Vats of Fire And Rain — ‘Extreme Events’

August 10, 2010

The future cooks while humanity cries through the looking glass:

As the climate warms, we expect heat waves to become more frequent (Ganguly et al., 2009).
Now there is still considerable uncertainty on where the heat waves will occur, that seems to depend on the climate model used.
However, the physics of heat waves do not change.
Heat waves in climate simulations are still associated with upper-level ridges (Meehl and Tebauldi, 2004).
This suggests that we will likely see more heat waves like the Muscovite heat wave of 2010 in the future.

(Illustration found here).

The Russians have been feeling the gosh-awful blowback of one reality aspect in the environment’s “new normal” — great waterless heat.
Watch here a fascinating, though highly-disturbing report by CNN iReporter Percy von Lipinski in Moscow, a three-minute clip aptly described as a walk through a “cauldron of hell.” (and the word, ‘cauldron‘ — A large vessel, such as a kettle or vat, used for boiling; a state or situation of great distress or unrest felt to resemble a boiling kettle or vat).
Percy described the sun as a “barely visible dot of orange trying to light the sky.”
The Russian capitol has been consumed by smoke from more than 560 forest/brush/wood-of-any-type-fires burning across the central belly of the country, end results of a heatwave/drought never before seen there; and for the Muscovites, they’re also dealing with peat bog fires — there’s 39 such horrors right now with 27 of them around Moscow — and temperatures near 104F, something also beyond any alive or dead memories.
Check out a dangerous-looking view from the NASA MODIS satellite of the Russian fires at Climate Central.
And although officials downplayed the peril, those fires are also threatening nuclear contamination from the Chernobyl disaster found in forests throughout certain areas of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
According to AFP, Philippe Renaud, head of the environmental radiation laboratory at France’s IRSN nuclear safety institute, said “If these trees burn, the cesium would be released into the air where they could be breathed in by people and with the wind even end up in France,” and then reportedly muttered some all-time famous last words: “This isn’t dangerous at all.”

Global climate mutation at work.
According to Dr. Jeff Masters, the Moscow mess is a combo of weather events, creating one of those heinous positive feedback loops:  “As a result, soil moisture in some portions of European Russia has dropped to levels one would expect only once every 500 years.”

And from the soil comes food.
The current inferno has already destroyed 20 percent of Russia’s wheat crop, causing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to ban all grain exports for the rest of the year, a good, judicious move for Russkies, but shit for the rest of the world.
Weather-induced shortages in the international grain market had already driven the price of wheat up by more than 80 percent since early June, but Russia, fourth-largest grain exporter, in its move immediately forced another eight percent jump.
Gwynne Dyer, the historian/journalist, notes the Russian wheat ban won’t raise much alarm to most of the world this particular time, but the event does reveal an early glimpse of climate change impact:

This means that food prices will also rise, but that is a minor nuisance for most consumers in the developed countries, since they spend only about 10 percent of their income on food.
In poor countries, where people spend up to half their income on food, the higher prices will mean that the poorest of the poor cannot afford to feed their children properly.
As a result, some will die — probably a hundred or a thousand times as many as the 30-odd Russians who have been killed by the flames and the smoke.
But they will die quietly, one by one, in under-reported parts of the world, so nobody will notice.
Not this time.
But when food exports are severely reduced or banned by several major producers at once and the international grain market freezes up, everybody will notice.

The world grain reserve, which was 150 days of eating for everybody on the planet 10 years ago, has fallen to little more than a third of that.
(The “world grain reserve” is not a mountain of grain somewhere, but the sum of all the grain from previous harvests that is still stored in various places just before the next big Northern Hemisphere harvest comes in.)
We now have a smaller grain reserve globally than a prudent civilization in Mesopotamia or Egypt would have aimed for 3,000 years ago.
Demand is growing not just because there are more people, but because there are more people rich enough to put more meat into their diet. So things are very tight even before climate change hits hard.
The second problem is, of course, global warming.
The rule of thumb is that with every one-degree C rise in average global temperature, we lose 10 percent of global food production.
In some places, the crops will be damaged by drought; in others by much hotter temperatures.
Or, as in Russia’s case today, by both.

And then again, maybe not-so-early a glimpse: As one can see, the Russkies ain’t alone in the wide, wide world.

(Illustration found here).

Summer in the US this year isn’t exactly another from Russia with hot-love, but records have been snapped across the eastern/southern part of the country as peoples sweated, sweltered and then stank in a heat wave where there’s no real relief.
Last month, evening TV newscasts seemingly always led with clips depicting all kinds of different peoples in big eastern US cities, playing in hydrants, wiping brows, boiling — followed by shots of the BP disaster, of course — and after some weather-related details, gushered forth with tons of human-interest stories, which got real-old, real-quick.
Read some stats on broken temp records across the US at CapitalClimate, and note the personal insert by the writer: “It’s still 90° in Washington at 7 pm.”
After a weekend of somewhat a respite from the heat, temperatures across the south are expected back to the brutal level by this week.

Here on California’s north coast, this has been a very-cool, and very-sun-less summer — ain’t weather odd.

Via Google Earth, it appears that directly straight-east (2,286 miles and nearly five hours by air) from Moscow is Islamabad, Pakistan, the capital of a country awash literally in a direct-opposite disaster — heavy rains and massive flooding on an unprecedented scale, even where bad shit happens apparently all the time.
Via CNN: “Pakistan has been hit by the worst flood of its history,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a televised speech Friday. “As I speak, the flood is still engulfing new areas and adding to the scale of devastation.”

The regional to national disaster has killed 1,600 and more heavy rain is currently falling, creating bad-case scenarios for millions of people — waters have reached the tip of the “food basket of Pakistan” 1.4 million acres of agricultural land has already been flooded.

(Illustration found here).

And east of acid-smoked Moscow there’s plenty of water.
Massive rain created flashing flooding the last few days in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, killing at least 15 people: A Polish firefighter said the scene in Bogatynia, in southwestern Poland, was “apocalyptic.” Much of the town of 20,000 was flooded when the Miedzianka River crested, killing one victim, he said.
The damage done already will be counted in millions and millions of dollars, and although rains eased over the weekend, peoples will be digging out for weeks — worse flooding in a hundreds of years.

Meanwhile, back on Red Square, Alexander Frolov, head of the Russian Meteorological Center, waxed dramatic on Monday:

“We have an ‘archive’ of abnormal weather situations stretching over a thousand years.
It is possible to say there was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last one thousand years in regard to the heat.”

Dramatic, indeed.

Climate change is most-likely the big one, the ultimate game changer, and from all the indicators already here and might be a-coming faster than originally anticipated –  sequence of  “the actual trajectory” of global warming is quicker, faster.
A perfect storm of mad, dangerous shit, going off at linked hyper-irregular intervals — what science people call “extreme weather events.”
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice president of the UN’s IPCC, on these remarkable occurrences and how these disasters are consistent with what’s happening with mankind-caused climate change: “These are events which reproduce and intensify in a climate disturbed by greenhouse gas pollution,” he said. “Extreme events are one of the ways in which climatic changes become dramatically visible.”

And it’s going to get worse and worse, quicker and quicker.
What’s a body to do?

Actually fly away.
One of the earth’s supposedly great brainiacs, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, says if humanity hopes to survive we must leave the earth or face extinction: “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million,” Hawking said. “Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.”

Not until it stops raining.

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