— The Erimtan Angle —

Some time ago a research article entitled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms” was published; its authors include such crazy climate luminaries like James Hansen and Eric Rignot: “Abstract. There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 °C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 °C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly dangerous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric”.[1]

Talking about this new research article in Rolling Stone, Eric Holthaus declares that “[h]istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide”.[2]  Holthaus then explains that “Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, ‘This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding’. Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still ‘unclear’ whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon”.[3]

Michael Mann is the climate scientist behind the famous hockey stick analogy: “The hockey stick is a famous historical temperature plot that shows for the past 2,000 years global temperatures moved up and down very slightly (hockey shaft) but in the past several decades the temperature has rapidly risen (hockey blade)”, as expressed by the meteorologist Scott Mandia.[4]  In response to Hansen et al.’s new research paper, Professor Mann e-mailed this missive to the Washington Post: the authors’ “case is most compelling when it comes to the matter of West Antarctic ice sheet collapse and the substantial sea level rise that would result, potentially on a timescale as short as a century or two”, adding however that “[t]heir climate model scenario wherein Greenland and Antarctic meltwater caused by warming poles, leads to a near total shutdown of ocean heat transport to higher latitudes, cooling most of the globe (particularly the extratropics), seems rather far-fetched to me”, nevertheless conceding that “[w]hether or not all of the specifics of the study prove to be correct, the authors have initiated an absolutely critical discussion”.[5]  Hansen himself then merely stated that “[y]ou can see a lot of different points in this paper, and it’s going to take a while for the community to sort them out, but actually, the story is clear”, namely that sea level rise is “the big impact of human made climate change”.[6]  And, taking into consideration that about 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and that the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all the earth’s water, Professor Hansen’s words may seem a bit trite but also alarmingly ominous.

[1] J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Heart2, R. Ruedy, M. Kelley, V. Masson-Delmotte, G. Russell, G. Tselioudis, J. Cao, E. Rignot, I. Velicogna, E. Kandiano, K. von Schuckmann, P. Kharecha1, A. N. Legrande, M. Bauer, and K.-W. Lo, “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (23 July 2015). http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015.html.

[2] Eric Holthaus, “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here”Rolling Stone (05 August 2015). http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805.

[3] Eric Holthaus, “The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here”.

[4] Scott Mandia, “BOOK REVIEW: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” Planet3.0 Beyond Sustainability (10 February 2012). http://planet3.org/2012/02/10/book-review-the-hockey-stick-and-the-climate-wars/.

[5] Chris Mooney, “The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future “The Washington Post (20 July 2015). http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/20/the-worlds-most-famous-climate-scientist-just-outlined-an-alarming-scenario-for-our-planets-future/.

[6] Chris Mooney, “The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future “.

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