When the Great Ice Sheets Start Going Down — Approaching the Age of...

Robert Scribbler warns that we're beginning to transition from Phase 1 Climate Change (Arctic Amplification) to Phase 2 (An Age of Storms). The Age of Storms should last centuries, as Greenland and  Antarctica rapidly melt down and the "the meridional ocean circulations in the North Atlantic and in the Southern Ocean are cut off." Phase 3 will be a runaway hothouse and a stratified/Canfield Ocean state.

James Hansen defined these Phases in The Storms of My Grandchildren.

That cool Atlantic patch south of Greenland, and the greater extent of Antarctic sea ice this year are early signs of this transition.

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Another sign is that Sea level rise rates have jumped to 4.4 millimeters per year (see study here).

You probably know that 3% of global warming heat is melting ice. Apparently making the great ice sheets of Earth melt has consequences.

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What will cause storms in the Atlantic? Cool fresh water from Greenland melt will float on the surface like a lid, shutting down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. It's already slowed.

And the North Atlantic Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is slowing down.

Since deep ocean water can't form off of Greenland (because of this lid), it will form further south.

Deep water formation is driven toward the equator. This stops heat transport toward the poles in a number of regions resulting in equatorial heat amplification.

As the Gulf Stream stops transporting tropical water toward Greenland and Europe, the tropics will heat faster. This will make an ever steeper temperature and pressure gradient in the Atlantic, amplifying the storm track more.

The result is a shift of the center of cold air to an off-set zone more toward Greenland and a screaming storm track running oblong over the polar zone and centering over a trough in the North Atlantic. Amazing temperature differentials between the continents, the Polar zone, Greenland, the North Atlantic, the equatorial Atlantic and Africa result in the potential for continent-sized storms packing the strength of hurricanes according to a recent study by Hansen. [emphasis mine]

Welcome to The Anthropocene Era!

Wild weather? <manic laughter> Brought to you by the fossil fuel industry and TPP.

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The good news is that continent-sized hurricanes won't form early in Phase 2. That's the world we're leaving to our grandchildren.

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Replies to This Discussion

Ruth, this article did not show up in my mail and I realized you had posted something ... there was a little green ball that looked suspicious. I hunted and found the article citation, but not the article. So, I reposted the citation. Now, I see that this is what the little green ball was directing toward. Unless you advise otherwise, I will leave the Discussion article in place since it links to Facebook. If you advise that I take it down, I will surely do so. 

Thanks Ruth!

Do we even have any prospects of avoiding Phase 2 at this point? (If so, that would clearly take global political will unlike anything we've seen so far!)

It seems highly unlikely, as we are still doing business as usual. CO2 keeps rising and fossil fuel companies are heavily investing in future "production". Even if we went carbon free this year, the CO2 already released, and the feedback mechanisms already engaged, guarantee further heating for hundreds of years.

Grinning Cat, I see no way to avoid what is coming. It is kind of like warning someone that if they keep drinking they will have liver failure or worse. It is inevitable. 

We are not helpless. There are things we can do to prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best. One thing is to find out if you live on high enough elevation to avoid flooding by the storm surges. Another is to find ways to produce foods other than through the greengrocer. 

We are preparing for the worst at Laura's home by having a generator at each house for when the power fails. We also plan on a greenhouse that is more sturdy than the one we recently moved to a more sheltered spot. We plan to raise fruits and vegetable all year long. 

Last year there was a storm that took out a lot of pine trees and homes very near where their home sits. There is nothing we can do to prevent that kind of damage. What we have decided to do is to have a stash of supplies stored in an underground bin. That may not be enough, but it is something that we do to prepare. All the pine and coniferous trees have been removed that could damage the house, barn and other buildings. The slash is buried in a huge hugelculture and the trees cut into firewood. My most recent movie shows the hugelkulture being dug by Jacob in his first experience on the tractor. 

Your family is so sensible, Joan. I'm glad to hear that.

But not being helpless also includes activism to stop climate change.

Oh yes! I do agree. The pieces you share make it easier for me to get the idea out to a larger public. 

Two climate model makers opine that we don't know enough yet about the effects of warming on jet stream and Arctic vortex response to predict them, that it's too complicated and nonlinear.

Opinion The impact of Arctic warming on the midlatitude jet-stream:...

They emphasize that there haven't been enough years of satellite observation to distinguish internal variability from climate forcing.

... with only 30 years or so of reliable satellite-era atmospheric (and sea ice) data, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish a forced signal from the background variability.

Does rapid Arctic warming have tangible implications for weather in lower latitudes? The jury is still out.
While there is a growing consensus in the model-based literature that that Arctic warming can, in isolation, significantly influence the midlatitude circulation, this neither implies that it has in the past, nor that it will in the future. This is because internal atmospheric variability may obscure the influence of Arctic warming
and/or the Arctic influence may be small compared with other factors that control midlatitude weather. [emphasis mine]

WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:277–286. doi: 10.1002/wcc.337

While their credentials check out, I remind readers that model-focused climate science has always been more dismissive of climate change and it's potential impacts than the consensus among climate scientists in the field.

How could the climate model community, in principle, say anything statistically significant about Climate Disruption that unfolds over decades, based on these constraints? "It would be nearly impossible to distinguish a forced signal from the background variability." undercuts the authority of their implicit dismissal of work such as Hansen's, in my eyes.

But, yeah, it's way more complicated than I imagined.

I found their Box 1 summary of possible mechanisms (in grey) helpful.

Barnes and Screen's opinion piece bothers me. While it's true that complex nonlinear processes can't be predicted with certainty, we can be sure whatever happens will be BAD.

They seem to imply that climate researchers should collect another 30 years of data before they say "Yes, Arctic heating does change the Jet Stream and Arctic Vortex." i.e. do nothing.

We're already seeing a flood of climate refugees from Africa and Myanmar. North America and Central America are already experiencing drought/flood cycles. In 30 years the University of Colorado might be a relic in a vast desert, overrun by climate refugees.

How do climate researchers get so out of touch with reality?

Causal connection between particular wild weather events and climate change is amusingly clarified by ClimateAdam.

North Atlantic high pressure systems coincide for now with the extra hot Gulf Stream current.

Here's the wind pattern.

Here's the Sea surface temperature.

You can see that the high pressure defining the circulation mirrors hot sea temperature.

images from earth nullschool

See the increasing North Atlantic temperature gradient. This map of 2015's sea surface anomalies shows it clearly, to the left of "North Atlantic". This gradient will drive Hansen's "Centuries of Storms" as it gets worse.

Environmental records shattered as climate change 'plays out before...

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