Fire and Ice

Of all current issues, climate change dominated in the LATimes this Sunday.

Does that count as good news? (I wish.)

Fire in the Southwest worst in years…in June. "Could be a season of historic severity." Key paragraph:

That lack of precipitation created the conditions that are causing so many large fires. Meteorologists believe the West is in the grips of a severe drought cycle — the kind the region experiences only once every half a century. Some experts think climate change also may be reducing Western precipitation.

Ice melting in Greenland far faster than expected (in a very well-written story by Robert Lee Hotz). Key passage:

University of Texas physicist Ginny Catania pulled an ice-penetrating radar in a search pattern around the camp, seeking evidence of any melt holes or drainage crevices that could so quickly channel the hot water of global warming deep into the ice.

To her surprise, she detected a maze of tunnels, natural pipes and cracks beneath the unblemished surface.

"I have never seen anything like it, except in an area where people have been drilling bore holes," Catania said.

No one knows how much of the ice sheet is affected.

But, realistically, readers of the LATimes probably already mostly accept climate change.

Even more encouraging, in the national conservative pull-out Parade magazine that comes with the Sunday paper, is a story by Eugene Linden, a former Time science writer (whom I interviewed a couple of months ago) called Why You Can’t Ignore Climate Change. Key paragraph:

From the Fertile Crescent to the Yucatan peninsula, past civilizations made the fatal mistake of assuming that good weather would continue. An abrupt shift to drought in Mesopotamia 4,200 years ago probably spelled the doom of the Akkadian culture, which united city-states into the first known empire. Others see the fingerprints of climate in the collapse of the Mayans around 900 A.D., the disappearance of the Anasazi from the American Southwest a few centuries later and the end of Norse expansion into the New World in the 14th century. A recurrent pattern of history has been for civilizations to take root and flourish while the weather is good, only to fall when the weather suddenly changes.

More than any popular writer I know, Linden has brought forward the risk of global instability, or what he calls "a flickering climate." This flickering has been detected in the distant past, but in the most recent 10,000 years (with a couple of brief-but-alarming exceptions) our climate has been remarkably stable. Quite probably, that stability has contributed enormously to the success of what we call civilization. Do we really want to pull the rug out from under ourselves? Maybe better not…

Greenlandmeltextent2005_3

 

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