Odds and Gods
Momma Nature is gonna spank little baby
© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 8, 2012
The Climate Change conference is taking place right now in Qatar, a ludicrous choice since Qatar has the highest per capita emissions of CO2 in the world.
Adding to the general air of clownishness that surrounds this meeting is the fact that Senator Inhofe and Lord Monckton showed up—two of the biggest fools the denier community has. Inhofe wanted the world to know it wasn’t hot and dry in Oklahoma, and Monckton tried to claim he was the representative from Burma and actually managed to address the meeting before the ruse was discovered and he was kicked out of the country.
In the meantime, some of the details of the IPCC’s next comprehensive report leaked out. It’s a pretty terrifying report. Climate Change will reach catastrophic levels by 2050, 37 years away. That’s pretty bad. But the IPCC does not address the billions of tons of methane that will be released as the permafrost in Siberia and Canada melt. This is not a projected problem—it’s been going on for twenty years now, and is one of the main reasons why the rate of climate change keeps exceeding scientific predictions.
Determining future change without factoring that methane release is a bit like discussing damage from the Deepwater Horizon without mentioning the release of crude oil.
I know a lot of delegates and scientists take climate change very seriously, and I don’t mean to impugn them. But this air of clownishness – Qatar, really? – isn’t helping.
I got an email the other day from one bozo who had side-by-side graphs of the ice extent in the arctic, one from late August of this year, another from a few days ago. Ice extent in the first was about 3.4 million square kilometers, the lowest ever recorded. The one from the other day showed the extent at about 10 million sq. km. “See?” he crowed. “It’s coming back! Three times what it was!”
“Congratulations,” I wrote back. “You’ve discovered that they have ‘winter’ up there. Historically, there’s usually about twelve million kilometers at this point, and it’s about 2 ½ times thicker.”
I remember a few years ago I got a message from one True Believer who noted that it snowed in the Andes in July, and claimed that was proof that global warming was a myth.
Most of the clownishness comes from the deniers, and they have the same problem that the people who own the GOP (and it’s mostly the same people) have—when you are peddling sheer self-serving nonsense, no matter how much money you throw about, your sales force are going to be damaged bottom-feeders. The Inhofes, the Moncktons, the DeMints, the Bartons—that’s about the best you can hope for. Nuts and clowns. One of Inhofe’s companions in his jihad against global warming this week was a woman who believes that the UN exists only to facilitate the return of the Antichrist. It’s not clear why she thinks this is a bad thing.
The clown show is amusing, but Mother Nature isn’t laughing. She is not amused, and when Mother Nature is not amused, baby gets spanked. Hard.
For several years now, I’ve been giving this as a capsule description of what we can expect from global warming: “The weather will still be the weather. There will just be a lot more of it, is all.” Storms will be more violent, droughts drier, heat waves hotter, even cold spells longer.
Here in California, we had an atmospheric river set up a couple of weeks ago. I still think of those by the more informal name, “the Pineapple Express.” It wasn’t too horrible; we got about fifteen inches of rain over a ten-day period. Minor flooding around town, no serious damage. But we had one in 1997 that lasted 30 days, and we got 39” out of it. But in 1861-2, a monster atmospheric river set up, and the best estimate I can find is that this area got about 120” of rain in fifty days. There was no town then, and the local tribes didn’t keep records, but we can extrapolate just from the extreme damage central California took, with much of the Central Valley under eight feet of water.
Global Warming, and the arctic ice melt in particular, means that the waves of weather are both more intense and move more slowly. If a pair of blocking highs over Alberta and the Four Corners set up at the same time that a major low parks itself off the coast of Washington, and stays for a few months, we could get an 1862 disaster, only instead of a few hundred thousand people affected, it would be thirty million. Far worse than Katrina. Global warming doesn’t say that will happen, but it increases the odds of it happening any given winter. The less ice in the Arctic (and we could see an ice-free late summer in the Arctic by 2020, just seven years away) the more likely it is that the catastrophic weather confluence that could destroy much of the west will occur. The eastern seaboard already got two “once in a thousand year” events last year—the great heat wave in March that sent temperatures into the 80s and 90s, and Hurricane Sandy. Expect more things like that. More and more things like that.
Global warming doesn’t directly cause them; it just makes it more likely to occur. And as global warming worsens, they are more and more likely to occur, year in and year out. Eventually, things like the atmospheric river, or “perfect storms” or 160mph hurricanes on the Gulf Coast become the new normal.
And then we will start seeing weather events we’ve never seen, or even imagined before. Cat 5 hurricanes in the Maritimes. Cat 2 storms making it to Ireland. Five year droughts in California. Droughts that utterly sterilize Oklahoma and Texas. And still, it worsens.
So while Inhofe and Moncton are prancing for their corporate masters and playing the fools, reality continues.
The long range suggests about an 80% chance of a major El Niño occurring in the next three winters. El Niño conditions tend to ramp up the weather globally. This will coincide with next year’s peak in solar activity, and continued depletion of the Arctic ice cap.
So I’ll make this prediction right now, and give it a better than 90% of occurring: in the next three years from this day, a major weather event will strike the United States that will cost the lives of at least 20,000 Americans. It might be a storm, or a blizzard, or a heat wave, or a drought. I don’t know—I cannot know. I’m just playing the odds. I’m not Nostradamus, who was a fraud anyway. I’m just playing the odds.
I’ll also predict we’ll still have ignorant clowns prancing around promoting intellectually bankrupt foolishness. So right winger will save this, and on December 8th, 2015, I’ll get an email saying, “You were full of shit. Oh, it was a shame about Miami, and we’ll all miss the place, but you know, only 19,800 died. You owe me an apology!”
A pity that climate change won’t take the stupid first, You could almost justify it, then.