Tag: El Nino

Duh! Is it me!

Sometimes, one does have to wonder!

Years ago I recall hearing the retort, “What part of the word no are you having trouble with!

It made me laugh out loud.

It comes to mind again, and this is why.

The accumulation of evidence mounts almost on a daily basis that mankind is critically affecting the viability of Planet Earth. Not only threatening a sustainable home for tens of thousands of species but, most importantly, for homo sapiens.

Yesterday, I included a report that suggested we may be on the verge of one of the largest El Ninos in history.  The presumption being that the extra heat energy in the atmosphere is transferring to the Pacific waters.

Today, I want to stay with the theme that it is nature, not mankind, that is dictating our future; that our leaders, are way ‘behind the drag curve’ to use an aviation expression.

But let me offer yet another lesson from dogs.  Learnt from understanding the role of the ‘alpha’ dog; the leader.

When dogs lived in the wild the size of their pack, or community, was around fifty animals.  The most senior in status was the alpha dog.  The alpha dog was a female who had two important roles on behalf of the pack.  First, the alpha dog had the pick of the male dogs to ensure the optimum genetic health of the entire group.

Second, it was alpha dog that, in the rare circumstances of their pack’s territory becoming unsustainable, made the decision for her pack to find a new territory.

Humans are on the verge of understanding that our ‘territory’ is rapidly becoming unsustainable.  Just a great shame we don’t have any ‘alpha leaders’ to find ‘a new territory’.  Clearly in a metaphorical sense.  Because the last time I looked a ‘backup’ to Planet Earth wasn’t anywhere close!

No better illustrated than by a recent essay from George Monbiot that I am republishing in full within his blanket permission to so do.  The essay is called Loss Adjustment and was published in the Guardian newspaper on the 1st April 2014.

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Loss Adjustment

When people say we should adapt to climate change, do they have any idea what that means?
By George Monbiot

To understand what is happening to the living planet, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold remarked, is to live “in a world of wounds … An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” (1)

The metaphor suggests that he might have seen Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People (2). Thomas Stockmann is a doctor in a small Norwegian town, and medical officer at the public baths whose construction has been overseen by his brother, the mayor. The baths, the mayor boasts, “will become the focus of our municipal life! … Houses and landed property are rising in value every day.”

But Dr Stockmann discovers that the pipes were built in the wrong place, and the water feeding the baths is contaminated. “The source is poisoned …We are making our living by retailing filth and corruption! The whole of our flourishing municipal life derives its sustenance from a lie!” People bathing in the water to improve their health are instead falling ill.

Dr Stockmann expects to be treated as a hero for exposing this deadly threat. After the mayor discovers that re-laying the pipes would cost a fortune and probably sink the whole project, he decides that his brother’s report “has not convinced me that the condition of the water at the baths is as bad as you represent it to be.” He proposes to ignore the problem, make some cosmetic adjustments and carry on as before. After all, “the matter in hand is not simply a scientific one. It is a complicated matter, and has its economic as well as its technical side.” The local paper, the baths committee and the business people side with the mayor against the doctor’s “unreliable and exaggerated accounts”.

Astonished and enraged, Dr Stockmann lashes out madly at everyone. He attacks the town as a nest of imbeciles, and finds himself, in turn, denounced as an enemy of the people. His windows are broken, his clothes are torn, he’s evicted and ruined.

Yesterday’s editorial in the Daily Telegraph, which was by no means the worst of the recent commentary on this issue, follows the first three acts of the play (3). Marking the new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the paper sides with the mayor. First it suggests that the panel cannot be trusted, partly because its accounts are unreliable and exaggerated and partly because it uses “model-driven assumptions” to forecast future trends. (What would the Telegraph prefer? Tea leaves? Entrails?). Then it suggests that trying to stop manmade climate change would be too expensive. Then it proposes making some cosmetic adjustments and carrying on as before. (“Perhaps instead of continued doom-mongering, however, greater thought needs to be given to how mankind might adapt to the climatic realities.”)

But at least the Telegraph accepted that the issue deserved some prominence. On the Daily Mail’s website, climate breakdown was scarcely a footnote to the real issues of the day: “Kim Kardashian looks more confident than ever as she shows off her toned curves” and “Little George is the spitting image of Kate”.

Beneath these indispensable reports was a story celebrating the discovery of “vast deposits of coal lying under the North Sea, which could provide enough energy to power Britain for centuries.” (4) No connection with the release of the new climate report was made. Like royal babies, Kim’s curves and Ibsen’s municipal baths, coal is good for business. Global warming, like Dr Stockmann’s contaminants, is the spectre at the feast.

Everywhere we’re told that it’s easier to adapt to global warming than to stop causing it. This suggests that it’s not only the Stern review on the economics of climate change (showing that it’s much cheaper to avert climate breakdown than to try to live with it (5)) that has been forgotten, but also the floods which have so recently abated. If a small, rich, well-organised nation cannot protect its people from a winter of exceptional rainfall – which might have been caused by less than one degree of global warming – what hope do other nations have, when faced with four degrees or more?

When our environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assures us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time” (6) or Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian yesterday, says that we should move towards “thinking intelligently about how the world should adapt to what is already happening” (7), what do they envisage? Cities relocated to higher ground? Roads and railways shifted inland? Rivers diverted? Arable land abandoned? Regions depopulated? Have they any clue about what this would cost? Of what the impacts would be for the people breezily being told to live with it?

My guess is that they don’t envisage anything: they have no idea what they mean when they say adaptation. If they’ve thought about it at all, they probably picture a steady rise in temperatures, followed by a steady rise in impacts, to which we steadily adjust. But that, as we should know from our own recent experience, is not how it happens. Climate breakdown proceeds in fits and starts, sudden changes of state against which, as we discovered on a small scale in January, preparations cannot easily be made.

Insurers working out their liability when a disaster has occurred use a process they call loss adjustment. It could describe what all of us who love this world are going through, as we begin to recognise that governments, the media and most businesses have no intention of seeking to avert the coming tragedies. We are being told to accept the world of wounds; to live with the disappearance, envisaged in the new climate report, of coral reefs and summer sea ice, of most glaciers and perhaps some rainforests, of rivers and wetlands and the species which, like many people, will be unable to adapt (8).

As the scale of the loss to which we must adjust becomes clearer, grief and anger are sometimes overwhelming. You find yourself, as I have done in this column, lashing out at the entire town.

http://www.monbiot.com

References:

1. Aldo Leopold, 1949. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press.

2. Read at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2446/2446-h/2446-h.htm

3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10733381/The-climate-debate-needs-more-than-alarmism.html

4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2593032/Coal-fuel-UK-centuries-Vast-deposits-totalling-23trillion-tonnes-North-Sea.html

5. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sternreview_index.htm

6. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/30/owen-paterson-minister-climate-change-advantages

7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/31/ipcc-report-adaptation-climate-change

8. http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/IPCC_WG2AR5_SPM_Approved.pdf

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Now watch this film!

Published on Apr 6, 2014
Hollywood celebrities and respected journalists span the globe to explore the issues of climate change and cover intimate stories of human triumph and tragedy. Watch new episodes Sundays at 10PM ET/PT, only on SHOWTIME.

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The natural world.

Hardly seems necessary to say this but natural forces are ‘top of the pyramid‘!

As is so often the case, a few outwardly disconnected events offered a deeper picture; well they did for me!

The first was a recently published post by Alex Jones over on his blog The Liberated Way.  Alex lives in Colchester, Essex, North-East of London, a place where I ran a business way back in the ’80’s’ and lived not far away in the village of Great Horkesley.  Many people, including many Brits are unaware that Colchester, or Camulodunon as the Celtics called it, meaning “the Fortress of Camulos” (Camulos was the Celtic god of war), was the Capitol city in Roman days and that evidence of man’s settlement goes back 3,000 years.

Anyway, back to the thread of today’s post.

That first post from Alex.  A post under the title of Catching a fox.  Alex has generously given me permission to republish it.

Catching a fox.

After two years of hunting I catch a fox with my camera.

fox_colchester
After two years of frustration I finally photograph a fox, which appeared out of nowhere in my garden.

Nature is a shifting tapestry of life, often catching me by surprise with magical manifestations of wildlife that abruptly vanish before I can catch a brief record of its passing through my life. It is a matter of chance that I get lucky with my camera, and I was in luck today.

This morning a fox manifested in my garden. The fox sat looking at me, it had a forlorn look about it, but the fox was content to sit and watch me as it sun bathed in the warmth of a tranquil garden. I had my camera with me, so I made up for two years of frustration by firing off dozens of photographs of my elusive wary model. The fox made my day.

The second event was a chance photograph of a vulture taken two days ago here at home.

Ah, that early morning sun feels good on my back feathers!
Ah, that early morning sun feels good on my back feathers!

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Ah, that sun feels good on my back feathers!
Damn! Thought it was too good to last!

Now I’m sure that readers so far will find these three photographs, of the fox and the vulture, are producing feelings of pleasure; feelings of wonderment about the natural world around us.

That world of nature ‘speaks’ to us.  If we are prepared to listen.

It spoke to South-West England in February earlier this year:

rail-emergency-workers-inspect-damaged-track-along-the-seafront-at-dawlish-in-south-west-england-
Dawlish – Rail emergency workers inspect damaged track along the seafront.

There are signs that Mother Nature will be speaking to us again; fairly soon. From EarthSky:

Warm water in Pacific could spark a monster El Nino in 2014

Scientists are watching a giant mass of sub-surface water in the Pacific. When this water reaches the sea surface, it could set off a powerful El Nino.
Scientists are watching a giant mass of sub-surface water in the Pacific. When this water reaches the sea surface, it could set off a powerful El Nino.

The giant red blob in this image is a huge, unusual mass of warm water that currently spans the tropical Pacific Ocean. Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate, says the volume of water is big enough to cover the United States 300 feet deep. And that’s a lot of warm water, he says. Holthaus also says that, as the sub-surface warm water in the Pacific moves eastward – propelled by anomalous trade winds – it’s getting closer to the ocean’s surface. Once the warm water hits the sea surface, it will begin to interact with the atmosphere. Why? Because Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are always interacting. In this case, the warm water will likely boost temperatures and change weather patterns … and possibly bring on a monster El Nino in 2014. There are signs this is already beginning to happen. Read more at Slate.

If one clicks on the link to that Slate article, one then reads:

By Eric Holthaus

The odds are increasing that an El Niño is in the works for 2014—and recent forecasts show it might be a big one.

As we learned from Chris Farley, El Niños can boost the odds of extreme weather (droughts, typhoons, heat waves) across much of the planet. But the most important thing about El Niño is that it is predictable, sometimes six months to a year in advance.

That’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are one of the billions who live where El Niño tends to hit hardest—Asia and the Americas. If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.

The most commonly accepted definition of an El Niño is a persistent warming of the so-called “Niño3.4” region of the tropical Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii, lasting for at least five consecutive three-month “seasons.” A recent reversal in the direction of the Pacific trade winds appears to have kicked off a warming trend during the last month or two. That was enough to prompt U.S. government forecasters to issue an El Niño watch last month.

Forecasters are increasingly confident in a particularly big El Niño this time around because, deep below the Pacific Ocean’s surface, off-the-charts warm water is lurking:

Now I’m not going to post the whole of that article so for that reason strongly recommend you read the rest here. However, I am going to offer a couple more extracts.

Like this:

The warm water just below the ocean’s surface is on par with that of the biggest El Niño ever recorded, in 1997-98. That event caused $35 billion in damages and was blamed for around 23,000 deaths worldwide, according to the University of New South Wales. The 1997-98 El Niño is also the only other time since records begin in 1980 that sub-surface Pacific Ocean water has been this warm in April.

Or like this:

One of the theories put forth by the mainstream scientific community to explain the slow-down since 1998 has been increased storage of warm water in the Pacific Ocean. If that theory is true, and if a major El Niño is indeed in the works, the previously rapid rate of global warming could resume, with dramatic consequences.

As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. The 1997-98 super El Niño was enough to boost global temperatures by nearly a quarter of a degree Celsius. If that scale of warming happens again, the world could approach a 1ºC departure from pre-industrial times as early as next year. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, that’s around the highest that temperatures have ever been since human civilization began.

Now I’m not trying to be a ‘drama queen’ but there are times when one does wonder what it will take for those who govern us to wake up to the fact that Mother Nature is getting more and more restless.

I shall return to this theme tomorrow.