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CLIMATE CRASH? July 20, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Global Warming (climate change), Humankind/Planet Earth.
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Climate Science is not an easy. Climate is a complex with a many dynamic, often interrelated, variables. There are straws in the wind suggesting that things are getting serious.

The latest news from Greenland, in relation to the break off of ice from the Petermann Glacier may indicate things are worst that what many supposed them to be.Common Dreams reports what many of the mainstream media do not. They report:

A massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off one of Greenland’s major glaciers — a development which scientists say is due to alarming warming in the region.

The iceberg, measuring 46 square miles, is the second of its nature to break from Greenland in just two years. In 2010 an iceberg twice its size, one of the largest ever recorded in Greenland, broke free.

“It’s dramatic. It’s disturbing,” said University of Delaware professor Andreas Muenchow, one of the first researchers to notice the break. “We have data for 150 years and we see changes that we have not seen before. It’s one of the manifestations that Greenland is changing very fast.”

“This is not part of natural variations anymore,” said NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot, referring to the vast changes the glacier has seen in the past three years.

Scientists are concerned about rising sea levels due to melting ice in the north. The Arctic had the largest sea ice loss on record for June, scientists reported this week, and Northern Greenland and Canada are warming five times faster than the average global temperature.

“The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as the result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and atmosphere,” stated Muenchow.

Slate News Science does not go for balance or even-handedness between what is taken to be the competing views:

What is certain is that we will come to the point of no return, the tipping points, or that distance from the edge from which the brakes will not stop the momentum.  North America is experiencing record breaking temperatures, and summer is at the half way point.

Richard Sciffmann writing in Salon in relation to the fires in the South West US suggests permanent environmental change is likely:

Headline fires like these have become routine events in recent years. Light winter snowpacks, early melt-offs in the spring, and hot and dry summers were blamed in a 2006 report by the University of Arizona for a steady rise in fire activity that has been happening throughout the intermountain West since the mid-1980s.

These findings were echoed in a study published in June in Ecosphere, the peer-reviewed journal of the Ecological Society of America. The report’s coauthor, Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, says that scientists now have enough information to confidently tie the increase in the number and severity of fires to climate change. Hayhoe told Mother Jones magazine that, “Scientists found compelling agreement in long-term models that more fires would occur at mid-to-high latitude areas like North America.”

That is because there appears to have been a northward shift of the jet-stream, weakening the annual summer monsoon which brings forests in the region most of their yearly rainfall. When trees are low in moisture content and winds are hot and dry, you have a prescription for the sort of high intensity mega-fires that have been sweeping the American West. These risks have been compounded by spreading insect infestations like the spruce budworm. Drought-stressed trees are unable to defend themselves against insect pests which have been wiping out huge swaths of high altitude forest, rendering the dead standing trees into kindling waiting to ignite.

Climate change affects every location differently. The rule of thumb is that wet areas will get wetter, while dry regions will receive even less rain than usual. Projections based on a computer analysis of 18 different climate models suggests that this is already happening in the Southwest, and that the region will get progressively drier and hotter in coming decades.

In much of the Southwest this year, there is no sign yet of the annual summer monsoon, temperature records are being broken, wells and springs are drying out, irrigation ditches are bone dry, farm crops are withering.

Arid spells are nothing new there. Tree ring data going back thousands of years reveals that hot and dry periods have alternated with cooler, wetter times. A decades-long drought is believed to have caused the historic migration of the native Anasazi people from western New Mexico and Arizona to the more hospitable Rio Grande valley in the late 12th and 13th centuries. Yet curiously there is no evidence that this period witnessed the massive fires that we are seeing today. Forest researchers say that is because the spate of recent fires is not just the product of global warming, but also, ironically, of the fire suppression policy pursued by the U.S. Forest Service over the last century.

If you are old enough, you may remember all of those Smokey the Bear commercials — “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” Well, America throughout the 20th century took the message of protecting our forests to heart. Aggressive fire-fighting policies were spectacularly effective. With few fires to thin them out, however, Western forests soon became thick and overgrown, an unhealthy condition that did not exist before humans interfered with the natural fire cycle.

The net result is that, when fires do start nowadays, the unnaturally high “fuel loads” can make those blazes unstoppable. Instead of the small, low intensity ground fires of the past, today’s wildfires are frequently raging crown fires incinerating trees like matchsticks and destroying virtually every plant and animal over an area of dozens or even hundreds of square miles. If these mega-fires continue, we may lose a large proportion of our Southwestern forestlands before the present century is over.

And many of these forests will never grow back. This according to Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Los Alamos, New Mexico who says that one of the effects of climate change in the Southwest is that many areas which once supported healthy forests will revert to grass and scrublands as higher temperatures “drive our forests off the mountains.” A process similar to the ongoing desertification of the Sahel in North Africa is already taking place in our own backyard.

The US is experiencing the worst drought since 1956, affecting Southern Illinois  and devastating agriculture crops:

I am freezing now, but the expectation is for a very warm summer. Aside from questions related to global warming there has to be concern regarding food prices, and what that might imply for many of world’s population.

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