and the climate enters the Twilight Zone
Jerry Adler Senior Editor,Yahoo News•July 23, 2018
We pause now in our ongoing coverage of the end of Western democracy for a brief consideration of the end of the world. Along with Robert Frost, we can say that the question of fire versus ice as the agent of destruction has been settled in favor of fire, and we even know where the fire is likely to start: above the Arctic Circle, where an unprecedented heat wave has sent temperatures in the far north of Sweden as high as 86 F. The Washington Post’s climate writer, Jason Samenow, recently reported that the temperature (calculated by extrapolation) in a part of northern Siberia reached 90 degrees earlier this month, 40 degrees above normal. “It is absolutely incredible and really one of the most intense heat events I’ve ever seen for so far north,” wrote meteorologist Nick Humphrey. And after years of increasingly hot, dry summers, the great forests in the far north, all around the globe, are starting to burn.
A forest fire, like virtually all fires, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating the greenhouse effect that drives global warming. This is especially true of wildfires at high latitudes, where trees grow back slowly, and where there are the additional risks of carbon-dense peat bogs drying and burning, and also of melting permafrost releasing huge quantities of methane. This illustrates one of the perverse facts about climate change, that almost all the feedback effects are positive (in the technical sense of self-reinforcing, not as in “good.”) As one example, global warming melts ice and snow cover, which tends to reflect the sun’s radiation out to space, while bare earth and seawater absorb it.
Higher temperatures also cause more evaporation, putting more water vapor into the atmosphere. Water vapor — “humidity” to those living in the rain forest, or commuting to work on the subway — doesn’t just make the air feel hotter; it’s a greenhouse gas all by itself, which is why the temperature drops more at night in New Mexico than it does in New Jersey. Some climatologists have hopefully suggested that more water vapor would increase cloud cover and mitigate warming (a negative feedback loop), but the most recent assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change suggests that the net effect of increased evaporation on temperature will be either neutral, or “positive” — i.e., worse.
Almost the entire Northern Hemisphere has been hotter than normal this summer; Denver hit an all-time high of 105 in June, around the same time that Oman reported the highest nighttime low temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world, 109. As I write this, at 10 a.m. Sunday in the East, it is 79 degrees in Austin, Texas, with a forecast high of 105, going up to 108 on Monday. It was so hot there last week that the Austin Fire Department responded to a blaze caused by the spontaneous combustion of tortilla chips (technically, the crumbs and waste from a chip factory that had been left outdoors in the sun). A heat wave in Japan last week put 10,000 people in the hospital; at least 30 died.
Read the whole article here:
https://www.yahoo.com/news/heat-wave-st ... 41776.html
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