If Republican Economic Policy is to Drive Down Wages and Ship Jobs Overseas, Then How Can They Hope to Reduce Government Dependence?

There’s a bit of an internal contradiction in this tired, old republican narrative that keeps being recycled. This narrative that derides government dependence and smugly assumes that their own set of economic values reduce that dependence. But looking at republican policies, it becomes clear that those very policies foster the dependence they claim to deride.

Drive Down Wages

Overall republican policy has been little more than a direct assault on living wages for Americans since the mid to late 1980s. Teachers, professors, workers, scientists, people working in the public sector have all been criticized as having wages and benefits that were too high. They, first, claimed there was a need for increased efficiency. Then they targeted individual groups, leveraging a form of class envy to target college professors’ tenure, teacher benefits, the pay and benefits of any and all union workers.

The result of this wide-ranging leveraging of envy to degrade the US middle class has been a lowering of overall standards of living, wages, and benefits for the larger American public. And it is this assault that has necessitated the US dependence on debt for growth for so many of its citizens.

Perhaps the most obvious sign that republican policy is directly against rising standards of living for the US population at large is a broad-based opposition to the US minimum wage. Republicans often deride the need for a minimum wage at all, much less its increase even if it lags behind inflation. And, at every turn, republicans have attempted to undermine the principle supporting a minimum wage, even pushing for a return to the dark days of child labor and children competing with parents for wages.

Ship Jobs Overseas

When republicans have failed to drive down wages and lower benefits, they have pushed for moving large corporations, institutional employment, and services to lower wage areas. This has occurred within the US where corporations have ‘raced to the bottom’ by moving facilities to lower wage regions in the south. The result has been a dessication of jobs in developed regions while the lower wage regions become more and more dependent on government assistance (explored more below).

But the most extreme manifestation of this policy has come in the form of encouraging businesses to move production to places like China. Now, US workers are forced to compete with foreign workers in areas that are far less developed than the south. Areas that haven’t even industrialized. This creates a major distortion in which advanced society Americans are forced to compete directly with slave wage labor.

At a speech to Bain investors, republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney bragged about how Chinese workers ‘lived in dormatories,’ shared bathrooms with twenty other workers, were paid 26 cents an hour, and worked extremely long shifts. In republican parlance, this is the ideal work-force. And it is this kind of workforce that is destroying the American standard of living.

A wise economic mogul, Henry Ford, once noted that, in order to support business, workers required wages high enough to purchase a decent portion of the products they produced. And so Ford paid his workers enough to purchase the automobiles his factories pumped out. The same goes for American society. If you want a wealthy civilization able to enjoy the benefits of modern life, work compensation must rise to meet that aspiration.

Driving down wages and shipping jobs overseas, however, creates another result — increased reliance on debt and public support.

How Republicans Build a Dependency Society

So now we come full circle. If job wages and benefits are always heading down; If jobs themselves, to greater and greater degrees, are heading overseas; then how do you still grow the economy?

There are two methods — expand debt and/or expand government assistance.

In the first method, credit becomes cheap and easy to access. Middle class workers, seeing their wages drop, turn to cheap credit to support families, keep their homes or purchase ever-more-expensive food and fuel. This expansion of debt creates a bubble that sustains economic growth for a while. But, overall, the unsustainable nature of debt comes crashing down and the number of poor expand.

It is a sad fact that the result is that people robbed of their access to the American dream by a combination of declining wages and benefits and debt dependence become a part of a growing class of poor and disenfranchised. The only agency, at this point, able to provide assistance to these people becomes federal, state, and local governments. Charity organizations and churches lack the larger ability to rise to this challenge, because the size of the problem generated has become so large. In the end, the result of republican policies, therefore, becomes government dependence.

Right To Work States and Food Stamps

One policy that has resulted in a devastating decline in wages and massive increases in individual independence has been the perpetuation of ‘right to work’ laws in many republican states. These laws remove the ability of people to organize and bargain through unions and, by extension, to participate in the wealth generation process. As a result, right to work states have seen wages decline and food stamp roles explode. Georgia, for example, has fully 19 percent of its population dependent on food stamps. In Mississippi, more than one in five people rely on government food stamps due to the work and wage destroying republican economic policies.

Creating a Requirement for Government Assistance

It is a sad irony that republican rhetoric and republican policy are at diametric opposition. An analysis of policy results shows the bald lie in republican talking points. In short, republican policy is directly designed to increase need, increase, dependence, and reduce an individual’s ability to remain independent of outside support. Republican policy is the very definition of dependence multiplying. Opportunities for luck and good fortune are reduced. And rewarding individual pluck, diligence, and hard work is taken away. In the end, more people must turn to the very government policies republicans attack politically — social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, public education — for assistance. And the end result of removing these programs while creating dependence upon them would be an explosion of American poverty.

For these reasons, and for a number of others, republican economic policy is fundamentally dis-enabled to advance American recovery from the worst economic recession since the great depression. A recession, in vast part, resulting from failed republican policies.

US Drought, Extreme Weather, High Food and Fuel Prices — How Fossil Fuel Dependence is Wrecking the US Economy

According to reports from the Wonkblog, the ongoing US drought knocked .2 percentage points off of US GDP growth during the second quarter. This figure is probably very conservative when you consider the massive impacts and total costs of this ongoing and expanding drought.

The historic drought has, so far, cost America more than 77 billion dollars, or about .5 percent of annual GDP. And with NASA, the WMO, and many other climate organizations now establishing a link between this year’s extreme drought and severe weather, the intransigent and carbon emitting fossil fuel companies, who continue to seek dominance for their dirty, dangerous, and depleting products, not mother nature, are primarily to blame.

If all this lost money were spent on job creation measures, it would support about three quarters of a million well-paying jobs. Such an investment would result in a big bump for US employment and overall prosperity. But that possibility is now gone as the money has been absorbed by damages.

Yet drought isn’t the only avenue through which fossil fuel related damage has come to the American economy. Other severe weather events have combined with the current drought to create the most extreme year for natural disasters ever in the US. This record year follows a series of increasingly damaging years since the 1980s. The damage just keeps happening year over year, even as it is increasing overall.

This year, total damage to the US economy due to weather disasters is currently well in excess of 100 billion dollars and the damage is still ongoing.

Moving on from extreme weather, we can shift to other harmful fossil fuel related impacts to the US economy. The first is the ever-growing cost of liquid fuels caused by a combination of growing demand and the depleting nature of a fossil resource. Overall, fuel costs have averaged higher than $90 dollars per barrel for 2012, the cost necessary to make fracked ‘tight oils,’ like those produced by the Bakken, profitable. At 18 million barrels per day for the US, the daily cost of this consumption is nearly 1 billion dollars or around $350 billion dollars per year, more than four times the cost of oil in the early 2000s.

Food also suffers from high energy prices and the stresses of drought. And with food prices rising due to increased energy costs, the public takes another hit of about an extra 50 billion dollars. The extra food costs due to drought were already counted in the 77 billion dollar figure, but they are worth mentioning again.

Even leaving out other costs from externalities such as the cost of deaths and adverse health effects coming from coal, the costs of foreign wars as a result of the necessity for a stable liquid fuel supply chain, and the costs of damage to US water supplies due to fracking, the total cost of harm caused by fossil fuels currently amounts to about 400 billion dollars for this year alone or about 2.5 % of GDP.

A very heavy blow. It represents the difference between the struggling economic growth we are seeing now and the much more rapid rates of growth during the 1990s when the weather was less severe and when fuel costs were much lower.

We can no longer provide a rationale for a continued economic growth when the basis for that growth is assumed to be the damaging and depleting fossil fuels. The very fuels which will make the droughts continue to be more frequent and more severe, which will continue to make the weather more damaging, and which, sooner than we expected, will drive the seas to rise and threaten many of our major cities. The very fuels whose cost, averaged over time, will keep going up as they become more difficult to locate and extract.

These fossil fuels, which are the source of so much harm, have now come to the point where they are no longer economical.

Links:

Earth Alone

High Arctic Temperatures Pushing Sea Ice Area Anomaly Toward New Record

It is unlikely that the world’s view of Arctic sea ice will ever be the same after the 2012 melt season. What was revealed was a thin film of fragile ice now at the mercy of rising temperatures and an ever-increasing number of forces that could result in ice melt, break-up, and scattering.

So even as seasonal re-freeze begins there is much inherent in this dynamic set of Arctic systems changes to take account of. In fact, it is important that these trends be tracked as we enter an age of uncertainty, instability, and messy transition. Currently, the story in the Arctic is shifting from record lows in sea ice extent and area, to the difference between past ‘mean’ values of sea ice area and what current observations can tell us.

It is important to note that all measures show sea ice area and extent below the past record low set for this date. And the relatively slow re-freeze of the Arctic sea ice combined with this very low value raises the possibility that a new record will be set. That record is defined as sea ice anomaly — a departure from an established average of sea ice area over the period of 1979-2008.

Approaching a New Record Anomaly

The above graph, provided by Cryosphere Today, shows not only the current area of Arctic sea ice, it also shows the difference between now and the 1979-2008 mean. It is important to note that this value is somewhat skewed due to the fact that sea ice has been in continuous decline ever since the satellite record began. So the 1979-2008 ‘mean’ averages not a base-line period of relatively stable sea ice. It instead averages a period of melt.

All that said, departures below this ‘mean’ are currently at 2.482 million square kilometers. This value is very close to the record set in 2007 of 2.635 million square kilometers below the mean. A breaking of this record would be even more significant due to the fact that the current ‘mean’ includes the two very low years of 2007 and 2008.

High Temperatures as Primary Driver

Looking at conditions in the Arctic, weather patterns would tend to indicate a greater spreading out of the sea ice and a faster re-freeze. Checking this value is a cloudy and stormy overall Arctic environment which would tend to trap heat. As this year has shown that traditional weather links to re-freeze have been obliterated by increasing heat energy in the Arctic system, a look at weather patterns alone can’t provide us with much in the way of reasonable assurance. So heat itself and heat retention becomes much more important.

A view of the graph below shows us that Arctic temperatures above the 80th parallel are currently well above normal — in the range of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit above what is considered average for this time of year.

The ‘mean’ averages — shown by the green line — are produced from temperature measurements from 1958-2002. Again, as with sea ice anomaly, this ‘mean’ measures a period of rising temperatures. So it is not a stable base-line. Departures from 1960s values are, therefore, likely 50% higher than the current departure from the ‘mean.’

In any case, a 10 degree F departure from the 1958-2002 mean shows a lot of heat energy still retained in the Arctic and generally failing to bleed off at the typical freezing season’s rate. You can see this delay by looking at the slope of the 2012 temperature line, which is no-where near as steep as the slope of the ‘mean’ temperature line.

Another way to view Arctic temperature is via the surface temperature anomaly map provided by NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory:

The above map shows that much of the Arctic is currently in the range of 3-11 degrees C (5-19 degrees F) above the 1985-1996 mean. It is worth noting that the 1985-1996 mean, though far warmer than the 1960s, does not include the series of record hot years of 1998-2002.

These very high temperatures show that a massive amount of heat is still being retained in the Arctic. So there is a high potential for the record anomaly set in 2007 to be broken over the next couple of weeks.

Links:

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.anomaly.arctic.png

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

Rotten Sea Ice, “The Age of Consequences” and Our Planetary Emergency

“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency. It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.” — NASA Scientist James Hansen.

 

Rotten Ice

So much has happened, so much keeps happening, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all the accumulating impacts posed by human caused climate change.

Much focus has been placed upon the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice this year. And this visible sign of the damage caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is as good a place to plant our global warning flags as any. Overall losses for this year have been vast and dramatic, averaging at around 700,000 square kilometers between all the agencies reporting sea ice extent and area.

But even this amazing loss does not, entirely, put into context the current condition of Arctic sea ice. David Barber, a veteran Arctic researcher, recently characterized the state of Arctic sea ice by calling it ‘rotten.’ In Barber’s parlance, ‘rotten’ ice means ice flows that are broken and filled with holes or vast expanses of ice speckled with melt ponds that inevitably bore on down through the surface. Thin, fragile ice vulnerable to the action of waves and weather.

And this year, Barber is noting that the ice is rotten almost all the way to the North Pole.

“The multi-year ice, what’s left of it, is so heavily decayed that it’s really no longer a barrier to transportation,” Barber says, describing how melt ponds leave much of the ice looking like Swiss cheese.

“You could have taken a ship right across the North Pole this year,” he concludes.

Barber notes that we are heading to a seasonally ice free Arctic by around 2020, plus or minus five years. Barber goes on to point out that the last time the Arctic was seasonally ice free was millions of years ago and that the current pace of melt is unprecedented in the geological record.

“Now we are getting there in tens of years, not tens of thousands of years,” he says. “And we don’t know how the Earth is going to respond because we have never seen such a rapid change before.”

“The Age of Consequences”

But we are already starting to see Earth’s response. All over the globe, fires and droughts are multiplying, impacts to crops are intensifying, storms are growing stronger, more violent, damage from weather disasters is hitting new records. And the weather patterns themselves are changing.

This year, the jet stream has shifted into a new phase, nearly permanent for the past six months, in which warm air is dredged up out of the sub-tropics and dumped square over the vast ice sheets of Greenland. The result was the most rapid melt ever on record for this great frozen land. The same deviant jet resulted in the worst drought in the US in the last 55 years, a drought that continues to expand gobbling up more farmland. Hope for respite from this drought continues to diminish as the west and heartland revert to conditions of heating and drying.

As amateur Arctic observer and sea ice blogger Neven saliently noted in his devastating assessment of Arctic sea ice loss for 2012:

“But my bubble has burst. I’m already watching past the minimum. As the melting season ends, it feels as if things are only beginning. The age of consequences.”

Neven is right and not just for Arctic sea ice. We have entered the age of consequences in which worsening and far-range impacts from climate change will appear and intensify around the globe. And, given the speed and violence of the human forcing, the pace of change shows potential to exceed anything seen in the geological record.

Our Planetary Emergency

A few weeks ago, NASA scientist James Hansen began calling the current climate state a planetary emergency. This fact, now ever more visible, should be a clarion call to action. And the ever more seeming responsible and salient environmentalists are calling for cuts and curtailments to world carbon emissions.

The time for delay has long past and, even if we respond now, we should be hard put to it, very hard put to it, indeed, to push through this vast and growing crisis. We are likely currently on a very fast track toward a melting Greenland and West Antarctica. And under business as usual carbon emissions, nearly 1,000 ppm CO2 appears likely by the end of this century. Simply put, a human civilization of any rough allegory to our own cannot exist in such a world.

To call the current situation an emergency is a simple statement of fact. It is responsible to identify this emergency and to urgently call for response. It is time to turn away from the voices who have for so long been wrong and to listen instead to those who have an actual window on what is happening. On what is likely to happen. And on what will surely happen if we don’t work to curtail emissions now.

”Our society, our civilization and how we live our lives – it’s all predicated on a stable climate system,” says Barber, who notes that the planet has undergone abrupt climate change in the past and could do so again.

“The take-home message for people is we are running an experiment with Earth’s climate system,” says Barber.

And the experiment is now starting to go haywire.

Links:

http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2012/09/asi-2012-update-11-end-or-beginning.html#more

http://www.vancouversun.com/touch/technology/story.html?id=7279382

 

Scientific Debate Over Arctic Methane Release Emerges: Long Tail Or Large Pulse?

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of conflicting scientific reports analyzing the amplifying methane release currently underway in the Arctic. Since this field of study is relatively new, it has been difficult to develop a consensus between the various studies and observations. But now, a distinct set of camps is beginning to emerge.

With the recent publication of a report headed by Katey Anthony, a scientific view has crystalized around the notion that Arctic methane release will be gradual, linear, and result in a long tail of amplification to human caused global warming over the time-scale of decades to centuries. This view, headed by David Archer at the climate blog Realclimate, has formed one side of the Arctic Methane debate among scientists. The result, according to Archer, would be a long-term increase in atmospheric carbon.

Anthony’s study focused on methane seeps at the edge of glaciers and at the boundaries of Arctic permafrost thaw. The primary region of study was Alaska, with some secondary research occurring in Greenland. Given this focus, Anthony found that methane emissions from these sources in the Arctic were double that expected by scientists. Anthony also found that methane emission was most rapid at the leading edge of glacial melt and rapidly tapered off after melting ceased.

The result was that the findings showed that rate of methane release, from glaciers and permafrost at least, is directly tied to the overall rate of melt. So, in the context of this study, your view of the potential for methane release depends the pace of glacial and permafrost thaw.

Analysis of Anthony’s paper by David Archer led him to conclude that: “the general response time of the system is slow, decades to centuries, rather than potentially poised to release a huge pulse of methane within a few years.” This conclusion is consistent with Archer’s view of a relatively gradual and linear melt down in the Arctic glacier and permafrost system. His scientific view, thus far, has been for a gradual contribution of Arctic carbon to the climate system with the ultimate deposition of a substantial portion of the 1200+ gigatons of Arctic carbon into the atmosphere over the relative long-term.

“The 1200 Gton C of Arctic methane hydrates and the permafrost carbon stack up pretty menacingly against our 700 Gton left to go, and the comparison is relevant even if the carbon is emitted slowly, or as CO2 rather than methane, or even if it is released into the ocean rather than into the air.”

Overall, this is not an entirely optimistic view. It is instead the argument for slowly amplifying Arctic methane emissions rather than large pulse emissions. The result being that the Arctic contributes a ‘long tail’ of amplification to an already worsening climate picture. Under Archer’s model, there is more time to change, but the end results of long-term human greenhouse gas emissions are the same.

Unfortunately, there are reasons to doubt some of the premises for Archer’s view. As already noted, Archer implies that glacial and tundra melt will be gradual. Archer also seems to imply that releases from hydrates will also be gradual and not necessarily breach the sea surface. But rates of tundra and glacial melt are already amplifying. Meanwhile, observations from some regions of the Arctic already imply increases in the volume of methane reaching the air with the largest methane emissions structures seen on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Some of these massive structures measured more than a kilometer across.

And while there is some argument as to whether these large methane structures are new or have existed over long periods of time, we have seen satellite data that show an increasing Arctic methane emission over the past 9 years. Heating in the Arctic has been very rapid. And we have already seen nonlinear melt in the Arctic sea ice.

Overall, the context of these conditions is for a very energetic Arctic environment. One that pushes toward non-linear melt, not for a gradual loss of the icy methane cap. The result of these forces have caused some scientists, including Shakhova, to estimate that it is possible for large methane pulses to form in the Arctic during rapid periods of melt and heating. These pulses, Shakhova notes, could be as large as 50 gigatons and could occur during relatively short time-frames. Since the current atmospheric concentration of methane is only 5 gigatons, and since methane is at least 25 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, a 50 gigaton pulse would have serious impacts for amplifying the already powerful forcing of human-caused warming.

The fact that non-linear responses to global warming have already been established in the recent history of Arctic melt would seem to point to a not insignificant potential for Shakhova’s view bearing out. However, this does not mean that Archer paints a rosey picture either. The two views represent a range of possibilities for Arctic melt and methane release from ratcheting long-term harm, to potential devastating releases in the relative near term — years to decades rather than decades to centuries.

Outside of climate change denial, this is the debate we should currently be having about the impacts of human climate change to the Arctic ice-methane system. And this debate, between bad and worse potentials, draws a dramatic line under the need for rapid human carbon emission reductions now.

For the near-term, years to decades, let us hope that Archer is correct and there is more time for the slow-moving human system to respond to the rather dangerous changes we’re already causing to our climate.

Links:

http://www.realclimate.org/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/09/27/501221/arctic-methane-release-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/#comment-494331

http://geosci.uchicago.edu/people/archer.shtml

http://www.skepticalscience.com/arctic-methane-outgassing-e-siberian-shelf-part2.html

 

I Can Fight off 51 Climate Change Denialists at the Same Time, How About You?

 

Test How Many You Can Fight HERE.

Historic US Drought Continues to Expand; Long-Term Forecast Shows Potential for Drought to Worsen

The historic US drought that has, for more than a half a year, plagued so much of the nation continues to gobble up more land. Last week, drought covered 64.8% of the US. This week saw an expansion of moderate to exceptional conditions growing to cover 65.5% of the US land mass.

This is the largest land area covered by drought since the Drought Monitor began keeping records.

Though some areas in the east received rains, causing conditions to moderate there, monsoonal flows have shut down for the west, cutting off a supply of needed moisture. The loss of monsoons has resulted in the west slipping back to a hotter and drier than normal pattern, intensifying already dangerous drought conditions there.

Overall, 6.12 percent of the US suffered under exceptional drought, 21.48 percent of the US suffered under extreme or exceptional drought, 42.12 percent of the US suffered under severe or worse conditions, and 65.45% of the US suffered from moderate or worse conditions. For the week, drought area expanded in all categories.

The drought’s severe impacts to US river flows has continued to impair traffic on the Mississippi. Recently, traffic was halted near Granite City and at the Port of Osceola. At Osceola a dredge is currently laboring to re-open an area that has been closed for nearly a month due to low water. Traffic at Granite City backed up after Lock 27 suffered damage even as the low and narrow nearby river struggled to support a backlog of barges waiting for passage.

Impacts to US farmers for this year are mostly finished. However, the persistent drought raises worries for next year. Some farmers are rushing to implement the use of new heat resistant varieties of corn while others are looking to what impacts will result from this year’s losses. A few shortages have popped up on the radar screen for next year. Most notably, it appears that the world will suffer a shortage of bacon come 2013. And though grain and cereal supplies are quite low due to droughts in the US, parts of Europe, and parts of Russia, an overall shortage has yet to materialize.

Two factors are currently driving the ongoing drought in the US. The first is a long-term trend of heating and drying resulting from human caused global warming. The second is the fact that El Nino, long predicted for late 2012 to 2013, is starting to look rather weak. The most recent sea surface temperature anomaly measurements from NOAA show ENSO in a neutral to slightly positive state. This means that El Nino in the eastern Pacific, a powerful driver of weather patterns, is currently very weak. Though the World Meteorological Organization is still calling for El Nino conditions to begin within the next month, others doubt whether this El Nino will eventually form.

A weak or neutral El Nino for 2013 is not likely to provide the impetus to drive out the current US drought. So with the increasing force of global warming and a failure of El Nino to provide more consistent winter storms for the US, it appears more likely that drought will persist. This forecast seems to have been validated by the most recent seasonal drought outlook which calls for expanding drought conditions through December 31rst of 2012. Such a scenario would point toward a potential for worsening US drought conditions in 2013.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/25/us-weather-elnino-idUSBRE88O0HW20120925

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/illinois&id=8816728

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/09/25/oink-oink-drought-to-cause-worldwide-bacon-shortage

 

Arctic Sea Ice Limping Into Seasonal Refreeze; Extent, Area Still Below Records Set in 2007, 2011

Last week, Arctic Sea began a gradual re-freeze from the extreme record low values set this year. Now, after about a week of re-freeze, values remain below the records for extent and area set in 2007 and 2011.

According to JAXA, sea ice extent is now 3.87 million square kilometers, nearly 400,000 square kilometers below the record low set in 2007. Cryosphere Today is showing sea ice area at 2.57 million square kilometers, about 350,000 square kilometers below the 2011 record. At the current rate of refreeze, it will be sometime in early October before sea ice area and extent begins to surpass the record lows for these years.

In total, sea ice area and extent are tracking nearly 4 million square kilometers below the 1980s average and about 2.4 million square kilometers below the average range for 1979-2008. For the date of September 25, both sea ice area and extent are currently at an all-time record low.

With the seasonal shift, we are currently beginning to see refreeze. But it important to put this refreeze into context — it will likely be mid-November before the Arctic even begins to reach extents usually experienced during late summer as near back as the 1980s. To forget the vast melt of 2012 and continue on as if we are in a state of normalcy would be a vast failure of rational thinking.

Please also watch this fantastic summary of the great sea ice melt experienced this year and over the past 30 years:

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/arctic.sea.ice.interactive.html

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

http://neven1.typepad.com/

Drought Expands to Cover 65 Percent of US, Largest Drought Area in Monitor’s Record, At 77 Billion, Drought 3rd Most Costly Weather Disaster on Record

Drought conditions broadened to expand to cover much of the US this week even as monsoonal moisture lessened the severity of drought in some areas.

According to reports from the US Drought Monitor, drought expanded to cover more than 65% of the US, the largest area ever in the Monitor’s record. A broad, contiguous swath of land from the Tennessee and Mississippi river valleys to the Rio Grand in the south, the Canadian border in the north and the California coast in the south all continue to suffer from conditions of moderate to exceptional drought. In addition, a swath of abnormally dry to severe and extreme conditions concentrating in Georgia and eastern Alabama parched parts of the eastern US.

Though drought areas broadened, monsoonal moisture, usually a respite for this time of year, did cause some slight reductions in Severe to exceptional drought conditions. Overall, the areas covered by severe to exceptional drought dropped by slightly more than half a percent to reach 41.07% for this week.

Much of the US’s breadbasket remained under severe to exceptional drought conditions. Farmers’ fields lay over dessicated soil. Wilted corn ears produced tiny cobs or no cobs at all. The monsoonal rains coaxed up a fresh growth of green grass. But the very dry soils underneath do not bode well for next year’s growing season, unless a long period of rain rejuvenates the soil this winter.

According to reports from USA Today, this year’s drought is now expected to cost over $77 billion dollars, the third most costly weather disaster in US history after Hurricane Katrina and the 1988 drought. Areas hardest hit include Oklahoma, which just suffered from an extreme drought just last year. Texas, also hit by last year’s drought, is showing persistent or expanding drought as well.

In context, climate change has brought one year of record flooding to the US, followed by a year of record drought. These extreme swings from one condition to the next are not helpful to agriculture and crop viability. Overall, the trend toward drying and swings between more and more extreme conditions is likely to continue for much of the US over the coming decade and worsening into the the 2020s and 2030s.

This year’s drought also shows the potential to worsen into next year should a recovery not come this winter. Overall, this prospect is appearing more and more likely. According to the most recent drought forecast, much of the country is expected to show worsening drought. Only a small region is expected to show persistent or improving conditions and a very small region is expected to show improving conditions. Perhaps, more ominously, the northwest, so far spared the worse harms of the current drought, is expected to fall into drought conditions over the next few months.

Links:

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/seasonal_drought.html

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html

A Cautious Call For Start of Seasonal Arctic Re-Freeze

Six days after the typical end to the Arctic melt season shows some pretty clear evidence of a beginning to seasonal re-freeze. JAXA shows sea ice extent more than 250,000 square kilometers above the record low set just a few days ago. Cryosphere Today is showing sea ice area about 150,000 square kilometers above the record low also set at that time.

Though it is possible for melt to resume, each day of refreeze makes that potential less likely.

It is worth noting that NSIDC seems to also be calling for the melt season’s end with its new record low value of 3.41 million square kilometers having posted on September 16th and called the final low on September 19th. This value of 3.41 million square kilometers is a departure of 760,000 square kilometers below the record low set in 2007 and an 18% loss since that record low year.

Total losses for NSIDC sea ice extent are now 66% below best estimates for sea ice extent averages in the 1950s, 57% from the 1979 figure, 51% below the 1979-2008 average, and 18% below the last record low. By all long, medium, and short term measures, these departures show a consistent and devastating trend of sea ice extent loss. Volume losses, according to PIOMAS are now 78% below 1979, but final measurements for September aren’t yet in. So we can, potentially, expect greater volume losses once PIOMAS issues its report for this month.

The Arctic has suffered a devastating blow from which it is unlikely to significantly recover. Sea ice measures for area are more than 2.44 million square kilometers below the average for 1979-2008 and more than 3.5 million square kilometers below the typical measurement for this time of year in 1979. Measurements are also still about 500,000 square kilometers below the values during the extreme record melt season of 2007. That said, thin, one-year ice will likely show significant growth during the fall and winter months even as average values are likely to remain below the baseline extent for 1979-2008. In fact,with values so low for this year, it is possible that a number of months during fall and winter 2012-2013 will see record low averages and that summer 2013 will emerge more fragile than even 2012.

These measurements and assessments, if nothing else, show that this refreeze is just a small respite in a much larger melt trend that has been ongoing since at least the 1950s and is trending for an ice-free or near ice-free Arctic within the next 3-20 years.

Links:

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Arctic Sea Ice Melt Continues Past Typical Season’s End

Each year, as the sun begins to fall toward the southern sky, cold air begins to accumulate in the Arctic, bringing an end to the summer sea ice melt season. On average, this date falls on September 15th. This year, the 15th came and went. But a devastating record sea ice loss continues. A loss whose damage to the Arctic cryosphere now rivals that of 2007.

Today, Arctic sea ice extent reached new record lows for both JAXA and NSIDC. JAXA is showing sea ice extent at 3.475 million square kilometers. NSIDC is currently at 3.39 million square kilometers, also a new record low. Sea ice area reached a new record low yesterday with Cryosphere Today showing 2.234 million square kilometers.

Sea ice values are starting to now see very large departures from the record lows set in 2007 and 2011. Departures for the major measures are as follows:

JAXA Extent: -775,000 square kilometers (2007)

Cryosphere Today Area: -671,000 square kilometers (2011)

PIOMAS Volume: -400 cubic kilometers (2011)

NSIDC Extent: -780,000 square kilometers (2007)

Losses for sea ice extent are 19% below the record low level set in 2007. Losses for sea ice area are 23% below the record set in 2011. These percent losses are very close to the massive declines seen in 2007. With values now approaching 800,000 square kilometers, totals for 2012 are also now nearing the 1.1 million square kilometer losses experienced in 2007. At current rates of loss, it seems unlikely that 2012 will break much more than 800,000 square kilometers below past records. However, as the days go by, the 2012 melt season continues to surprise.

It appears that above average temperatures for this time of year are at least partially responsible for the ongoing melt. During a time when temperatures should be rapidly falling, they are, instead, remaining about level. Current average temperatures for the Arctic environment above the 80th parallel are now about -1.5 degrees Celsius. Though this temperature is below the freezing point of fresh water, salt water tends to freeze at -2 degrees Celsius. The result is that the balance of the Arctic environment is still tipped toward melting.

This sustained high temperature trend can be viewed in the graph below, provided by the Danish Meteorological Institute:

And you can see well enough that these temperatures are becoming more and more anomalous as September continues.

In addition, it is worth noting that weather conditions do not appear to particularly favor melt. In fact, we’ve just passed through a set of conditions that would have favored stabilization or freezing in a normal Arctic year. So it would seem that increasing heat content in the Arctic environment is the most likely culprit for this year’s melt.

Before I close out this blog for the evening, I’d like to let you know that I’m in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a one week vacation with family. We’re currently renting a beach house on the ocean and, for whatever reason, the beach directly in front of the house is terribly eroded. Only a small dune protects the house from what seems to be a hungry sea. In addition, at high tide, twice each day, the ocean waves come lapping up against the dunes. So, with each passing high tide, more and more sand is washed out to sea.

Earlier today, my wife and I went for a walk along the shore. On this particular walk we encountered not less than five homes which appear to have sustained damage from the encroaching seas. A number of other homes shelter behind sea walls. One house had an enormous pile of sand dumped in front of its property. It seemed that this sand had been deposited there by a dump truck as a measure to prevent an inflow of the encroaching seas.

A large tide pool had formed directly in front of some of these imperiled homes, replacing a normal dune line and undercutting beach walkways.

I’ll do my best to get pictures for tomorrow’s blog so you may have a visual reference. In any case, I find it somewhat ironic that a location my family chose shows such obvious effects of rising seas.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

IPCC Melt Predictions Left Behind By Arctic Death Spiral, Many Scientists Now Predict Ice Free Arctic in 3-20 Years, Rapid Melt from Greenland, West Antarctica Imminent

(IPCC graphic of Arctic sea ice change from 2006 to 2080-2100)

For sea ice melt trackers, 2007 was a long, long time ago. Things were quite a bit different then, before that record year obliterated all past records for sea ice loss and made projections like the one above seem silly and quaint. Since these predictions were made, we’ve lost nearly 2 million square kilometers of sea ice — an area nearly the size of Greenland and melt rates indicate an end to Arctic sea ice by late summer within the next decade.

If such an event were to occur, it will happen more than 60 years ahead of IPCC predictions. As an aside, it is worth noting that the graph doesn’t represent what a small remnant of sea ice will probably look like. The actual north pole will be free of ice and all that remains will huddle against the north of Greenland for protection and insulation from the insults of heat from all directions.

As the record melt season of 2012 has continued to progress, more and more Arctic scientists are validating a melt trend that is devastating the northern polar sea ice. PIOMAS has been collecting data that shows a potential for sea ice disintegration by end of summer within the next 5-10 years. And this summer a team of British researchers validated PIOMAS findings using satellite data. Then, Cambridge professor and sea ice expert Peter Wadhams made a stunning prediction that most sea ice could be gone by 2015.

Now, the Norwegian Polar Institute is chiming in. The Arctic sea-ice big melt of 2012 “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”, says Kim Holmen, NPI international director.

“As a scientist, I know that this is unprecedented in at least as much as 1,500 years. It is truly amazing – it is a huge dramatic change in the system”, noted NPI’s Dr Edmond Hansen. The melt is “not some short-lived phenomenon – this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating – you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what’s happening.”

What has happened is that nature is moving the goal posts faster than scientists can establish them.

The heat we are seeing doing work on the sea ice now. What will happen to it once it has finished with the sea ice? It’s not just going to sit there in the ocean for decades and centuries. It’s going to go right to work on Greenland. And we can see that happening now. According to scientific reports, the tipping point for Greenland ice melt is between .8 and 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial average. We are at .8 C now. And the forcing of human climate change keeps pushing that number higher.

This summer saw a massive new record melt for Greenland and it’s really just the beginning.

IPCC findings were for a very mild sea level increase for the 21rst Century. However, with the sea ice melting so fast and Greenland and West Antarctica next in the line of fire, it appears that these break-downs are more and more likely to occur sooner. Possibly starting within this decade and intensifying through mid century. It is more likely that a 2 meter rise or greater will occur before 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t dramatically brought into check. And based on where we are now, it would take a major effort to remove carbon from the atmosphere to prevent sea level rises in excess of 1 meter by end of century.

As we’ve noted in previous posts, a 365-405 ppm level of CO2 is enough to melt both Greenland and West Antarctica and raise sea levels up to 75 feet. We are in this range now. Yet with current emissions and amplifying feedbacks from traditional carbon sinks, it looks like we are on track for between 450 and 550 ppm CO2 by mid-century. At 550 ppm CO2, there is enough heat energy in the atmosphere to take out all the ice sheets.

This is a very powerful forcing that will almost surely have gone to work substantially softening Greenland and West Antarctica by the period of 2040-2060.

The goal posts are moving swiftly and it is fair to say that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are both knocking Earth out of its comfortable homeostasis as well as knocking the once static and slow-seeming study of climate into a period of rapid change.

Links:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/09/13/841881/arctic-warning-as-the-system-changes-we-must-adjust-our-science/#comment-478091

One Day From Melt Season’s Typical End, Major Sea Ice Declines Continue

Arctic Sea Ice extended its fall into record low territory for two out of three major indexes today. JAXA sea ice fell by about 26,000 square kilometers to touch 3.569 million square kilometers of sea ice extent. Cryosphere Today showed another fall in sea ice area to 2.24 million square kilometers, a drop of 23,000 square kilometers from the day before. NSIDC continued to hover within 30,000 square kilometers of the record low it set on Wednesday.

The end to a typical melt season is now just one day away. However, sea ice melt trends, with new lows being set on a daily basis, make it highly uncertain that melt will end by that date. Given the current rates of decline, and the highly volatile nature of this year’s melt season, it appears possible that new record lows for at least some sea ice measures will continue beyond the 15th. And considering the fact that a somewhat robust melt is still occurring over certain parts of the sea ice, there does appear to be a possibility that melt may extend for a substantial period beyond the traditional date for end of melt.

Departures from past record lows are growing ever larger. Here is a list (last record year in parenthesis):

JAXA Extent: -681,000 square kilometers (2007)

Cryosphere Today Area: -665,000 square kilometers (2011)

PIOMAS Volume: -400 cubic kilometers (2011)

NSIDC Extent: -750,000 square kilometers (2007)

All values are now approaching or have exceeded the 700,000 square kilometer loss mark and it would only take a single anomalous melt day to push the NSIDC extent loss over 800,000 square kilometers. The amount of melt for 2012 has now approached but not exceeded the record losses of 2007 when more than a million square kilometers of sea ice were lost in one year. However, percent losses are much closer to the 2007. NSIDC has now seen an 18% drop in sea ice extent. Cryosphere Today has seen a 24% drop in sea ice area. These percent losses are roughly equal to those of 2007 which saw falls in the low to mid 20% range.

Looking at the sea ice, we can see continued rapid losses in the region of the Laptev sea even as a slow growth is occurring north of Canada and Alaska. The balance between the melt and freeze in these respective regions will likely determine losses or gains in sea ice over the days to come.

Temperatures for the region above the 80th parallel continue to show a slow decline. But the rate of drop is much, much slower than normal for this time of year. Last week temperatures were about 3 degrees C above average for this time of year. Now, they are about 4 degrees C above average. This slow rate of temperature decline combined with a number of influences likely transporting heat energy into the Arctic are likely contributing to continued ice sheet declines so late in the season. However, the underlying factor for all these extreme and unprecedented events continues to be human caused global warming.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/arctic.sea.ice.interactive.html

http://nsidc.org/

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

 

And just for fun… I’ve posted this relevant video for Rocketboom. Enjoy:

Romney, in Apology Tour of Lies, Seeks to Profit Politically From Harm to Americans

Ever since extremist-perpetrated attacks on US Embassies in the Middle East began, Romney has endlessly accused Obama of ‘apologizing for America.’ And despite every fact-checker across the political spectrum calling Romney a ‘liar, liar, pants on fire,’ he has continued to repeat this false statement over and over again.

The irresponsibility of Romney’s use of harm and danger to Americans as a political football is difficult to over-emphasize. Political adults, left and right, set aside partisan bickering to present a united front to America’s enemies at a time of national crisis, and especially during a time when war-like violence is being waged against America’s citizens abroad. The reason for presenting a unified front to our enemies is that it serves to deter further assault. It shows that we are resolved. That we will not back down. That we are not divided one against the other and, therefore, easy to take advantage of as a nation.

Romney has decidedly failed in this most basic act of patriotism. And in doing so, he empowers our enemies.

So far, at least nine Americans have been killed in this rash of unconscionable violence. We will never know how many of the attackers felt empowered by the fact that a man who could be President stood apart from those condemning the violence and instead leveled a rhetorical assault against our Commander-in-Chief. We will never know how much the crisis has been enflamed by his verbal attacks. Nor will we know how much damage he has done to the institution of the President and of national defense in his failure to behave responsibly.

Had his political attacks been true, there could, at least, be a shred of excuse for Romney’s vicious assault on US foreign policy. But Romney, in a propagandist and vitriolic manner has endlessly repeated a lie. Only in Romney’s insane political conversation with an invisible Obama in an empty chair has Obama apologized for America. Only Romney’s imaginary straw-man Obama which is as unreal as Romney’s sense of how to employ political speech to defend American interests or to defuse dangerous situations abroad. Yet now, the image grows even darker. For the empty seat Romney hurls his insults at may well harbor the ghost of an American diplomat.

If Romney were a soldier he would be placed under arrest for insubordination and risking the safety of the unit during a time of war. Instead, Romney plays the part of a chicken-hawk politician who, in a far safer position than any of the brave diplomats at these Middle Eastern embassies, imagines himself to possess a knowledge of foreign policy as great as a whale compared to its ant actuality.

And so he blunders about in a fierce, horrible, Godzilla-like fashion, leaving in his wake a bizarre and grotesque wreckage. And so his loose-cannon antics do their damage without a shred of accountability or repercussion.

During the writing of this blog, two more Americans have died. Two more American lives lost amounting to nothing more than a political tool for Romney’s personal advancement. As Americans we should not allow such crass and heartless political profiteering to the detriment of national security. As Americans we should not stand by and let a person of such high position use the national narrative and the political process for such a hollow personal gain. As Americans we should not stand by as Romney turns the deaths of Americans into a bloody political football.

Please join me in signing this petition to Stop Romney’s Apology Tour of Lies.

Halt the nonsense. Stand aside. And give America’s foreign policy and national security professionals a chance to do their work.

Arctic Methane Concentration for August 2012 Shows Jump From August 2011, Part of Larger Arctic Trend

Satellite observations from the University of Maryland are showing strong increases in Arctic methane concentration between August 2011 and August 2012. In our first monthly assessment of these differences, we will analyze their strength as well as the possible implications for Arctic and global warming scenarios.

The atmospheric methane concentration image for August 2012 is:

The methane concentration image for August 2011 is:

And the baseline image established in August of 2003 is:

This sequence shows that average methane levels around the Arctic for the month of August have increased by about 10 parts per billion (ppb) since last year and 20 ppb since the record began in 2008. Values for much of the Arctic in August have ranged between 1840 and 1860 ppb this year as compared to 1830 to 1850 ppb last year and 1820 to 1840 ppb in 2003.

The highest concentrations of methane were found in Siberia and extreme northern Europe with Alaska, Canada, and points in the Arctic Ocean showing elevated levels as well.

As we can see from these satellite observations, the trend since August of 2003 has been for increasing methane concentrations in the Arctic. Methane is much more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. So this methane increase in the Arctic is adding heating on top of an already increasing CO2 forcing. And though the amount of additional methane for the month of August does not approach the additional forcing of human CO2 emissions, the rate of increase has jumped by an order of magnitude. The result is that the extra methane forcing from 2011 to 2012 in the Arctic environment is equal to about .25 to 1 ppm CO2, adding between 12% and 50% on top of the CO2 increase in the same period. It is worth noting that most of this increase is local to the Arctic environment, so the effect on overall global warming would be less.

But, perhaps, of greatest concern is the fact that the increase in one year — from 2011 to 2012, is equivalent to the entire increase of the eight years spanning 2003-2011. Any similar jump would result in an increase in the methane forcing to possibly exceed the rate of increase in the CO2 forcing. Adding such an effect to loss of reflectivity due to sea ice and snow cover melt would result in greatly increased Arctic heating along with a number of worsening extreme weather and glacial melting effects far exceeding the impacts we see today.

The primary driver of Arctic methane release is a warming climate caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. As ice melts, methane is released from Arctic tundra and soils frozen for thousands, tens of thousands and, sometimes, millions of years. In addition, as seas warm, methane hydrates destabilize and bubble up from the sea bed. Heating is also amplified as the ice sheets retreat, resulting in a loss of albedo, or reflectivity. Dark seas and darker land masses absorb more of the sun’s radiation, causing more warming in turn. The effect returns again to do work liberating more methane and CO2 which again results in more heat.

This is a powerful feedback loop that is enhancing warming in the Arctic while adding more greenhouse gasses to Earth’s atmosphere. The above methane data, provided by the University of Maryland, provides us with one more way of measuring the heat amplification going on in the Arctic.

Learn more about amplifying feedbacks in the Arctic here.

Links:

http://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/ARCTpolar2003.08._AIRS_CH4_400.jpg

Drought Conditions Broaden; 64% of US Now Experiencing Drought

Over the past week, drought conditions in the US broadened, covering more land area. Overall, 64% of the US is now suffering from some level of drought. Extreme and exceptional drought conditions persisted with only a slightly smaller area, 21.09% of the US, experiencing these conditions.

Cooler air over much of the US has brought some relief. Wetter conditions have also mitigated some drought in the eastern part of the country. However, drier fall conditions for large swaths of the country seem to be taking back much of this benefit. Overall, conditions in the eastern US improved with areas around the immediate lower Mississippi valley improving as well. However, drought conditions expanded through much of the west-central and western US.

Food conditions, though bad, appear to have stabilized at a level short of a crisis. Corn prices have come down about 10% from record highs in August. Meanwhile, wheat prices are still about 50% higher than they were before the drought. Droughts in Europe and Russia as well as a late start to India’s Monsoon Season have resulted in stresses to world food availability and pushed global prices higher. Though stabilized somewhat, the world food situation is still tenuous and fragile. Any further crisis or impacts would likely have detrimental effects.

Regarding the most recent food market report from the USDA, Sebastien Techer, a grains analyst noted: “It’s not a bold report. In the USDA’s view, the situation is not worse than last month. But we know that there is the potential for a downward revision.”

Over the next five days, a storm system is expected to bring much-needed rain to areas of Texas and Oklahoma. Rainfall totals, however, aren’t likely to end drought conditions in these hard-hit regions. Over the next ten days, the west is expected to continue drying out.

In context, the fact that drought conditions in the US are still expanding to cover larger areas is worrisome. Long-term climate change dictates that the US will grow drier and drier, experiencing conditions like that of the Dust Bowl with regular frequency. We aren’t currently at that point in the warming picture. However, we are experiencing global warming enhanced dryness and extreme weather on top of a typical trend. So any normal drying event will now seem abnormal and much stronger. Abnormal events may result in what were previously 100 year or greater events.

The fifty year drought is still ongoing. Its land area is growing. And though the long-term forecast is for some mitigation, there is still no end in sight.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

After Brief Pause, Arctic Sea Ice Still in Record Decline, Science Begins to Show Human-Caused Arctic Melt is a Primary Driver of Extreme Weather

Today is September 13th. We are two days from a typical melt season’s end. And yet this melt season is anything but typical. After a brief period when weather conditions seemed to favor a stop in sea ice melt, melt has resumed. So, late in the season, we are still reaching new substantial record lows.

Today we’ve seen declines in both sea ice area and extent. JAXA fell 6,000 square kilometers from yesterday’s record to hit a new low of 3.585 million square kilometers. Cryosphere Today, on the other hand, fell by more than 50,000 square kilometers to reach a new record low of 2.262 million square kilometers. NSIDC is holding at near its record low set just yesterday.

Overall rates of decline are still a little steeper than for this time in 2007. So given these decline rates, it seems that yesterday’s call for 1 or 2 new record lows may be premature and that another series of record low days are in store.

Conditions in the Arctic are still dramatically warm for this time of year, though weather patterns have shifted into a phase that should encourage re-freeze. This has been the case over the past week. But melt is still ongoing. The best conclusion is that Arctic heat content and ice fragility are resulting in patterns that do not conform to typical Arctic weather and ice response.

Departures from previous record lows are as follows (last record year in parenthesis):

JAXA Extent: -665,000 square kilometers (2007)

Cryosphere Today Area: -643,000 square kilometers (2011)

PIOMAS Volume: -400 cubic kilometers (2011)

NSIDC Extent: -750,000 square kilometers (2007)

BBC and a number of other news outlets are finally starting to report on this year’s record ice loss. However, reports from these news agencies are using data from back in late August, so their reports do not, as yet, show the full extent of this year’s dramatic ice loss. Regardless, these reports are useful in spreading the word about the highly rapid and volatile decline of Arctic sea ice. You can view the BBC report here.

Of particular note is that news agencies are beginning to report on the groundbreaking work of Jennifer Francis showing how loss of sea ice is affecting the Jet Stream and enhancing extreme weather events around the world. The first major outlet to report on Francis’s findings was Think Progress. But it now appears other outlets are starting to follow suit. Radio ecoshock has an excellent interview with Ms Francis here.

The extreme weather mechanism resulting from Arctic sea ice melt has received a lot of analysis of late. Ms Francis has called a lot of attention to the increasing size of atmospheric wave patterns that result in slower, more powerful weather patterns. An excellent visual of these weather patterns can be viewed here:

Extreme weather resulting from these patterns includes extended cool, wet, and rainy periods resulting in more floods or extreme snowfall events and extreme heat and dryness resulting in more droughts. The march of these weather patterns around the world is likely to result in greater damage to modern infrastructure, in harm to crops likely to result in food scarcity and increasing prices at the grocery store. These are just the kinds of weather patterns that the world has been experiencing with greater and greater frequency since the 1990s. The current loss of sea ice and snowpack in the Arctic is likely to result in even more extreme weather to come.

Links:

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.recent.arctic.png

http://nsidc.org/

Excellent Video Depicting 78% Sea Ice Volume Losses Since 1979

The above video graphically depicts sea ice volume losses as measured by PIOMAS since 1979.

Overall losses during the period of 1979 to this fall have been 78% of sea ice volume. It is these massive losses in volume that have lead some scientists and researchers to predict the potential for ice-free seas during late summer within the next decade.

Joe Romm and many others are starting to call these massive losses a ‘Death Spiral.’ When looking at trends for sea ice loss, death spiral does appear to be what is, indeed, happening.

Another video, shown below, gives a graphic representation of sea ice extent loss since 1979. Take a look at the graph on the right hand side of the visual measure. It provides a good visualization of where sea ice extent values, now 54% lower than 1979 are heading.

Sea Ice Extent Reaches New Record Low: NSIDC 750,000 Square Kilometers Below 2007

2012 is the Arctic melt season to defy all previous expectation. Despite weather conditions that would enhance-refreezing, melt in important measures continues. According to NSIDC, sea ice extent is now 3.42 million square kilometers. This value is three quarters of a million square kilometers below the record low set in 2007. In total, this represents an 18% decline from the record low values set in 2007.

Other measures, including Cryosphere Today and JAXA showed sea ice melting back to near record values over the past 24 hours. It appears that JAXA may have edged out its old, unadjusted record by a small margin of about 1,900 square kilometers to reach a new record low for today. Currently Cryosphere today is showing 2.315 million square kilometers of sea ice area (within 20,000 square kilometers of the record) and JAXA is showing 3.591 million square kilometers of sea ice extent.

Anomalies for this time of year are starting to get very high. Cryosphere Today is showing that sea ice area is now less than half the average for this time of year during the already low period of 1979-2008. NSIDC’s measure for sea ice extent is now about 54% lower than it was in 1979. These values are about 66% lower than our best measurements for the 1950s. Sea ice volume is now 78% percent lower than in 1979. By any stretch, these measures represent a massive and devastating loss of sea ice.

Current departures from previous records (last record year in parenthesis) are as follows:

JAXA Extent: -659,000 square kilometers (2007)

Cryosphere Today Area: -611,000 square kilometers (2011)

PIOMAS Volume: -400 cubic kilometers (2011)

NSIDC Extent: -750,000 square kilometers (2007)

We are now in the range of 600,000 – 800,000 square kilometers below record levels that this site has been estimating for end of season melt. Given these extremely low values and the current weather situation in the Arctic, I would expect stabilization with the potential for one or two new lows with a general move toward re-freeze within the next 2-3 weeks. That said, temperatures for the Arctic are still very high for this time of year. And it also appears that there is a lot of latent heat energy being transported into the Arctic through the ocean currents. There has been recent speculation that the salt water driven currents are moving farther north, transporting more warm water to the ice sheet’s edge. This mechanism may well be behind the continued substantial erosions of sea ice so late in the season.

In general, given the anomalous and unexpectedly strong melt this year, the strength of the human caused heat forcing of the Arctic, and the amplification occurring through loss of albedo, increased local carbon releases, and alterations of atmospheric and ocean weather currents outside the range of traditional climate and weather science, all bets are off in predicting a system that has been forced well beyond its natural range of variance.

Links:

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/

http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm

http://nsidc.org/

https://sites.google.com/site/arcticseaicegraphs/

How to Fight the Fossil Fuel Special Interests: Thirteen Steps to Protecting Our Future

(Teddy Roosevelt established America’s first Progressive Party. Called the Bull Moose Party, it ran on a platform of halting the abuses of industry, preserving natural resources, advancing civilization, and developing government structures that advanced the public good. President Roosevelt, shown above, riding a moose.)

 

In dealing with the combined crisis of resource depletion and climate change, those seeking solutions are confronted at every turn with entrenched special interests whose profit and power comes from a perpetuation of a harmful status quo. They delay responses to human caused global warming. They confuse the issue by meddling with the language and definitions surrounding the topics of energy and climate. They actively work to attack alternatives to fossil fuel dependence, waging public relations and political campaigns against the supports for wind, solar, electric vehicles and increases in energy efficiency. And they work to secure special deals and subsidies to a fossil fuel industry whose goal is complete market dominance.

When we look at the money, power, and degree of political influence held by these organizations, it can, indeed, seem a massive task to rip the fingers of these new robber barons from a strangle-hold on our future. But try we must. If we do not, the future steadily grows worse. As the decades pass, the twin crises of resource depletion and climate change ratchet down on us with increasing force. At some point, we lose the ability to maintain the functioning of a world civilization and we fragment into an every-increasing number of bitter and bickering tribes, harboring only a fading memory of a golden age that has slipped beyond our reach.

These may seem like far-reaching issues. But they are real and ongoing today. And we, even now, consciously or unconsciously, are making decisions that will drastically affect the path of our lives, our children’s lives, and the lives of all generations that follow. For we have come to a turning point in our age and we must decide whether to act responsibly or to allow the hope of civilization to perish.

There are many who are already engaged in an action to shore up our civilization, our world, our vital natural resources, and the technologies, practices and behaviors that will enable sustainability. These persons come from a variety of organizations and values systems. But the one virtue they hold in common is that they know sustainability is a necessary value of a healthy civilization. Some of these organizations include:

http://www.350.org/

http://www.americanprogress.org/

http://www.sierraclub.org/

http://www.nrdc.org/

… and many more activist and advocacy organizations and think-tanks.

In addition, we have the faculty of human science that is constantly increasing our understanding of our universe and our world. All these groups, both preservers and explorers, provide an invaluable service. They guard the gates to climate change. They hold back the worst impacts of fossil fuel special interests. They provide us with a clearer and clearer understanding of the crisis we are facing.

Together, they have formed a kind of holding action reigning in the world-wide excesses of industry. But now, a holding action is no longer what is required. For even as the climate and resource depleting crises worsen, the fossil fuel industries are again engaged in a massive campaign for dominance of political, media, and financial power sources. Against this assault, a holding action cannot stand. The gate keepers instead, must unite and go on the offensive.

Returning to the issue of fossil fuel industry abuses, it is important to note that they have demonstrated, through both their action and inaction, their complete lack of responsibility on the issues of human caused global warming and resource depletion. They have waged a public relations and political war against any and all alternatives to dirty, dangerous and depleting fuels. They have blatantly refused to do anything more than what amounts to token investment in alternative energy sources. And many of them have funded efforts to demonize both scientists and those providing solutions to the combined crisis of global warming and resource depletion.

Given this immense failure, it is sadly necessary to declare a public war against these special interests and to use all peaceful means available to remove their stature as energy leaders. Over the past few decades, they have failed to make provision for the future in almost every way while employing every means to cynically shore up their own power. They have caused harm where there was no harm before. And they have placed the future of human civil society in dire peril. For these reasons, we should raise a public call that all organizations and individuals with means rally to this cause and that they operate together for a common purpose — removal of these special interests from such high power and economic prominence.

In pursuit of these goals, the following are submitted as an outline for a plan of action:

1. Provide an in-depth, wide-ranging, and ongoing communication describing industry political, economic, and environmental abuses to the public. This PR campaign would need to hit all levels of media and government. Coordination of the various environmental, sustainability, and public service networks would be key to successfully managing this kind of campaign.

2. Initiate a wide-ranging direct action against new oil, gas, and coal industry projects. A good model for this is the action against the Keystone XL pipeline. However, the actions would have to be more broad-based and diverse. Similar to what is being waged against the coal industry now, but on a broader level.

3. Direct political action and lobbying. An increase in lobbying activity explaining to our government why these actions are being undertaken and providing a list of concessions necessary from industry in order for actions to cease (requirements for action cease fire).

4. Related to the above… Lines in the sand drawn on overall carbon emissions reduction per year, on incentives for renewables (at least four times the levels of direct and indirect incentives to oil, gas, and coal or 2% of public spending), and on government public communication in major media outlets providing education on the existence and risks of global warming and resource depletion.

5. Publicly outing major oil company stock holders and industry leaders who do not agree to the terms above.

6. Organizing a campaign to promote and protect the alternatives. Direct support for GM’s Volt. Direct support for wind energy. Direct support for solar energy. Direct support for smart grids and energy storage systems. Direct support for sustainability in agriculture and for sustainable communities. Direct support for vegan and vegetarian alternatives in major food outlets and other progressive measures. This is not just word of mouth, it is coordination with the new industries in order to give them a PR advantage. In addition, identifying specific areas where coal, oil, and gas can be directly replaced by alternatives.

7. Schools, schools, schools. Coordinate non-profits to develop a fund to put solar panels on public schools. Campaign in a ‘save our schools, save our world’ program that raises both the importance of schools and the need for alternative energy. Enlist teachers, students, librarians. Develop renewable energy and global warming laboratories at schools through their science and technology programs. Form local fundraisers to collect money for school solar panels and education programs. Focus on the schools in Texas, Oklahoma, California, North Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia and Florida the most. These are either key energy regions, areas that will be hardest hit by climate change or both.

8. Change the language to reflect the true nature of the problems facing us. Global warming is an appropriate descriptor. Denier is more apt than skeptic. Paint those who support fossil fuel industries and who deny global warming as irresponsible, short sighted, and harmful to society. If they are going to act in an amoral fashion. Shame, shame, shame them.

9. Focus on the media. Hold the media accountable for irresponsibility in its portrayal of energy and climate issues. Expand the scope of agencies like Media Matters to include the entire media on issues like global warming, climate change, and alternative energy. As an example, I see about one hit piece on the Chevy Volt at least every other day. These articles, the people who write them, and the news sources they come from should be called out, fact checked, and exposed for publishing inaccurate and harmful information.

10. Direct action to protest public officials funded by the oil, gas, and coal industry. Identify political officials funded by oil, gas, and coal. Publicly post information about them on ‘watch dog’ sites on the internet. Pick visible and prominent figures from this group and organize strategic protests against them aimed to call attention to their pandering to oil, gas and coal special interests. Identify oil, gas, and coal funding sources, organizations hired to do their political dirty work etc.

11. Provide an agency designed to protect the scientists. Provide legal assistance to scientists assaulted by fossil fuel special interests. Provide public advocacy on behalf of these scientists. Put people to work tracking every death threat, every instance of public besmirchment, every fallacious litigation against these scientists, every invasion and violation of their human and Constitutional rights. Track groups that have targeted scientists. Identify individuals. Target these groups and individuals with both civil and criminal prosecution.

12. Protect our future. On every Earth Day, each year, to symbolically communicate our resolve to protect our future, we could organize groups of concerned individuals to form ‘linked arm rings’ around the institutions, natural resources, community, state and national bodies and infrastructure that play a key role in preserving out future. We could encircle GISS, NASA, NOAA offices, Solar panel facilities, windmills, a neighborhood Chevy Volt, parts of our national parks. Our bicycles. Our local farms. We could take a picture and post them to all forms of media on the net under the header “Earth Day, Protect our Future, the things, people, creatures, and places we must protect to ensure a good future.” The idea is to create a ritual action, repeated yearly, that cements in people’s minds the importance of preserving the future. Have prominent individuals make speeches. Encourage people to write poems or publish blogs on this subject. Encourage only certain foods (local, vegan etc) to be eaten on the week leading up to this day. The idea is to cement a cultural value, to provide a symbolic action, and to create a basis for a new form of moral good. And, last of all, to force the world to recognize it.

13. The public elevation and celebration of climate and alternative energy luminaries like James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Joe Romm, Al Gore, and others who are eloquent, brave, or who have maintained the strength of character to directly confront our problems. We should also elevate and celebrate those who have come before — persons like Rachael Carson and John Muir or presidents like Teddy Roosevelt. Even as we look to the future we should establish precedent based on the morality, prominence, resonance, and moral bravery of our leaders. Many have sought to demonize these individuals. We should, therefore, fight to defend them.

For events to have degenerated to the level of direct conflict, rather than that of cooperation, is truly tragic. However, responsible people can no longer sit by or offer only token and fragmented resistance to fossil fuel special interests. The damage caused to both climate and economies is now widely apparent and still these powerful organizations work to delay action, to harm the alternatives, and to attack scientists.

The degree of self-serving insanity coming from this group has risen to the level of a narcissistic irrationality. If we were on a sinking ship they would be screaming ‘don’t man the pumps!’ for fear of wetting their fragile and overly decorous business attire. It’s high time we got them off the deck, away from the captain, and safely locked in the brig, all while the rest of us managed this emergency and fought to save the vessel from sinking.

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