Expect the Unexpected Say Climate Scientists

By September 20, 2012The Unexpected

Just a quick note. One of the continuous warnings from climate scientists is not continuous drought, warming that makes Minnesota like Texas, floods that rival Noah’s, melting permafrost, loss of Arctic sea ice, global economic crippling sea level rise, ocean acidification or any of dozens more; it’s “Expect the unexpected.” One of the biggest examples so far has been the increase in record snowtatstrophes across the U.S. Northeast, Northern Europe, the British Isles and China. When these things started in 2005 (ish–I think the big Chinese snowpocalypse was a few years earlier) they were widely regarded by the D&D crowd (deniers and delayers) as “the end of global warming.” Climate scientists of course new better. Less sea ice in the Arctic meant warmer Arctic storms early in the winter, transferring more energy from the unfrozen Arctic Ocean to the jet stream, pushing these storms farther south as the jet stream buckles increased in size with the increase in energy. It took a few years for the science to be done to confirm, but by about 2008, the outreach had been done, and the extremeness of these various snowmeggedons began to impress upon the general public this fundamental thing about climate change; “Expect the unexpected.”

Do climate scientists have any ideas about specifics of these unexpected things happening–no. Hence, the reason for the statement “expect the unexpected.” But I have had a few ideas. Beyond the climate change impacts already happening, generations to a century or more ahead of schedule, the Arctic ozone hole is one of these. We have had two significant Arctic ozone loss events in the last five years–expect more, or at least expect the unexpected.  Other things?  A partial collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet tops the list. It’s happened before when the global temp was similar or just a wee bit warmer than today. The consequences of course will be globally crippling economic trouble. 

Others?  Insect infestation and disease: Not in humans, at least not that affect you and me. Those are a given, especially in developing nations or third world countries. But the infestations and diseases I am talking about are already evident in our forests across the planet. The pine beetle pandemic which I report about in my documentary What Have We Done, is a prime example. The previous discussion (September 12, 2012) about forest mortality is another. The evaluations of forest mortality across the Rockies of North America do not include massive tree death because of the pine beetle. They include everything else though–other insect infestations and tree diseases that are now running rampant on a warmer planet. Why are they running rampant? The pine beetle pandemic tells us again. These bark beetle that are the attacker in this pandemic are killed by extreme cold. One of the casualties of global warming is extreme cold at altitude and in northern latitudes. We no longer have the kind of extreme cold that kills these beetles. Combine this with drought, that can be perpetuated even during periods of normal or above normal rainfall because a warmer climate gives us so much more evaporation, and you get heat stress. Stressed trees, just like stressed humans, are more susceptible to disease and infestation. So another great and unexpected thing that we will almost certainly see happening in the very near future is the migration of the mountain pine beetle into areas of eastern Canada, the Northeastern U.S. and even the Southeastern U.S. These areas have never before seen this beetle and there are no natural defenses against its attack.

What Have We Done a documentary about the 62 million acre pine beetle pandemic in the Rockies of North America.