Episode 292. Heat Waves: Top & Bottom

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 28th of March 2022.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

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Record-breaking heatwaves hit both Antarctica and the Arctic simultaneously this week, with temperatures reaching 47℃ and 30℃ higher than normal.

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From Record-smashing heatwaves are hitting Antarctica and the Arctic simultaneously. Here’s what’s driving them, and how they’ll impact wildlife on the Conversation website.

So let’s just look at those numbers again: 47 and 30℃, that’s 116 and 86F. Those are mind boggling numbers.

The effects at either end of the planet were caused by different phenomena and the two happening together appears to be a coincidence. Yet Climate Theory would suggest more of these events are likely. Weather at the poles is connected to the temperate regions they abut and to a lesser degree up or down into the tropics. 

Let’s begin in the south. There’s lots of ice over land and that becomes an issue if it drops into the seas. This event is unlikely to cause that but if these events continue, the effects would be cumulative. Apparently a high pressure south east of Australia pumped warm humid are from the Pacific over the southern continent. At the same time a low pressure over East Antarctica drew an atmospheric river, we’ll get to that, also onto the continent. An atmospheric river is a narrow band of humid air that carries huge amounts of water vapour and drops its like a, well, a river. They tend to carry more water than rivers but are not common, thankfully, so far.

To give you some context of both the size of antarctica and where Casey Station is, this will be relevant in a moment, relative Australia I dropped a pic into the transcript over at www.worldorganicnews.com/episode292. Now to Casey Station, 

From the same article on The Conversation:

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Last Monday (March 14) air temperatures at the Australian Casey Station reached a maximum of -1.9℃. Two days later, they were more like mid-summer temperatures, reaching a new March maximum of 5.6℃, which will melt ice.

This is the second heatwave at Casey Station in two years. In February 2020, Casey hit 9.2℃, followed by a shocking high of 18.3℃ on the Antarctic Peninsula.

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So that’s not good. Really, not good at all.

Now to the Northern Polar region.

From the same article,

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A similar weather pattern occurred last week in the Arctic. An intense low pressure system began forming off the north-east coast of the United States. An atmospheric river formed at its junction with an adjacent high pressure system.

This weather pattern funnelled warm air into the Arctic circle. Svalbald, in Norway, recorded a new maximum temperature of 3.9℃.

US researchers called the low pressure system a “bomb cyclone” because it formed so rapidly, undergoing the delightfully termed “bombogenesis”.

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Now far be it for me to suggest the US researchers were being just a little melodramatic but the reported weather still causes some questions. Antarctica is heading into winter, so any “damage” to ice flows, sea ice and so on should be repaired by colder temperatures or smothered with more snow. The northern hemisphere though, as those of you living there will appreciate, is heading into summer. 

Sea ice levels are already at lowish levels and a heat event prior to the warming season is a concern. This comes on top of last summer’s record breaking rain across Greenland, there’s a link to that treat in the show notes. The poles are warming more quickly than the rest of the planet and these weather systems channelling heat are both the symptom and the mechanism. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, we’re in a La Nina weather event here in the southern Pacific, more rain for eastern Australia, less for western South America, to the point of floods here and droughts there. The worrying thing about the high pressure being south of here during a La Nina is that weather patterns in general appear, from my observations, to have moved to the south. Once the La Nina fades and we’re heading for an El Nino event those patterns drift northward. 

A quick explanation of the La Nina / El Nino system in simple terms. The temperature of the southern half of the pacific varies over time. A warmer western Pacific draws weather patterns and rain towards the Australian continent and away from South America. As the “warm spot” so to speak moves eastward, rainfall is drawn towards South America and away from Australia. The millennium drought that started in about 1998 and ended, for some, in 2014, for others in 2021 and for a tiny minority, is still running, was the result of a severe El Nino event for about ten years.

So the scenario is this: El Nino is on its way back. Weather patterns will drift northward and rain will dissipate. Huge inverted “U” shaped troughs have become a feature of summer weather patterns for at least 5 years now. They were what pumped the hot dry air from the interior deserts to the East Coast to create 45 degree heat waves in 2017 and, after two summers of these, produced the conditions for the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires.

We need to get off fossil fuels as these new patterns will be good for neither Australia nor the Antarctic nor, for that matter, anyone else in the world. That’s perhaps a little dramatic, I heard the warmer temperatures we’ve created so far have been positive for some grain growing areas in Canada and Russia but not by a large margin.

Now it sounds odd but during these times of flood up and down the east Coast of Australia, this is the time to prepare for the next hot dry spell. Hopefully, and this is truly is hope over expectation, these swings from drought to flood and back again will not continue to grow in intensity. I doubt it, but I hope so. The flood events are widespread this year but follow a series of severe flood events last year that weren’t as big. The Black Summer fire events followed a series of increasing intensity, size and duration over the past decade. 

Many people doing small actions can change much despite the efforts of war mongers and profiteers in the fossil fuel world. It can feel like the entire world from politics to weather and climate are out to get us. But as I say, many of us doing small things will have an effect. Plant that garden, protect those trees, those tidal swaps, sorry, local wetlands, find a thing and do it.

We have been warned since the 1970s, at least, that the changes in climate were coming, they’re here now. And these changes are a result of excess GHGs from the past, they don’t include the extras we’re adding daily as a species. Time to stand up, mitigate the effects as best we can locally and vote to force change on a local, state and national level, or local, county and national level or whatever system you have where you live. We were warned Australia was in the prime spot to feel the early effects of climate change, don’t let the evidence before you slip away.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

If you’d like to support this podcast, I have a “Buy Me a Coffee” link in the show notes and at the website. All coffees are gratefully accepted.

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.

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Record-smashing heatwaves are hitting Antarctica and the Arctic simultaneously. Here’s what’s driving them, and how they’ll impact wildlife

https://theconversation.com/record-smashing-heatwaves-are-hitting-antarctica-and-the-arctic-simultaneously-heres-whats-driving-them-and-how-theyll-impact-wildlife-179659

What Greenland’s record-breaking rain means for the planet

https://theconversation.com/what-greenlands-record-breaking-rain-means-for-the-planet-166567

Satellite data shows entire Conger ice shelf has collapsed in Antarctica

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/25/satellite-data-shows-entire-conger-ice-shelf-has-collapsed-in-antarctica?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR2k0INUIwuV6qQkJCs_1-H5FupNjbi3X4wZ6lstDBX5YG0C5DM9wQVJomQ

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