelag at this time of year,” Dagfinn Kalheim, director of the Norwegian fire prevention association

      http://www.newsinenglish.no/2014/01/30/firefighters-face-a-new-reality/

      Reply
    • That makes for 3 this winter… And two for just this week.

      Reply
      • Yes, This island is just below the Arctic Circle. To see fires burning January I gotta think this hasn’t happened up there in a very, very, time.

      • Given the statements from fire officials on the ground, it seems pretty clear that something like this has never happened, at least in the context of modern Norway. It would be extraordinary to fight one wildfire in Norway in January. I’d like to see what the records are, in any case.

  23. Reblogged this on antilandscaper and commented:
    Robert Scribbler blogs are so fascinating concerning Climate Change. I really wanted to share

    Reply
  24. Thank you Robert. I pinned, tweeted, and scooped your post (see the scoop at http://scoop.it/t/ecoscifi).

    Reply
  25. .

    .
    Led Zeppelin – How Many More Times

    Reply
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