Rain and Rocks

October 28, 2012

Thick ground fog here this morning along California’s northern coast, but above the mist is clear skies and the dawn breaking from the east.
Quiet here, but not so where that dawn’s first light originates — the eastern half of the US is in for some bad shit the next few days, especially the next few hours, as weird-ass Hurricane Sandy hurdles up the Atlantic coast.

I’ve been watching/monitoring the Weather Channel all morning: It’s going to get a lot worse… you have to prepare as if you’ve never experienced this before, because you haven’t…(and)…this is going to be worse than Irene, that’s a given…”
An unique monster storm, but yet not so incomparable due to climate change — these storms aren’t being classified in the normal way now because of the heat factor: There’s 6 to 7 percent more moisture in the air for every degree of warming near the Earth’s surface.

(Illustration found here).

Nature is banging hard this morning — early Saturday evening a 7.7-magnitude earthquake walloped Canada’s British Columbia coastline, sending the shakes as far east as the Metro Vancouver area, and causing tsunami warnings to be issued all over the place, including Hawaii and here in northern California.
The warnings were downgraded to ‘advisory‘ levels last night, and along our coast, we were pretty-much out of danger.

The big problem in shit like this is aftershocks: No major damage or injuries have been reported as a result of the earthquake, which was followed by several aftershocks, the first of which had a magnitude of 5.8.
When earthquakes occur, I’m way-beyond-scared — the USGS’ Cal/Nevada fault map is on my bookmarks and I continually check it, but WTF — the shakers have already happened when they appear there.
Maybe it’s just a pretense of keeping alert, but what can you do when the earth starts moving.
The 6.5 we experienced more than two years ago about 35 miles south of where I’m located messed my head up bad — took me a long time to recover to the point where I could take a shower without a shaking paranoia of being caught naked in a natural disaster.
I did post about that quake here.

And climate change ain’t just about the weather, and weird, superstorms, or a “Frankenstorm” like Hurricane Sandy — rising temperatures effect/affect everything, even the ground beneath my quivering feet.

Bill McGuire, professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, had this to say about climate change and geology (earthquakes, volcanic activity, etc) in a piece earlier this year in the UK’s Guardian:

Evidence reveals, however, that our planet is an almost unimaginably complicated beast, which reacts to a dramatically changing climate in all manner of different ways; a few — like the aforementioned — straightforward and predictable; some surprising and others downright implausible.
Into the latter category fall the manifold responses of the geosphere.

The signs are that this is already happening.
In the detached US state of Alaska, where climate change has propelled temperatures upwards by more than 3C in the last half century, the glaciers are melting at a staggering rate, some losing up to 1km in thickness in the last 100 years.
The reduction in weight on the crust beneath is allowing faults contained therein to slide more easily, promoting increased earthquake activity in recent decades.
The permafrost that helps hold the state’s mountain peaks together is also thawing rapidly, leading to a rise in the number of giant rock and ice avalanches.
In fact, in mountainous areas around the world, landslide activity is on the up; a reaction both to a general ramping-up of global temperatures and to the increasingly frequent summer heatwaves.
Whether or not Alaska proves to be the “canary in the cage” — the geological shenanigans there heralding far worse to come — depends largely upon the degree to which we are successful in reducing the ballooning greenhouse gas burden arising from our civilisation’s increasingly polluting activities, thereby keeping rising global temperatures to a couple of degrees centigrade at most.

The bottom line is that through our climate-changing activities we are loading the dice in favour of escalating geological havoc at a time when we can most do without it.
Unless there is a dramatic and completely unexpected turnaround in the way in which the human race manages itself and the planet, then long-term prospects for our civilisation look increasingly grim.

And maybe not so ‘long-term‘…
McGuire’s article appeared before last summer’s meltdown of Greenland’s surface ice cover: According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

This is a today-right-now problem, and if not cured, there won’t be much left for tomorrow.

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