Sat. May 25th, 2024

Hear No Warnings: See No Change

The “frankenstorm” was aptly named. A monster rose out of the deep, powered by the clashes of warm water currents colliding with cold air disturbances; a monster whose fury has sent the brave scattering and environmentalists crying, “now do you believe in climate change”? The remnants of nay sayers, cynics and skeptics are quick to point out humans do not create hurricanes. They do not initiate nature’s cyclic events. This is true. However, human failure to balance industry and technology with environmental controls have exacerbated the conditions in which natural cyclic events take place.

A 1997 research article put out by the Ecological Society of America, stated:

Global climate change is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns, oceanic and atmospheric circulation, rate of rising sea level, and the frequency, intensity, timing, and distribution of hurricanes and tropical storms. The magnitude of these projected physical changes and their subsequent impacts on coastal wetlands will vary regionally. Coastal wetlands in the southeastern United States have naturally evolved under a regime of rising sea level and specific patterns of hurricane frequency, intensity, and timing. A review of known ecological effects of tropical storms and hurricanes indicates that storm timing, frequency, and intensity can alter coastal wetland hydrology, geomorphology, biotic structure, energetics, and nutrient cycling.

The Ocean Menace

Climate change involves the shifting of the fresh cold water currents on the ocean floor, pushing it higher and closer to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. This, in turn, affects the fast moving ribbon of air that governs weather patterns, known as the jet stream. Archer and Caldeira note that “These changes in jet stream latitude, altitude, and strength have likely affected, and perhaps will continue to affect, the formation and evolution of storms in the mid-latitudes and of hurricanes in the sub-tropical regions.”

The ice cap in Greenland is melting at such an accelerated pace, that the land underneath it is rising at an approximate level of one inch per year. Under current conditions, this pace could increase to two inches per year by 2025. The same process is affecting the islands of Iceland and Svalbard, which also have ice caps.

The altered jet stream is not only melting the ice caps at an unprecedented pace and increasing the intensity of hurricanes, it has altered seasonal climatic changes world wide. Weather systems, whether cold, dry or wet, are slow to move in and slow to move out. This results in a “blocking” event, in which the weather front remains in one area for a prolonged time, slowing down changes in weather patterns elsewhere, effectively creating a “traffic jam”.

We have seen the effects of this blocking pattern world wide over the last year. The Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Alaska and Siberia began their winter with a -20 to -45 degree cold front that lasted two months, eventually culminating in snow storms that brought some areas up to fourteen feet of snow.

London experienced one of their worst summers on record, with freak storms, flash floods, relentless rains that gave them more than twice their average rain fall in the notoriously rainy city. Weather forecasters blamed the jet stream. Stated Michael Lawrence at the London Met Office, “These areas of low pressure are hitting the UK as a whole instead of giving us the glancing blows you would usually expect in summer.”

In the meantime, large parts of the world were going through a summer of drought. By May of 2012, three quarters of the Continental United States was experiencing mild to severe drought conditions. The United States Department of Agriculture indicated, “38 percent of the nation’s corn crop was in poor to very poor condition, compared to 30 percent the previous week, and 30 percent of soybeans were in poor to very poor condition (compared to 27 percent last week). Fifty-four percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, and is an all-time high for the 1995-2012 growing season weekly history.”

Russia cut their forecast for grain harvest after two of their regions in Ural and Siberia were affected by severe drought conditions. India experienced its fourth drought in twelve years this summer, with a monsoon season so weak, their crops were nearly completely devastated. At the same time, parts of China were drenched with such massive rain falls and flooding, even a portion of their Great Wall crumbled.

Effects on Marine Life

A 1999 study on the impact of climate change pointed to an alteration in the growth of sea grasses. According to the scholarly work of “Aquatic Botany”:

“The distribution of seagrasses will shift as a result of increased temperature stress and changes in the patterns of sexual reproduction. Indirect temperature effects may include plant community changes as a result of increased eutrophication and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The direct effects of sea level rise on the coastal oceans will be to increase water depths, change tidal variation (both mean tide level and tidal prism), alter water movement, and increase seawater intrusion into estuaries and rivers. A major impact of all these changes on seagrasses and tidal freshwater plants will be a redistribution of existing habitats. The intrusion of ocean water into formerly fresh or brackish water areas will directly affect estuarine plant distribution by changing conditions at specific locations, causing some plants to relocate in order to stay within their tolerance zones and allowing others to expand their distribution inland.”

Climate change has effected the coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass meadows that house and feed many species of fish. Reefs have already become endangered by human causes, such as pollution and over-harvesting. Mangroves are a breeding ground for many fish and crustaceans, such as crab.

Warming sea waters directly effect oxygen solubility in ocean habitats. Oxygen rates decline by six percent with each degree of temperature rise. The low oxygen concentration has rendered compartments of the world’s oceans inhabitable for marine life. According to “Marine Biology”, the growth, size, resistance and resilience of whole populations may be altered with advancing climate change.
This summer, Alaska and Canada experienced the lowest King Salmon runs on record, causing fish management to withdraw King Salmon fishing rights. There were a lot of hard feelings, with Canada accusing Alaska of allowing less of the run to enter Canadian waters, and subsistence fishermen blaming commercial fisheries for driving down the numbers.

The analysis by “Marine Biology” stated a decline in Northern Atlantic stock was driven by climate change. They state, The claim that “climate findings let fishermen off the hook” does not, however, tell the whole story, and excessive fishing will certainly not assist ecosystems stressed by climate change. There is growing acceptance of the requirement for an ecosystem approach to marine fisheries and environment management: this approach should take account of the whole gamut of anthropogenic and natural threats to ecosystems, including climate change.”
It has become impossible to state that climate change doesn’t exist. The past year has witnessed extreme weather conditions on a global scale. Nor is it possible to advert the changes already taking place, but it is possible to finally admit human error has contributed to wide spread environmental imbalance. Only by admitting our actions have been at fault can we begin to make the changes necessary for preventing future major catastrophes, or at least, begin making preparations for the inevitable effects of the changes already taking place.


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By karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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2 thoughts on “The Frankenstorm that Rose from the Deep”
  1. It seems to me that there has been the tiniest of shifts. Aside from Pat Robertson and his pals who blame storms on Gays almost as a drinking game, people it seems are ready to admit polar ice caps are melting.

    And how can they not when there are pictures like the ones James Balog has been collecting?

    But I don’t feel this is going to stop people in their tracks. If anything people seem to be more galvanized around the absurd belief that they can create something to cope with the changes.

    That, and they are queueing up to be the first to get to the oil under those caps. It’s amazing to me that we are so fecking lazy as a race that we cannot seem to bother to move past centuries old models of energy.

    But, it seems imagination is out. That, or the rays of the sun are destroying our brains.

  2. Grainne, just being aware the ice caps are melting isn’t really enough. Being aware of the significance of the ice cap melting helps, as we would then be able to grasp more understanding of how climate change affects us. However, we also need grasp how we are exacerbating the damage created by climate change. Climate change is disturbing marine life habitats; that does not excuse over-fishing. This summer’s drought was exacerbated by corporate farming creating extensive erosion and one other factor; in many states, the water table has already been tapped down to the aquifer.

    Drilling in the Arctic Sea will exacerbate already existing conditions; endangering a large list of marine life that is already in jeopardy. These waters are unimaginably rough. I can’t understand how they could possibly think there won’t be an oil spill when they can’t even prevent spills in much milder waters.

    What is needed, beyond the admission that we are going through climate change, is preparation. Our infrastructure is weak. We have no real disaster preparedness. We need to study what flora and fauna can adapt to the changes they will be facing. We need to plan for sensible growth and development that will sustain us in our radically changing climate, not just development that will turn a quick profit. We are completely unprepared and it’s going to cost us a lot in climate change destruction over the coming years.

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