Monday, 6 October 2014

Wild Weather Swings

Above combination-image illustrates some of the wild temperature swings that are taking place on the Northern Hemisphere. While the average temperature anomaly on the Northern Hemisphere may not differ much between the two dates (+0.95°C versus +1.07°C), huge temperature swings can occur locally, as is the case in Greenland.

Note that the overall temperature anomaly for the Arctic is +2.16°C and +3.34°C, respectively, but it can be much more locally. What contributes to these high temperatures in the Arctic is that heat from the Arctic Ocean is entering the atmosphere where there still is open water, while large emissions of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean are exercizing their high immediate local warming potential.

On the Southern Hemisphere, things aren't much different, as illustrated by the combination-image below.

The two images show that, while the average anomaly for the Southern Hemisphere and for the Antarctic may not differ much between the two dates, temperature anomalies locally may go from one end of the scale to the other.

And it's not merely temperatures that seem to have gone wild. Winds have strengthened, which can push sea ice far out into the sea surrounding Antarctica, while the resulting open water quickly freezes over. The result is expanding sea ice that traps heat in the ocean, as discussed in an earlier post. It appears that much of the extra energy trapped by greenhouse gasses becomes manifest as kinetic energy, in the form of stronger winds, storms and ocean currents.

In conclusion, these huge temperature swings combine with pressure swings and storms, and with swings between expansion and contraction of soil and ice, resulting in severe shocks to ecosystems and infrastructure.

The threat is that infrastructure will increasingly come under stress. Infrastructure that was built up over hundreds, if not thousands of years, is not easily replaced with more durable alternatives. Parts of infrastructure such as roads, buildings, railways, storm water and drainage systems, water supply, dams, levees and power poles may collapse without much scope for repair.

Furthermore, soil degradation will increase, as in some areas storms grow stronger and run-off causes more erosion, while other areas may be hit by more severe droughts and dust-storms. In both cases, ecosystems will suffer and can go into shock, bringing food supply and habitat progressively and possibly abruptly under threat.

As more and deeper cracks and fractures appear in sediments and soils, more methane may start entering the atmosphere. Indications that the integrity of the permafrost is breaking up under the stress of such swings were discussed in earlier posts such as this one and this one. The extra methane can constitute a powerful additional feedback loop, causing strong additional warming locally.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.

References and Related Posts

- Climate Plan

- Antarctica linked to Arctic

- What's wrong with the weather?

- Is Global Warming breaking up the Integrity of the Permafrost?

- Earthquakes in the Arctic Ocean

- Ten Dangers of Global Warming (written March, 2007)


Wild Weather Swings
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