Big Arctic Warm-Up To Drive Freak Thanksgiving Snowstorm For US East Coast

If current trends continue, the eastern half of the US is in for one extraordinary winter.

Just last week, a strong late-fall Arctic warming flushed chill air out over the Great Lakes, setting off a lake effect snowstorm in Buffalo that buried the city in one year’s worth of snowfall in just two days.

This week’s extreme weather prelude brought a major warm snap that set off rainfall, sent temperatures surging to 62 degrees in Buffalo and pushed rivers in the area above flood stage. An odd northward hot air surge ahead of the next blow. One that will be fueled by a similar, out of the ordinary, Arctic heat-up that is predicted to fling a freakish Thanksgiving snowstorm at the US East Coast on Wednesday.

Maximum Snowfall Potentials Thanksgiving Storm

(Maximum snowfall potentials for the predicted Thanksgiving Snowstorm as provided by the National Weather Service.)

A storm that may dump more than a foot of snow along a swath from Virginia to Maine and set off blizzard-like conditions as a low pressure rapidly intensifies in a raging storm track torching away off the New England Coast.

Such major predicted and potential snowfall amounts are more reminiscent of a significant January event than what is typically seen for a Thanksgiving period which usually features cold placidity. But this Thanksgiving is predicted to be anything but placid as coastal gales and record-challenging snowfalls are likely to sock holidayers in and generate travel snarls throughout the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.

Mangled Jet Stream Thanksgiving

(Planetary wave pattern over Eastern US with intensified storm track in association with predicted strong winter storm for Thanksgiving in the Wednesday GFS model run. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The spurs to this most recent Arctic invasion are two high amplitude Jet Stream Waves — one over Alaska and one near Svalbard. Together, these upper level flows are pulling yet more warm air into an already warmer than normal Arctic. These invasions coincide with yet another form of upper level warming — Sudden Stratosphere Warming (SSW). A kind of warm air catapult up from the troposphere and into the Arctic from over the Asian Continent.

A combined set of conditions that is generating a baked atmospheric cake set of warming for the Arctic and driving the southern edge of the polar vortex southward over the Eastern US.

Overall, Arctic heat anomalies are expected to spike as high as 3.5 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average by the wee hours of Sunday morning this week. A very strong warm departure for November even in the current age of human-driven climate change and polar heat amplification.

Polar Amplification on Sunday morning of Nov 20 2014

(Very strong early season polar warming and amplification during late November shoves cold air out over North America and Eastern Asia in the GFS model run. Note that average temperatures in this measure are based on the already warmer than normal 1979-2000 period. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Last year, similar events drove cold air invasions through the Eastern half of the US and greatly intensified the North Atlantic storm track. As a result, the UK experienced its stormiest winter on record. This year, warm waters in the equatorial Pacific and off the US East Coast may well keep the storm track oriented along the Gulf Stream. This would result in much stronger events for the Eastern US and potentially quite powerful Nor’easter type coastal storms should the current pattern persist.


The National Weather Service

Climate Reanalyzer

East Coast on Alert For Thanksgiving Storm

Buffalo’s Climate Change Driven Mega Snow-Flood


Leave a comment


  1. Mark from New England

     /  November 24, 2014

    That’s just dandy – from one in the path of the storm! Thanks for putting this ill-timed Nor’easter in perspective for us Robert! Instead of sitting down to a nice Thanksgiving dinner with family I may be eyeing the backyard squirrels with relish (kidding 😉

    • 🙂 Maybe get all your T-giving goodies together before the storm. That way you can watch the squirrels in comfort.

      Hopefully, no travel plans. May want to make a Tuesday go, if so.

      • Mark from New England

         /  November 24, 2014

        I was planning to drive to New Jersey, which is normally a 6 – 7 hour drive in good weather – but may want to consider a Plan B now. Oh well. I remember a similar Thanksgiving snowstorm in 1989, when I went off the road but luckily no injuries or significant car damage. I think it best to honor Mother Nature, especially as fortified by a warming climate.

    • Griffin

       /  November 25, 2014

      Sure is a heck of a forecast considering how warm it is outside right now. My wife today when I told her to get the shopping done early. “Did you say Snow? There is no frickin way we can be getting snow, it’s like 60 outside!” Welcome to weather whiplash.

  2. marianne

     /  November 24, 2014

    new study, from IOP science, Environmental Research Letters,: “Warmer and wetter winters: characteristics and implications of an extreme weather event in the High Arctic”

    • Link’s not working for me… I’ll see if I can find another.

    • PDF link works here for those who were having trouble like me:

      Thanks for the link Marianne!

      • marianne

         /  November 24, 2014

        Your welcome (sorry abot the bad linking) and thanks as always for your articles and all the comments 😊

    • From the paper:

      Here we characterize and document the effects of an extreme warm spell and ROS event that occurred in High Arctic Svalbard in January

      February 2012, during the polar night. In this normally cold semi-desert environment, we recorded above-zero temperatures (up to 7 °C) across the entire archipelago and record-breaking precipitation, with up to 98 mm rainfall in one day (return period of 500 years prior to this event) and 272 mm over the two-week long warm spell. These precipitation amounts are equivalent to 25 and 70% respectively of the mean annual total precipitation. The extreme event caused significant increase in permafrost temperatures down to at least 5 m depth, induced slush avalanches with resultant damage to infrastructure, and left a significant ground-ice cover (∼5–20 cm thick basal ice). The ground-ice not only affected inhabitants by closing roads and airports as well as reducing mobility and thereby tourism income, but it also led to high starvation-induced mortality in all monitored populations of the wild reindeer by blocking access to the winter food source. Based on empirical-statistical downscaling of global climate models run under the moderate RCP4.5 emission scenario, we predict strong future warming with average mid-winter temperatures even approaching 0 °C, suggesting increased frequency of ROS. This will have far-reaching implications for Arctic ecosystems and societies through the changes in snow-pack and permafrost properties.

  3. Jay M

     /  November 25, 2014

    so far see takes of flood threat in Buffalo, NY
    61F I saw, high winds
    orderly runoff?

  4. Apneaman

     /  November 25, 2014

    I no longer have any faith in technological progress, but sometimes I still watch. This looks clever. I’ll leave the deep digging to y’all.

    Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES): Using Trains to Store Renewable Energy

  5. Loni

     /  November 25, 2014

    Thank you for the very interesting post. Around the 6th paragraph, you mentioned Sudden Stratosphere Warming (SSW), how much of an anomaly is SSW, and does it have anything to do with, or is it being influenced by the atmosphere hole, (I’ve forgotten which layer), over the equator in the Pacific?

    • SSW increases in frequency with warming, doubling at x4 CO2 (preindustrial) in model essays. It’s related to the heightening tropopause, expanding Hadley cells, and polar amplification.

      The Pacific equatorial hole is related to the expanding tropopause in a warming region over the Pacific Ocean that has given the atmosphere there a bit more lift that the rest of the world. Overall, it’s being driven by the same atmospheric heightening/thickening that increases the frequency of SSW events.

      • And I wonder what kind of El Nino situation can develop with such a warm Arctic polar region. Is this uncharted territory?

        • The interplay between El Niño and global warming isn’t completely settled in the science. We have some studies that show an increasing prevalent of strong El Ninos as the Earth warms. And we have some proxy paleoclimate data that shows a changing frequency of El Niño at times when global temps were changing.

          A polar amplification – El Niño interplay hasn’t been directly established to my knowledge. That said, the ocean states during El Niño would tend to increase the temperature differential between equator and pole, strengthen the Jet and the storm track. That said, if polar amplification is strong enough, you can end up with a situation in which cold polar air, flushed out by warmth at the pole, comes into contact with warming equatorial flows produced by El Niño. If such an instance were to acutely develop, the resulting collisions of cold and hot air and related storm instances could be quite intense.

      • Loni

         /  November 25, 2014

        Robert, thank you for your time, and the education. So the atmosphere is responding to the increasing heat build up the same way that the oceans are inasmuch as they are ‘expanding’, or :”heightening” as you put it in reference to the atmosphere, is that why storms have gained so much in their load carrying capacity? They are taller, right?

        • Added heat thickens and heightens the atmosphere, it also loads the atmosphere with more moisture. So, yes, by increasing evaporation and water content, both precipitation and drought events are intensified.

  6. Loni

     /  November 25, 2014

    I took another look at that Climate Reanalyzer overview graph, and that looks horrible. Do you know how long models are showing that heat in the Arctic to persist? I would think at any rate, this heat spell might give next summer an early boost, no?

    • The long polar night.

      The reason why polar amplification shows itself during winter is the physical nature of how CO2 works in the atmosphere. CO2 traps long wave radiation and recirculates it around the globe. During day, the direct sunlight warming the Earth is short wave and long wave. But at night, the green house effect trapping of long wave radiation is all that’s left to keep things warm.

      It’s on rep of the reasons we see so much warming impact at the poles during winter. The primary reason, really. Year over year, decade over decade, that extra heat is having its impact.

      We almost certainly won’t see one day of below average (1979-2000) temps for the aggregate Arctic this winter. And, as with last year, we’ll probably see some days at +5 C or above.

  7. More here on the NE Pacific — marine life in warming waters, from CBC:

    CBC on Pacific Warming, November 2014

  8. Ouse M.D.

     /  November 25, 2014

    Even Hollywood is catching up- to some point- not mentioning the near- term threats of the positive feedbacks, besides sea- level rise.

  9. Tom

     /  November 25, 2014

    Ouse: how about this?

    HBO’s The Newsroom season 3 episode 3 – Climate Change Interview

    Climate scientist: “A person who has already been born will die due to catastrophic failure of the planet.”

    Talking head: “So you are saying the situation is dire.”

    Climate scientist: “No. If your house is burning to the ground, the situation is dire. If the house has burnt to the ground, the situation is over.”

    Talking head: “What can we do to reverse this?”

    Climate scientist: “There is a lot we can do 20 years-ago or even 10 years-ago. But now? No.”

    Talking head: “Can you make an analogy that might make us understand?”

    Climate scientist: “Sure. It is as if you are siting in your car in the garage with the engine running and you slipped into unconsciousness. That’s it.”

    Talking head: “What if someones comes and opens the car door?”

    Climate scientist: “You are already dead.”

    Talking head: “What if someones gets there in time?”

    Climate scientist: “Then you would be saved.”

    Talking head: “What is the CO2 equivalent of getting there in time?”

    Climate scientist: “20 years ago.”

    Talking head: “You sound like you are saying it is hopeless.”

    Climate scientist: “Yes.”

    Talking head: “Is that the administration’s position on this or yours?”

    Climate scientist: “There is not a ‘position’ on this anymore than there is a position on the temperature that water boils.”

    Talking head: “Your administration is doing all of these sustainability actions.”

    Climate scientist: “Yes.”

    Talking head: “and…”

    Climate scientist: “That would have been great.”

    Talking head: “The EPA report says we can release 565 gigatons of carbon without results being calamitous.”

    Climate scientist: “It says we can only release 565 gigatons.”

    Talking head: “So what if we only release 564?”

    Climate scientist: “Then we would have some type of shot at a dystopian post-apocalyptic life, but we have already released 2,795 gigatons of carbon from oil/coal into the atmosphere. So…

    Talking head: “What would all this look like?”

    Climate scientist: “Well, mass migrations, food and water shortages, spread of deadly disease, endless wildfires, storms that level cities, and blacken out the sky, and pretty permanent darkness.”

    Talking head: “Are you going to get into trouble for saying this publicly?”

    Climate scientist: “Who cares.”

    Talking head: “We want to inform people, but we do not want to alarm them. Can you give a reason to be optimistic.”

    Climate scientist: “Well, that is the thing. Americans are optimistic by nature. And if we face this problem head-on; if we listen to our best scientists; and act decisively and passionately, I still do not see anyway we can survive.”

    [hat tip Modern Money Mechanics over on NBL]

    • Hello.

      This guy needs to go and talk publicly to those idiots and dumb asses in Congress. The kind of response we need now is extraordinary. Something not seen in human history. There’s not much reason to be optimistic but every reason to do everything we can.

      That’s what people seem to miss again and again. The emergency starts now.

      • wili

         /  November 25, 2014

        “The emergency starts now.” Or rather, as the man said, 10 to 20 years ago.

    • This is fiction. But it’s close enough to reality to bite deep. In the real world, it would be helpful to have one or two people in leadership like this.

      What is true is if we, somehow, don’t back CO2 down to levels far below what we have today, then that distopian future is very likely. If we keep burning without stopping, then it’s worse than the Permian, and all compressed into less than 300 years, starting now, and getting very nasty over the next few decades.

      • Loni

         /  November 25, 2014

        What breaks down CO2, is it hydroxyl?

        • CO2 is very stable and doesn’t easily break down. Instead, it leaves the carbon cycle by being sequestered in stores such as the ocean or in the Earth’s biological systems. In the end, weathering against rocks eventually leeches CO2 out of the atmosphere. For these reasons, a single molecule of CO2 often lasts for over 1,000 years in the atmosphere, which is one of the reasons why it’s very difficult to get CO2 out of the atmosphere once it’s there.

          Hydroxyl, on the other hand, is a primary oxidizer of methane, which has a far shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than CO2.

      • Chris Hedges interview at The Earth At Risk 2014 Conference:

        It’s almost kinda like a longer, non-fiction version of that The Newsroom segment.

        Robert: any idea why comments made from my work computer disappear immediately when I click ‘Post Comment’, and never appear on the site? It’s happened a few times now. I had to post this one from home.

      • Strange: I tried two different machines and two different browsers – same result. WordPress accepted my login, but as I said, the comments disappear right after clicking post. Both machines are behind the same router, though. Any chance the IP is being flagged for some reason?

        • I don’t have IP flagging except when I list a post as spam. I’ll look through the spam folder and see if anything has come up.

  10. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 25, 2014

    “Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of sense data correspond to a logically uniform system of thought.”
    Does you believe in objective reality?

  11. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 25, 2014

    I am trying to make the most of this Thanksgiving because there may not be too many (any?) more.
    We have become the dumbed down & soon-to-be-dead turkeys by our own fossil fuel sucking skilled hands.
    I didn’t mean it, but I single-handedly produced at least 3000 tons of CO2.
    I had a great time.
    Gawd said take what you want & pay for it.

  12. JPL

     /  November 25, 2014

    A postmortem on Google’s ‘Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal’ (RE<C) initiative entitled, What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change

    Interesting read.


    • It’s important to note that renewable energy is already cheaper than coal in states like, well, Georgia. Google didn’t do it. Scaling up wind and solar did it.

      In these reports, Google has repeatedly cited old and out-dated data. I can’t really call it bad information, more confused information that generally leads to false conclusions. In short, of course switching to renewable energy reduces carbon emissions. And we should be doing that as much as possible. In addition, this makes increasing sense economically, not only for the purpose of preserving prosperity for future generations, but also in the sense that in many cases renewables are more cost effective than heavily subsidized coal, oil, and gas.

    • I’d also like to add that these two engineers findings are starkly at odds with a recent report from the national renewable energy labs earlier this year.

      I will go so far as to say the findings are false at their face on the conclusions of usable energy, the ability of renewables to replace fossil fuels, and on the ability of renewables to cut carbon emissions. For my part, I find it sad to see a Google ignoring the NREL data and providing a report that may as well have come out of one of the big oil companies.

      We don’t have time to wait for a breakthrough, so we must deploy the replacement energy sources we have now as rapidly as possible.

      This language coming out of a Google makes me wonder more and more if their initial project wasn’t just more greenwash. Sad to say that it looks that way.

      • JPL

         /  November 25, 2014

        It is strange to contrast these finding with the investments they claim to be making in renewables, which would appear to be fairly significant:

        Maybe their corporate renewable energy targets grew to eclipse what could be accomplished by a google labs project.
        Or maybe these engineers weren’t savvy enough to figure out how to display targeted advertisements on the PV arrays as you drive by the solar farm… 😉

        My 5.4 kW home rooftop PV install is almost complete. Inverter goes in tomorrow, then just need a final inspection from the city and the net meter from the local utility. Can’t wait to see how it performs up here in rainy Seattle!


        • As I said before, it blatantly contradicts a larger study by the NREL and basically repeats bad and outdated information.

          The statement RE energy policy is base nonsense. The carbon tax, local or global would increase the rate of installation.

          Seattle is better than Germany and they seem to be doing well enough there.

  13. Apneaman

     /  November 25, 2014

    Canada losing friends over climate change: Goar
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns from two weeks in Asia looking increasingly isolated on climate change.

  14. If, in the past, I showed Santa Barbara, CA to be covered in a film of black soot and traffic dust — I now bring some very green evidence of nitrogen (NOX & NO2) in Portland, Oregon.
    This is just a teaser that shows how much. and very obvious, the situation has become. I take no pleasure, other than for the sake of knowledge, in documenting this.
    Take a look at my new dtlange2 post.

    – But first a teaser photo (un-retouched).

  15. Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

  16. james cole

     /  November 25, 2014

    Freak Atlantic storms battered the North Atlantic and North Sea coasts of Europe at the onset of the Little Ice Age in the 1300’s. Much of Holland’s hard won reclaimed lands went back to the sea as immense storms battered the North Sea coast. England was ravaged as were Brittany and Channel ports. I am just wondering if the beginning of strange and immense Atlantic storms, like we have begun to witness are the opening round in another sort of climate shift in the North from Maritime Canada and the US East Coast across to all of Western Europe? Is there evidence of climate shifts yet, or do we still consider most of what is happening weather unaffected by new climate conditions setting in.
    On a side note. The Little Ice Age gets debated, as does the Warm period before which allowed Europe to develop and grow like never before. Do we have a handle on what caused the climate changes, we do know volcanoes played their partial role, but I doubt they were the long term cause of the Little Ice Age, they just punctuated that centuries long period. Sun output is often mentioned. Today, what can we say for sure about the Sun? It is always dragged out by denial specialists and being the cause of global warming.

    • I think it’s pretty clear we’re seeing shifts on a decadal scale. It’s worth noting that temperature differences are well outside the range of the swings during the little ice age. So the added heat, globally, is greater than the global cold shift then.

      Drivers at that time were volcanic, primarily. As was the case with the cool swing during the 1800s. Although the 1800s cold shift occurred during a period of low solar activity as well.

      When considering the impact of solar variability on climate, it’s important to consider the magnitude. Even a long period of low solar activity would only result in a negative heat forcing of about -0.5 watts per meter squared. By comparison, the current aggregate positive heat forcing (when minusing out all other factors including a recent period of somewhat depressed solar activity) of human greenhouse gasses is about +2.8 watts per meter squared. So this influence clearly overwhelms any solar variability and is getting to the point where it’s even edging out all but the worst volcanic eruptions.

      It’s also worth noting that the total human ghg forcing (once other factors are removed) is probably now in the range of 3.5 watts per meter squared (with about 0.6 or more watts per meter squared masked by aerosols — also a human contribution).

      As an initial forcing, the current human ghg addition is unprecedented at least in the last 55 million years. As for the rate at which this initial forcing is accumulating in the atmosphere, it is probably without precedent in the entire geological record.

      So, eventually, something has to break. Under such a forcing the risk of extremes far outside those seen in human history, or even geological history, could be considered to be very high under continued FF burning. In addition, we’ve probably already locked in some rather damaging weather as well as geophysical changes. But the avoidable changes are quite a bit worse and we should spend all effort steering away from them.

      • On the subject of solar radiation, etc. — what effect, heat or otherwise, does a mass of moisture and water droplets in the atmosphere have?
        Quite a bit of magnification takes place when light passes through H2O.
        So if the moisture acts like a magnifying glass held to the sunlight, heat is a byproduct too. Yes?

        Also, as a natural light photographer — I am constantly disturbed by how much any sunlit surface of any size, and is wet, looks like a huge sheet of reflective mylar. I attribute this solely to the buildup of aerosol and global hothouse moisture in the air.

      • Just a few years ago, the sun in the sky looked about the size of a US dime or smaller — now it’s the size of golf ball.

      • Andy in San Diego

         /  November 26, 2014


        As a photographer I’m sure you’ve shot a bunch of eclipses. I used to head to the beach at Carlsbad and use a reflex with a doubler for the semi-annular (35 mm days) and some lunars (not a real photographer, just a hobbyist).

        Have you tried lately? And if so, is the halo and noise worse?

    • Apneaman

       /  November 26, 2014

      I recently read “The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations” by anthropologist Brian Fagan. He goes into the Medieval Warm period and spends some time on climate science, but the book is mostly about the human story; Civilizations. The main take away is drought is the big killer. Technically, we can do things pre industrial societies could not, but these measures are not infinite plus we have many more people and all industry requires major amounts of water and energy. For me, the most striking testimony in the book is a description, by visiting American journalists Francis Nichols, of cannibalism in the Chinese drought of 1897-1901,

      “A horrible kind of meat ball, made from the bodies of human beings who had died of hunger, became a staple article of food, that was sold for the equivalent of about four American cents a pound”

      More than two million died in that 5 year drought.

    • Spike

       /  November 26, 2014

      Geoffrey Parker’s magisterial book on the history of the Little Ice Age is stunning in its documentation of the major impacts it had. He wrote a brief summary in the NYT:

      • It’s important to consider that at 400 ppm CO2, we’re already in the range of changes that will dwarf those seen during the little ice age.

  17. RWood

     /  November 26, 2014

    In large part, Brazilians are suffering the lack of regulation and rapacity that has decimated their water source, the rainforest.
    This report indicates many in the U.S. will suffer the threat of drought as well due to the energy producers — and the lack of regulation on the dwindling resource:

    • Their water system itself is very poorly managed and inefficient. A combination of regressive policies that are hitting them very hard now.

      In the US, We could be building wind turbines and solar panels for less than the cost of coal and gas plants. Instead, we’re risking our far more precious water to level yet one more blow to the world climate system.

      Even worse, we have republican governors like Christy who are blocking major wind projects and Scott who has essentially made solar leasing illegal. Florida could be hot on the heels of California in solar capacity by now. Instead, it’s lagging at number 15. Georgia would have no solar but for a recent Green Tea revolution from within their own base. But they still lag far behind where they should be. Virginia, my state of birth, has a shameful solar and wind policy that has stifled development to near zero due to politics.

      I find it laughable when people say policy isn’t effective. I see wind and solar blooming in positive policy environments and lagging in the hostile policy environments of republican strongholds. They want to tax renewables and subsidize fossil fuels. In other words, fund the problems and drive full speed toward the climate cliff.

      They seem to take a kind of glee in their own destructive nature. Goodness, we’d be far better off without them!

  18. Apneaman

     /  November 26, 2014

    Heat, frost and below average rain takes a hit on national wheat crop

  19. The power of photography:
    “The Gateway to Hell” burning gas crater in Turkmeistan’s Karakum desert — May, 2014.

  20. Spike

     /  November 26, 2014

    Morocco looks like it may get some seriously heavy rain at the WE again, along with southern France and NW Italy (again).

    More jet stream weirdness, even perplexing the rather conventional BBC weather site presenter at 1:58. “Something our computer models aren’t used to”

    • We’ve got another odd-ball low coming in from the northwest. The BBC weather folks may need to get used to this jet stream loop. They’ve been sticking around for longer than the models or weather men are used to lately.

  21. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 26, 2014

    Easter Island’s end – fighting & eating each other.

  22. Andy in San Diego

     /  November 26, 2014

    Sao Paolo.

    Main reservoir indicates 9.2% volume (1.5% into the dead pool), loss is 0.1% to 0.2% per day. 123 mm rain for November so far, normal average is 161 mm. They require 375 mm of rain to get back to 0% of the dead pool, 575 mm to get to 10% above dead pool, 12875 mm to get to 50% above dead pool (60% capacity).

    I looked into Systema Alto Tiete as it indicates 5.8% capacity dropping at 0.1% / day.

    It is used for the county around Sao Paolo & parts of the city. It is a river (Tiete) originating by the City, and it runs inland, not towards the ocean. It is a feeder into the Systema Cantariera (the main system mentioned above). The river itself is now missing and the reading are simply what is left behind the dams.

    As these water systems lack input, I wonder how hypoxia plays into the river ecology for the reminder.

    In the north, Brazil is in drought and there is a major project underway to plumb the San Francisco River with canals and steer a large block of the river to the area.

    I was pondering this morning about the fertilizer inputs in the soy farms, their effects on run off, river ecology and eventually hypoxia at the river confluence with the ocean.

  23. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 26, 2014

    Andy, In case you don’t know it, may I suggest Karl Wittfogel’s hydraulic theory about control of water in irrigation societies.
    Marvin Harris covers it succinctly in his CANNIBALS & KINGS.

    • Andy (at work)

       /  November 26, 2014

      Very interesting link. One can see it develop now as it evolves from the plentiful water supply to the stressed and over subscribed. We can see it between nations (India / China border. Ethiopia/Egypt. Lebanon/Israel etc..) and then devolving within nations (ie: Colorado River). I can see such conflicts escalating as regions become more desperate.

  24. Andy in San Diego

     /  November 26, 2014

    Water Wars – coming to the Andes.

    Peru, 66% of the population lives on the Pacific side of the Andes where ~2.2% of the water flows towards the ocean. The lions share of water (glacial & precipitation) runs towards the Amazon water shed. Rivers cross into other countries for ~97% of the water discharge.

    Peru is now moving water in the other direction in order to provide for over 8 million people in Lima, other urban areas and agriculture. A river that runs towards Equador now has a series of dams for power / agriculture.

    The Limón Dam, part of the Olmos Transandino Project includes a 20 km (12 mile) tunnel. This will provide Peru with a method to move water from the Atlantic side of the Andes to the Pacific side.

    As more projects redirect water resources from the Atlantic to the Pacific side of the Andres, as well as usage (Urban / Industrial / Agricultural ) the Amazon basin may suffer reduced inputs. This will have effects on Agriculture (mega soy / mega sugar farms) as well as bio diversity. This can lead to a shift in the ecosystem from tropical rain forest to savanna and perhaps beyond to semi-arid.

    Furthermore, other countries may look to the historical discharge directions as a grandfathered right.

    For anyone traveling for Thanksgiving, drive safe.

  25. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 26, 2014

    The Chimú society was a four-level hierarchical system,[8] with a powerful elite rule over administrative centers.

    The hierarchy was centered at the walled cities, called ciudadelas, at Chan Chan.[9] The political power at Chan Chan is demonstrated by the organization of labor to construct the Chimú’s canals and irrigated fields.

  26. RWood

     /  November 26, 2014

    Not sure of your policy for “lobbying” but if it’s OK, follow this:

  27. Andy (at work)

     /  November 26, 2014

    Right on queue….

    Water conflict begins between Rio and Sao Paolo.

    • Reading about this last night. Thanks for your continued coverage, Andy. Have another assessment going. Hope to have it done over the holiday.

      In the meantime, enjoy the Storms of My Grandchildren scenery…

  28. The oscillations don’t increase only in one axis (time) as the trajectories of complex/chaotic systems collapse: other axes (space) in the systems operational landscape also have variability. Case in my point: when Hamburg was getting feet of snow, this is what it looked like 45 minutes north in my place in Youngstown, NY on Lake Ontario:

    We had a few inches of snow at MOST over two weeks and most of the time it was sunny and bright where I was. I was in downtown Buffalo on Monday last week just before the roads closed driving north and I could see the snow storm cloud moving in and I am happy I got home before anything happened.

    The increased oscillations (which we’ve been warned about for so long) are a characteristic of a failing complex systems trajectory which leads to a dead end. I’ve seen this all the time in my simulations of such systems before the entire trajectories eventually collapse. It means that the long term correlations are beginning to drive the system to a new dynamic equilibrium. This is also observed in the simplest examples of complex chemical systems in biology (proteins) which I’ve spent decades modelling accurately (prospectively validated by independent assessors and also applied successfully by other biologists). I’ve played with all kinds of complex systems (including World models introduced by the Club of Rome in Limits to Growth as well as human interactions) and a chaotic system has certain characteristics that I’d say are universal.

    All the above means it’s almost certainly too late to do anything for our trajectory—we’re locked into a 2 degree rise and if other countries such as India don’t join the US and China and India goes down the path of burning coal then it’s most likely 3 degrees or so which will continue to make the system more chaotic (mathematically quantifiable with simpler models) and once the Arctic ice melts entirely in the summer, it means we’ve crossed a tipping point/region in our trajectory that is almost certainly irreversible.


    • 1.5 C already locked in this century without a response from the global carbon store. It will take extraordinary action to avoid 2 C this century.

      • joni

         /  November 27, 2014

        When you say locked in, do you mean warming that we have already committed to by the GHGs that have been emitted over the last 40 years (there’s a 40 year gap between the emission and it’s full effects manifesting due to thermal inertia if I remember correctly), future emissions from existing infrastructure and future emissions from infrastructure that is under construction -without- adding in the warming that is currently being masked by aerosols in addition to the about .9°C we have already experienced?

    • Joni, exactly. I typically assume BAU or at least for this decade, with emissions speaking at 2020, including the 40 years prior. Also the cumulative CO2e budget assumption is key here. If you use a conservative estimate we’ve already used up whatever would keep us below 2 degrees, ergo “locked in.” If you use higher budgets then there’s a small amount of room left before we hit the ceiling.

      Kevin Anderson is the person I trust the most on this and in 2011 he wrote: “There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global mean surface temperature at below 2°C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary.”

      In that paper, he presents various scenarios given particular budgets which we should look at carefully:

      That paper is already old news, according to him. His talks contain more recent data.

  29. Apneaman

     /  November 26, 2014

    Six Myths About Climate Change that Liberals Rarely Question

    “Middle-class American professionals, academics, and business-people are among the world’s greatest carbon emitters and, as a group, are more responsible than any other single group for global warming, especially if we focus on discretionary consumption.”

    • I’d say the biggest myth of all, perpetuated by conservatives and not liberals, is that liberals, who push the policies that will actually reduce the impact of climate change and reduce the conspicuous consumption of both the middle class and especially the wealthy, who can individually produce as much carbon emissions as 1,000 or more of their middle class peers, are somehow to blame for the climate crisis.

      If we’d listened to the liberals in the first place, we’d have prevented the problems we are facing now. And everywhere I see conservatives fighting potential solutions to the climate crisis. And yet this so-called sustainability source decides to level attacks on liberals? How rich. I’d ask the source if they see a way, politically, to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and related consumption and, if so, how does attacking liberals who support those actions help matters?

      No, this writer has either had their brain so shrunken as to render it practically ineffective or is just another fake agitator sewing misinformation and dissention by pretending to be someone who supports sustainability. As you should probably already know, there’s an advertising firm for that…

      Sad to see you returning to this nonsense, Apneaman…

      • Apneaman

         /  November 26, 2014

        The article originates from Transition Milwaukee. Do you know what the Transition movement is? It’s a small handful of mostly Liberals who actually do give up consumption, grow their own food, spend their money on alternative energy and try to encourage others to do the same. I bet they make up less than 1% of what you Americans call Team Liberal. If you really want “nonsense” go look under all your Liberal friends Christmas tree’s next month.

        • Liberals trying to deal with climate attacking liberals trying to deal with climate change. That’s just a bad idea in general. There are other ways to more effectively get the message out.

    • I think these labels aren’t very useful and it’s playing the same Divide and Conquer game that only helps a few and is largely responsible for the failed trajectory that global civilisation has taken. If you can code reasonably you can try this game theory/complex systems simulation of Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma with multiple trajectories and individuals and see how it goes. You can google for details but briefly two prisoners are separated and if they independently decide to cooperate they both go free but if one or both rat out on the other, then they both are punished. There are lots and lots of ways to do this and I can go into detail if you wish but it’s a way to see for yourself (without relying on list makers and blogs) and do some original research.

      I bring this up because this situation reminds me of the same blame game being played here. This liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, good/bad, guilt/innocence, etc. human values are utterly irrelevant to the success of any given trajectory. A lot of it is chance, nothing I tried was statistically significantly better than randomly assigning values to variables and letting the system sort it out (i.e., top down engineering didn’t work), cooperation was preferred, guilt and innocence didn’t matter, and ratios of 50/50 for prisoners/jailers were what led to arbitrarily perpetuating systems. I saw the same thing in my simulation of biological systems (which are published across over 100 peer reviewed papers and many of which were independently validated by bench experiments). Evolutionary processes are what determine the structure of these (and our) systems: the systems that have been around the longest evolutionarily speaking are closest to having a small difference between enthalpic and entropic contributions with a slight edge to enthalpy.

      The role of chance should be obvious: no one here asked for the world to be like this and we all consume and the system of capitalism rewards short term greediness over long term thinking. I was born the year time Limits to Growth came out, so events were already in motion and that work was largely ignored. It turns out they were on the right track. At this point, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done short of leading a good life by your values. These are systemic issues and while I think addiction as a mental disease, our addiction to consumption of fossil fuels will have the same consequences that consumption of alcohol or heroin does to an addict.

  30. Colorado Bob

     /  November 26, 2014

    Just how bad global warming is for the world’s polar bear population

    Just last week, a study by scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and several other organizations found that in the Southern Beaufort Sea region of the U.S. and Canadian Arctic, polar bears saw a 25 to 50 percent decline in the decade from 2001 to 2010.

    And today, a new study out in PLOS One further underscores polar bear risks. Using a regionally focused climate model, the researchers projected that under a business as usual scenario for global warming, sea ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago will decline markedly, leaving long periods each year when there isn’t any ice. The consequences for polar bears, it notes, could be “starvation and reproductive failure across the entire Archipelago by the year 2100.”

    • Gerald Spezio

       /  November 27, 2014

      Substitute humans for polar bears in the simple but pregnant phrase from C Bob’s article.

      “Which is why, as is the case with most endangered or threatened species, it ultimately all comes down to whether or not the habitat in which they live — the habitat they evolved in and adapted to — will be preserved.”

      Simple but not too simple …

  31. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 27, 2014

    I respect James Hansen for his objective science, his sainted character, & his fearless courage; but even his magnificent trained brain can fall into the ageless trap of free will.

    “Although there is merit in simply chronicling what is happening, there is still opportunity for humanity to exercise free will,” says Hansen.

    “The function of the inner man is to provide an explanation which will not be explained in turn. Explanation stops with him. He is not a mediator between past history & current behavior, HE IS A CENTER FROM WHICH BEHAVIOR EMANATES.”

    Many bright people, including careful scientists, are sincere & conscientious, but their professed mentalistic solutions are filled with Platonic foo-foo & ancient Greek free will.

    The human experiment is finishing & there will be not be any survivors.

    We have fouled our habitat for mammalian life

    The human species cannot survive the coming fatal wet bulb temperature.

    Environmental determinism …

    “No phosphorus – no thought.”

    James Hansen: 2C Temperature Rise Would Be ‘Disastrous’ » EcoWatch

  32. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 27, 2014

    “Energy & Economic Myths;” Nicholas Georgescu- Roegen, 1975

    Herman Daly was one of Georgescu-Roegen’s graduate students at Vanderbilt.

    Simple but not too simple.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: