In 2020, the Arctic was hotter than ever. That changes weather and climate around the world. We investigate breaking news and science with our friendly Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith. Paul taught climate science at the University of Ottawa and he is now the largest single source of climate videos on YouTube.
NEW VIDEOS FROM RADIO ECOSHOCK
(from Radio Ecoshock November 25, 2020 show)
Storm Shock: 2020 Warning! Violent Weather – Record Smashing Hurricanes and Typhoons
Part One (23 minutes)
Part Two (18 minutes)
BY JEFF BERARDELLI November 23, 2020
“According to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, this weekend the Arctic Circle was an average 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. This is not just one location, but the average of all 7.7 million square miles. That is a huge area, nearly double the size of the entire United States, being on average 12 degrees above normal.”
The Washington Post reports on December 8: “Global warming has profoundly transformed Arctic in just 15 years, report warns
The 2020 Arctic Report Card depicts a region lurching into a new, unfamiliar state”
WHY DON’T ARCTIC SEA ICE LEVELS REFLECT THE RECORD HEAT?
This is a huge topic – a special study for Paul Beckwith for at least ten years. Paul has created dozens of videos about sea ice levels and the coming “Blue Ocean Event”. The Blue Ocean Event does not mean the Arctic is totally ice-free, but dwindles to less than 100,000 square kilometers of ice, much of it gathered around an archipelago of islands in Canada’s far north. Many scientists have been expecting that great ice crash for years – but it didn’t happen yet.
Why not? We had a major reduction in sea ice in 2007, and then the lowest ice levels ever measured at the September peak in 2012. The Arctic has continued to warm more and more. This year was another absolute record for heat in the Arctic in October and November (as it was all across Europe, and in fact globally). From what I can see, the Arctic sea ice dipped below the 2012 levels in August, but then came back up slightly above the September record. Scientists were puzzled.
Finally we get an answer in a new paper from a team led by Jennifer Frances from Rutgers. The title is: “Why has no new record-minimum Arctic sea-ice extent occurred since September 2012?” as published November 23 in Environmental Research Letters.
My simplistic explanation is that a second force was set loose in the Arctic by all that warming. That was the snow cover, which melted away from vast areas of LAND very early in each spring during these hot years. The lack of snow cover promoted a weather pattern that tended to bring cooling storm system to the Arctic in September, delaying what otherwise might have been yet another low record. One system was changing another.
This is a huge lesson for us all. If we look at one factor, like the sea ice, and project it against observed heating, we might make a chart that goes straight down for sea ice. But nothing in nature works in isolation. Other competing factors, like snow cover melt, can intervene to throw off simplistic projections. In fact, those complicated interactions are happening all over the world as we warm the planet.
Paul Beckwith explains the new science better than I can, in this interview. Beckwith still expects a Blue Ocean Event within a decade or so. In the interview, he also warns changes brought by an overheated Arctic could lead to crop failure further south (see my notes on new science of the Indian Monsoon below). Paul is planning a new video series on climate change and food supply problems.
“People don’t understand the severity of where we are right now… we are going to lose our food supply.”
– Paul Beckwith on Radio Ecoshock, December 9, 2020
SHOULD WE CHANGE THE DATE AND METHOD OF MEASURING SEA ICE DECLINE?
Sea ice dipped to a historic record low in August 2020. But then, for reasons suggested by new science, it recovered above the September 2012 record, when the official measurement is taken. But during that August, huge new areas of the ocean were exposed to the sun, capturing a lot of warming which will not stay in the Arctic. The extra heat flows though the ocean circulation system around the world. That matters. Do we need to change the point of measurement to the maximum difference in extent, whenever that occurs, instead of just in September?
ICE LOSS INTERACTS – FROM POLE TO POLE
In the long record of polar ice, carefully reconstructed by scientists, it is common over the past 30 million years or so to find the state of the ice alternating at each Pole. Glaciers grew larger at the North Pole, but smaller in Antarctica – and then hundreds of thousands of years later, the reverse. To me, this points to a wobble or cycle in Earth’s orbit exposing more of one Pole or the other to the Sun. But that is not happening here, where humans have changed the atmosphere. Recent science finds both Poles are melting at the same time, and in fact they influence each other in a kind of positive feed-back loop. The source warming at high latitudes matters.
Learn more about this in the article “Antarctic ice dynamics amplified by Northern Hemisphere sea-level forcing” published November 25 in Nature and led by Natalya Gomez. “The analysis, published in Nature, shows for the first time that changes in the Antarctic ice sheet were caused by the melting of ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere. “
MORE ABOUT CHANGES TO THE GULF STREAM
In my November 25 program about Hurricanes, I talked about AMOC, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (which most of us think of as the Gulf Stream). The consensus of science was: this current, so critical to weather in the UK and Northern Europe, has weakened by 25 to 30% since 1980. See for example “Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation” published in Nature March 23, 2015 by a who’s who of climate and polar experts, led by Stefan Rahmstorf.
But now there is a new paper proposing there has been no significant change to AMOC. This is very good news, if it stands up. The paper is “A stable Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in a changing North Atlantic Ocean since the 1990s”. It was led by Yao Fu and mainly written by scientists from oceanographic institutions in South China,with one author from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel Germany. I ask Paul Beckwith about this. My conclusion is the state of this North Atlantic current is still being debated by scientists, and it is possible both observations are true.
Also in the November 25th show, and shown in my new videos series “Storm Shock”, we talk about the cold “blob” of water developing in the Atlantic, south of Greenland. It is caused by massive meltwater pour off Greenland during these hotter years in the Arctic. Now we learn another lesson in the interconnectedness of Earth systems. New science suggests that growing body of cold Atlantic water may even affect drought or monsoons in faraway India!
The paper is “Indian monsoon derailed by a North Atlantic wavetrain” led by P.J. Borah in the journal Science on December 10, 2020. The authors say: “Cold water anomalies in the North Atlantic Ocean may derail the Indian monsoon and result in droughts that can incur tremendous socioeconomic tolls across much of the region…”
NEW VIDEOS ON THE ARCTIC BLUE OCEAN EVENT
Stuart Scott, founder of ScientistsWarning.org has created a new YouTube platform called “FacingFuture.tv”. Despite Stuart’s difficult battle with cancer, he just released another excellent video – with Oxford polar Professor Peter Wadhams. It’s called: “Arctic Blue Ocean Event – Going, Going, Gone”
Our guest Paul Beckwith just released a two-part video series on how the record low Arctic sea ice has led to… monster dust storms!! (That is another example of “connectedness” – which is really the whole them of this blog.)
CAN TECHNOLOGY SAVE US?
For a long time, Paul Beckwith has warned climate feedbacks will stimulate Nature to release even more global warming gases that humans do. At that point, we may have to try desperate measures to bring the planet’s temperature back to the range where mammals like ourselves, and all the living creatures around us, can survive.
In a recent Radio Ecoshock show, scientist Ye Tao explained how we could use mirrors on Earth to reflect sunlight back into space – more or less replacing the effect of dwindling Arctic sea ice. In this interview, Paul Beckwith outlines a number of ways we could cool things, with a focus on fairly benign “geoengineering”.
For example, Iceland is pumping CO2 back underground, and reports that carbon became a type of rock with a couple of years. That pretty well stores it away for the ages. Paul also explains the use of Olivine rock to capture carbon. Paul suggests enhanced weathering with Olivine might draw down as much as one third of our current emissions.
Or we could use iron salt aerosols (ISA) sprayed into the upper air. That would create cooling low level clouds. When those iron salts are washed out by rain, they serve another carbon-grabbing mechanism by stimulating more plankton growth. Plankton capture carbon, some of which drops to the bottom of the sea when plankton die.
Beckwith has two degrees, one of which is in engineering. He is inspired by the space program developed so quickly by Elon Musk of Tesla fame. The SpaceX Starship, a heavy rocket from Musk, could perhaps carry a Mylar sheet to create a very large sun shade in space. Of course I object, because we need that solar energy for our crops, and for solar power. But Paul suggests reflecting just one or two percent of the Sun’s rays would reduce sunlight a lot less than our current air pollution. It is entirely possible we will do nothing about climate change until the moment of panic arrives. Then desperate times may require desperate measures. Or are we already there?
According to the World Meteorological Organization “Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown”. The Guardian newspaper reports “World is ‘doubling down’ on fossil fuels despite climate crisis – UN report, Production must fall by 6% a year to avoid ‘severe climate disruption’ but Covid-19 funding is supporting increases”.
“G20 countries are giving 50% more Coronavirus recovery funding to fossil fuels than to clean energy.”
– Damian Carrington for the Guardian, December 2, 2020.
The U.N. report is here.
Paul acknowledges that technology critics will not like any geoengineering. To get that contrary view, Paul suggests starting with this classic book by the French writer Jacques Ellul: “The Technological Society”.
As I say at the end of this program, I prefer more natural solutions. There are other ways to help nature heal the atmosphere. In 2019, Thomas Crowther from E T H Zürich explained how planting billions more trees can reduce carbon dioxide in the air. Other guests showed ways to capture carbon with better farming techniques. Overseas, “natural farming” is booming in India to help the climate. Meanwhile, deep human changes like low meat diets, voluntary simplicity and choosing a low-carbon life can alter the atmosphere and protect lives in the future.
Long-time listener Ian Graham feels the same way. He sent this link to the article “Why Communities Should Invest in Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Sponge.” The author, Didi Pershouse just published this article in Medium: “Other Species are Essential Workers, Whose Economies Enfold Our Own”. I will invite Didi on the show. Ian also provided connections to Natural Farming in India (which I hope to develop in a future show). Thanks Ian for keeping us balanced!
As always, you can contribute to this program. Send your idea using the Contact form on this web site. Send your donations using this page.
Thank you so much for listening, reading, thinking, and caring about our world.