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Abrupt climate change
June 20, 2008 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Abrupt climate change is popularly thought of in the movies. But new Greenland ice core findings show two huge Northern Hemisphere temperature spikes occured prior to the close of the last ice age some 11,500 years ago, with a 22-degree-Fahrenheit spike in just 50 years. These followed a massive "reorganization" of atmospheric circulation taking just one or two years. "We know such events are in Earth's future, but we don't know when .. we are speeding blindly down a narrow road, hoping there are no curves ahead."

GBN (Global Business Network) released a scenario report in 2004 for the Department of Defense: "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security." Previously and Previously
posted by stbalbach (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security

Good ol' DoD. Always thinking of the childrenguns and bombs.

Should I Worry?

It is important not to be fatalistic about the threats posed by abrupt climate change.

...but maybe you should invest in duct tape and plastic wrap.
posted by DU at 8:22 AM on June 20, 2008


posted "we are speeding blindly down a narrow road, hoping there are no curves ahead."
...and to keep the metaphor going, there are lots and lots of pedestrians [meteors] randomly walking across the road without looking. You also have a bunch of poorly secured nitroglycerine [supervolcano] in the trunk. You're also completely wasted and arguing with a hostile passenger without looking where you're going [humans are generally stupid, and armed with nuclear weapons] and you've been drinking out of the toilet [pandemic].
posted by mullingitover at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


You also have a bunch of poorly secured nitroglycerine in the trunk. You're also completely wasted and arguing with a hostile passenger... and you've been drinking out of the toilet.

Damn. Is it the weekend already?
posted by rokusan at 8:33 AM on June 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


What's the worst that could happen?
posted by Mister_A at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2008


You also have a bunch of poorly secured nitroglycerine in the trunk. You're also completely wasted and arguing with a hostile passenger... and you've been drinking out of the toilet.

Add a little Nitrous Oxide and you've got a Hunter Thompson novel.
posted by Mcable at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank god the LHC is going to destroy our reality before we have to endure any of this ghastliness.
posted by Someone has just shot your horse! at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, we're almost out of gas, so we'll putter to a halt before we can do too much damage.
posted by adamrice at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2008


The science here was presented very well, btw.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2008


Thank god the LHC is going to destroy our reality before we have to endure any of this ghastliness.

Please don't make fun of the Large Hardon Collider.
posted by storybored at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2008


Please don't make fun of the Large Hardon Collider.

You wouldn't like it when it's angry.
posted by DU at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure we could prevent this by building a drill-ship out of unobtainium and drilling to the earth's core to set off some nuclear bombs to reverse the rotation of the molten core. That sounds right, no?
posted by bDiddy at 9:45 AM on June 20, 2008


Fortunately, we're almost out of gas, so we'll putter to a halt before we can do too much damage.

Have you heard of coal?
posted by ssg at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Clearly these scientists didn't get the memo from Al Gore that the science is settled.
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:13 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure we could prevent this by building a drill-ship out of unobtainium and drilling to the earth's core to set off some nuclear bombs to reverse the rotation of the molten core. That sounds right, no?
posted by bDiddy


The only possible downside to that I see is we might piss off the dinosaurs that live down there.
posted by marxchivist at 12:02 PM on June 20, 2008


Fortunately, we're almost out of gas, so we'll putter to a halt before we can do too much damage.

There is estimated to be at least twice the energy that was stored in fossil fuels lying at the bottom of the ocean in methane hydrates.

We live in south-central Indiana, where flooding over the last two weeks has been so severe they don't know how to classify it (50-year flood, 100-year, 500?). In some areas the water levels obliterated previous records, running about 150% above them. Four staff members from my wife's workplace lost everything.

We've followed storm patterns since my wife's grandmother lived in Homestead, and the damage from Hurricane Andrew (both property and otherwise) was obvious a year later. A new pattern seems to be occurring. Last summer, storms seemed to shoot across Central America and Mexico, reorganize in the Pacific, and whack Baja. It may be that the water that flooded here followed this path, then came up around north Texas to the Ohio River Valley. Another pulse seemed to come from what looked like an organized storm in the north Pacific that moved towards Canada. If this is the case then we could expect more flooding around here.

I say this informally; I've done hydrology modeling, but I'm working from satellite images for these observations. If there is abrupt change, then the models will be limited in application. Modeling works well for interpolation, but extrapolation from known data gets iffy. Thus the uncertainty over classifying this flooding; if the climate change is abrupt, then the averages become moving averages, and baselines become meaningless.
posted by dragonsi55 at 12:05 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well, we can't stop here. This is BAT country.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2008


So....we ARE all gonna die?
posted by emjaybee at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2008


if the climate change is abrupt, then the averages become moving averages, and baselines become meaningless.

Exactly. It's easy to think of forest (picture) becomes desert (picture) but the process in between is harder to imagine. That is what is happening now (IMO), ecosystems are changing to a new default. So the number of extremes become more common. For the Mississippi, warmer air = more rain and flooding. The 500 year flood becomes the 20 year flood, the 10,000 year flood becomes the 100 year flood, etc..
posted by stbalbach at 2:02 PM on June 20, 2008


emjaybee writes "So....we ARE all gonna die?"

Probably.
posted by Mitheral at 4:56 PM on June 20, 2008


When you go into Cardiac Fibrillation (having Heart Attack) your heart goes from normal sinus rhythm to fibrillation in one to two beats. Its a chaotic state change.

There are lots of natural systems that have abrupt changes like that. Ice freezing is another example of a state change.

Comodity market prices are another example of systems that have abrupt state changes. The price of oil and and the value of housing are two receint examples of rapid non linear changes.

Gradual linear changes in natural systems are pretty rare. There is mounting evidence that climate systems do the same thing. That nice linear rise in temperature that is predicted with global warming may not be that well behaved.
posted by meddeviceengineer at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Abrupt and runaway climate change scenarios concern me a great deal. Here are some things I have written about them.
posted by sindark at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2008


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