British Isles Endure Endless Barrage of Storms: North Atlantic Riled By Human Warming Forecast to Assault UK With At Least Three More Powerful Cyclones Over Next 7 Days

British Isles Beset By Tempests on February 5, 2014

(The British Isles, upper right, beset by tempests on February 5, 2014. One storm is located over the western coasts of the UK as two convergent storms lurk to the northwest and southwest respectively. Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

Never-ending storms.

It’s been the litany for the United Kingdom ever since December unleashed her fury on the island nation’s rocky coasts. Then, the isles witnessed their windiest month ever in a series of storm events that threw about 100 ton boulders and reshaped coastal cliffs as if they were child’s toys. A month later, the wettest January on record cut off entire towns from road transport while flooding thousands of hectares of low-lying farmland. Now, with 23 straight days of rain occurring in January and with February hot on its heels, it appears that the UK may see its wettest winter in at least 100 years. 

The severe weather tally listed by the UK Met Office just goes on and on. Some highlights:

  • December was the 5th wettest month on record. January was the wettest. Combined, the January-December period was the wettest such period for at least 100 years.
  • There were more days of rain for January than for any month dating back 100 years.
  • For Southern England the period since December 12th was likely the wettest in 258 years.
  • Five months (153 days) worth of typical rainfall occurred in the 50 day period from December 12 to January 31.

This week, according to reports from BBC News, the most recent major storm of February 4-6 had cut off rail transport to a section of southwestern England even as coastal towns were besieged by mountainous surf and tens of thousands again lost power. The endless assault of wind, waves and rain also left buildings damaged, destroyed or undercut even as numerous coastal towns were left awash in the rising surf. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Dawlish bore the heaviest blows as a massive sea wall protecting these coastal towns suffered severe damage. The rail line, riding along the back of the sea wall, was severed on Wednesday when a section of the wall was ripped out by battering waves and the overlaying rail buckled due to loss of support. A train, stranded on the tracks due to this damage, was battered by waves for nearly an hour before the passengers could be evacuated.

UK Coast Storm

(Massive waves over-top the sea wall to inundate Chesil Beach in Dorset, England. Image source: Paul McEvily.)

The ongoing assault of extreme weather has finally spurred an anemic UK government into action — calling up the military and releasing 230 million pounds in emergency funds. The aim is to provide effective response to the current disaster in a long string that has now extended to nearly two months and continues to serve up powerful storms delivering heavy rains and hurricane-force winds with almost bi-weekly frequency.

Conservatives, who had been ideologically opposed to responses to human-caused climate change (which they seem to believe they can wish away), appear to have been caught flat-fooded by the recent string of disasters as the government had cut funding to flood prevention efforts by more than 10% over 2013. These cuts took place at the same time that some of the wettest spring-time weather on record abruptly switched to extreme summer drought and wildfires and as climatologists were increasingly warning of severe weather risks for both the UK and Europe as the globe continued to warm. Climate change, on the other hand, suffered from no such lack of clarity — battering England with a two month period of record shattering weather that is likely to extend at least through February.

Three more strong storms on the way

After so long an intense period of storminess, one would expect a bit of respite. For what the UK has suffered amounts to the fury of a nearly two month long hurricane. But there is yet no rest for storm-ravaged England. NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center, the Euro, and the GFS models all predict a powerful 950 mb storm to rush into England on the 8th. This storm is expected to be at least as potent as the most recent disaster with a wide field of hurricane force winds and heavy rains:


(The 48 hour forecast from NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center hows a 950 mb low centered directly over the UK on February 8th. This storm is predicted to bring hurricane force winds and heavy rains to the already battered British Isles. Image source: Ocean Prediction Center/NOAA.)

Just 3 days later, on the 11th, the Euro model shows another 950 mb or stronger storm ravaging the English coast. And that storm has barely time to leave before a 958 mb tempest arrives hot on its heels by February 14th. So as far as the 10 day model runs extend, we are still in a situation of wall-to-wall storminess of hurricane intensity for England.

Greenland melt, warming tropics, a slowing Gulf Stream and a Mangled Jet

So what brought us to this pass? And what can we expect for the future?

For almost two decades, climate scientists have warned that a combination of Greenland melt, a relative cooling and freshening of the North Atlantic near Greenland and a slowing of the Gulf Stream would likely result in a number of increasingly severe storms. In the long-term model runs, these storms became even more intense as the tropics warmed and the ice-berg effect caused the area near Greenland to cool. The ever-increasing temperature differentials were predicted to cause major instability. It was the likelihood that massive storms would result from this interplay of increasing heat and increasing melt that, in part, spurred James Hansen to write his seminal work The Storms of My Grandchildren.

More recently, scientists such as Dr. Jennifer Francis have warned that polar sea ice retreat was causing in a weakening of the Jet Stream, creating the potential for very severe weather situations during the Fall, Winter, and Spring months as well as heightening the number of more persistent weather patterns called blocking patterns. In addition, since 2004, we have observed a slowing of the Gulf Stream by 10-15% even as Greenland melt rapidly intensified.

These changes, by 2012-2013 appeared to be, with increasing frequency, delivering severe weather to Europe. During this time, the region suffered one of its most severe Winter-Spring periods on record. And with the English storms, the Italian floods and the Balkan snows, 2013-2014 looks like a disastrous repeat.

Unfortunately, we are likely just at the start of a period of increasingly severe weather. Greenland melt will continue to ramp up, the Gulf Stream will continue to weaken, the Jet Stream will undergo radical change as the center of cold weakens and bounces around the Northern Hemisphere, trying to find a home. And human caused global warming will continue to add heat energy, increased rates of evaporation, and instability to the equation. So we are in the period where the storms grow worse and worse over time. And this is a fact we had better get used to. Something we had better prepare for and do our best to mitigate. For it is not something a comfortable denial can simply wish away.



The UK Witnesses its Stormiest Months on Record

UK Met Office Shows Record-Shattering Winter Weather

UK Storms Destroy Rail Line and Leave Thousands Without Power

Paul McEvily

Ocean Prediction Center/NOAA

How Global Warming Weakens the Jet Stream and Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Cause Extreme Weather

Weakening Gulf Stream Causing East Coast Sea Level Rise

Greenland’s Record of Increasing Melt

Thousands Driven From Homes by European Floods

Leave a comment


  1. Fay Mowry

     /  February 6, 2014

    (Massive waves over-top the sea wall to inundate Chesil Beach in Dorest, England. Image source: Paul McEvily.)
    Should be Dorset, England.

  2. Burgundy

     /  February 6, 2014

    Excellent article Robert. Britain is certainly getting hammered.

    I was there in early December when the storms started. In fact the ferry port at Dover was flooding as I left on my return to France. People were stuck on the ferry for hours unable to disembark due to the high sea level. One ferry was stuck out in the English channel for circa 14 hours in very rough seas (normal journey time 2.5hrs). Our journey to the port was horrible due to the weather conditions affecting the already strained transport network. Britain is very overcrowded and next to nothing can cause a traffic jam or a queue. So eight weeks of near continuous storms must be having a major impact on the population’s mentality as well as the infrastructure.

    The storm due to hit on Saturday looks particularly bad.

  3. Steve

     /  February 7, 2014

    CONSPIRACY! I’m officially calling CONSPIRACY before I disappear in a black van never to be seen again. Why isn’t ANYBODY talking about the dolphins continuing to die? I’m surprised I could find this info on NOAA still. The only recent article I could find in the last month was a USA Today article dated in mid January but when opening the story it’s a reprint from August. Last years East Coast stranding total from July 1-Dec 31 is 1,115. Average from 2007-2012 was 146. So far this year we’re at 53. Last years annual total was
    around 1375 (Bar graph estimate). I wouldn’t be near as concerned about this if it was still occasionally being reported, the fact that it’s not, is very disturbing. Sorry for the interruption, back to Robert’s barrage report on the British Isles.
    FWIW, people here in the Chicago area no longer laugh at climate change because it’s been cold. The level of concern has been heightened by our miserable never ending winter. To date, this is the 3rd most snow Chicago has seen in 123 years and the 7th coldest. 59 inches of snow so far, I believe we had 13 last year

    • I’ve been researching the dolphin deaths and what’s infuriating is a total lack of evidence as to causes. And, to note, a major death event recently occurring in Peru with 400 dead dolphins washed ashore this January.

      I say causes because illness may be just the last cause in a long chain of events. For example, the recent starfish deaths on the west coast are caused by a pathogen that flourishes in warm, lower oxygen water.

      In addition to starfish and dolphin deaths we have mass manatee deaths in Florida that are caused by algae bloom toxins coating their food sources.

      I’m working on a comprehensive piece that I almost published today but I was frustrated by lack of answers. I’m going to beat the heck out of this thing and see what shakes out. Should have something a bit better over the next few days.

    • Steve –
      Your rant comes under what I call the “Crash of Nature”.
      Many people are watching this. It’s hard to compete with a crack smoking mayor in Toronto, and rich twits smoking pot on private jets.

      • Plus, when marine science departments have public affairs officers that deflect you from interviewing scientists, it’s pretty tough to figure out what the heck is going on with the oceans. I’ve been digging for months and the picture is very tough to put together. I’m wondering if any of these scientists ever talk to one another across disciplines. It would really, really help matters if they did. In any case, we need both climate scientists and oceanographers to be more frank RE what they are observing.

      • Steve

         /  February 11, 2014

        Bob, I shake my head everytime I see what the top 5 most read articles are each day. Most people do not want to know what is going on, so they read nonsense instead.
        Robert: I find it bizarre that dolphins are dying at the rate they are and so little is being reported. I didn’t know about Peru until you mentioned it. I did see over 800 died down there in 2012 also. I can find occasional reports about the dolphins dying in the gulf, but silence in Florida on the Atlantic deaths. It doesn’t make any sense. Don’t know if the Indian River deaths are ongoing either.

  4. Steve

     /  February 7, 2014

    Last year when it snowed for the first time for the winter, it broke an unbelievable streak of 335 days without measurable snow. The last two winters, I honestly don’t think it dropped below 10 degrees more than half a dozen times. This year, tonight will become the 22nd day of 0 or lower temperatures. We have two more days forecast this week to go sub zero. Our normal high is around 34 right now. In the seven day forecast, we are only forecasted to come within 15 degrees of that twice. We are a picture perfect example of stuck weather patterns. Our high today was 2. I don’t know how many days we haven’t reached 10 as a high. I would put the over/under at 25.

  5. Steve

     /  February 7, 2014

    Strike my last comment about the number of days that haven’t reached 10. The cold weather has gone to my head I guess. It appears that even though we’ve had a lot of sub zeros as lows are highs have reached at least the teens on most days. We’ve only had 8 days that haven’t reached at least ten degrees. I’m really surprised about that. My son has had school cancelled 4 days because of cold temps. He’s twelve and has never had a COLD day prior to this year. Even he has figured out that things just aren’t right.

    • And yet the last time the Great Lakes froze solid was 1979. With February here, looks like that’s not in the cards for this year. This winter seems cold because it’s the first cold winter in your area for some time. About 50 years ago, this kind of weather was pretty normal.

      Global warming makes the extremes more extreme and then shifts the curve toward warmth. So there are more hot extremes overall, but where it swings back to cold can seem pretty radical. Especially from the context of warmth which seems normal, but is not.

      • james cole

         /  February 7, 2014

        David Cameron dared to mention climate change in a speech about the flooding, I was amazed he was honest. Next day he hit the media with a recantation saying he didn’t mean climate change is causing the storms. In fact he admitted he wasn’t sure if climate change was effecting the weather. What happened overnight to make him do a U-turn. I suspect fossil fuel corporations called Tory Party head quarters and blasted him. Cameron is at heart a coward, as all politicians are. In the face of what we see, they turn a blind eye, like Admiral Nelson, but not, in this case, for the good of the nation.

  6. Robert,

    Great summary of a very sad situation. It has been very tough in the UK. Thanks for your reporting.


    • Warmest regards to you, A4R. Hope all is well and that you are weathering things.

    • Burgundy

       /  February 7, 2014

      We got some pretty strong winds last night here in central France and I’m some 300 miles inland. They must be getting it pretty bad on the French coast, specially Brittany and Normandy. It managed to rip the guttering off my barn, so some pretty strong gusts.

      Tomorrow’s storm looks bad for the UK with it forecast to hit Ireland at 948mb. Here in France it looks like we’re going to cop it on Wednesday with a powerful storm pushing its way through central France. And it doesn’t end there with the models showing what seems like and endless stream of storms pushing in from the Atlantic throughout February.

      Looking at what is happening, I’m beginning to think I was way too optimistic in my view that we’d be seeing major impacts by 2020, agricultural collapse 2025-2030. Add to that the fact global finance is looking like it may relapse this year and energy problems in 2016-17. It is looking like we’re going to be in dire straights by 2020 or before.

    • james cole

       /  February 7, 2014

      Read the comments below the main article. Global Cooling and the first stage of the next ice age is what has caused these storms. The advancing resurgent ice at the poles and other such madness is almost always some of the first comments to appear to such stories. You could laugh, the delusion of some people knows no limit. Show them a confirmed fact and they claim to see the opposite. Perhaps these are the paid Public Relations Flaks for big oil, they smear comments like this all over the internet comments pages.

      • Sorry James, there’s no new ice age. Winter is dying and what we feel are her last gasps. Might take a century or more, but on the path we’re on, the Northern Hemisphere is heading toward two seasons — dry and wet. The transition will be powerful and painful and will likely include a Heinrich event or two. But there are no ice ages in the mix from at least the point where humans started agriculture onward.

      • There is no “global cooling” or new ice age happening. These are stories planted in the media by the anti-science campaigners. Its a deliberate attempt to make it look like scientists aren’t agreeing, one that has been played in the media several times. What you are experiencing is as Robert say, the last gasps as the Arctic weather spills down south from the rapid warming its experiencing.

        The Arctic ice is seriously reduced and will continue to do so. Its actually at its lowest it has ever been in winter, on par with 2012 which turned out to be a record low in the summer as well. The physical properties of global warming is still present as our atmosphere still has 40% more CO2 in the atmosphere than the current carbon cycle is able to handle and this year we will race past 400ppm CO2.

        Chances are that the lack of the normally high temperature gradient between the Arctic and southwards that we will get a completely unpredictable jetstream unable to contains the cold in the north and the warm in the south. And we will have locked weather systems due to it also slowing down, so serious drought for months on end in some places and flooding in others. This year is basically showing us perfectly how the future will be but much stronger as temperature rises the atmosphere will hold more moisture and hence dump more rain for massive floods, dump more snow for conditions like the US has had, or just draw the moisture out of the ground like California has experienced this year. The constellation of these systems could be completely random, or perhaps new systems form as the oceans heat up and desperately try to vent some of this heat.

  7. Jim Botsford

     /  February 7, 2014

    Thank you for keeping us up to date. I should not be amazed but I am…..this story is not being told at all in the mainstream. I opened up several US MSM news apps on my ipad and took a look around. Nothing.

    Once again thank you for your hard work.

    • Burgundy

       /  February 7, 2014

      I’ve been watching the BBC and Sky news from the UK. There is plenty of “on the ground reporting” in affected areas, but nothing to warn people about the powerful storm presently barrelling down on the UK. It essentially looks like a hurricane and Britain’s infrastructure was never built to withstand such severe weather. And not a peep about the queue of storms forming in the Atlantic to have a go at the UK throughout February.

      The BBC actually seem to be struggling to find non-news to report to the British public.

      • Danabanana

         /  February 7, 2014

        BBC’s Chris Fawkes did explain that the ongoing lows are to stay whilst the blocking pattern remains… he went further to mention that raising Arctic temperatures are affecting the Jet and therefore the weather at local level. Pretty much what Professor Jennifer Francis says.

        It’s a big step for the BBC to make mention of Global Warming but let’s not get too excited yet because the clip showing this explanation was not shown on the main BBC channels but on the weather page on their website… hdding right at the bottom of the page.

  8. coopgeek

     /  February 7, 2014

    This is incredible to see what’s happening in the UK and Europe. Thanks for keeping us posted Robert.

    Meanwhile, California’s weather has taken a (temporary) turn for the better with a nice juicy “Pineapple Express” set to give us more rain over the weekend than we’ve probably had since the end of 2012. The trick now is to keep our eyes on the ball. The bright side of our incredible dry spell was that it at least got attention, and now things aren’t looking quite bad enough to warrant continued media coverage. Alas.

    NWS published a great graphic showing that while this is better than a drop in the bucket, it’s still a long way from full:

  9. BBC news – UK floods: Further severe weather across UK

    Video showing the extent of the floods across the U.K.

  10. ‘Worst devastation in living memory’ as Slovenia is paralysed by thick ice and snow

    South-western areas of the country have been hit hardest in what some are describing as a large-scale natural disaster

  11. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 7, 2014

    Colorado Bob lives & helps his fellow grunts march into the fearsome future.
    You were sorely missed because of your brains.
    I am very glad to see that you are still punching away.
    Welcome back -you are needed by your bros & sistahs in science.

    • GS –
      It’s a grim business , and an amazing time to witness it. Too bad we can’t read the mammoth bloggers as they compared notes on how their wild flowers were disappearing.

      • Why did mammoths and other large mammals of the tundra suddenly become extinct some 10,000 years ago? It’s a question that has divided scientists over the years. Now researchers from Lund University in Sweden (and 30 other research teams from 12 countries), have used new DNA technology to show that a drastic change in the dominant vegetation – from protein-rich herbs to less nutritious grass – could be behind their demise.

        Read more at:

  12. Amid Epic Drought, South America’s Largest City Is Running Out Of Water

    • Why Argentina can’t keep the lights on in Buenos Aires.

      BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—No one—not the electricity companies nor the federal or local governments—seems willing or able to handle the electricity demands of Buenos Aires residents.

      Since the week before Christmas, blackouts have been darkening businesses and homes (reportedly hundreds of thousands) across the city proper and greater Buenos Aires. Sections of the city, from a stretch of blocks to swaths of neighborhoods, were without power over the holidays during a record heatwave with temperatures hovering just below 100ºF (38ºC). In certain areas, particularly in the southern part of the Buenos Aires province, people were without power for weeks.

  13. The End of Snow?

    My bosses were generous enough to send me to five continents over the last 15 years, with skis in tow. I’ve skied the lightest snow on earth on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where icy fronts spin off the Siberian plains and dump 10 feet of powder in a matter of days. In the high peaks of Bulgaria and Morocco, I slid through snow stained pink by grains of Saharan sand that the crystals formed around.

    In Baja, Mexico, I skied a sliver of hardpack snow at 10,000 feet on Picacho del Diablo, sandwiched between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. A few years later, a crew of skiers and I journeyed to the whipsaw Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey to ski steep couloirs alongside caves where troglodytes lived thousands of years ago.

    At every range I traveled to, I noticed a brotherhood among mountain folk: Say you’re headed into the hills, and the doors open. So it has been a surprise to see the winter sports community, as one of the first populations to witness effects of climate change in its own backyard, not reacting more vigorously and swiftly to reverse the fate we are writing for ourselves.

  14. Climate change becomes a rapid, unplanned survival experiment for animal species

    In the 1993 blockbuster movie “Jurassic Park,” a sleazy scientist played by Jeff Goldblum quips that “life finds a way.” For real biologists, climate change is like a massive, unplanned experiment, one that may be too fast and strange for some species to survive it.

    Some animals are already in the middle of it. As Arctic ice shelves melt, polar bears are ransacking seabird nests to sustain themselves. Migrating geese are exploring valuable but previously unseen real estate, due to melting permafrost.

    But whether these adaptation attempts will succeed remains a big question, researchers say. As temperatures rise, entirely new environments are forming, changing how species interact with each other and their surroundings in often unexpected ways.

    “We’re likely to see different habitats form than what we see now,” said T. Douglas Beard Jr., who heads the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. “What we don’t understand is how these new communities will be assembled. So if you get a whole new type of flora, a whole new type of forest that no one’s ever seen before … it’s pretty unknown which species are going to be able to flourish and those that will struggle.”

    • And lest anyone forget – humans are also just another animal species.

      • ccg: also, if one defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems and adapt to environments, humans are not at all the most intelligent of any and all species of life, of all kingdoms. In fact, we may wind up turning out the dimmest.

        I’m currently betting on fungi.

        Vanity, vanity; all is vanity.

  15. Sharks –
    Sharks have the smallest brains , they have grown for 300 million years. The answer –
    One goes need a large brain to survive.

    • One does need a large brain to survive.

      Damn typos.

      • On not does need a large brain to survive.

        Damn typos.

      • I just assume people have autocorrect and answer what I think they meant. That usually works.

      • Nature says this ………….. Our big brains won’t save us

        • That’s pretty interesting that proto-sharks date back to well before the Permian and went right on evolving through it, extinction event and all.

        • Sharks SENSE the world. When a shark dies, it gives off a signal to all other sharks saying — get the hell out of here. Sharks can eat almost anything and they can shut down their metabolisms through long periods of low food all while storing food items in their bellies for later use.

          That said, shark species did go extinct, just not the super order Selachimorpha which, today, consists of 470 species.

          That order has been around since the Ordovician, 420 million years ago. So they are about as old as life.

        • According to Mayr, intelligence is a double-edged sword, serving as a tool for our survival or rapidly carrying out our own annihilation. Higher intelligence, As Mayr said, is a “lethal mutation”.

          “…With the development of agriculture, came urbanization, which may have weakened the power of selection to weed out mutations leading to intellectual disabilities. Based on calculations of the frequency with which deleterious mutations appear in the human genome and the assumption that 2000 to 5000 genes are required for intellectual ability, Dr. Crabtree estimates that within 3000 years (about 120 generations) we have all sustained two or more mutations harmful to our intellectual or emotional stability. Moreover, recent findings from neuroscience suggest that genes involved in brain function are uniquely susceptible to mutations. Dr. Crabtree argues that the combination of less selective pressure and the large number of easily affected genes is eroding our intellectual and emotional capabilities….”

      • I think the mental survival trait is wisdom, not intelligence. For you have to be wise enough to choose not to use some of the tools/weapons intelligence provides in order to survive. Some are simply too harmful and too powerful. Our classification, therefore, may have been a bit of a contradiction.

    • Or even anything humans recognize as a nervous system.

      Well, in this culture. I always have to remind myself it’s the culture.

      The scariest thought is: what if there is something about humans that makes us, or at least some proportion of us, unable to resist this kind of suicidal culture?

      It all comes back to taboos. We have all the wrong taboos. You may be right about fire.

  16. Time for another old song-

    The Rolling Stones – The Last Time (HQ)

  17. The story of Bitter Sweet Symphony

  18. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

  19. It’s Bitter Sweet Symphony , try to make some money to make ends met then you die.

    • I was obsessed with that song for awhile. But I was more focused on the part about being a hundred different people from one day to the next at the time.

    • Well I never pray
      But tonight I’m on my knees yeah
      I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah
      I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now
      But the airways are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now

      No change, I can change
      I can change, I can change
      But I’m here in my mold
      I am here in my mold
      And I’m a million different people
      from one day to the next
      I can’t change my mold
      No, no, no, no, no
      I can’t change
      I can’t change

      • Here in my mold? I always thought it was “mode.” Not saying you’re wrong.

        The lyrics have great rhythms.

  20. Oh, it’s a million different people.I don’t think I’m up to that.

  21. “Money is something you gotta make in case you don’t die.” -Max Asnas, according to the Internet. For some reason I thought that was Muddy Waters.

  22. Let’s go to Harry Nelson –
    Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talkin’

  23. .

    Harry Nilsson – Coconut (1971)

  24. Harry Nilsson ~ Jump Into The Fire ~ Nilsson Schmilsson

  25. Shall we muddle on ?

  26. Dave Clark Five – Glad All Over (’64)

  27. And now let’s go to Dylan –
    Mozambique —

  28. Speaking of Dylan let’s go to the Band –
    The Band – Chest Fever

  29. Speaking of the Band , Garth Brooks playing with “The Call” ……………..


    The Call – The Walls Came Down

  30. Speaking of the Call –
    There best effort ever –
    The Call-Let The Day Begin

  31. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 8, 2014



    Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life
    by Eric D. Schneider, Dorion Sagan

    Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics.

    This second law refers to energy’s inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time.

    In this scientific tour de force, Schneider and Sagan show how the second law is behind evolution, ecology,economics, and even life’s origin.

    Working from the precept that “nature abhors a gradient,” INTO THE COOL details how complex systems emerge, enlarge, and reproduce in a world tending toward disorder. From hurricanes here to life on other worlds, from human evolution to the systems humans have created, this pervasive pull toward equilibrium governs life at its molecular base and at its peak in the elaborate structures of living complex systems.

    Schneider and Sagan organize their argument in a highly accessible manner, moving from descriptions of the basic physics behind energy flow to the organization of complex systems to the role of energy in life to the final section, which applies their concept of energy flow to politics, economics, and even human health.

    A book that needs to be grappled with by all those who wonder at the organizing principles of existence, Into the Cool will appeal to both humanists and scientists. If Charles Darwin shook the world by showing the common ancestry of all life, so Into the Cool has a similar power to disturb—and delight—by showing the common roots in energy flow of all complex, organized, and naturally functioning systems.

    “Whether one is considering the difference between heat and cold or between inflated prices and market values, Schneider and Sagan argue, we can apply insights from thermodynamics and entropy to understand how systems tend toward equilibrium. The result is an impressive work that ranges across disciplinary boundaries and draws from disparate literatures without blinking.”—Publishers Weekly

    Paperback, 378 pages
    Published December 31st 2006 by University Of Chicago Press

    • james cole

       /  February 9, 2014

      Many years ago Scientific American did a book on the Second Law, using graphics in place of equations, they explained the law and it’s ability to drive a rise in local complexity as a byproduct of entropy on the larger scale. It was a wonderful read, and using graphics to replace equations, found at the back of the book for those looking for them, it made this understandable for those lacking higher math skills. The beauty of it is stunning.

  32. I have created an update on the February 8 2014 UK storm on my blog.

  33. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 8, 2014

    Apocalypse4Real & then some.
    What a title – what information.
    Waves of 44 ft …
    All this at .08 degrees C above baseline, & 400 ppm +CO2.
    Let’s try to keep doing our best, as we confront the worst yet to come.

  34. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 8, 2014

    I just checked, & 940 mb is the same record low pressure delivered by super storm Sandy in 2012.
    “Storms of the rest of our Lives.”

  35. Gerald. You’re a holocaust denier.

    I don’t undertand why Robert doesn’t kick you out.

    Usually, people like you get spamm-banned, and when you try to sneak in again you get spam-banned again.

    I don’t know how Robert mods his comments. But it’s possible to set one’s comment mod settings here on “Moderate first comment only” in which case Gerald never sees the light of day no more. Presumably.

    I’ve seen good commenters here back off because you are nasty.

    I like Robert, I like this blog, and I don’t like you. You’ve been banned over and over again. Go away. You’re dragging the rest of us down.

    • He changes his IP address whenever I block him. Typical tactics. He seems to also have waited to spring his usual lawyer bashing (primarily liberals who are lawyers…) until I’d taken a day off.

      Well, I’ve cleaned up what seem to be most of the ridiculous and/or inappropriate comments from this poster. If you see any others, please let me know.

  36. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 10, 2014

    same BBC site as todaysguestis above – entitled “Wild wild weather around the world.”

  37. Weather: Climate Change ‘To Blame’ For Storms and UK Flooding

    • Burgundy

       /  February 10, 2014

      I wonder how long the blocking pattern, presumably the one over the North Eastern Pacific plus something in the North Atlantic, is going to last? I mean, if this whole Jet Stream pattern lasted for months or years, the eventual situation would be unbelievably dire. And we’re talking months, not decades. Is there some natural variation between winter and summer that will break this stuck system?

      • Fall-Winter-Spring is the danger period, at this point, for this kind of pattern. We get enough cold water in the North Atlantic and warm water in the south, all bets but the safe ones are off.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 10, 2014

        Robert, so do we have to parts to these storms? First, the interaction of cold Northern water with the warm Southern Atlantic waters. Secondly, the resulting storms are accelerated and guided towards Europe by the warped Jet Stream.

        What happens if the Jet Stream remains in the same position through Spring and into Summer?

        • The reason why the Jet is moving so fast over the North Atlantic and generating the instabilities that cause so many storms is the fact that we have a warmer than average south Atlantic coming into collision with a cooler than normal North Atlantic in the vicinity of Greenland.

          All across the Atlantic we have a race-track of water temperature differentials running about 20-30 C worth of variance in a zone of 500 miles or less. This high differential drives the storms.

          As the south Atlantic warms due to human warming and as the waters near Greenland continue to cool due to ice sheet melt and the ice berg cooling effect, this temperature differential will become more intense and, likely, drive even more powerful storms than what we are currently seeing.

          The relative displacement of the warm ocean current (Gulf Stream) southward tends to angle the progress of these storms toward England and France. Over time, the powerful differential may (Hansen) result in storms that, occassionally, span large sections of the Northern Hemisphere and contain conditions to which we are not currently accustomed to, even in our most extreme weather systems.

          In addition, the co-location of colder water/air in close proximity to warmer water/air increases the likelihood that tropical systems and even tropical cyclones will feed into the larger weather patterns — especially during late fall/early winter.

          What we are seeing is a transition to a period of much more powerful storms for, first, this region and later for the Northern Hemisphere. And it appears to have started as of early this decade.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 10, 2014

        Thank you Robert. Are these low pressure storms also responsible for the positioning of the Jet Stream far to the South of its normal track? Or is this the result of blocking patterns. If the Jet Stream where on its normal track the storms would be guided North of the UK.

        If the Jet Stream remains on the same track into the Summer, I assume the UK will still be subjected to considerable precipitation, albeit without the storms.

  38. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 10, 2014

    Premier arctic scientist Natalia Shakhova tells us that the arctic methane time bomb is real & could very well accelerate with a vengeance.

    Natalia delivered this speech in December 2012 in Vienna – strong confirmation of the predictive power of her research.

    She openly says that the methane time bomb is an increasingly probable event.

    She & her husband, Igor Semiletov, are the most knowledgeable scientists about arctic methane.

    Their experimental field work & gathered empirical data are foremost.

    Any observer can see the sadness & despair in her face, voice, & manner; especially during the last minute.

    Natalia does not know how to lie.

    Her video here may be the most momentous prediction in human history

  39. Britain’s flood crisis deepens, Thames burst banks.

    The River Thames burst its banks Monday after reaching its highest level in years, flooding riverside towns upstream of London.

    Residents and British troops had piled up sandbags in a bid to protect properties from the latest bout of flooding to hit Britain. But the floods overwhelmed their defenses Monday, leaving areas including the center of the village of Datchet underwater.

  40. This report talks of houses being flooded from below, and suggestions that part of Somerset be given back to the sea

  41. UK floods Homes evacuated as swollen Thames keeps rising

  42. There’s another freak event –
    There’s no snow pack around Kosovo.

    Kosovo rations water amid worst drought in decades

    Monday Feb 10, 2014 | Reuters

    PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo started rationing water in and around its capital Pristina on Monday as it struggled with its worst shortages in at least three decades, officials said.

    Unusually low levels of snowfall and rain had left reservoirs at worrying levels, said state water company Prishtina.

  43. Burgundy

     /  February 11, 2014

    Interesting thing happening in the floods. Seemingly many of the aquifers are full to overflowing and as pressure builds in them they’re adding to the floods. Water is beginning to be pushed up through the ground as the water table rises. The Country is totally saturated and the water has nowhere to go except find a way to the sea.

    On the tv they showed a bore hole used to measure the depth of the aquifer. When the cover plate was removed the water just poured out. It turns out that many aquifers are at record levels.

  44. Tom

     /  February 12, 2014

    musical interlude:
    Harold Budd & Brian Eno, A Stream With Bright Fish

  45. Meanwhile on the other side of the North Pole in Siberia….

    All-time record monthly warm temperatures have been observed at many sites in the Siberian states of Yakutia and Kamchatka. In what is normally the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, Oymyakon (various spellings), saw its temperature rise to a February record high of -12.5°C (9.5°F) on February 9th. The normal high temperature at this time of the year should be around -48°C (-55°F). Oymyakon also holds the world record (along with Verkhoyansk) for the coldest temperature ever measured on earth at an inhabited site: -67.7°C (-90°F) set on February 6, 1933 (almost exactly 80 years ago).

  46. rs, you all right? None of my business whom you let comment on your blog. I can be snappish at times.

    • It’s OK, Miep. I’m just having a rough week and the bits I’m working on right now take a lot of research and follow-up phone calls and such.

      I go back and forth with Gerald. He seems passionate about issues that I agree are important. But his extreme doomer mindset makes him difficult to manage in a forum. That said, the real issue involves a sort of ideological-based hatred of lawyers (the upper middle class, bourgeois, essentially) and the occasional stint into holocaust denial. Both of these ideologies are historically toxic and I don’t condone them here.

      For my part, I do not like or enjoy the ugliness of any kind of class war. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the wealthy have been able to engage in a stealth class war against the middle and lower classes. The result has been a politically and economically destabilizing concentration of wealth at the upper end of the economic spectrum. And so, we are morally obligated to criticize the policies and ideologies that have brought us to this pass.

      This is not to say that all among the wealthy are directly engaged in this form of class warfare. But a good number are. Their legislative and lobbying servants, including ALEC, AEI, CEI (others), and most conservative politicians, continue to push the harmful policies that will only make things worse and worse. So here we have the back-drop of our current era, a kind of new gilded age.

      Lawyers did not cause this. It was more-so how a set of special interests conglomerated to begin and continue to turn the screws of wealth transfer to the top.

      As long as there are laws and civil society, there will always be lawyers. To blame lawyers as a class is simply about as absurd as blaming carpenters or teachers or police officers. There are good and bad examples of each of these. But they all perform a needed role, as do lawyers.

      Sadly, the criticism of lawyers is a typical conservative entrance into Obama-bashing (fueled mostly by hype and misinformation) and I don’t condone that either.

      We can rationally argue policy points. But, sadly, conservatives no longer have rational arguments. Case 1 being health care. The health care system provided under the conservative version of free market economics (what conservatives want to keep) is an abysmal failure that is over-priced and, increasingly, drives more and more people into bankruptcy while ejecting others from the system of care entirely. Obamacare is a compromise between the current free-market system and a far more efficient single payer system (government). So it is better, but it is not the best.

      How do we know the single payer system is the best? The countries with the best health care results and most inclusive health care systems (lowest cost) are single payer.

      Conservatives can’t stomach this debate because the facts go against their rabid ideology. And so we return to nonsense about lawyers which is nothing more than attempt at distraction through direct demonization and character assassination simply by making stuff up.

      Who else in history demonized lawyers? Robespierre. Now there was a monstrous person if we ever had one. One of the reasons the French Revolution devolved into bloody abomination at the end. And this is primarily due to the fact that the means of rousing the populace was based on a false pretense.

      Not helpful. Times of social conflict, and we are surely entering one of these now, have enough difficulty reaching positive outcomes without such hate-fueled nonsense.

      So these are my thoughts. And, you’re right, the constant re-introduction of these memes does degrade the quality of discourse in the blog.

      • I don’t engage in lawyer-bashing myself. Lawyers are hired to understand the law. The law is complex. A simpler system might be better but this is what we’ve got. Anyway it’s insulting to people like public defenders and environmental lawyers and people who work with municipalities to protect them from corporate encroachment.

        Everybody hates lawyers until they need one.

        Thanks for your comment.


      • Robert –
        Never engage in deep intellectual bullshit with anyone. It’s an waste of time and money.
        99 % of them are just fucking crazy.

  47. Tom

     /  February 13, 2014

    Colorado Bob: The site of the Winter Olympics this year is currently warmer than the East Coast of the U.S. and they’re having trouble keeping the ice cold enough and the snow on the mountains is patchy. I can barely see my neighbor’s house across the street it’s snowing so hard (@8 am) and it’s supposed to keep up until around 10 or 11 tonight.

  48. There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Now we’re facing a sixth.

    BP: One thing your book explores is that no single factor will drive current and future extinctions. There’s hunting and poaching. There’s deforestation. There are invasive species. There’s climate change and the acidification of the oceans. Which of these stands out as most significant?

    EK: To me, what really stood out… And I always say, look, I’m not a scientist, I’m relying on what scientists tell me. And I think many scientists would say that what we’re doing to the chemistry of the oceans could end up being the most significant. One-third of the carbon-dioxide that we pump into the air ends up in the oceans almost right away, and when CO2 dissolves in water, it forms an acid, that’s just an unfortunate fact.

    The chemistry of the oceans tends to be very stable, and to overwhelm those forces is really hard. But we are managing to do it. When people try to reconstruct the history of the ocean, the best estimate is that what we’re doing to the oceans or have the potential to do is a magnitude of change that hasn’t been seen in 300 million years. And changes of ocean chemistry are associated with some of the worst extinction crises in history.

    • She got it right. Once you get the ocean going in the wrong direction, she becomes the mass extinction machine nonpareil. And we are pushing her rapidly in that direction.

      The primary driver is human CO2 forcing. Secondary but also very dangerous are methane, NOx, and human based run-off of nutrients that accelerates ocean chemistry change by feeding the most dangerous microbes that both rob the ocean of life-sustaining oxygen and produce a number of other lethal toxins, the most concerning of which is hydrogen sulfide gas.

      If you could identify the most dangerous among current issues it would be those surrounding GHG emissions directly related to our fossil fuel consumption. This does not, in any way, negate other hazards that result from the vast size of the human population, our relative extreme power to change environments, our unsustainable use of land and water resources, our unsustainable use of forests and fisheries and our general overall failure to attempt to form environments that are life-supporting rather than life altering or life-destructive.

      Thanks for this one, Bob. A very well thought out interview.

      • Well , I think same thing . We are killing last elephants as fast as we can. And the lions, hippos , and everything we can we can place trap on. . .

    • We are too powerful for the current Earth. As you say, the new Earth we are making will be far more hostile and far less full of life, unless we can somehow learn to restrain that power. And the hour, as you well know, is very late.

  49. We are watching the old world die, and the world being born . I don’t think this new world will be really nice.

    • Have to agree with you here, Bob. It’s not looking fun. I’m having trouble talking about it to friends and family. They can tell I’m concerned and I think that concerns them. But they’re hesitant to ask questions because I think they really don’t want to know. It’s very, very strange.

      I’ve gotten a lot of questions RE the recent wintery weather in the US. But when I describe what’s going on in the Arctic and around the world, most people clam up.

  50. There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Now we’re facing a sixth.

    New Yorker science writer Elizabeth Kolbert explores in her new book, The Sixth Extinction, an in-depth look at the science of extinction and the ways we’re altering life on the planet. We spoke by phone this week about the topic.

  51. What’s the price of ivory in Hong Kong ?

  52. Aidios old friend , keep up the fight.

  53. Led Zepplin Whole Lotta Love

  54. Led Zeppelin – Communication Breakdown

  55. .

    Led Zeppelin – How Many More Times

  56. Led Zeppelin – When The Levee Breaks

  57. Led Zeppelin has an interesting cross-generational appeal.

    This post has gotten unweildy to the point where it crashes my ipad browser, so I’ll be talking to y’all after Robert posts again.

  1. British Isles Endure Endless Barrage of Storms: North Atlantic Riled By Human Warming Forecast to Assault UK With At Least Three More Powerful Cyclones Over Next 7 Days | robertscribbler | Enjeux énergies
  2. UK Pounding to Continue | Climate Denial Crock of the Week
  3. Uk Flooding and the Science of Climate Change | ClimateState
  4. Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, February 9, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered
  5. Dr Jennifer Francis and the Year-Long Blocking Pattern | robertscribbler
  6. Sea Ice Loss, Human Warming Places Earth Under Ongoing Fire of Severe Weather Events Through Early 2014, Likelihood of Extremes For Some Regions Increases by 500% | robertscribbler
  7. Climate Change Pushing World to Brink of Food Crisis as FAO Price Index Jumps to 208.1 in February | robertscribbler
  8. Warm Winds Gather to Invade the Arctic: Summer Sea Ice Melt and The Storms of 2014 | robertscribbler

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