Too Hot! Too Cold! Global Warming?

Every time a frigid blast of Arctic air, or an extraordinarily heavy snowfall, or a devastating ice storm hits the Northern Hemisphere, especially off season, all sorts of commentators, principally in America, hit the news wires and blogs with: Uh-Oh! Global Warming?

Predictably, those headlines confuse the public about the reality of global warming, and that is understandable as it conveniently fits into a well thought out, well orchestrated game plan, which is confusion, confusion, confusion, keep’em confused. As for the upshot of this strategy of the denial camp, America will never have a clear vision to get off fossil fuels.

For example, the Drudge Report is famous, or maybe infamous, for pounding on the “go to press” button every time cold weather hits. Thus, over time, by essentially mocking global warming again and again and again and again, reader’s chuckle at the alleged ludicrousness surrounding the issue, poking fun at global warming in the face of cold weather. Mission accomplished!

However, the truth is, whether it is too hot or too cold makes no difference because global warming and radical climate change are joined at the hip. The evidence is palpable. After all, the onset of observable global warming coincided with radical climate change.

Too Hot Too Cold – Does Global Warming Go Both Ways?

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have sorted out the “too hot, too cold” brainteaser: “…observation-based sea-ice concentration anomalies show that as a result of sea-ice reduction in the Barents–Kara Sea, the probability of severe winters has more than doubled in central Eurasia.” 1

In short, there is a direct correlation, a string tied between Arctic sea ice loss, which is caused by global warming, and severe cold weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere, which is amplified by sea ice loss. “This counterintuitive effect of the global warming that led to the sea ice decline in the first place makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not,” according to Colin Summerhayes, emeritus associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, in a statement provided by the journal Nature Geoscience.

In point of fact, global warming brings in its wake harsh, brutal cold weather because the Arctic, which is the “thermostat for the Northern Hemisphere,” is thrown off, out of whack, discombobulated by the effects of global warming, which leads to events like polar vortexes or to stationary weather fronts of long duration, or sudden torrential storms or deadly droughts or brutal freezing spells.

These types of weather events have happened since time immemorial. The difference is that the same events today are much more pronounced, haphazard, enduring, and destructive; e.g., 100-year floods every few years, hitting every continent. Researchers at MIT and Princeton found that with climate change, today’s 100-year floods will likely happen every three to twenty years.

Yes, counter-intuitively, global warming spawns extraordinary weather, including embedded droughts, as well as torrential rainstorms! It’s the global thermostat gone bonkers. Thanks to anthropological global warming.

Alas, the relationship of global warming to severe cold fronts has become a major focal point of cynicism by individuals/orgs/institutions that are paid to ridicule the issue of global warming. They jump at every opportunity to publish articles with headlines such as: Arctic Cold Front and Record Snowfall Hit in April…Global Warming, Huh?

Beware of Global Warming’s Prescription for Starvation

As for those who ignore the impact of anthropological climate change, a foreboding of immense proportions threatens the very foundations of modern day society. In all probability, there is no graver peril.

Indeed, global warming literally means warmer temperatures, which is a simple observation. For example, the ten hottest years on record since 1880 have all occurred over the past sixteen years. This year (2014) is shaping up to be the hottest year for the planet since 1880.2 That’s 134 years of temperature readings culminating with its hottest this year.

As it happens, the kissing cousin to increasing temperatures is radical climate change, which threatens to destroy agriculture across the globe, risking worldwide food panic, which will likely occur well in advance of unbearable, sweltering heat associated with runaway global warming. In fact, this is already happening.

For instance, Syria was the breadbasket of the Middle East until a 5-year drought (2006-11) decimated the Fertile Crescent, resulting in the most severe set of Syrian crop failures in recorded history.  Thereby, prompting the question: Is there a connection between Syria’s civil war and climate change?

The devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors… water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syria’s economic conditions… In recent years, there has been an increase in incidences of water-related violence around the world. 3

Additionally, several other major breadbasket regions of the world are suffering a similar fate: Brazil is experiencing its worst drought in 84 years. China’s drought is its worst in 50 years. Australia’s Queensland is 80% in drought. California’s severe drought is one of its worst in 100 years, and it threatens to become a megadrought; i.e., lasting longer than 10 years.

Western USA Drought Challenges Conditions as far back as Early Middle Ages

The dryness in California is only part of a longer-term, 15-year drought across most of the Western USA, one that bioclimatologist Park Williams said is notable because ‘more area in the West has persistently been in drought during the past 15 years than in any other 15-year period since the 1150s and 1160s’ — that’s more than 850 years ago. 4

Is it merely coincidental that droughts are found far and wide as CO2 reaches levels never before seen by humans?

More to the point, the evidence appears to indicate that, over time, burning fossil fuels burns up agricultural resources.

The Ice Conundrum

As it goes, Arctic ice is a key determinate as to whether adequate food supply or mass starvation prevails.

“Annual average global temperatures continue to rise, but the distribution of temperature through the year is giving us more extremes, which is highly damaging to food production,’ said Prof Peter Wadhams at the University of Cambridge. ‘As ice continues to retreat, we can expect these weather extremes to continue to occur and maybe worsen,”  5

In that regard, only recently have studies likely pinpointed the genesis of radical climate change as a result of the warming Arctic, where over 50% of its ice mass is already gone. The Arctic, heating up two times faster than elsewhere on the planet, is where the “rubber meets the road” for radical climate change.

As it happens, too much heat in the Arctic not only melts the ice (which risks releasing gigatonnes of methane); it distorts the jet streams at 30,000-60,000 feet, causing slow-moving elongated jet stream loops rather than the tighter rapid-moving loops hovering over the Northern Hemisphere. This disruption of the jet streams alters weather patterns, distorting normal weather movement, exacerbating and lengthening its impact.

Unfortunately embedded droughts destroy sources of food production, which, in turn, leads to starving masses of people, leading to riots in the streets, leading to lock-down totalitarianism, leading to regional warring factions roaming the planet in search of food and water, ultimately resulting in a chronological lifestyle digression to the Cro-Magnon era. At least it’s not Neanderthal!

After all, Cro-Magnon used tools, spoke and probably sang, made weapons, lived in huts, wove cloth, wore skins, made jewelry, used burial rituals, made cave paintings, and even came up with a calendar, same as people today, except for the cave paintings.

Water and Food Challenged by Global Drought

“Global Drought Threatens Water, Food Supplies. Get Used to It” by Mark Koba, senior editor CNBC, NBC News, September 6, 2014: “We’ll see more droughts and floods in the decades to come, says LaDawn Haglund, a professor of justice and social inquiry at Arizona State University and an urban water expert. Warming temperatures are changing when and where how much water falls from the sky.”

“A worldwide weather phenomenon threatens the future of water and food supplies, as well as the global economy, experts say. Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Australia, Guatemala, China and Kenya are just a few of the countries suffering severe drought conditions,”

For example, China’s severe drought, the worst in 50 years, is not an ordinary, typical drought.  It’s embedded.

Southern China is a rice-growing region, while the northeast is the country’s wheat and corn-growing ‘bread basket.’ This summer the northern province of Liaoning is suffering the worst drought in 63 years, according to the local meteorological bureau: The province has seen the lowest precipitation since the government began keeping records in 1951. 6

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Global warming affects evapotranspiration—the movement of water into the atmosphere from land and water surfaces and plants due to evaporation and transpiration—which is expected to lead to: Increased drought in dry areas… expansion of dry areas.”

The Worldwide Daily Drought Risk Map shows sizeable areas of “extreme drought conditions” on every continent. Specific regions within continents are now subject to severe drought conditions all across the four corners of the world.

Since global warming, caused by burning coal, oil, and gas, is the main culprit behind excesses of too cold, too hot conditions around the world, governmental policies should focus on renewable sources of energy lest society reverts to Cro-Magnon lifestyle, by default.

According to Brian Fagan’s Cro-Magnon (Bloomsbury Press, 2010):

When the climate warmed, the hunters and their game moved north, and when frigid times returned, they moved south.  The hunters followed the meat, and the meat followed the grass. The climate could swing from pleasant to freezing over the course of a lifetime.  Siberia was once a tropical forest, the Sahara once had lakes and grasslands, and there was a time when you could walk from France to England.

Fortunately for modern day society, Fagan’s description of the Cro-Magnon lifestyle is a long way off from today’s high tech living, or is it?

Postscript:

Drought is the greatest threat civilization faces from climate change, because drought takes away the two things necessary to sustain life–food and water.
— Dr. Jeff Masters, Weather Underground.

  1. Masato Mori, et al, “Robust Arctic sea-ice influence on the frequent Eurasian cold winters in past decades, Nature Geoscience, October 26, 2014 []
  2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration []
  3. Peter H. Gleick, “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria”, Pacific Institute, February 3, 2014. []
  4. California’s 100-Year Drought, USA Today, September 3, 2014. []
  5. Damian Carrington, “Global Warming has Doubled Risk of Harsh Winters in Eurasia, Research Finds”, The Guardian, October 26, 2014. []
  6. Christina Larson, “Severe Drought In China’s Northern Bread Basket Threatens Harvests”, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 15, 2014. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.