Sunday, 16 February 2014

Mid Monthly Miscellanea: February 2014

Mid February already!

The storms are abating, we're still in a low pressure dominated regime, but the intensity of the lows is predicted to be more normal this week than previously. That still leaves the Thames and the Somerset Levels with extensive flooding, and further rain will top up the aquifers, but for now the worst seems to be over for most of the country. My concern remains that if the aquifers are kept topped up, then come June the summer pattern is likely to start (having had a break last year), and a wet summer is likely. It's worth listing the top ten wettest summers in the UK, source data.

       Year       UK          Rainfall
1912 384.4
2012 379.2
1956 359.2
2007 357.8
1985 343.2
1927 337.1
1931 327.6
1946 326.8
2009 323.0
2008 320.2

The data stretch back to 1910, and four of the top ten wettest years are in the six year period after 2007.

The BBC are reporting that the current weather may be due to increased waviness of the Jetstream, this is due to Dr Jennifer Francis presenting on Francis & Vavrus 2012 at the AAAS conference in Chicago. Indeed, as I type Dr Francis is on BBC News 24, and the article is the second most read on the BBC News website, which is good. My doubts about Francis & Vavrus remain, the more recent Tang et al (2013 "Cold winter extremes in northern continents linked to Arctic sea ice loss") paper, on which Francis was a co author, seems more reasonable, but doesn't represent an answer to the concerns of Barnes and Screen & Simmonds. That the BBC is reporting this as 'new science' doesn't surprise me, it must be hard to keep up with subsequent developments, and Dr Francis is obviously still concerned she's right. I just think that if she is, she's not demonstrated it in Francis & Vavrus, and that it may be too early to detect the changes robustly.

However in the conference abstract Dr Francis states "I will build on analysis presented in Francis and Vavrus (GRL, 2012)" when I get more details from that, I may need to change my mind.

At the AAAS conference are four other speakers, see here. Dr Mark Serreze suggests an ice free Arctic 'perhaps as soon as 2030-40', and reflects upon impacts of natural variability, not sure I agree with all he says in the abstract, but I'd need to see the talk. What interests me is that Dr James Overland sees an earlier window.
IPCC 5th Assessment Report archive are too conservative in their sea ice projections of summer sea ice loss of 2050 and beyond. Time horizons for a nearly sea ice-free summer from data extrapolation and physical understanding suggest a summer sea ice loss roughly 2020 to 2030... 
In contrast to model results, data suggest an immediacy to climate change adaptation for the Arctic over the next few decades.
2020 to 2030 is the window I've been tending to, although I've not yet blogged on it, mainly because I still think a summer with such little ice that it's virtually ice free can occur this decade. However I think the first such summer crash that takes us to such levels will probably be weather driven and followed by years with somewhat higher ice.

The BBC are also reporting that the Leader of The Opposition, Ed Milliband, is warning that the recent storms show that Climate Change is now a threat to national security.

Mr Miliband said: "We have always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.  
"But the events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country too, with people's homes, businesses and livelihoods come under attack from extreme weather. 
"And we know this will happen more in the future. The science is clear. The public know there is a problem... ...But because of political division in Westminster we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. 
"The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all."
Again, pretty much what I'm thinking. However whilst anyone denying the over-riding human contribution of human activities to climate change is clearly in denial of reality. I'm not so hard-line as to apply the epithet of 'denialist' to those who doubt we face a disaster, and think that it's a serious problem amongst other issues. It's just that my hunch, or gut feeling, is that we're 'in for a kicking', the evidence behind that is simply not as crushing as is the evidence that shows we are changing the climate.

As with the Arctic, it's an ongoing process and patience will provide more evidence and reveal the answers.

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