Sunday, August 8, 2010

Climate change accelerates

The mentally challenged talking heads at Fox chortled about all the snow last winter as if it proved Al Gore was wrong. They're as quiet as mice now in the face of global climate disasters. This piece from Daily Kos outlines the current situation while Fox News nibbles on its usual cheese crumbs tossed from the Industrial-Republican Complex.

[UPDATED] They laughed at Al Gore - now the "Inconvenient Truth" starts to make its presence felt

Sat Aug 07, 2010 at 06:46:51 PM PDT

A few items from the recent news and a note to readers - "weather" and "climate" doesn't just affect your city, state or country. Open your eyes and smell the GLOBAL warming happening all around you.

Please follow me over the fold. I've tried to take a look at five or six current and very recent events that I think foretell the consequences of the sequence of inconvenient truths that await us, our children and their children after them if we cannot find the political and organizational will to enact major measures slow and then halt global warming as soon as possible.

ITEM 1 - A Giant Floating "Ice Island" Is Born
100 sq-mi iceberg is bornEarly on Thursday this week, the Peterman Glacier (northernmost glacier on Earth and one of the two remaining largest glaciers on Greenland) calved off a monstrously large 100 square-mile iceberg. The floating ice island is MORE THAN FOUR TIMES THE SIZE of the island of Manhattan in New York and at its thickest part is half the height of the Empire State Building.

Thursday's iceberg calving took approximately 25% of the Peterman Glacier's floating ice shelf out to sea in one fell swoop. The last time an iceberg of this size was calved into the Arctic was nearly 50 years ago, in 1962. Now, as this island makes its way out to sea between Greenland and Canada, its drifting at the hands of North Atlantic ocean currents and winds could take it into common shipping and fishing lanes.

Here's what MSNBC's "Science and Technology" page had to say about it yesterday:

[University of Delaware Professor of Ocean Science & Engineering, Andreas] Muenchow said he had expected an ice chunk to break off from the Petermann Glacier, one of the two largest remaining ones in Greenland, because it had been growing in size for seven or eight years. But he did not expect it to be so large.

"The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson Rivers flowing for more than two years," said Muenchow, whose research in the area is supported by the National Science Foundation. "It could also keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days."

ITEM 2 - Uh-oh! It Appears Earth Has A Nasty Fever Coming On.
Global temp anomalies - June 2010The news coming from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) report in mid-July was not good. NOAA monitors the Earth's temperature, combining both land and sea temperatures, and it appears that Earth has a very nasty fever coming on, to wit:

  • The six months from January through June 2010 was the warmest global 6-month period on record.
  • The three months from April through June 2010 also represented the warmest on record for that period.
  • And finally, June 2010 was the warmest June on recordglobally, and especially hot on the land masses of the northern hemisphere.

That first item about the first six month temperature record is particularly interesting to me. Why? Because what it means is that while climate-change denialists like Senator Jim Inhofe (MoronRepublican-OK) and the idiots who accommodate and believe him were having a great big belly-laugh, building igloos in Washington, D.C. and poking fun at Al Gore because of a string of "abnormally strong" blizzards sweeping up the mid-Atlantic coast of the US, the EARTH WAS WELL ON ITS WAY TO SETTING NEW HIGH-TEMPERATURE RECORDS!

And those "abnormally strong" storms in February? Also predicted by climate change science, at least as far back as TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO. That's primarily because warmer air has a higher "carrying capacity" for moisture/humidity combined with the fact that warmer temperatures lead to higher rates of water evaporation, feeding moisture for these monster storms. Yes, 1988 is when Professor James Hansen (also of NASA & NOAA - yes, *that* James Hansen) was quoted by the New York Times predicting much stronger droughts and storms:

He said the warming of the ocean would speed evaporation, which would cause more active convection currents in the atmosphere. This increased atmospheric activity could produce storms with 40 percent to 50 percent more kinetic energy than the fiercest storms known today.

Still laughing, Senator Inhofe? How about those 110-degree days in Washington this summer - how's the old "igloo" holding up, you denialist ***hole?

ITEM 3 - Whodathunkit? A 10,000 Year Flood Season In The First Year?!?
70,000 cubic-meters/sec dischargeSpeaking of those "abnormally strong storms" and the increased moisture-carrying capacity of warm air, this summer has brought story after story afterstory after story after story of heavy rains falling across interior China. Since the rains started in April and continue through today, hundreds of rivers have overflowed their banks. Reservoirs and dams have failed. Thousands of people have died and more than 100 million people have been affected by the floods, with nearly 10 million people relocated because of the rising waters.

Water rages from Three Gorges DamAnd in late July, China's latest "engineering marvel", the Three Gorges Dam stood under threat of failing. Just one year after completion and built to withstand a supposed "20,000 year flood", the dam was within just 20 meters of having its crest topped by floodwaters. To avoid devastating tragedy, officials oversaw relief flow-rates from the dam that exceeded 70,000 cubic-meters per second, much higher than the flow rate of the then-undammed Yangtze River that caused nearly 4,000 deaths and 10s of millions to be displaced in 1998.

Trash island at Three Gorges DamAnd yesterday came another story from the Three Gorges Dam. Now, in addition to the swollen floodwaters of the Yangtze and other rivers feeding into the dam, its superstructure and administrators are also having to deal with floating islands of rubbish - flotsam - from cities, towns and the countryside upstream. The combination is proving to be a real threat to the $25 billion dam project.

ITEM 4 - Worst Monsoon Season In 80 Years Devastates Pakistan
Still more on those "disturbingly abnormally strong storms".

Awaiting flood relief suppliesThis past week has seen stories erupting from the Punjab province of Pakistan (that nation's "heartland") of devastating flooding and disrupted food and water supplies for millions of people. Already, more than 1,500 have died and the BBC are reporting that as many as 500,000 people have been evacuated and relocated to higher ground, while another 4.5 million are being impacted by the rains and floods. This summer Pakistan is suffering the worst monsoon flooding it has seen in 80 years.

A meal in a relief campMonsoon rains continue to fall - already at totals that are 25-30% above normal - hampering the ability for Pakistani government and volunteer aid workers to deliver supplies to those affected areas. Bridges and roads have been washed out and helicopter aid flights are continually being suspended because of the ongoing strong storms. The floods are expected to spread further across Pakistan and already Pakistan's largest city, Karachi in the Sindh province, is suffering from flooding overflowing the city's rivers.

Worst-timed photo-op ever?In politics, timing is often very-nearly everything. Adding insult to injury for Pakistanis is the fact that their president took this week for for a trip to France and to England. President Asif Ali Zardari left Pakistan late last week, just as the floods began, to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and to make seriously-pouty faces about and then smile, shake hands and pose for the camera in the spirit ofrapprochement over this statement by the British PM in Bangalore, India last week:

"We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country [Pakistan] is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

ITEM 5 - Mother Russia, "En Fuego"!
NASA satellite photo of Russian wildfires

While the rivers and waters of China and Pakistan run wild, the Steppes of Russia are burning up under dramatic drought conditions. Russia has been under a weeks-long heat wave, the worst heat wave since Russia has been keeping official records (130 years) and in the past several weeks the dry heat has helped spawn over 800 raging wildfires (nearly 300 in the last day) that are burning through forests, peat bogs and expanses of the Russian wheat fields. Temperatures have risen as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit in the plains to the east of Moscow and over 100 in the city itself ("normal" summer high temperatures are in the mid-70s) for weeks.

Smoke fills Red Square in MoscowSmoke from as near as the outskirts of Moscow and as far away as 1900 miles has choked Muscovites with smog pall for days. Today, over 200 flights in and out of Moscow have been cancelled or delayed, with visibility down to under 50 meters in some areas. Earlier today, the level of carbon monoxide detected in the city were at 4.8 times the maximum safe levels. So far, over 50 people have died as a result of the fires and about 2,000 homes have been destroyed.

Smog/smoke in MoscowThe heat wave engulfing Russia has been brutal and raging since late June. According to one story:

An official from the Moscow registry office, Yevgenia Smirnova, told reporters they had "recorded 14,340 deaths in Moscow in July, that is 4824 deaths more [a 51% increase] than in July 2009." She said that the numbers did not begin to increase significantly until July, not in June when the heat wave began, but added "...the heatwave has certainly had an influence."

ITEM 6 - Congress Goes On A (Spineless) Summer Break - Without Addressing Climate Change & Still Without The Political Will Or Cajones To Do So
Harry Reid lacking political courage on Energy BillIn the last item, we have the whimpering of Democratic Senate Leader, Harry Reid. Minutes before heading off home to try to save his re-election bid in Arizona Nevada (luckily, his opponent is more offensively moronic than most), Reid declared any debate and/or votes on Comprehensive Energy Legislation all but dead.

As usual, the "Party of No" Republicans have offered nary a shred of possibility that they would come up with a single "yea" vote and Sen. Reid whined about that. But also the Democrats lacked the political will and resolve to push for any movement of import on this important topic, choosing instead to run home and hide from the political heat in their air-conditioned abodes.

According to Senator Reid:

"Many of us want to do a thorough comprehensive [climate and energy] bill that creates jobs, breaks our addiction to foreign oil, and curbs pollution," Reid said. "Unfortunately at this time we don't have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal. For me it's terribly disappointing and it's also very dangerous. So the President, Senator Kerry and I and others, large numbers of my caucus will continue to reach out to Republicans and work with environmental and energy committees, communities, to garner the support we need to move forward on a much larger more comprehensive bill."

Both Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California are now promising to bring legislation to the Congress after the summer break, but it's widely assumed that trying to move forward this close to mid-term elections will make the politics of Climate Change legislation a non-starter and that trying to deal with it in the subsequent "lame-duck" sessions will be even more so.

Frankly to Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi I say, "I'll believe it when I see it."

And so far, President Obama and the White House has been very loathe to engage in trying to move on any comprehensive climate change legislation. For lack of political courage to do what's right, and not necessarily what's popular, Nero fiddles while the Earth burns.

UPDATE: ITEM 7 - Hey Dude; Who Moved My Plankton?
disappearing plankton[A special hat-tip to Gooserock for this one!]

Late last month, NPR reported that the population of phytoplankton in the Earth's oceans this year is down by over 40% since the 1950sand falling in "8 out of the 10 large ocean regions". Now, they are microscopically tiny and you may not think much of them, but phytoplankton are key to the world's ocean food chains and (note: please sit up and pay attention here) plankton are responsible for producing about 50% of the Earth's oxygen. If pockets of the oceans suffered from large plankton die-offs, "dead zones" in the oceans could occur, with limited oxygen in the sea for fish and crustaceans.

So that's it. Is this a glimpse into our future saying, "WELCOME TO THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH YOU CHOSE TO IGNORE AND LAUGH ABOUT!"? Or will the Democrats somehow muster the courage to move forward with some bold actions at the end of this scorching-hot summer? Don't wait for them - get mad, get active and then get going. The Earth is the only place we've currently got to inhabit - for our children and their progeny can we please try to keep the place livable?!?!?!

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