Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Climate change in higher latitudes is accelerating, but could this still be "natural"?

Yesterday, I first saw this alarming article on Think Progress, through Facebook, by Joe Romm, predicting a rise in temperature in the Arctic by 1 degree F per decade starting in 2020.   This is based in part on a paper from the US Department of Energy here. There is an “arctic acceleration” which means that the North Pole area warms about twice as fast as mid-latitudes.
The end result at md-latitudes so far seems to be more extreme weather events.  Heat waves may be longer and lead to bigger storms, and high-end tornadoes in areas that don’t usually have them, as well as derechos.  We don’t seem to be having bigger Atlantic hurricanes, but the Pacific typhoons sound like another matter.  Winters may not be as long, but very severe cold snaps, ice stoms and blizzards will still occur at lower latitudes. Wildfires will be harder to control.
The trend toward bigger heat waves started in the 1980s. On the other hand, the late February arctic cold waves has precedence in the East, as with similar periods in 1958 and again 1960, when I was in high school – the “three consecutive white Wednesdays” in March 1960.
Yet, the climate seems perturbed as much as ever in the past 1000 years.

Yet the Cato Institute redistributed an article by Richard Linden from the Wall Street Journal (March 4), insisting that increased climate variability (as in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2005) is itself natural.  At one time, we had a snowball Earth. But even if it is "natural" (like baldness), the world will have to deal with the consequences.  
Lessons from astronomy are interesting.  Mars may have had an ocean (Smithsonian article), and lost it because the planet isn’t big enough to keep a thick atmosphere and a magnetic field.  If Mars were maybe twice as massive as Earth, it might be relatively mild in climate with a thick atmosphere, and we might have neighbors to get along with.  Venus might have experienced runaway global warming as recently as a billion years ago.  Maybe it really did have life at one time

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