Will The Bizarre Weather In Ottawa Wake Up The Climate Zombies In Parliament?

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Paul Beckwith is a part-time professor and PhD student of abrupt climate change in the Department of Geography at the University of Ottawa.  He recently wrote this paragraph in response to a shift of 40 degrees Celsius in two days in Ottawa:

Not a typical January in Ottawa. 10 degrees C for several days one week; -30 the next; followed by 10 the one after that. Why?

Normally the high altitude jet streams that circle the planet are predominantly from west to east with little waviness. Weather is cold and dry northward of the jets (Arctic air sourced) and warm and wet southward (moist tropics and ocean sourced). Now, and moving forward, the jets are extremely wavy and as the crests and troughs of the waves sweep by us each week we experience the massive swings in temperature. The extreme jet waviness is due to a very large reduction in the equator-to-Arctic temperature gradient caused by an exponentially declining Arctic reflectivity from sea-ice and snow cover collapses (which causes great amplification of Arctic temperatures). Additional amplification is occurring due to rapidly rising methane concentrations sourced from sea-floor sediments and terrestrial permafrost.

Observed changes will accelerate as late summer sea-ice completely vanishes from Arctic within a few years. Largest human impacts will be food supply shortages and increases in severity, frequency, and duration of extreme weather events.

Here Professor Beckwith explains it in one minute and thirteen seconds:



More links:

Paul Beckwith’s Blog : Time To Leave Fantasy Island: Climate 2.0 Is Here

Well, Mr. Harper?  Well, Mr. Kent?  Gonna wake up from your Big Oil-induced stupor?

harper's oily decisions

U.S. Senator: Washington’s Failure To Act On Climate Change Is Blameworthy & The Consequences Profound

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave a powerful speech in the U.S. Senate last week, making a thorough  and well-supported argument for immediate comprehensive action to mitigate the effects of human-caused climate destabilization and ocean acidification:


Here are some excerpts from the transcript:

Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change.

   This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction.

   Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature–God’s Earth–is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature–of God’s Earth–and we ignore the laws of nature–of God’s Earth–at our very grave peril.

There is a wave of very justifiable economic frustration that has swept through our Capitol. The problem is that some of the special interests–the polluters–have insinuated themselves into that wave, sort of like parasites that creep into the body of a host animal, and from there they are working terrible mischief. They are propagating two big lies. One is that environmental regulations are a burden to the economy and we need to lift those burdens to spur our economic recovery. The second is the jury is still out on climate changes caused by carbon pollution, so we don’t need to worry about it or even take precautions.

   Both are, frankly, outright false.

…Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean.

   The laws of physics and the laws of chemistry and the laws of science these are laws of nature. These are laws of God’s Earth. We can repeal some laws around here but we can’t repeal those. Senators are used to our opinions mattering a lot around here, but these laws are not affected by our opinions. These laws do not care who peddles influence, how many lobbyists you have or how big your corporate bankroll is. Those considerations, so important in this town, do not matter at all to the laws of nature.

   As regards these laws of nature, because we can neither repeal nor influence them, we bear a duty, a duty of stewardship to see and respond to the facts that are before our faces according to nature’s laws. We bear a duty to shun the siren song of well-paying polluters. We bear a duty to make the right decisions for our children and grandchildren and for our God-given Earth.

   Right now I must come before the Chamber and remind this body that we are failing in that duty. The men and women in this Chamber are indeed catastrophically failing in that duty. We are earning the scorn and condemnation of history–not this week, perhaps, and not next week. The spin doctors can see to that. But ultimately and assuredly, the harsh judgment that it is history’s power to inflict on wrong will fall upon us. The Supreme Being who gave us this Earth and its abundance created a world not just of abundance but of consequence and that Supreme Being gave us reason to allow us to plan for and foresee the various consequences that those laws of nature impose.

   It is magical thinking to imagine that somehow we will be spared the plain and foreseeable consequences of our failure of duty. There is no wizard’s hat and wand with which to wish this away. These laws of nature are known; the Earth’s message to us is clear; our failure is blameworthy; its consequences are profound; and the costs will be very high.

To read the full transcript, go to the PDF of the Congressional Record (Senator Whitehouse’s address starts in the 3rd column of  S6477) or projectquipu.net

If you’d like to send Senator Whitehouse a note thanking him for his courage in standing up to powerful polluters, his address is:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Hart Senate Office Building
Room 717
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-2921
Fax: 202-228-6362
(and by the way, today – October 20th – is his birthday, if you want to include that in your message!)

Not Just Your Grandparent’s Weather Anymore

Yesterday, it rained.  In Winnipeg.  In the middle of the Canadian Prairies. In January.  That’s more than just weird – it’s down right unnatural.

Unfortunately, climate change will be causing more and more weird and unnatural weather.  A better word for climate change or global warming is “Global Climate Destabilization”.

That would explain rain on the prairies in January.

Check out Can Climate Change Explain the Odd Weather?, a 2007 interview with Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on NPR. Trenberth states:

…of course one of the things which definitely alters things and makes you suspect that there’s just no good analog, which is what you’re really talking about here, is global warming. You know, and this has really kicked in in the last 25 to 30 years. It’s rearing its head more and more, and it just means that conditions nowadays can never be quite like what they used to be in the past. The oceans are warming up. The oceans have warmed up about a degree Fahrenheit as a whole. There’s more water vapor over the oceans. That invigorates storms. It changes the character of hurricanes, makes them more intense typically, these heavier rainfall events that we’re experiencing across North America.

And so the – you know, this is not – this is not your grandfather’s weather anymore.

For more discussion on this topic, check out the CBC science show Quirks and Quarks discussion on the difference between climate and weather.

Weird Weather

Here on the Canadian prairies where I live, temperatures above freezing are forecast for today and tomorrow, with a chance of freezing rain.  While this is normal winter weather in many parts of the globe, it definitely is NOT normal for this part of the world.  The normal maximum temperature for today is – 13 degrees Celcius (+ 9 degrees fahrenheit) and the normal minimum is – 24 degrees Celcius (-11 Fahrenheit).  As you can see, living on the prairies isn’t for wimps!  There are people who jokingly suggest that it wouldn’t hurt if our winters warmed up a bit, so global warming is a good thing. If only it were that simple.

One can’t point to just one weather event and say it proves or disproves climate change. Weather changes every day, but climate is the average weather in a region over a long period of time. Scientists who study climate accumulate data, including information on weather patterns, and evaluate trends over time.  And what they are telling us is that we can start to expect more extreme weather as our atmosphere warms due to higher-than-ever-before  atmospheric accumulations of CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane. These “waves of global extremity” will cause weather to become hotter, colder, and more chaotic in weird patterns.  And freezing rain on the prairies in January (or in February, as in 2009) is definitely weird!

The folks at NASA Earth Observatory report that while Europe, Asia, and parts of North America have been in a deep freeze recently, the Arctic was exceptionally warm. Click here to read more, and view satellite images. Check out this article from The Daily Page newspaper that examines the changes in weather that Wisconsin is experiencing and the state’s response, the “Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts”.

On the lighter side of weird weather, here is a video that was taken last February after a freezing rain storm hit the prairies.


To find out what you can do to prevent the worst effects of global warming, go to 350.org or StopGlobalWarming.org