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James Hansen: Storms of My Grandchildren
The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity.
James Hansen, dean of US climate scientists, first warned the world of the danger of radical climate change due to CO2 emissions a generation ago; he considers himself a scientist and 'not a communicator' and hoped that his research would be enough to motivate necessary policy changes. A few years ago he decided he had to do more, and he has been speaking out ever since. "Storms of My Grandchildren" is his first book, and as the title implies, represents his effort to set the record straight in a comprehensive way on the question of human-caused climate change, and deliver a blunt warning to us about our future on Earth.
Hansen's Bottom line: "I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."
Read the complete review
Video: Hansen talks about "Storms of My Grandchildren"
'Storms' website / 'Storms' at Amazon
// Case Focus //
2010 a Year of Record Warming
End of Year Update: 2010 ties 2005 for Warmest Year on Record (story)
From left: LA storms, Heathrow cleanup, Australia summer snow, Ohio iced lighthouse, Indonesia hailstorm. (click to enlarge)
December 2010: Stormy Weather
Lucky I suppose, that COP16 was not also held in Northern Europe, now in the grip of another arctic cold and snow onslaught similar to the one last year that sent heads of state scurrying home as COP15 collapsed in Copenhagen last December (2009). Going back to the previous most severe, the winter of 2005-2006, we notice that these follow record warm years (in the summer of 2005 30,000 people died in Europe as a result of the heat). Hot years come with severe winters it seems, at least for Northern Europe, Northern Eurasia, and to some extent Northeast America. So what's going on? In Europe this winter there's talk of oil from the BP spill having gotten into the Gulf Stream and somehow depressing the Atlantic Conveyor. But as we noted, the pattern was already in place in 2005-2006, and again in 2009-2010, before the BP spill.
Is arctic warming changing winter atmospheric patterns over Europe and Asia?
An analysis done in Nov 2009 and just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research reports a causative link between shrinking sea-ice coverage in the Northern Oceans and a "large-scale atmospheric circulation realignment" causing extreme cold and severe storms in Northern Europe and North Asia. "Recent severe winters like last year's or the one of 2005-2006 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it," explained Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and a physicist at the Potsdam Institute. (ref)
Dec 22. Several weeks of freak snowfall leading up to the holidays has left European airports in chaos; the worst hit were the two largest, Heathrow and Frankfurt. The European Commission has called a meeting of airport officials to find new ways of coping with the kind of weather extremes seen this month. Today, Christmas eve, Heathrow, Gatwick and Geneva airports were closed again, and a terminal at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport was evacuated due to fears the roof would collapse under the load of snow.
Meanwhile, for the second year, Southern California is being clobbered by intense storms and record heavy downpours, causing widespread flooding and mudslides, in the seventh straight day of extreme weather. (12/22)
One might wonder how far this "large-scale atmospheric circulation realignment" extends, given that it's been snowing in New South Wales Australia this week, which being squarely in the southern hemisphere, is normally experiencing summer temperatures in the high 80's around Christmas time. Further north, in Queensland, torrential rains have flooded an area larger than France and Germany combined; the military is called out. The city of Rockhampton is described as "an island in a vast inland sea".
A hail storm damaged roofs and cars in Denpasar, capital of equatorial Bali.
Severe storms hit the Mideast, and waves lashing a coastline in Israel unearthed a 2000 year old life-size Roman marble statue.
The Panama Canal was closed due to heavy rains.
The California storms might be ascribed to a strong El Nino effect, though this was to be a La Nina year; strangely, both patterns are presenting.
NASA's Earth Observatory shows satellite photos of severe weather events on their website.
Summer 2010: Global Warming/Weirding Well Underway
Summer, 2010. Last winter's blizzards and icy blasts, along with the failure of the Copenhagen Conference, seemed to put climate change at the bottom of everyone's worry list and give climate-change deniers the upper hand. And as the North began to heat up in late spring, we were pre-occupied with the oil disaster in the Gulf. But as the graphic to the left shows, while the extreme Arctic Oscillation last winter caused some very cold air masses over much of North America, Northwest Europe, and Central Asia, on a global scale, the heating was continuing apace.
All in all, the first 6 months of 2010 were the warmest on record, and June was the warmest on record. Then July broke those records, in fact broke high temperature records in 17 countries.
Much of north America and Eurasia baked in triple digits, forest fires swept 27 regions of Russia, and Moscow was shrouded in smoke. By August we had headlines like "Heat Wave of 2010 in Eurasia Has Toppled Historic Records" and "Russia Heat Wave Statistics Staggers the Imagination". Russian President Medvedev: "What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate."
By the end of July, Pakistan had hit highs of 128°, but the worst was the rainbomb that hit that country's watershed, dropping some 16" of rain in 48 hours, killing thousands, and destroying thousands of homes and farms downstream. As of August 11th, 20% of Pakistan's total land area was underwater.
In early August, 700 people per day were dying in Moscow from the heat and smoke, Russia was suspending grain exports, and a huge chunk of Greenland's Petermann Glacier broke off, ten square miles and 600 feet deep, in a "very unusual event" said scientists.
But we are again reminded that a better term for global warming is 'global weirding'; just as we in much of the North experienced some extreme cold last winter, countries in South America, below the equator, got hit in July with an antarctic blast that froze the continent up to Bolivia, where millions of creatures were killed by the cold.
There was also the puzzling collapse of the earth's upper atmosphere, and the appearance of mysterious glowing clouds in the night skies.
NOAA has just released it's State of The Climate 2009:
"Global average surface and lower-troposphere temperatures during the last three decades have been progressively warmer than all earlier decades, and the 2000s (2000-09) was the warmest decade in the instrumental record . . .
Global integrals of upper-ocean heat content for the last several years have reached values consistently higher than for all prior times in the record . . .
Extreme warmth was experienced across large areas of South America, southern Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Australia had its second warmest year on record. India experienced its warmest year on record; Alaska had its second warmest July on record, behind 2004; and New Zealand had its warmest August since records began 155 years ago. Severe cold snaps were reported in the UK, China, and the Russian Federation. Drought affected large parts of southern North America, the Caribbean, South America, and Asia. China suffered its worst drought in five decades. India had a record dry June associated with the reduced monsoon. Heavy rainfall and floods impacted Canada, the United States, the Amazonia and southern South America, many countries along the east and west coasts of Africa, and the UK. The U.S. experienced its wettest October in 115 years and Turkey received its heaviest rainfall over a 48-hr period in 80 years."
(remember: this was through 2009, and does not include this year's extremes- download report PDF)
Well now it's summer in the North, and we're on our second, or is it third, heat wave in two months. It used to be that mid-nineties for a few days was a heat wave. Now it's when we go triple digits. And we've got record-breaking heat on the East Coast, in Brazil, in Southern China, and in Europe where the heat is causing crops to wither, forest fires to ignite and roads to melt, trains were down, a
tornado hit an island in the North Sea, and Dutch dykes were weakening.
So maybe now we can get back to worrying about climate change. By mid September we'll have the latest figures on the shrinking Arctic sea-ice, usually the seasonal climax of warming worries. We'll only have a few months before the blizzards and cold spells induce seasonal amnesia again...
Moscow, Aug 6: 5000 are dead in the worst Russian heat wave ever; Moscow is shrouded in smoke as forest fires rage. . . (Aug 6 report).
Moscow, July 31: Russia's hottest summer in history: Moscow temperatures over 100 degrees F this week, wildfires out of control, 240,000 acres burning 1000 homes destroyed, state of emergency in 27 regions. (report)
More climate change news:
It has been discovered that sea ice works like a giant gas pump, pumping CO2 into the ocean.
". . . researchers have found that. . . as sea ice forms, it rejects brine, rich in inorganic carbon compounds (derived from atmospheric CO2), into the underlying seawater, a process further stimulated by carbonate precipitation within the sea ice. The summer sea ice melt liberates water which is strongly depleted in CO2. The very low concentration of CO2 in this surface water then drives the extraordinary uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere."
As sea-ice cover recedes, this pump is being shut down. (Arctic sea ice pumps 50% more carbon dioxide into the oceans)
Largest hailstones ever seen hit a South Dakota town. . . world-record kilo-size hailstones smash through car windows, rooftops. . . (report)
Blistering heat expected in Northeast; A heat wave of historic proportions
Forecasts suggest that this year the amount of ice in the Arctic is likely to retreat to its lowest extent on record
Beijing: Officials fear floods, strained reinforcements
Russia suffering worst drought in 130 years
Russians and Their Crops Wilt Under Heat Wave
Hemorrhagic Fever Cases at All Time High in Bali
Dead Pool- Imagining the Future of the American Southwest
Heat Waves and Energy Crunches: the Future is Now
Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya Asia Society Exhibit, photos and videos
Methane Releases from Arctic Shelf May Be Much Larger and Faster Than Anticipated
ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2010) A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team. . .
Methane releases in arctic seas could wreak devastation
Massive releases of methane from arctic seafloors could create oxygen-poor dead zones, acidify the seas and disrupt ecosystems in broad parts of the northern oceans, new preliminary analyses suggest.
Such a cascade of geochemical and ecological ills could result if global warming triggers a widespread release of methane from deep below the Arctic seas, scientists propose in the June 28 Geophysical Research Letters.
Hansen Arrested at Protest
NASA's chief climate scientist James Hansen was arrested Sept 27, along with 100 others, while protesting mountaintop removal in Washington DC. Said Hansen: "I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen. Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient. Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished."