Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Arctic rain in winter

It looks as if the old year is leaving us with a parting gift, as blogger Robert Scribbler notes: above freezing temperatures in the Arctic:
The Starks were wrong. Winter isn’t coming. It’s dying.
******
As The Atlantic so aptly notes, the hottest year in the global climate record is ending with a Storm that will Unfreeze the North Pole. A warm storm that is now predicted to bring never-before-seen above freezing temperatures in the range of 32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit for the highest Latitude in the Northern Hemisphere by afternoon tomorrow. A storm expected to dump six inches of rain and bring 80 mile per hour winds to a Northern England already suffering the worst flooding events in all of its long history. A storm that will rage ashore in Iceland packing 90-100 mile per hour winds and hurl both heavy rains and snows across that volcanic isle.
In the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer tells us, citing Scribbler:
 2015 is the warmest year ever recorded. Thirteen of the top 14 warmest years on the books have happened this century. And here in the United States, it has been a hot, strange month. Many cities across the northeast smashed their Christmas and Christmas Eve temperature records not at midday, but at the stroke of midnight. For the hundred-plus years that New York temperatures have been recorded, the city has never been warmer than 63 degrees Fahrenheit on a December 24. Yet at 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve of this year, the thermometer measured 67 degrees.
Some of this North American heat is a regular feature of every El Niño. (Indeed, I wrote about this El Niño-associated heat a few weeks ago.) But in the Arctic, this level of warmth is unprecedented. In order for this huge, hot storm to reach Iceland on Wednesday, it’s punching  right through the Jet Stream, the atmospheric “river” that brings temperate weather to Europe. Yet El Niño should typically reinforce this current, explains the climate writer Robert Scribbler—for the Jet Stream to weaken is a sign that something else is going on.
It will take years for scientists to analyze the data to determine with a high degree of confidence whether this bizarre winter storm system is connected to climate change, but Scribbler concludes:

As the first front of warm air proceeded over the ice pack to the north of Svalbard, the rains fell through 35-40 degree (F) air temperatures. It splattered upon Arctic Ocean ice that rarely even sees rain during summer-time. Its soft pitter-patter a whisper that may well be the sound to mark the end of a geological age.
For we just don’t see rain over Arctic sea ice north of Greenland during Winter time. Or we used to not. But the warmth that liquid water falling through the black of what should be a bone-cold polar night represents something ominous. Something ushered to our world by human fossil fuel industry’s tremendous emission of heat trapping gasses. Gasses that in the range of 400 ppm CO2 and 485 ppm CO2e are now strong enough to begin to roll back the grip of Winter. Gasses, that if they keep being burned until we hit a range between 550-650 ppm CO2 (or equivalent) will likely be powerful enough to wipe out Winter as we know it entirely over the course of long and tumultuous years of painful transition.
What does the beginning of the end of Winter sound like? It’s the soft splash of rain over Arctic Ocean sea ice during what should be its coldest season.
 Not to worry though. Even as scientists analyze these new data points, our gopper presidential clowns have already decided what's what:
Record drought and heat, wildfires, Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, President Obama's Clean Power Plan and his photogenic trip to Arctic Alaska — all became plot points in the developing narrative.
Then, on cue in the second week of December, came the climactic moment: The agreement was a done deal, signed at a conference center outside Paris. Almost 200 nations pledged to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
It was far from perfect, but there was a widespread sense that history had been made. The world had vowed to act on a daunting issue.

Yet just as momentum for the agreement was building, an alternative narrative was unfolding in the race for the Republican presidential nomination and raising questions for the year ahead: Will whoever becomes the Republican nominee view climate change as a priority?
Short answer: No. Either it is not happening, or it is,but in either case, government should not be involved.
 "The scientific evidence doesn't support global warming," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told NPR a few days before the agreement was signed.
"Climate change," he added, "is the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big-government politician who wants more power."
Outsider candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump also question climate science. Trump has said climate change was invented by the Chinese to hurt the United States economy.
"Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there's weather," the real estate mogul has said. "I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have acknowledged that the climate is changing but say government cannot fix the problem. Both have said the Obama administration is futilely trying to address the issue in isolation from the rest of the world.
"America is a lot of things — the greatest country in the world, absolutely," Rubio said at a Republican debate in September on CNN. "But America is not a planet."
(huh?)
In the same exchange, Christie said, "We shouldn't be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild, left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound."
(huh?)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have both acknowledged that humans contribute to climate change but said it is not a top priority. Bush said he was not sure he would have attended the Paris conference as Obama did. Kasich said leaders should have been discussing Islamic State instead.
The Republicans say they will repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan, which reduces emissions from power plants. Trump has suggested shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency, which created the plan. ("What they do is a disgrace," he said in October. "Every week they come out with new regulations.")
The Paris agreement set out goals that are not binding under international law. As such, they do not require approval by the Republican-controlled Senate, which has soundly opposed the Obama administration's climate goals.
 Meanwhile, the storm system, "Frank" that is currently flooding Britain is moving up through Iceland and Greenland to the North Pole.
Meteorologists said the storm centered near Iceland on Wednesday was expected to push formerly subtropical Atlantic air toward the North Pole, making the Arctic far warmer than usual winter temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Temperatures at the winter-darkened North Pole Wednesday lay only around freezing point, or 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Norway's Spitzbergen archipelago, within the Arctic Circle, was experiencing 3 degrees plus.
Iceland's Meteorological Office forecast temperatures from zero up to five degrees Celsius, combined with extreme winds and high seas.
Time for the denialists to double down. 

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