Why we experience cold waves as well as heat during climate change. Distinguished Australian scientist Andrew Glikson explains the coming climate chaos and pools of ocean cooling – as big glaciers melt at the Poles. It’s radical new science in a radical new world.
What you will hear in this program is definitely not the climate message humans are hearing…
We might have to prepare for a planet which is cooling in some unexpected places – where more than a billion people live – DURING powerful global warming. The future is more complex. We are entering a climate zone far outside the popular world view, AND it bites you back when you do understand it. The real future will be bumpy, with destroyer storms, with record heat waves yes, but possibly punctuated by cold waves and for many of you, cold oceans.
Our guest is the distinguished Australian scientist Dr. Andrew Glikson originally from Australian National University. Andrew publishes his work in scientific journals but lately also in the alternative press. Apparently coal-friendly media in Australia are not interested in hearing the dire news.
ANDREW GLIKSON: MELTWATER MAY COOL LARGE REGIONS OF EARTH (for a while)
Dr. Andrew Y. Glikson is an Australian scientist with expertise in geology, asteroid hits and volcanoes, past extinction events and climate change. We last spoke With Andrew for an hour in December 2017 discussing “Can Humans Survive?”
Andrew and I have remained in email conversation for years. This August, the journal Climatic Change published his paper “North Atlantic and sub-Antarctic Ocean temperatures: possible onset of a transient stadial cooling stage“. I resisted it – partly because the cooling event has been so abused by climate deniers who seek any excuse to keep on burning fossil fuels and consuming the Earth.
But Glikson’s paper builds on research published in 2016 by James Hansen, and follows a long lineage of senior scientists going right back to the late American dean of climate science Wallace or Wally Broeker, who popularized the term “global warming” in 1975. So now we have to face it. The development of climate change will not be the steady ramp of hotter every decade, as shown on most charts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or published in newspapers and blogs. Get ready for something completely different.
Andrew sent me a lot of science papers. I read them. It turns out this is a story with a hundred heads. So I’m going to use the seven step outline he sent by email as our guide in this program. Here they are:
SEVEN STEPS TO CLIMATE CHAOS (from Andrew Glikson)
1. The occurrence of stadial cooling of large parts of the oceans due to the flow of ice melt water from melting ice sheets, already forecast by Hansen et al. (2016) (https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdf) is already taking place, i.e. south of Greenland and north of Antarctica, as in the appended figures.
2. This is by no means a favorable development, since (1) it implies amplifying contrasts between continually warming land and cooling oceans, leading to intensification of extreme weather events, particularly along coastal zones; (2) the melting of the ice sheets heralds a fundamental shift in state of the global climate, from conditions favoring Mediterranean-type habitable zones to a dominantly hyper-tropical Earth.
3. The geographical extent of the stadial is yet unknown. From Hansen et al.’s model (see temperature maps) it is extensive, although the balance between ice melt-induced cooling and continuously rising GHG has not been modeled with confidence.
4. In so far as cooling of large parts of the oceans would have constituted a beneficial development – which unfortunately is definitely is not the case, this would need to be stated in climate projections.
5. However, the evidence is that, as the circum-Arctic jet stream is weakening and becoming increasingly undulated (as in the attached papers) freezing fronts penetrate southward (as occurred recently in the Siberian and Canadian freeze) and warm air masses flow northward, melting more ice.
6. As a generalization the linear IPCC models do not appear to capture any precise scenario. This is since unprecedented global warming above interglacial levels would include tipping points, temporary reversals and transient stadials, as long as the large ice sheets exist.
7. Once the ice sheets go, we end up with an Eocene-like hyper-tropical Earth. So help us god.
Dr. Andrew Glikson, Australia
REBELS AGAINST A SMOOTH RAMP OF WARMING
So Andrew begins with his life-long perspective as a geologist and a recorder of major Earth events in time. When he looks at warmer periods in the geological record, he always sees cooler interruptions, the stadial. So it seemed to Andrew unlikely that the current warming would contradict that, and just ramp up hotter and hotter with no interruption (as charts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show…)
In 2015 James Hansen, former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, published one of the key climate science papers or our time. He had 18 other co-authors. The paper was revised in 2016. It is a huge paper with a huge title: “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 [degrees] C global warming could be dangerous” You can read the full paper as an online .pdf here.
There are a lot of large trends in that big Hansen-led paper. One: Hansen spent time to model out what the pathways of melt water from Greenland and Antarctica might be. The results were shocking. Big colder blobs spread out into the ocean around those sites (starting with West Antarctica in the southern Hemisphere). There are several repercussions, but we humans would likely feel them most if living (a) on the East Coast of North America, (b) in the UK and Northern Europe and (c) in Australia.
However, the change in the ocean conveyor belt eventually spreads changes around the world through all the oceans. We don’t know how fast a stadial could develop, or how deep it might be. We do know that changes predicted to take hundreds or thousands of years are now happening in less than one hundred years, in one long generation. We need to think the unthinkable.
THE CHILLING EXAMPLE OF THE ABRUPT COOLING INTERRUPTION OF A WARMING TIME, THE YOUNGER DRYAS STADIAL
Let’s begin with the key concept: what is a “stadial”? My understanding, from this interview with Dr. Glikson, is simple: a stadial is a cool period in between warmer times.
I looked up “stadial” events in Wikipedia. They talked about the most recent, I think, which happened not too long before our current period, and our invention of agriculture. The classic example is the Younger Dryas stadial event. The NOAA (U.S. Government site) page for that the best known and relatively recent stadial event is a rather shocking read:
“The Younger Dryas is one of the most well known examples of abrupt change. About 14,500 years ago, Earth’s climate began to shift from a cold glacial world to a warmer interglacial state. Partway through this transition, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere suddenly returned to near-glacial conditions. This near-glacial period is called the Younger Dryas, named after a flower (Dryas octopetala) that grows in cold conditions and that became common in Europe during this time. The end of the Younger Dryas, about 11,500 years ago, was particularly abrupt. In Greenland, temperatures rose 10°C (18°F) in a decade (Alley 2000). Other proxy records, including varved lake sediments in Europe, also display these abrupt shifts (Brauer et al. 2008).”
PREDICTIONS FROM THE HANSEN LED PAPER 2016
Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 [degrees] C global warming could be dangerous.
That Hansen-led paper “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms” says:
“Continued high fossil fuel emissions this century are predicted to yield
(1) cooling of the Southern Ocean, especially in the Western Hemisphere;
(2) slowing of the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, warming of the ice shelves, and growing ice sheet mass loss;
(3) slowdown and eventual shutdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation with cooling of the North Atlantic region;
(4) increasingly powerful storms; and
(5) nonlinearly growing sea level rise, reaching several meters over a timescale of 50–150 years.
These predictions, especially the cooling in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic with markedly reduced warming or even cooling in Europe, differ fundamentally from existing climate change assessments. We discuss observations and modeling studies needed to refute or clarify these assertions.”
Model Surface-air temperature (oC) for 2096 relative to 1880–1920 (Hansen et al 2016) “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms”
THE GREENLAND BLOB
Let’s talk about the North Atlantic a bit. How big is the blob of cold water forming in the Atlantic south of Greenland – and does it have an official name yet?
Maybe people on the U.S. East Coast, the Canadian maritime provinces, and our friends in dear old Ireland and the UK should be relieved the seas near them may cool things off. Isn’t it a good thing? Not really. Remember Glikson says:
“(1) it implies amplifying contrasts between continually warming land and cooling oceans, leading to intensification of extreme weather events, particularly along coastal zones; (2) the melting of the ice sheets heralds a fundamental shift in state of the global climate, from conditions favoring Mediterranean-type habitable zones to a dominantly hyper-tropical Earth.”
As a side note, I’ve seen various You tubers and would-be scientists suggesting the Younger Dryas cooling was caused by an asteroid strike. I know Andrew Glikson catalogs those impacts from space objects. Andrew says he hasn’t seen any evidence of an asteroid strike then, and there should be plenty of traces left to find. He doubts that theory.
The Younger Dryas cooling was pretty harsh, and it lasted around 1300 years. So if a stadial is developing due to rapid melting of Earth’s ice, the so-called “temporary” period could last more than a thousand years! But we don’t know. This is all new territory, to heat so fast in such a short time.
How is it possible the great warming – which is now certainly developing – would not overwhelm any influence of glacial melt water? Another thing we all want to know: how fast can a stadial event develop – are we talking about something that could happen this century, or several centuries from now? Is there a tipping point for stadial events?
THE BROKEN JET STREAM AND WINTER STORMS
Scientists on Radio Ecoshock told us the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic has weakened the Jet Stream in the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers published about it, and explained in on this show. Others like Ken Caldeira and Patrick Brown are doubtful the sea ice is the main driver. But let’s get to the main point: is there any doubt that the Jet Stream has changed in the last few decades? No. We can all see the wavy pattern of the Jets on the weather maps.
What happens to weather when waves of the Jet Stream start to run more North and South, instead of the expected track from West to East? As Andrew says: “freezing fronts penetrate southward (as occurred recently in the Siberian and Canadian freeze) and warm air masses flow northward, melting more ice. That latest cold snap in 2018 in Northern Europe was called “The Beast from the East“.
Does this all mean we could see some record cold and snow in North America, Europe and Russia because of global warming?
I think people are underestimating this phenomenon. The harvest in the American mid-West this year is in grave danger as we speak. An early storm has frozen crops in the field. It’s going to be much harder to feed people with the plenty most developed countries expect these days. Plus, just before we leave this point, a lot of us are going to hate the new winter weather and wish global warming was nicer to us. It’s a perverse development.
THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE – COLD WATER BLOB APPEARING AROUND ANTARCTICA
Andrew Glikson lives on the other side of the planet. Because the bulk of humans live on the land in the North, we tend to discount climate changes that happen where few people live, in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. We talked about the cold blob in the Atlantic south of Greenland. What is happening around Antarctica?
We just had a report from NASA’s Claire Parkinson about the record-smashing drop in sea ice around Antarctica from 2014 to 2017. It was more jaw-dropping than what happened in 2007 in the Arctic. But remember the amount of sea ice likely doesn’t affect the stadial situation Andrew and I talk about in this show.
NASA also said the flow of ice into the ocean from the massive Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is now “unstoppable”. We have had lots of reports that the overall mass of land ice there is shrinking.
THE ROLE OF BIG ICE
It is my untrained understanding that the great glaciers help regulate the temperature on Earth, and moderate the rate of warming we all experience. Andrew told me that “as long as the large ice sheets exist” we will experience “tipping points, temporary reversals and transient stadials”. Why would the existence of big ice in places like Greenland and Antarctica lead to “temporary reversals” of climate change? That is the whole subject of this radio interview.
CHANGING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE
We have been talking about a very large change in the ocean and the climate. Our old picture of a steady ramp upward of heating is shattered. It really is “climate change” more than “global warming”. Why haven’t I heard more about this in IPCC reports and science generally?
Andrew talked about the change in the North Atlantic current, already being measured. The public knows this mainly as the Gulf Stream, and many use the image from the film “The Day After Tomorrow“. We know that was simplistic, and sped up in time – but people in the UK and northern Europe should brace themselves for the opposite of what they expected from global warming.
My own best guess is that the North American East Coast and Northern Europe will get the worst of both changes. We could see record-smashing back-to-back heat waves and then dangerous cold snaps in the same year.
As I said in the beginning, I did not want to do this show, to have this conversation. Unfortunately reality muddies the waters and makes it harder for people to believe their actions are disrupting the climate. Do you have any ideas how we can overcome that hurdle, so this work on stadials isn’t used by climate deniers?
IS IT TOO LATE?
Is it too late for human action to prevent serious climate disruption? My opinion is it is too late to stop a big climate shift over this century and the times to come. But maybe we can prevent a real Hell on Earth, what David Wallace Wells called “uninhabitable Earth”.
It is strange to be alive when being alive seems to guilty and precarious. Isn’t it weird to finally know how the universe and Earth works, just in time to see we are wrecking the foundation?
Andrew talks about the connections between military spending versus spending to save ourselves (from climate and other matters). Regarding that, you may find this article in Common Dreams helpful.
USE THIS INTERVIEW TO UNDERSTAND STORMS ON THE TV WEATHER FORECAST
I think this interview can help you understand the weather chaos we witness every night on the TV news, and unfortunately raging around our homes. For example, I have been stunned at the almost continuous storm track at the end of summer 2019 where everything from tornadoes to sweeping rains and floods with high winds have formed in the central plains and washed over the American and Canadian East Coast.
Now we know the big continent is heating up, but further north in the Atlantic, the ocean is cooling. Storms form in the interaction between those hotter and colder areas.
Recall too how bitterly disappointed climate-aware people were when the 2009 climate conference (COP 15) happened during an extreme cold snap in Copenhagen. That may have made it harder to mount public pressure and harder for politicians to realize our danger. But now we learn that cold wave was ALSO part of global warming. That makes it clearer – and we did not know this until recently, until James Hansen raised this whole meltwater cooling in his 2016 paper.
It is just further irony this retrograde development of cooler oceans is happening in the basin where the largest English language media centers pump out the news – from New York to London. Now you know where those unexpected cold waves will come from.
Perhaps knowledge of this development in new science will help immunize you and your friends from the certain abuse by the climate denial industry. When a Senator Jim Inhofe throws a snowball to disprove warming, or President Trump Tweets something along the lines of “where is that global warming” during some icy New England storm – you know why that is so wrong. Of course those deniers hope we already forget the record heat waves just experienced last summer. Those don’t count. It’s the old saying: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
IS IT TOO LATE? MY THEORY…
I think it is now too late to avoid catastrophic climate disruption. We can still avoid Hell and Extinction in later times with action now, but we cannot “save” the current civilization. It is likely too late for humans to enact a rational plan for salvation.
That still leaves large operations beyond our rational plans that might still stave off the worst of climate change, and the worst of our self-destructive impulses.
[LONG-SHOT BIG SYSTEM HOPE #1]
Patrick Brown raised one such possibility, initially published by Dawn Woodward et al – that damages from climate events (extreme heat, rising seas, more powerful storms etc.) would so damage the economy that we can no longer continue to expand and pollute. Listen to my Radio Ecoshock show posted October 16, 2019 as Patrick Brown explains that theory.
[LONG-SHOT BIG SYSTEM HOPE #2]
Now we have another candidate for Gaia ex machina.
As Hansen and Glikson suggest, vast pools of meltwater from Greenland and W. Antarctica could cool the ocean surface and even trigger a thousand-year cooling called a “stadial event”. We may inadvertently stumble into a pause of warming. It would only be a pause, and then warming would resume with a vengeance. During that apparent cooling developing in the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean, ocean heat is forced deeper where the ice shelves have their base, driving even more ice melt and even higher sea level rises.
YES, SUPER STORMS MAY WRITE HISTORY
I was serious in saying in this show: super-storms may write history. We have just seen a tremendous damaging storm hit Japan in October 2019, Typhoon Hagibis. Even the Japanese – who try to engineer their way out of climate change admit – that all the billions spent on defenses cannot protect against such powerful storms. I intend to do more programs on the coming mega-storms – to complement the book “Storms of My Grandchildren” by Dr. James Hansen.
Finally I would like to complement you as a listener for hanging in there. We get scientists from all over the world, with all kinds of accents, talking about really complicated stuff. But can there be any more important real life news? Forget all the fluff, the politics, the cat videos – we are talking now about the Great Crisis facing humanity and all the life forms we share. This is big news from the climate emergency.
My special thanks to listeners who hit that “Donate” button in recent weeks. You keep me going, and this program on the air. Can you help?
I’m Alex Smith. Really, thank you for listening and caring about our world.