The last few days have seen some interesting climate news, but a couple items seem to have gotten lost in the bustle of the shutdown and other intriguing climate/weather stories, such as weatherdude's as always unmatched coverage of Cyclone Phailin off the coast of India; the news still being generated by the recently released summary of AR5 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [PDF warning] (not to be confused with the insidious and fraudulent Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change); not to mention the stories generated by the shutdown itself vis a vis the environment, its lack of regulation, the closing of all Antarctic research facilities for the year [<== must read], and the closing of the national parks.
While all interesting, newsworthy, and most of all upsetting, these are not the climate stories I would like to discuss. I will instead focus on two bits of news which I feel deserve greater attention from environmentalists as well as the "reality based community" at large.
The pieces of climate news are very much a good news/bad news situation.
The bad news:
On the one hand, in a study published in Nature, professors in the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Department of Geography have forecast when "climate departure" takes place, in which "[t]he coldest year in the future will be hotter than the hottest year in the past [150 years]" in the words of lead author Camilo Mora. The study predicts individual years that this "turning over" will occur as well as implications for species planet-wide, and they aren't good. The tropics are in for possibly the most difficult ride in the next few decades, for even though the Arctic and Antarctic will be experiencing the greatest absolute temperature fluctuations, as the study points out, the life in these climates are more accustomed to great temperature fluctuations, as opposed to in the tropics, where stable conditions are necessary and instability will lead to massive ecological destruction and human suffering.
The good news:
Although climate scientists are very certain anthropogenic climate change is real and happening now, the ignoramuses and deceivers in the denier crowd have latched onto the 15-year window over which average Earth air surface temperatures have remained constant as proof that this is all one giant hoax. They are, of course, way, way off. Notwithstanding the apparent cherry-picking of the 15-year period to make their point, and ignoring that only 7% of the energy from the sun that reaches Earth contributes to air surface warming, it turns out some of that "unpredictable climate variability" might not be so unpredictable after all.
An independent scientist and her research partner at Georgia Tech have come up with a theory published in Climate Dynamics that can effectively explain the natural processes governing that so-called unpredictable variability by recognizing what they refer to as "stadium waves" for their analogue in the way cheering oscillates and reverberates quasi-periodically in a filled sports stadium. Because the study does not directly seek to validate or invalidate climate forcing via anthropogenic climate change but instead seeks to understand the reasons for the variability causing the 15-year apparent hiatus, the next piece of the climate puzzle may have just been solved. However, their not factoring in anthropogenic climate change causes me to have some doubts about the accuracy of their forecast, in contrast to what many other climate scientists have modeled. That being, that this "lull" in air surface temp may extend through as late as the 2030s, rather than, as the IPCC suggests, ending imminently.
If that is the case, all the better: we have a little bit more time to try to rectify our mistakes and re-embrace the Earth, rather than fighting and poisoning her like an enemy. If the pessimist in me is proven correct, however, this is still nonetheless an important step forward in recognizing the processes of how climate variability works, and this breakthrough will hopefully be incorporated into future climate modeling to more accurately understand the complex processes at work and prepare for what lies ahead.
I'm very interested to hear what people have to think about these two important but under-reported topics (my apologies to anyone here who has, unknown to me, already written a diary about one or the other topic). Unfortunately, because I'm getting ready to move, I won't be at the computer after I post this tonight or much tomorrow, but I will be sure to read and respond to comments when I can.
With that, all I can say is remember that all the things we fight and hope for are futile in the face of an unstable and extreme climate, and that this is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, so we must all "hang together" or all "hang separately."