Global Warming and a General Lack of Panic

I suppose it to be a recurring pattern. Whenever we have a spell of unusual cold in Minnesota, the Arctic experiences warmer than usual weather. It could be related to global warming, a weakening of the polar jet stream allowing warmer air to migrate further north over Alaska while frigid Arctic air hits south into the Eastern US.

Melting Ice and Cold Spells

Right now we have some of that cold nastiness dragging winter weather into what should be spring. The ice charts from the Arctic appear to bear out my guess, showing a drop in sea ice area that would indicate warmer temperatures in the north, as Minnesota experiences a cold snap. Whether there is a significant correlation, I don’t know, but it is interesting.

The following is a graph of sea ice area in the Arctic. (Click to enlarge.) It’s a little busy, but you can see the current year, in yellow, progressing along at a low level for this time of year. You can see that it heads sharply downward in the last few days. We should know in the next couple of weeks if it is going to stay below the previous record low for winter ice cover. It seems likely.

Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice AreaOf more interest is whether the ice area will again reach a record low in September. We can’t know how that will go yet, but it certainly possible. The scary part is the steady trend over the years. All the blue lines, before 2000, are in the top half of the range; all the others are lower. Since 2006, the summer values have been very low.

A few years ago, I ventured a guess that the Arctic would see essentially open ocean in September by the year 2020. Whether it comes that early or not, it does seem clear that we are not going to change our ways enough to prevent serious, permanent changes to the Arctic. That matters, because the Arctic is the canary in our coal mine.

The Times Are Changing

The weather patterns that accompany global warming, that we are beginning to see signs of—the drought in the West and in Australia, these cold, snowy blasts in the East, the superstorms in the Pacific and Atlantic—will continue to change over the coming years. We can act to head off the worst of it, or we can submissively accept the business as usual plan that the fossil fuel companies and their accomplices are pushing.

Superstorm Sandy


Time is not our friend in this situation. If global warming took place over years instead of centuries, the effects would be so catastrophic that we would be panicking. It would clearly be a matter of life or death. Because of its glacial pace, we tend to think that we have plenty of time before it gets serious. We don’t. We have run out of time. It is too late to avoid all the consequences, as we can already see around us.

The good news is that we still have time to avoid the worst of it, and that makes a huge difference. What we have committed ourselves to is bad, but the worst case scenario could be fatal to the human race.

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

We don’t have all the answers, but we know where to begin. Do something, something small or something big, but something. Conserve energy where you can. Eat a little less meat. Vote for representatives who know that science works. Make your voice heard, while you still have a voice.

Title image credit: Business Insider.

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