Another damn import from the USA

Record-breaking temperatures in March? Check. Drought conditions declared? Check. What is it people used to say, “when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold”….? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HTAZue6ylZ8 Peter Sinclair (of Climate Denial Crock of the Week fame) has been a busy man: However, the thing that really struck me most forcibly in this second part of his brand-new presentation (go here for the back story) on recent weird weather, was the way in which the record-breaking warmth in the mid-west and eastern USA was – almost simultaneously – accompanied by record-breaking cold temperatures in the Rockies and on the west coast. However, it has not snowed as much as is normal; so even there the drought continues. Thus, the water level in Lake Mead has only been lower when the Hoover Dam was being constructed. So-called “sceptics” will probably argue that, quite literally, this sort of weirdness comes with the territory (i.e. the USA is a big place). Certainly, the UK simply isn’t big enough to have such extremes of weather in different parts of the country at the same time. However, surely, when one weird thing is followed by another, and another, and another (with no near-normal events in between), it is hard to avoid the impression that we are rolling a dice and getting six every time? Mathematicians will point out that each roll of the dice is an independent event and, no matter how many times you roll them and get a six, the chance of getting a six next time is always the same… But do not be fooled, we have loaded the climate dice, extreme weather of all kinds is now more likely – think of it as the Earth’s way of “letting off steam”..! However, the unwanted import is the Jet Stream – that fast-moving body of air high-up in the atmosphere that snakes around the northern hemisphere like some kind of deranged paper dragon in a Chinese New Year festival parade. Unfortunately, we cannot blame this import on some unfair trade agreement; or the vagaries of foreign exchange rates. We do not have a choice about receiving this import; what goes around comes around. I am almost inclined to say, “Can we please stop the World – I want to get off!” A few weeks ago, the BBC screened a programme entitled “Global Weirding” (featured in the above), in which Katharine Hayhoe points out that the increased frequency of extreme weather (as predicted by climate models) is an inevitable consequence of the fact that the atmosphere now has on average 4% more moisture than it did 40 years ago. However, in the process of interviewing a number of key meteorologists, Peter Sinclair puts the spotlight on the position, speed and sinuousity (i.e. “bendiness”) of the Jet Stream – all of which can be explained by one thing – the disappearance of summer sea ice from the Arctic: This single accelerating trend has reduced the temperature difference between Pole and Equator; which has slowed the Jet Stream down, which has made it more erratic. The extreme cold weather of our most recent European winter – which gave rise to almost unprecedented snowfall in Croatia and southern Italy – was caused by the Jet Stream setting up a blocking pattern; allowing winds to blow in from Siberia for days if not weeks on end… Then, in March, the position of the Jet Stream had changed, and this time the UK was on the southern side of it and so, for a while it was warmer in Aberdeen than it was in Athens. In the USA, you managed to go one better, you managed to have the extremes in temperature occurring in different places at the same time – all thanks to the position and speed of the Jet Stream. Unfortunately, I think we are all going to have to get used to weird weather. Thanks to the intransigence of oil company executives – and the mind control they seem to exercise over our politicians – anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is making weird the new normal.

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
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14 Responses to Another damn import from the USA

  1. The sceptics have now sunk so low in argument that they make the sophists of ancient Greece look quite rational. For those unfamiliar with the period, the sophists started out as noble philosophers but abandoned the truth with clever words just to win the argument; hence- sophisticate- to corrupt. Sceptics now turn on climate science by saying, “I thought you said it was about climate and not weather?” Well, the news is that climate eventually comes down to weather. Trends, like swallows, don’t make a [disrupted] summer but, at some point, they will: If we change the goal posts [in this case make them wider apart] then we are going to see more goals. In the World’s largest experiment, the results will not be fully known for centuries but, preliminary reports indicate the uncertainties are minor compared to the certainties of the overall trend. Based on observation, one prediction I can make is that, in the coming decade, the response to increased wild weather by sceptics will have to change over time from: — “it’s natural” and “the climate always changes”; to — “the Government should spend more on dams/flood defenses/irrigation/”; to — “they should spend more on the military so as to prevent further crises”.

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    • If you ever need a job as book editor the job is yours! Thanks. No offence intended, and it may be a compliment but, I feel I am conversing with David Mitchell, and you look similar! 🙂

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks again for not getting upset. I am just trying to make what you said look better; and carry more of a punch.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      Some very astute observations and predictions. Thank you. As Jared Diamond warns in Collapse: How societies choose to fail of succeed. Rather than spending money on solving the problem, it is likely that our governments will spend (our) money on (their) self-preservation. However, I hope they will not because, that way lies collapse and ecocide. If we want to avoid those unpleasant outcomes, I agree with Diamond’s assessment, governments will have to free themselves from their catatonic enslavement to the the globalised solutions of big business and the fossil fuel lobby; and start encouraging all of us to see locally-implemented renewable energy solutions as an investment in the future of humanity. How did the word “sophisticated” come to have such a different (and usually complementary) meaning?

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      • Words are cool, sexy and evolve. They are like an ear throat virus that survive by adapting. The root of sophisticated is a wonderful example. We first come across the root sophos or sophia in Homer’s epic [circa 800 bce], where the word is associated with a person being skilled. But, over the centuries the word became associated with a skill for seeming wise; and the word for wisdom [circa 500 bce]. In Athens at this time, the term is used to describe itinerant intellectuals offering wisdom for hire. As with all noble pursuits in a free market economy, the Sophists (as they were known), became more concerned with earning money than keeping to their ideals; rather like lawyers today: Hence, today, the term ‘sophistry’ used to denote clever words and argument but little wisdom. With these ‘sophists’ being available for hire to act as lawyers, the new wave of Socrateian philosophers sought to reclaim the word and branded themselves philo+sophie- love[rs] of wisdom (and ‘sophistry’ became an insult for corrupting something pure). These Greek root words continued into the Romantic languages of Europe surviving into French and English. Middle English from the Medieval French used the word sophisticaten for adulterate. So in 19th Century Britain “sophisticated food” was that which had been corrupted; tea with added sawdust being one example. Officially the word has retained its meaning, but it was used by Oscar Wilde to describe the ‘jet set’ of his Age; and by the mid-war years it appears being ‘sophisticated’ meant fashionable. It was about being less natural, less naive; and more complex and refined. It is possible this cross-over use for the word ‘refined’ (that gives us our modern usage of sophisticated), arose from the development of white sugar and flour (rather than folksy wholemeal and molasses) as being examples of the benefits of modernity. Thus, ‘sophists’ is perhaps a better term for ‘sceptics’ in this current debate.

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks Jules – I feel duly enlightened (but not at all sophisticated).

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      • pendantry says:

        Typo alert: ‘complimentary’ should be ‘complementary’. Another word that’s been, er, ‘sophisticated’ by misuse. 😉

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      • Rick Altman says:

        Thanks Colin. Jules may think I should get a job as a book editor but I am clearly no proof reader. 🙂

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  2. As an additional point and as a word of caution- I visited Open Mind today who comments on the dangers of taking too smaller a sample to deduce trends. My comment is below. “As I am doing my weekly round of AGW blogs I left comment on Rick Altman’s Anthropocene Reality concerning the trend in wild weather events, sparked by Mad March weather in both the US & UK. At the back of my mind such events confirm my [non-scientific] view of AGW but I am aware that without decades of data it could be just the weather. Forgiveable for me, perhaps to jump to conclusions but I don’t understand how someone like Pielke could jump to conclusions based on such little data. Living with a scientist I am aware her Phd students are prone to draw on too little data and jump to conclusions because they want to beef-up a fairly weak idea. Is R.Pielke so desperate to remain a leading voice in the debate that he is prepared to ‘big-up’ quite weak ideas?” Although I would add that a trend in wild weather is expected in a warming world whereas growing ice sheets is not, nonetheless it does not appear to be logical if warmists focus on recent events, and criticise deniers for cherry-picking.

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    • Rick Altman says:

      We may never be able to say for certain that any individual event is caused by climate change but – as the long solar minimum now comes to an end, and the less developed countries start to control their air pollution better – the temperature gauge is going to move ever upward; as do the snouts of glaciers and sea levels (as the ice continues to melt)… The 1995 feature film may have been boring; but the reality of Waterworld is going to be deadly…

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    • pendantry says:

      I suppose the question is whether the story that the ‘weird winter’ videos are putting across about the shifting jet stream is an unproven hypothesis. I don’t know enough about such stuff to make such a call, but the tale being told (by several voices, often in unison) seems sound to me. I don’t see how that could be termed ‘cherry-picking’ by anyone other than a, err, ‘sophist’.

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  3. pendantry says:

    However, the unwanted import is the Jet Stream – that fast-moving body of air high-up in the atmosphere that snakes around the northern hemisphere like some kind of deranged paper dragon in a Chinese New Year festival parade.” “Unwanted?” I don’t see the jet stream as ‘unwanted’. The jet stream gifts northeast Europe with constant high-level winds, which — if we are ever smart enough to invest in renewable energy generation — will give us an extremely valuable export.

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