OK, who left the fridge door open?

That bastion of truth and reliability (reliably “left”), the Guardian, has published a Q&A for all their readers currently freezing their butts off in ol’ Blighty.

Q: Snow in winter. That feels reassuringly normal. Does this mean the climate has fixed itself?

A: Unfortunately not. In fact, many scientists are concerned this is a prelude to more extreme and less predictable weather.

“Climate” or “weather”, don’t go changing the subject!

Q: What are they worried about?

A: In the past couple of weeks, there has been a heatwave in the sunless Arctic even though the northern polar region has not had any sunlight since October. At times it has been warmer than London, Paris or New York.

Q: What is so unusual about that? We have known for some time that the Arctic is warming.

A: Yes, but even veteran climatologists have been shocked by the recent temperature spike. Instead of the gradual year-by-year rise that they were expecting, there has been jolt upwards that experts have described as “crazy”, “weird”, “shocking” and “worrying”.

Oh dear! “crazy”, “weird”, “shocking” and “worrying”.

Q: What are the numbers?

A: From 17 to 25 February, there were 10 consecutive days where temperatures were above freezing for at least part of the day at the world’s most northerly land weather station – Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland. In total, the monitoring station has recorded 61 hours above 0C. According to Robert Rohde, lead scientist of the Berkeley Earth monitoring organisation, that is more time above freezing than the combined total of January through April for all previously observed years since the station opened in 1981. Plotted on a graph, this is so far outside of the historical range that Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said the numbers represent “an anomaly of anomalies.”

An incredible 37-year history to look back on and it has never happened before! Based on this extensive base of data Michael Mann has created the latest worrying buzz phrase, “an anomaly of anomalies.”  Is that an “anomaly squared”?

But less than a month ago there was a news report of record breaking cold Arctic temperatures.

Q: Could it be a one-off freak event?

A: Possibly. In climate terms, a few weeks is not nearly long enough to determine whether a new trend is emerging. Some scientists believe this could be an extreme case of natural variation. Temperatures fluctuate wildly at the north pole, though it is not normally as warm, as often or for so long.

Wow! An actual and reasonable statement.

Q: So why worry? I feel sorry for the polar bears, but nobody lives in the north pole.

A: There is another theory about what is happening that could have much wider implications. The biggest concern is that this might indicate a weakening or collapse of the polar vortex.

Q: What is the polar vortex?

A: It is the circle of strong winds, including the jet stream, around the Arctic that act as a buffer or insulation, keeping the cold air mass in and the warm out.

Q: Why would it weaken?

A: The polar vortex gets its strength from the difference in temperature between the normally freezing Arctic and warmer more southerly mid-latitudes. But climate change is reducing the gap because the north pole is warming much faster than the global average.

Based on averaging temperatures over 1250 km block squares.  Might be true, might not be true.  Record cold in the Arctic in early February.

Q: Is this a problem?

A: The polar vortex is one of the world’s climate regulators. Any weakening would accelerate ice melt and add to instability and uncertainty. It could also trigger the release of methane – a very strong greenhouse gas – trapped in the tundra.

The news report above said “Blame for the almost 15 degrees colder than normal temperatures is being placed on the polar vortex, a combination of an aggressive weather system and frigid air temperatures.”

So the polar vortex is weakening and freezing Europe at the same time that it is “aggressively” freezing Arctic Canada.  Nice to have everyone on the same page here!

Q: Could it be connected to the blizzards that many people are experiencing?

A: In December, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned Arctic sea ice was declining at the fastest rate in at least 1,500 years with an impact that would be felt far outside the region and affect the lives of every single American. One of the research team, Jeremy Mathis, compared the Arctic to the planet’s refrigerator.

But the door to that refrigerator has been left open,” he said. “And the cold is spilling out, cascading throughout the northern hemisphere.”

But, but – Earlier this year, Stein et al., 2017 published a reconstruction of Arctic sea ice variations throughout the Holocene that appeared to establish that there is more Arctic sea ice now than for nearly all of the last 10,000 years.

Someone is being economical with the truth.

Q: What can be done?

A: Beyond blindly hoping this is an anomaly, climate activists say the warming of the Arctic highlights the need for urgent political action to rapidly reverse deforestation and phase out fossil fuels.

Ah yes, ban fossil fuels and drag us all back to the dark ages.  Since most homes in the UK no longer have fireplaces, heating is going to be a bit of a problem, even if they are allowed to chop down the trees in Hyde Park.

 


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.

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