Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Effects of Climate Change

One of the reasons "global warming" is such a poor term for "climate change" is that it gives folks a wrong impression. Yes, all of the greenhouse gasses that we've been releasing are warming up the earth, but this doesn't mean that the entire globe will be getting equally warm. Quite the contrary! As any New Englander can tell you, this indeterminable winter has been a cold and snowy one, leading lots of glib conservatives to quip "What Global Warming?" The reality is that our current pattern is a direct result of climate change. Pete Bouchard, the head Meteorologist for Boston's WHDH, puts it this way:
There are many reasons for stalled weather patterns, but I believe the biggest is the lack of sea ice from climate change. An open ocean leaves a lot of heat in the poles. This fosters high pressure (or blocks in the jetstream), and with very little movement to weather patterns at the top and bottom of the globe, we get pinned down in these long periods of heavy precipitation/drought and hot or cold.
Click the link to see an interesting graphic showing this effect.

Another result of climate change is the probable increase in extremely strong Atlantic storm surges (think Katrina):
Aslak Grinsted who works at the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen... proposes [in his paper] a new combined model to prognosticate hurricane surge threats — one that compares the record of hurricane activity in the Atlantic based on storm surge statistics (extracted from tide gauges) to changes in global temperature patterns. ... If the average global temperature increases by 0.4 degrees Celsius, we can expect to see a doubling in the frequency of storm surges like the one following Katrina.
Grim stuff! But this isn't really news; scientists have been predicting the dire effects of climate change for some time. Hell, pick up any issue of Sierra Magazine for the gory details. The question is what are we going to do about it? And the answer appears to be, i'm afraid, not much at all.

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