Illustrations by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone
Illustrations by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone
Throughout early fall, Alaska has been oddly warm and pleasant. The cause of the freakishly nice weather has been massive high pressure anchored over and around the state. One of the strongest on record for fall, this sprawling dome of warm air has helped keep the usual transition to cold stunted.
Since days are still long in early fall across Alaska, the sunny September (and into October) skies have also allowed ocean temperatures in the Northeast Pacific to rise significantly, as well. This has led to a return pool of abnormally warm ocean water in the Northeast Pacific known as “the blob,” and just in time for Halloween!
But scientists are unsure whether the blob will remain a fixture or fade away. If it manages to linger into the winter, the consequences for the Lower 48 could be profound.
Although the blob is focused over the Northeast Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska, it has played a substantial role in the development of extreme weather patterns over the Lower 48 when it has formed in the past. Generally, it has been linked to abnormally warm and dry conditions in the West, and cold and stormy conditions in the East.
When the blob is in place, the jet stream, which both divides warm and cold air and acts as super highway for storms, tends to veer north over the top of the blob. This results in a big ridge of high pressure forming over western North America, which brings mild weather and blocks storms.
The blob’s presence was linked to the persistence and intensity of the drought in California from 2013 to 2015. It also ″was blamed for contributing to 2015 being the hottest year on record in Seattle,” according to Scott Sistek, a meteorologist with KOMO in Seattle.
As the cold air displaced by the blob has to go somewhere, it then often crashes south in the East. Remember the polar vortex intrusions during the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015? The blob played a role.
So what will happen to the current iteration of the blob?
After Alaska’s stunningly sunny September, warmer-than-normal conditions have persisted into October, despite some change in the pattern, which is now delivering more in the way of clouds and precipitation.
While the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is forecasting warmer-than-normal conditions for Alaska the rest of the month, the mega-high-pressure zone feeding the blob is expected to continue to shift and break down a bit. In its wake, a stormier pattern may take over, at least for a time. This would allow the waters where the blob currently resides to begin to mix better, perhaps ultimately diminishing or even destroying it.
“How long will BLOB Jr. last? At least as long as we have persistent high pressure over the north Pacific,” wrote Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, in a blog post. At this point, “it looks like things are evolving to a pattern with less high pressure offshore, so the BLOB should weaken.”
According to Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist in Alaska, even if high pressure persists, it may turn into a source of cold air rather than warmth given Alaska’s waning sunlight — which would weaken the blob.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say much conclusively about the blob’s fate.
The blob last showed up around this time in 2016. Back then, there was some thinking that it may lead to a new round of winter cold outbreaks in the East. That didn’t really happen, as the blob dissipated.
Blob or not, the damage has been done in Alaska, where drought persists in the coastal rain forest of the southeast, and it’s been an extraordinarily peculiar start to the cold season.
“The onset of autumn in Alaska — the wettest part of the year for south-central and southeast Alaska — has been slow to arrive by four weeks or so,” said Dave Snider of the National Weather Service forecast office in Anchorage.
Anchorage has yet to witness a freeze. Although the city could see its first freeze in about a week, that will be about 10 days to two weeks past the old record for latest, a substantial gap.
“Nome should have 20 freezes by now. This year just one,” Brettschneider said. “Anchorage should have 20 days with temperatures below 38 degrees. This year, zero. So it’s not just the lack of a freeze, it’s that everything about the air mass is exceptional and persistent.”
Another oddity? Fairbanks has yet to see any snow so far this season, the latest on record. But history shows that the lack of snow so far means little with respect to what winter will bring.
Much like the future of the blob, the future of winter in Alaska is very much to be determined.
Brettschneider sees the potential for a perfect confluence of conditions to keep the warmth coming. Since September turned to October, a dominant feature has been a low pressure area in the Bering Sea. This is a conduit for driving relatively mild Pacific Ocean air into the state.
It’s still quite early in the cold season, even in the snowy north. For now, it’s a waiting game. Waiting for summer to finally end, and waiting to see what winter might bring. It won’t only have implications for Alaska, but for all of us.
INCHEON, South Korea — A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”
The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.
The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.
The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.
The new report, however, shows that many of those effects will come much sooner, at the 2.7-degree mark.
It may sound small, but a half-degree of temperature change could lead to more dire consequences in a warming world, according to a sweeping new scientific assessment.
Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of $54 trillion. But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.
For instance, the report says that heavy taxes or prices on carbon dioxide emissions — perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. But such a move would be almost politically impossible in the United States, the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China. Lawmakers around the world, including in China, the European Union and California, have enacted carbon pricing programs.
President Trump, who has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, has vowed to increase the burning of coal and said he intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement. And on Sunday in Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gas, voters appeared on track to elect a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he also plans to withdraw from the accord.
Absent aggressive action, many effects once expected only several decades in the future will arrive by 2040, and at the lower temperature, the report shows. “It’s telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime,” said Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report.
To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. It also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.
“This report makes it clear: There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University and an author of the report.
The World Coal Association disputed the conclusion that stopping global warming calls for an end of coal use. In a statement, Katie Warrick, its interim chief executive, noted that forecasts from the International Energy Agency, a global analysis organization, “continue to see a role for coal for the foreseeable future.”
Ms. Warrick said her organization intends to campaign for governments to invest in carbon capture technology. Such technology, which is currently too expensive for commercial use, could allow coal to continue to be widely used.
Despite the controversial policy implications, the United States delegation joined more than 180 countries on Saturday in accepting the report’s summary for policymakers, while walking a delicate diplomatic line. A State Department statement said that “acceptance of this report by the panel does not imply endorsement by the United States of the specific findings or underlying contents of the report.”
The State Department delegation faced a conundrum. Refusing to approve the document would place the United States at odds with many nations and show it rejecting established academic science on the world stage. However, the delegation also represents a president who has rejected climate science and climate policy.
“We reiterate that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement at the earliest opportunity absent the identification of terms that are better for the American people,” the statement said.
The report attempts to put a price tag on the effects of climate change. The estimated $54 trillion in damage from 2.7 degrees of warming would grow to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm by 3.6 degrees and beyond, the report found, although it does not specify the length of time represented by those costs.
The report concludes that the world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark. Human activities have caused warming of about 1.8 degrees since about the 1850s, the beginning of large-scale industrial coal burning, the report found.
On Monday, the world’s leading climate scientists are expected to release a report on how to protect civilization by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Given the rise already in the global temperature average, this critical goal is 50 percent more stringent than the current target of 2 degrees Celsius, which many scientists were already skeptical we could meet. So we’re going to have to really want it, and even then it will be tough.
The world would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than has ever been achieved, and do it everywhere, for 50 years. Northern European countries reduced emissions about 4 to 5 percent per year in the 1970s. We’d need reductions of 6 to 9 percent. Every year, in every country, for half a century.
We’d need to spread the world’s best climate practices globally — like electric cars in Norway, energy efficiency in California, land protection in Costa Rica, solar and wind power in China, vegetarianism in India, bicycle use in the Netherlands.
We’d face opposition the whole way. To have a prayer of 1.5 degrees Celsius, we would need to leave most of the remaining coal, oil and gas underground, compelling the Exxon Mobils and Saudi Aramcos to forgo anticipated revenues of over $33 trillion over the next 25 years.
And while the air would almost immediately be cleaner and people healthier, the heartbreaking impacts of climate change — flooding in London, New York and Shanghai, as well as in Mumbai, India; Hanoi, Vietnam; Alexandria, Egypt; and Jakarta, Indonesia, to touch on just one consequence — would continue for decades, regardless of emissions cuts, because of the long life of man-made greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
Some cynical news headlines will certainly follow the report: “Scientists Agree — We’re Cooked!” The headline writers would have a point. Solving climate is going to be harder, and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the moon all together.
So how do we engage in a possibly — but not probably — winnable struggle within a rigged system against great odds, the ultimate results of which we’ll never see? Forget success, how do we even get out of bed in the morning?
We could order in Chinese and lock ourselves in the closet, but we shouldn’t. Because there’s good news: We’re perfect for the job. If the human species specializes in one thing, it’s taking on the impossible.
We are constitutionally equipped to understand this situation. We are, after all, mortal, and so our very existence is a fight against inevitable demise. We also have experience: The wicked challenges we’ve faced through the ages have often been seemingly insurmountable. The Black Death killed off at least a third of Europe in its time. World War II claimed 50 million lives. We won those battles — sort of. We’ve spent our time as Homo sapiens fighting what J.R.R. Tolkien called “the long defeat.”
Historically, we’ve tackled the biggest challenge — that of meaning, and the question of how to live a life — through the concept of “practice,” in the form of religion, cultural tradition or disciplines like yoga or martial arts. Given the stark facts, this approach might be the most useful. Practice has value independent of outcome; it’s a way of life, not a job with a clear payoff. A joyful habit. The right way to live.
Such an approach will require dropping the American focus on destination over journey, and releasing the concepts of “winning” and “winners,” at least in the short term. As the journalist I.F. Stone was said to have explained: “The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.” He added: “You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.” Or as Camus put it: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
To save civilization, most of us would need to supplement our standard daily practices — eating, caring for family and community, faith —with a steady push on the big forces that are restraining progress, the most prominent being the fossil fuel industry’s co-option of government, education, science and media. This practice starts with a deep understanding of the problem, so it will mean reading a little about climate science. Our actions must be to scale, so while we undertake individual steps in our lives, like retrofitting light bulbs, we must realize that real progress comes from voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters, and uncomfortable but respectful conversations with fathers-in-law. This work must be habitual. Every day some learning and conversation. Every week a call to Congress. Every year a donation to a nonprofit advancing the cause. In other words, a practice.
Maybe this approach doesn’t seem as noble as, say, our memory of the civil rights movement. But that era’s continuous, workmanlike grinding probably didn’t feel all that glorious then, either. With history as our judge, though, it does. And we know what happens when enough people take up a cause as practice: Cultural norms change. Think gay marriage. Think the sharp decline in smoking in the United States.
There should be no shortage of motivation. Solving climate change presents humanity with the opportunity to save civilization from collapse and create aspects of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community.” The work would endow our lives with some of the oldest and most numinous aspirations of humankind: leading a good life; treating our neighbors well; imbuing our short existence with timeless ideas like grace, dignity, respect, tolerance and love. The climate struggle embodies the essence of what it means to be human, which is that we strive for the divine.
Perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can’t help but do it.
Is the autumn bear
expected to apologize
for his hunger ?
Now what Mr. Gotama ?
This video was before it’s time, but so essential that it has been updated several times. Everyone must – watch it . Everyone in the English speaking world must watch it. If you haven’t time, then just listen. And listen everyday through Nov 6- Don’t let anyone take away your vote!
The perfectly sunny and dry days of September are now behind us and the weather pattern will become more active for at least the next two weeks.
On Monday, expect a cloudier day, though we’ll likely stay mostly dry.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Rosa will bring showers. Not every mountain area will receive significant rain, though some spots will receive 1-2+ inches of rain, which is significant.
During the end of the week, on Thursday and Friday, the showers will continue.
Total precipitation for this week (Monday, October 1 through Friday, October 5) could be significant over the mountains.
While we could see a lot of precipitation this week (image above), we will NOT see a lot of snow.
The snow forecast for the week shows just light amounts over Colorado. This is because temperatures will be very warm until about Friday, so most of the week’s precipitation will fall as rain with only the highest peaks seeing snowflakes.
If you want to see snowflakes at ski-area elevations, keep your eye on the time between Friday and Saturday when cooler air will finally arrive.
Recap for this week – a good chance for significant rain Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then Friday and Saturday will bring cooler temperatures and perhaps a bit of snow.
Snow between October 6-10.
NOAA’s forecast (which is the average of many models) shows a good chance for above average precipitation.
And, the most important part, is that NOAA’s forecast also shows a good chance for colder-than-average temperatures.
The combination of above average precipitation and colder-than-average temperatures in October in Colorado is a recipe for snow, so my eye is on the time between October 6-10 as a likely period that our mountains could see the first significant snowfall of the season.
Let’s look in detail at Crested Butte, which I choose because it’s roughly in the middle of Colorado’s mountains. With the storm still 6+ days away and the forecast likely to change, we should look at generalities rather than focus on a particular corner of the state.
In the graphic below, each horizontal line shows the snow forecast from one of the 51 versions of the European model.
I highlighted in red the period from October 6-10. What’s awesome is that nearly every model version (each horizontal line) shows at least some snow, and about 50% of the model versions show significant snow.
This is plenty of evidence for me to say that either this weekend or next week will likely be the time when at least some of Colorado’s mountains get their first significant snowfall.
Of course, the details of this forecast will change daily between now and then, so let’s not get too excited for a specific amount of snow at a single location. Rather, the takeaway is that this week will be rainy, and then the upcoming weekend and next week will be much cooler with snow likely.