Saharan Snow, Enjoy, It Will Not Last

Global warming is accelerating, as anticipated: the Arctic sea ice is the smallest ever for the season. Also the Polar Vortex wanders. As I have argued in the past, global warming also means, through equipartition of energy, great depressions, great high pressure, and great dynamics. Greats dynamics means great motions of whatever is big and can be moved. From depression, to wiggles in the jet streams, to the polar vortices themselves: whatever can move, will be moved.

This has brought some counterintuitive effects: for decades, Antarctic sea ice spread out away from the icy continent, pushed by stronger winds. Also the accelerating melting of the giant Antarctic ice shelves (some 1,000 kilometers wide), has brought to the surface light sweet water, which readily freezes above the colder, denser saltier ocean water below. Thus climate deniers chuckled that Antarctica was getting colder, whereas, in truth, was they were observing was the exact opposite.

Climate Denying Sites Published Similar Pictures, Where The Forest In the Background Cannot Be Seen, Of Course...

Climate Denying Sites Published Similar Pictures, Where The Forest In the Background Cannot Be Seen, To Make It Look More Miraculous, Of Course…

So, year after year, the Antarctic sea ice spread out, and that was a shining demonstration of the global warming. Of course, this sort of evolution evolves steadily away from equilibrium, until things break, and a completely new attractive minimum comes within reach. This apparently just happened with Antarctica: after a year where the sea ice spread more than two standard deviations above the average, now the sea ice is shrinking two standard deviations BELOW the average.

The Polar Vortex has wandered: for many weeks it was over Siberia. Instead of being around the North Pole. Thus the temperature at the Pole was 20 Celsius (roughly 40 F) ABOVE normal. Then the vortex went to North America last week, and temperatures plunged there. Now higher temperatures are again announced for the Pole.

Ah, and what of this Saharan snow? Actually it was in an Algerian locality perched at 1078 meters above sea level in the Atlas mountains. It receives rain, and is surrounded by (thin) forest. Although this particular locale had no snow for 37 years, it snows every year in the Atlas: Algeria has ski resorts. The Atlas culminate at 4167 meters in Morocco and stretches 2,500 kilometers (1,600 miles). Many peaks are above 4,000 meters, and the barrier is formidable. The Atlas actually creates the Sahara, as it blocks moisture from the Atlantic and Mediterranean to reach the interior of the continent (the Sierra Nevada does the same in North America, blocking much Pacific moisture).

***

“What We Are Seeing Now In Greenland Is Out Of Bounds With Anything Seen In the Last Few Millions Year”

Two papers just published in Nature support my old opinion that the Greenland icecap is more fragile than it was previously assumed.  These papers arose from collaborations from many prestigious institutions, in several countries, with support from the US National Science Foundation. It uses new radioactive techniques (new in that context).

Basically, when exposed to the radiation of the natural environment, isotopic compositions get modified: elements become radioactive in specific ways; however, when tucked under kilometers of ice, said radiation does not reach the ground, and elements have a different isotopic composition; thus, scientists are now able to figure out what the ice cover was… even 7.5 million years ago.

A study pondered the Eastern Greenland ice cap. There are high mountains there (up to 3,700 meters). Computer models show that it should not have melted in the last 7.5 million years (some hopefully claim it never will, but that’s just fossil fuel industry driven computations…). This is indeed what was found in the isotopic studies. The leader of the study, Bierman, opined that:

“…the ice sheet in East Greenland responds to and tracks global climate change… The melting we are seeing today may be out of the bounds of how the Greenland ice sheet has behaved for many millions of years.”

That team collected only samples off the mountainous east side of Greenland. Its results don’t provide a definitive picture of the whole Greenland ice sheet. But its findings  provide strong evidence that “an ice sheet has been in East Greenland pretty much continuously for seven million years,” says Jeremy Shakun, a geologist at Boston College who co-led the new study. “It’s been bouncing around and dynamic — but it’s been there nearly all the time.”

However, people on the ground, see the ice sheet retreating by miles, every year, in some places, leaving an eerie landscape behind.

***

Contrast does not mean contradiction: 

The other study in Nature was led by Joerg Schaefer of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia University, looked at a small sample of bedrock from one location beneath the middle of the existing ice sheet. It came to what appears to be a contradictory conclusion: Greenland was nearly ice-free for at least 280,000 years during the middle Pleistocene — around 1.1 million years ago. This contradicts existing computer models: the Common Wisdom was that, after earth entered a period of glaciations 2.7 million years ago, camels disappeared from the High Arctic, and that was that.

“These results appear to be contradictory — but they may not be,” Bierman says. Both studies have “some blurriness… Their study is a bit like one needle in a haystack, and ours is like having the whole haystack, but not being sure how big it is.”

Both teams looked at isotopes within grains of quartz, produced when bedrock is bombarded by cosmic rays from space. The isotopes are created when rock is at or near Earth’s surface — but not when rock is buried under an overlying ice sheet. By looking at the ratio of two of these cosmic-ray-made elements — aluminum-26 and beryllium-10 caught in crystals of quartz, and measured in an accelerator mass spectrometer — the scientists calculated how long the rocks in their samples had been exposed to the sky, or covered by massive ice. The technique is not new, but was never applied before to cores from marine sediments. Now they are busy extending the methods to other places, including Antarctica.

All of this will allow to evaluate better the probability of melting of the ice sheets in the present conditions.

I think the real danger comes from Antarctica, and it’s coming soon. “But there’s enough sea-level rise tied-up in Greenland alone to put a lot of cities and long stretches of coastline underwater,” says Paul Bierman, “including Donald Trump’s property in Florida.”

Well, Trump knows this (whatever he says to assuage his most clueless, suffering supporters). And thus Trump may do more than Obama, who did nothing, except covering up with hot air coming out of his mouth the black reality that the Federal government coal is sold at less than 20% of what it costs (according to a study published in Science in December 2016). Now, in another orgasmic bout of hot air, Obama and Trudeau, less than a month from giving the reins to Trump, have barred drilling in the Arctic. Looks like Obama is suddenly waking up to the possibilities that being a US president brings.

The moral thing to do is to be informed, and to look, in particular, at hypocrisy with a clear eye. Now Obama will be able to claim that he stopped the pipelines and the drilling. Zorro arrived at the last second to save the Earth, seven and a half year too late. History will laugh at how naive his (frantically hypocritical) admirers were.

Patrice Ayme’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15 Responses to “Saharan Snow, Enjoy, It Will Not Last”

  1. Gmax Says:

    It is a different world from even a few years back. Scary but strangely exciting

    • Paul Handover Says:

      Gmail, you capture my feelings precisely. That sense of excitement reminds me of starting out on an ocean sailing journey. Yes, one is aware of the dangers but there most certainly is a feeling of excitement that comes from entering the unknown.

      And, boy oh boy, we are rattling on the door of an unknown vastness incomprehensible to 99.9% of the people who live on this planet.

      Happy New Year! 😎

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Happy New Year to you too, Paul!
        You as an old ocean sailor, and GMAX and her runs in the wilderness are made for each other (unbelievably we met once in a redwood forest on a mountain, by sheer happenstance! We were both running, but in opposite direction…. That girl is as crazy as me (that’s how we recognize each other, the craziness…)… She should not be running in the woods, miles from any rescue, especially the way she looks…)

        Yes, all of humanity is turning into a scientific experiment beyond comprehension. And we have no choice

      • Gmax Says:

        Thanks, Paul. This is an exciting journey ahead, i’m sure. I feel the possibilities are beyond what any of us can imagine.

        Happy Xmas and New Year to you
        Best,
        Gmax

  2. EugenR Says:

    Happy new and fruitful year to You and your followers and commentators. The world needs you.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Eugen, much appreciated, and I am sure commentators and followers appreciate too. A nice greeting from time to time is the essence of a social animal’s life. I should actually finishing writing that love post, I half wrote. That fits the solstice just right! The increasing light…

  3. ianmillerblog Says:

    One of the more annoying points made by climate change deniers is that there are selected places where the temperatures are colder than expected. What they fail to acknowledge is if they are relying on selected spots, that means the system is further from equilibrium, which in turn arise from an overall increase in energy input. Their “evidence” is exactly evidence of the opposite to what they think it means. Selected spot temperatures are meaningless. A total lack of appreciation of calculus.

  4. oatmealactivist Says:

    The petroleum that remains in the earth will be pumped out and burned (or used in myriad other ways as most petroleum doesn’t end up as fuel, of course) until alternatives are as cheap and flexible as it has been.

    We have invested inadequately in alternatives, instead tilting at literal windmills and propping up corrupt corporations (Solyndra) with public funds. With adequate funding, fusion power is a possibility; with current funding, the brass ring will always remain just out of reach.

    What occurs to me is that many of the powerful in Washington, leaders of key big businesses, the rules of Saudi Barbaria, etc do not want to fund alternatives. They easily could and such funding would disappear unnoticed into the mammoth US budget.

    The US government and economies are dependent upon a global energy system that buys oil in dollars. A future with fuel cells, fusion and solar will not require that energy commodities be traded in dollars, which suddenly makes the growing US debt less attractive to hold, and imports suddenly far more expensive.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The fossil fuels in the ground, most of them will not be pumped.
      Why?
      Simple. Suppose they were. On the way to that goal, sea level would start to rise 75 meters. Conscious of the problem, the most advanced countries would outlaw fossil fuels. Because of this and other related problems, massive world war with nukes. 95% of humanity dies. The rest stops using fossil fuels, in part thanks to much more advanced tech. This is the scenario we are on course to follow, except if drastic measures are taken right away, like a massive worldwide carbon tax. And economic war on countries not following…

      • oatmealactivist Says:

        Why?

        Not because I want them to be! Because there’s no real appetite for a carbon tax and real investment in alternatives (both of which I support) among most of those in a position to effect them. For the reasons mentioned at the end of my above post and others.

        I agree on the urgency, the risk and the likely end result if do not find a way to break our dependency on fossil fuels.

        Not enough attention is given to your last point: the geopolitical ramifications of climate change: political instability, mass migrations and brutal armed conflicts will follow.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Some think the disintegration of Syria was partly caused by climate change (there was a drought first).
          At some point there will be a carbon war. The most advanced countries will outlaw carbon, other countries will resist, coal plants will be nuked… (hahaha)

  5. SDM Says:

    How long before fossil fuels are forbidden? Is there current technology capable of meeting energy demands without them? If not then that should be a the object of major public investment.There appears to be no concerted major effort to replace them but rather more extraction looks to be the goal. Let is hope that your apocalyptic scenario is not our future!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I have written essay around that theme, long ago. I think another is needed:

      Outlaw carbon burning, tax carbon.
      At this point hydro, wind and solar are self sustainable (actually wind and hydro were developped extensively by 1000 CE in Europe). So is nuclear fisson PWR.
      Let’s suppose for a moment that I am god, and that I forbade carbon burning within 10 years (with exception of world’s poorest areas). Could that work with a Trump to the power Trump world? Yes.

      Concerted major effort will be launched within ten years, because by then it will be obvious that not only the ice sheets are breaking down, but sea level rise is exponentiating… It will also be too late to avoid the evacuation of cities like Miami.

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