Polar Vortex: Yes, it's global warming!

The much-hyped "Polar Vortex" that plunged much of North America into dangerously low temperatures is giving the climate change denialist crowd an opportunity to gloat—and, typically, display their ignorance. Bloomberg on Jan. 7 presented a sneering Tweet from Donald Trump dismissing global warming as "bullshit" because the "planet is freezing." But the Bloomberg account, as well as a video on the Greenpeace Blog, quotes Rutgers University climate researcher Jennifer Francis explaining how the Vortex was likely unleashed by—yup, global warming! It seems that the Jet Stream, which normally serves as a boundary separating cold air to the north from warm air to the south, is being destabilized; receding arctic sea ice lessens the temperature difference either side of the Stream, thereby slowing its velocity and causing large loops and meanders to form, and even for it to get "stuck." When this happens, North America and Europe are going either into extreme heat or extreme cold, depending on where the jet gets jammed. Recent record-breaking highs in Chicago and Fairbanks, as well as shriveling heat waves across the Great Plains, may have been caused by the same phenomenon now sending the mercury plunging in the Midwest and Northeast.

Sorry, Donald.

We we have noted (repeatedly) that "global warming" is actually a misleading term, allowing the denialists to gloat at every cold snap. What we are looking at is better understood as climate destabilization. Others have called it "global weirding," portending more extreme weather rather than a steady and uniform rise in temperature everywhere around the word. (More at Time's Ecocentric blog, Jan. 6)

Global warming skeptics not gloating in Australia

As Rush Limbaugh and his minions were chortling in sanctimony about how the "Polar Vortex" disproves global warming (The Weather Channel), a record-breaking heatwave in Australia was literally going off the scale: meteorologists had to create a new color chart as temperatures climbed to 54°C (130°F), setting off more devastating brush fires. (Daily Mail, Jan. 8)

Sorry, Rush.

The Ice Age is coming?

BBC News reported Jan. 17 that scientists at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire note a 100-year low in sunspot activity, just at a time when the Sun should be at the high point of an 11-year cycle. We might be headed into longterm lull akin to the "Maunder Minimum" of the 17th century. Just what we need. A century of harsh winters, so the climate denialists can claim vindication and we can totally trash out the planet for all eternity... Or even calls to let global warming go full-rip to cancel out the new Ice Age.

Of course 100 years is a mere blink in the geological time-scale. And note that civilization was not wiped out in the 17th century. But anthropogenic climate change could well wipe out civilization...

Record cold in a warming world

Brian Tokar of Plainfield, Vt., writes via e-mail:

An interesting blog post from Dr. Jeffrey Masters of the Weather Underground weather service. Includes a global map as of today, showing a large region of unusually cold weather across all of Canada and the eastern US, plus a significant expanse of south Asia. But there are comparable warm areas throughout the Arctic, extending south to almost all of Europe and the Middle East. Check it out at [this link]. It's the post dated March 4.

For at least 2 US cities, Tucson and Las Vegas, this has been the warmest winter on record!

Arctic sea ice continues decline

Arctic summertime sea ice continued its long-term decline in 2014. The ice reached its annual minimum extent on Sept. 17, the sixth-lowest Arctic sea ice minimum in the satellite record. Meanwhile, wintertime sea ice around the Antarctic continent was headed in the opposite direction. It is uncertain if Antarctic sea ice has reached its maximum extent for the year, but we do know that the ice has already broken records this year. As of Sept. 19, the five-day average had already surpassed 20 million square kilometers (7.70 million square miles) for the first time in the modern satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). (EarthSky, Sept. 27)

Meteorologist Jason Samenow blogs for the Washington Post: "[I]ncreasing Antarctic sea ice does not in any way disprove global warming. Despite the increase in winter sea ice in the Antarctic, the water in the Southern Ocean is warming while satellite measurements have shown that the Antarctic continent is–on balance–losing ice. Whereas there is an apparent straight forward relationship between rising temperatures and loss of ice during the summer in the Arctic; warming temperatures in the Antarctic in winter (when background temperatures are really cold) simply do not have the same effect."

It has been demonstrated again and again that the Antarctic continental ice covering is melting. The science site io9 now reports that the European Space Agency's GOCE satellite, launched in 2009 to monitor fluctuations in the Earth's gravity, has actually detected gravitational variations in the Antarctic due to dramatic loss of ice cover on the continent.

Meanwhile, back up in the Arctic, an unprecedented 35,000 walruses are crowding the shores of Alaska due to the retreat of ice in the Chukchi Sea. "Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore," Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey, told the Guardian. And this is very bad news for the critters. Writes the Washington Post: "Gathered in large numbers on shore, animals can quickly transmit disease. Food can become scarce. Stampedes can kill animals, especially calves. There are also brown bears and polar bears about."

And still, the media play up the denialist nonsense as if it were just another legitimate point of veiw.