Greenland Undergoing Record 120 Year Surface Melt, 97 Percent of Ice Sheet Experienced Melt on July 12, 2012


According to NASA satellite data, almost all of the surface of Greenland experienced surface melt during an unprecedented heat wave in mid-July. Such an event has never happened in the entire 30 year satellite record. In fact, one has to go back to ice core data to find an analogous period. According to that data, the last time melt of this scale occurred was during the summer of 1889, about 123 years ago.

A parade of unprecedented heat waves is the likely cause. A series of heat domes has been developing over Greenland since early May, with each successive hot air mass showing greater intensity. The most recent dome began to develop over Greenland on July 8th. It intensified through the 12th and began to dissipate a few days later. During the most recent event, almost all of the ice sheet experienced surface melting. Even Summit Station, located at the ice sheet’s highest point atop two miles of solid ice, experienced extensive melting.

The record heat and melting coincided with a massive calving event at Petermann Glacier, which also occurred in mid July. This calving produced an ice burg larger than Manhattan which is slowly working its way into the world’s shipping lanes. A similar event in 2010 produced an ice burg of equivalent size and resulted in the Petermann Glacier speeding up by between 10 and 20 percent. Increasing outflow from the Petermann Glacier means more of Greenland’s ice is heading to sea at a more rapid pace. Though it is unclear how much the Glacier could speed up following the most recent calving, researchers expect another increase, possibly greater than that brought on by the 2010 event.


Increased melt in Greenland coincides with temperatures that are 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the climatological average, CO2 concentrations that have breached 400 ppm in some locations, and an overall reduced albedo that has harmed the ice sheet’s ability to reflect sunlight. All these impacts are the direct result of human greenhouse gas emissions and their forcing effect on the world’s climate. Furthermore, the extreme heating events now impacting Greenland are far more likely to continue and worsen so long as human-caused warming continues.



June 2012, 4th Hottest Month Globally, Hottest June on Record for Northern Hemisphere Landmasses


According to the most recent report from NOAA, June 2012 was the 4th hottest June on record globally. These records resulted from a combined average temperature of land and ocean surfaces 1.13 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

Northern Hemisphere land surface temperatures, however, set a new all-time record for June of 2.34 degrees Fahrenheit above average. These records came amidst unprecedented droughts, floods, storms and fires over much of the Northern Hemisphere.

World ocean temperatures ranked 10th warmest globally, with the Pacific entering an El Nino neutral phase as sea surface temperatures continued to rise. Ocean temperatures should probably continue rising over the coming months as a powerful La Nina continues to dissipate.

The fact that world temperatures remain at or near record highs during an ENSO-neutral phase could harbinger even more drastically higher temperatures and potential new records as the Eastern Pacific heats up. In the past, temperature records have been reached or broken during strong or moderate El Nino events. The fact that these new records are happening outside of the ocean heating phase bears close monitoring.



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Record US Drought Deepens, 61 Percent of Country Suffering From Some Level of Drought

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The most recent report from NOAA shows a current record US drought deepening with more than 61% of the country now suffering from extreme conditions.

The worst drought in 25 years has severely impacted US agriculture. According to the monitor, in the US’s 18 primary corn-producing states, 30 percent of the corn crop is now in poor or very poor condition. Earlier this year, a combination of increased demand and poor conditions last year resulted in more than 48% of US corn stockpiles being wiped out. In response, the US began planting its largest corn crop ever in May. Now, unprecedented widespread drought conditions are threatening that crop.

The result is that food prices are steadily rising. This Thursday, corn prices had risen by as much as 4% by end of trading. Since mid June prices for corn had risen more than 33%, with prices of wheat jumping 23% and prices of soy rising 13%.

These rising prices reflect anxiety on the part of grain consumers from China to the Middle East and many other places around the world. The crisis has caused many to wonder if this year may be a repeat of 2010, when severe drought damaged Russia’s wheat crop and sent prices soaring. The food scarcity that followed sparked food riots throughout the Middle East and served as a flash-point for the Arab Spring.

This year, threatening conditions include the consistent dryness in the US, another dry year in the Russian wheat belt and the worst start to India’s Monsoon season in three years. These factors have caused increased concerns that regions will impose export restrictions in order to preserve local food security, to the detriment of food importers.

Food security in recent years has also been harmed by the emergence of ‘just in time’ supply, where stockpiles are winnowed down in favor of a rapid response market and delivery system. Such a system works fine so long as abundant supplies are available. But the system is not resilient to crisis events, where the lack of available food in the event of yearly or multi-year droughts can have dramatic impacts on world food security.

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Last 12 Months Hottest Ever in US

According to a recent report by NOAA, the past 12 month period of July 2011 to June 2012 was the hottest ever recorded in the US since temperature records began in 1880. This period was also one of the driest on record with drought conditions currently reported over 56% of the US and still intensifying in many regions.


The period of intense US heat came at the end of an extended La Nina which is known for causing hot, dry periods in the US. However, climate scientists are now noting that both the heat and extreme temperatures are being intensified by global warming. This is a departure from past statements from the scientific community which was previously reluctant to link single events to global warming. The fact that many scientists are now linking the current heatwave to global warming is a shift that was likely spurred by the obvious intensity of the recent heatwave and associated extreme weather.

A summary of research papers investigating weather disasters caused by global warming was reviewed on NPR and provides a good example of how global warming helped fuel devastating weather events in 2011. And as time goes by, it will likely grow even more clear that global warming is having a greater and greater impact on weather around the globe.

In total, the most recent 12 month record period was a full 2 degrees hotter than the climatological average. This hot period is at the end of a long trend of hotter temperatures for the US, the top ten of which have all occurred since 1999. The chart below, provided by NOAA, shows this obvious and upward trend.


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Romney ‘Outsourcer in Chief’ Standard Bearer for Republican Assault on Middle Class Jobs

In the most recent ‘etch e sketch’ attempt to gain traction against Obama, the Mitt Romney campaign has tried to apply the label ‘outsourcer in chief’ to President Obama. For many reasons, this is comical, not the least of which is the fact that I’ve been calling Romney a would-be ‘outsourcer in chief’ based on his experience at Bain Capital closing down US companies and shipping jobs overseas since early this year.

Just take a look at the comments section, about #20 down the list.

What Insanity Looks Like

Though my statements were rhetorical, they were based on a very real concern. The current Republican ideology is based in the belief that policies strictly aimed at benefiting the wealthy create jobs. This is little different from the policy views of the Bush Administration which resulted in millions and millions of jobs lost, saw declining wages, and caused the worst recession since the Great Depression. This record, alone, should be enough to make Republicans reconsider their political platform. Unfortunately, they have not. They simply push the same policies that wrecked the economy the last time and expect a different result.

As Einstein wisely said ‘Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.’

But if Republicans doubling down on terrible policy positions weren’t enough to demoralize any thinking American, all one would have to do is look at the political and business resume of their presidential candidate: Mitt Romney. One would think that a Presidential candidate, someone who wishes to lead this great nation, would show a few elements of real patriotism, a few instances of putting the interests of country and fellow citizens first, of serving the greater good for America.

This is dramatically not the case with Mitt Romney.

Romney’s Lack of Patriotism on Taxes, Middle Class Jobs

First, rather than keeping his money in the United States, where it might actually do some work to support American jobs, he’s shipped loads of it overseas to foreign bank accounts, likely in an attempt to avoid US taxes. If this is the case, by outsourcing his money to offshore banks, he’s undercutting the jobs of soldiers, teachers, scientists, researchers and so many other middle class jobs created through government expenditures.

If his actions weren’t enough, Romney’s endlessly negative rhetoric is, at times, aimed directly at these workers, blaming them as if they were the cause of America’s problems and not its victims. In June, Romney provided us with a stark example of these attacks:

“He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

The message of Wisconsin? The message of Wisconsin was that big money can control a state’s political process so as to force greater economic pain on the middle class by denying the rights of teachers, police officers, and firemen. The message of Wisconsin was that a GOP possessed by the maniacal ghost of the John Birch Society hates the American worker.

Profits From Impoverishing the American Worker

Apparently, not only did Romney not seem to ‘get’ the lesson of the lost 8 years under Bush — cut government-based middle class jobs and key regulations too much and it deeply hurts the American people — he also seems to think that a lawless, uneducated America where homes and businesses are allowed to burn down is a fine place to live. And based on this statement, one would think that Romney supports the current minimum wage pay for policemen and firefighters in Scranton, after draconian cuts have forced devastating wage reductions there.

But even if Romney’s campaign rhetoric isn’t damaging or revealing enough, we have his past business record to look at. In short, he was CEO at Bain Capital, a firm whose primary job was to target companies that appeared to be at risk of financial difficulty, gain a controlling stake in those companies’ stocks and then cut wages and benefits, eliminate jobs, and sell company assets in order to make a profit. The fact that certain investment firms behave in this fashion is one of the uglier aspects of capitalism. It is a sort of predatory opportunism that tends to concentrate wealth at the expense of workers and the economy as a whole. In many cases, this loot and pillage ‘capitalism’ wrecks entire communities, leaving behind wasted industrial lands that will never again be revitalized. The companies that function in this fashion often operate under the euphemism ‘private equity,’ which makes what they do seem innocuous. But when looking at the process, it’s pretty ugly and harmful.

Even worse, it doesn’t seem those at Bain were very contrite about how they’d made their profits. Take a look at this celebratory picture and it’s pretty easy to see that Romney and his buddies at Bain had very little pathos for the American workers whose jobs they wrecked:


Bain’s Record of Outsourcing Jobs to China

But not only did Bain engage in corporate raiding and pillaging activities that wrecked a number of previously vital US communities, they also engaged in activities that shipped US jobs overseas. According to a recent Washington Post article:

“During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

In essence, Bain profited from wrecking industries within the US and then took the money and invested it in factories and call centers in China. To a company like Bain, this meant big bags of money. To America, this meant loss of family-supporting jobs, economy-supporting middle-class consumption, and deficit-reducing and middle class jobs-supporting taxes.

The sad fact is that these kinds of ugly activities do happen in capitalist economies. But it doesn’t mean that a corporate raider whose record involves wrecking US communities and using the profits to build factories and businesses in China should be able to run for President on ‘business acumen’ and a record of ‘job creation.’ Quite to the contrary, Romney shows that he is completely out of touch with the struggles most American families now face. A dire struggle he, in part, is responsible for creating.

Republican Spin: They Will Now Attempt to Misinform the American Public On China and Alternative Energy

Because the Obama Administration has rightly held Romney accountable for a past that involved economically destructive business activities, for actively outsourcing American jobs, and for a record of offshoring his wealth to other countries, the Republicans are now desperate. They are in the process of attempting to create a new narrative. And this narrative conflates a number of their implicit goals.

First, defame Obama as outsourcer.

In this new twisted argument, the Republicans will attempt to label Obama as an oursourcer. This is their best defense because it takes Romney’s glaring weakness and own terrible record of outsourcing and attempts to turn it into a strength by making Obama look as bad as Romney on this issue.

Second, attack the alternative energy industry.

Ever since Republicans have stymied funds for US wind and solar industries, they have been complicit in handing leadership in this key industry to China. The results of their failures have been the bankrupting of solar manufacturers and ceding massive numbers of manufacturing jobs to China. At the same time, Republicans make political hay by attacking Democrats for the failures their own policies and inaction have caused. And this is simply the argument of saboteurs and those who have made careers out of blaming the victim.

For example, for years, Republicans looked the other way as China dumped solar panels at lower than the cost of production on the US market. Cynical monied interests shorted these industries at the same time. When Solyndra, unable to compete under market conditions of unfair dumping and investor flight, went bankrupt, the Republicans rushed in to blame the victim, trying to label it another Enron.

Now, Republicans are attempting to capitalize on a condition their policies created in order to blame Obama for outsourcing.

First, they have labeled an economic condition they caused — flight of wind and solar industry jobs to China — ‘outsourcing.’ Second, they are blaming Obama for loss of jobs due to Chinese solar panel dumping. These actions are aimed at a final goal — fossil fuel market dominance.

Third, pave the way for fossil fuel resurgence in the US.

If Republicans are successful in their attempts to label Obama and to turn the US alternative energy industry into an abject failure, they will pave the way for increased US dependence on the kinds of fuels that will wreck our future: oil, natural gas, and coal. These attacks will also serve to set the renewable industry back decades at a time when it is most necessary to deal with the combined problems of energy security and climate change. In short, the loss of the US alternative energy industry to these malicious special interests will be both devastating to the economic future of the US, our standing in the community of nations, and a climate that supports a vital US agricultural industry.

Republican Failures, Cynical Political Manipulation and Blame-Making Requires a Real Response by Leadership

Because the issues have been confused by Republican political operatives, it will be unlikely that the American people will understand the causes of these economic conditions unless they are directly brought to light. It is, therefore imperative that Obama create a set of policies directly aimed at aiding the US alternative energy industry, creating jobs in the US alternative energy sector, and holding China and investment firms accountable for damaging the US alternative energy industry. As Republicans move to oppose any legislation that will have a real impact on shoring up this industry, it will become clear which side they are on — that of China and outsourcing and not that of the American worker.

One has to show these cynical attacks for what they really are — a disingenuous attempt to regain and concentrate power and to provide no help at all for struggling American families. IF Republicans had been serious about preventing US alternative energy jobs from going to China, they would have supported the stimulus, they would have supported the GM bailout, and they would have joined those sounding alarms about China’s trade war on US alternative energy rather than attempting to kill that industry in favor of dirty, dangerous and depleting fossil fuels. The pretense, under which Republicans are operating: that they are actually concerned about loss of US alternative energy jobs to China is laughable. And the laissez-faire and dirty industry supporting policies they would enact if they gain power would only speed US loss of alternative energy leadership to China and the flight of key American jobs to overseas entities.

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Rising Global Temperatures Spawn Worldwide Rash of Summer Disasters

Natural disasters spurred by human-induced climate change are ravaging the globe. Wildfires raged in the US, Russia, and Spain. Massive Floods took the lives of scores and left millions homeless in India and Bangladesh. In North Korea, a 100 year drought is worsening a decades-long hunger crisis. And, again in the US, a thunderstorm packing more than five times the energy of a normal summer rumbler formed over Chicago before ripping a 300 mile wide swath of destruction to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving 22 dead and millions without power amidst one of the worst heatwaves on record.



The above image, shot from space, shows scores of fires raging over the Siberian tundra where heat combined with methane seeps and lightning strikes to form a combustible brew. Massive smoke plumes bellowed from these fires intermingling in an Earth-spanning haze with fires all over the Northern Hemisphere. Unprecedented summer heat, five, ten, fifteen degrees hotter than normal fueled the blazes speckling the Earth’s surface like scattered embers. In the US, an enormous conflagration claimed over 350 homes and multiple lives. In Spain, the city of Valencia was blanketed by ash as a 45,000 hectare blaze roared through the countryside. Many of the fires were massive, covering scores of square kilometers. The High Park fire in Colorado, seen in the image below, sprawled to a massive inferno covering 235 square kilometers.


In Spain, Colorado, and Russia, the fires were the worst in years to decades. But that they were so numerous, all burning away at the same time, was unprecedented.


If the terrible fires raging over the globe weren’t enough, massive floods again struck southeast Asia, claiming lives and making millions of people climate change refugees. A massive flood spanning eastern India and Bangladesh left 2.3 million people homeless and killed 180. Rivers overflowed and claimed lives, often engulfing entire villages. More than 700 refugee camps were erected to shelter with the displaced. But the threat of illness abounded in the disaster’s wake.



All across the United States, much of the country suffered from dry or drought conditions. NOAA’s sensors showed more than 56% of the US toiling under various stages of drought, and more than 70% of the nation experiencing abnormally dry conditions. The signal sent in most places was the same: the country was drying out. In many places conditions were expected to persist or worsen over the coming weeks and months. This continent-spanning drought threatened the largest corn crop in US history. This crop was planted, in part, to help improve US energy security, providing immense volumes of corn for use in a more than 1 million barrel per day ethanol industry, a key bastion against oil imports. Should this crop be hampered by drought it could harm both US energy security and world-wide food security.


Perhaps most tragically, North Korea which has suffered from sporadic hunger and famine for more than a decade, is now experiencing the worst drought conditions in 100 years. The drought, caused by temperatures more than 8 degrees higher than summer averages, became so severe that North Korean soldiers were dispatched to aid in the watering of crops. According to the UN, this ongoing drought threatens more than 3.5 million people with starvation.

The Derecho

Returning to the US, an unprecedented and powerful storm that many compared to an inland hurricane spawned just west of Chicago on Friday. Fueled by atmospheric instability and temperatures that, in some places, measured over 115 degrees Fahrenheit, this storm blossomed into a monstrous system spanning as much as 300 miles along its intense gust front. The storm ejected powerful volleys of lightning, torrential downpours, and winds that in some cases exceeded 80 miles per hour. Ripping through Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, and New Jersey, this unprecedented storm knocked out power to millions of customers, uprooted and ripped the tops off trees, and killed more than 22 people. The intensity of this storm was equally excessive, measuring more than five times the energy of a normal thunderstorm on the storm intensity index.


Looking at the above image, it is easy to see why so many meteorologists compared this storm to an inland hurricane.

Severe Impacts of Global Warming Happening Now

Given all this terrible warmth, drought, fire, and weather, it is increasingly clear that the conditions climate scientists have warned us about are happening now. In fact, many scientists are saying just that. In an interview on PBS, Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research stated:

I don’t think there has been anything quite like this before. The odds are changing for these to occur with the global warming from the human influences on climate. You look out the window and you see climate change in action.”


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Greenland Ice Sheet on Verge of Rapid Melt


Greenland is beginning to succumb to amplifying climate feedbacks. In short, what this means, is rising seas and the loss of one of Earth’s key cooling mechanisms.

According to polar researchers, Greenland is poised to break melt records again this year and is fast approaching a dangerous ‘tipping point’ after which the ice sheet will go into rapid decline. These research findings not only show record melt, but also a rapid reduction in the reflectivity of the ice sheet. Loss of reflectivity is critical because the primary reason the ice sheet remains cool is due to its ability to reflect solar radiation. Now, a surface covered with melt lakes and soot is absorbing more of the sun’s light and heat, heralding the beginning of rapid melt.

The primary driver of the Greenland melt, however, is human greenhouse gas emissions. Just this year, some places in the Arctic measured CO2 at records of over 400 ppm. Average CO2 worldwide is currently near 397 ppm. This is well above the safe range recommended by scientists at 350 ppm.

In the geologic past, when CO2 has reached 400 ppm, sea levels have tended to rise anywhere from 15 to 75 feet. Substantial melt in Greenland could contribute massive volumes of water to the world’s oceans, speeding sea level rise as CO2 heats the world. Such an event would likely make current scientific estimates of 1-4 feet of sea level rise by the end of this century seem extremely conservative, especially considering the fact that the same scientists expect CO2 to measure between 600 and 900 ppm CO2 and up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit additional warming by the end of this century.

It is important to note that there is no record of CO2 rise occurring at such a rapid pace in all the Earth’s history. Similar increases in CO2 have tended to occur over the course of a thousand years or more. The current rapid increase in CO2 caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is an order of magnitude faster and, therefore, much more dangerous. Both the oceans and the climate system have little or no time to respond to this rapid forcing. With such an unprecedented increase of such powerful, heat-trapping, gasses we should expect rapid, violent, and unpredictable changes to the world’s climate, oceans, weather, and glaciers.



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Maryland Storm’s Aftermath

Powerful storms swept through Maryland Friday after a record heatwave causing wide-spread damage and power outages. You can view the second half of this video here:


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