Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery 2005 - What has happened in Fifteen Years?

So how have things changed in the fifteen years since the release of The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery? Pictures are worth a thousand words – maybe a lot more. Here they are.

Greenhouse gas emissions climbed by 70 percent in the 34 years between 1970 and 2004. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rose by 1.8 percent between 2017 and 2018. The burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation has only increased since 2005 although the rate of increase is about steady near 2 percent a year.

Global temperatures have responded to the continuing increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. The temperature deviations from normal during the period from 2014 to 2018 are displayed in the accompanying depiction from NASA. The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the globe. The impacts on the jet stream because of the weakening of the temperature gradient between the equator and the poles are now being felt in the weather patterns.

The resultant rise in global average temperature has been well predicted by complex computer simulations of the earth-atmosphere system that are increasingly inclusive of the physical processes at work. The science of climate change has improved dramatically.

The thawing of the permafrost is a runaway feedback mechanism that will release methane into the atmosphere. CH4 has 30 times more impact that CO2 but is not as persistent in the atmosphere. 
The global ice packs are melting at an accelerated rate as the globe warms. The melting of the Greenland ice sheet has finally caught the attention of the world. Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than it was in the 1990s. The Antarctic as a whole contains about 90 percent of the planet’s ice and is showing signs of an increased melt as well  Antarctic ice shelves that float on the Southern Ocean are eroding. The vast glaciers behind these shelves could accelerate their slide into the sea as happened in 2002 when the Larsen B ice shelf collapsed off the Antarctic Peninsula. The mean sea level must rise on a warmer globe due to thermal expansion and the melting of the planet’s ice. The rate of mean sea level rise is increasing. 

The melting on the Greenland ice will contribute 10 to 20 mm to the global mean sea level.

About 10 percent of the world’s population live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level. Approximately 40 percent of the world’s population (2.4 billion people) live within 100 km of the coast. Rising sea levels, tides and storm surges from stronger tropical storms will have considerable impact. 

The effects of climate change as described in “The Weather Makers” are being observed. The surprise is the speed at which these changes and their impacts are occurring - way faster than it was ever believed to be possible. Incremental influences of climate change can be heard in the daily news. Record breaking daily weather gradually accumulates to become the new uninhabitable climate. Heat and not cold is the biggest threat to all species and not just humans. 

Although the science of climate change continues to improve, there are powerful and influential organizations that refute this knowledge. They are well-funded by corporations that profit from the burning of fossil fuels. These actions have escalated since 2005 and the publication of The Weather Makers.
Climate lobbying has been very effective as demonstrated by the inactions of most of the countries of the world. The rich and powerful have been polluting the atmosphere and oceans for profit. Simple greed. Their game plan is simple but successful. It was used with tobacco, asbestos, CFC's, car pollution, car safety belts... actually a very long list...

Deny the existence of any problems.
Pay charlatan scientists to lie and say their products or emissions are safe.
Finance journals with official-sounding titles to publish bogus articles based on junk science.
Buy the support or acquiescence of politicians and bureaucrats. 

Canada still relies heavily on the extraction of fossil fuels and is the third highest per capita emitter of CO2 – three times the world average. 

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) offers an independent assessment at a national scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI is a joint project of the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. 

The EPI is produced in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF). The EPI ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across ten issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. These metrics provide a scorecard that highlights leaders and laggards in environmental performance, gives insight on best practices, and provides guidance for countries that aspire to be leaders in sustainability. Canada ranks 25th in this list.

Not enough has changed since 2005. Canada needs to do much more. Political decisions in recent years have turned Canada in more of a laggard.  Canada still dumps raw sewage into our waterways and continues to dither ... the next generation will pay the price. Truly sad and unacceptable.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery - Become Informed and Involved in a Good Way

I figure if one is going to have an opinion about climate change, it had better be an informed opinion. I thought I was well informed but there is always something to learn too.

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery was published in 2005 just after Hurricane Katrina. Fifteen years later not much has changed – the North American politicians continue to dither.

The book delivers as advertised. The 356 pages detail exactly how we are changing the climate and what it means for life on the only planet we know. It is thorough and accurate. The earth and atmosphere system is indeed complicated with many feedback mechanisms that swing both ways. The research and science devoted to how humans are interfering with this delicate natural balance has been peer reviewed and closely examined for weaknesses. Simply, there are none. Any unknowns are clearly stated. We have reached the “Act of God” tipping point.

A.P. Herbert defined in “Uncommon Law” in 1935 that an Act of God was “something which no reasonable man could have expected.” The impacts of climate change are no longer Acts of God. Science can prove it and “the judiciary will be faced with apportioning quilt and responsibility for human actions resulting from the new climate”.

The rich and powerful have been polluting the atmosphere and oceans for profit. Simple greed with disdain for nature everything else too. You might also read “Dark Money” described as “The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016). “Dark Money” is a non-fiction book written by the American investigative journalist Jane Mayer about a network of extremely wealthy conservative Republicans, foremost among them Charles and David Koch who have together funded an array of organizations that work in tandem to influence academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and the American presidency for their own benefit.”  Their game plan is simple and has been played without variation on many occasions when their self-centred profits where threatened.  (from “The Optimistic Environmentalist” by David R. Boyd )

Deny the existence of any problems.
Pay charlatan scientists to lie and claim that their products or emissions are safe.
Finance scientific journals with official-sounding titles to publish bogus articles based on junk science.
Buy the support or acquiescence of politicians and bureaucrats.

Far worse has been done as well but few have been held responsible which is concerning about the independence of the judiciary. Politicians have been known to call judges...

There are many other books that cover similar material. In 2000 Jack Doyle published “Taken for a Ride: Detroit’s Big Three and the Politics of Pollution” in which he exposed the fight and miss-information campaign resisting the creation of clean transportation.  This was in response to the London air pollution disaster of 1952 and the public outcry about air pollution in general. Ford argued in 1953 that automobile exhausts “are dissipated in the atmosphere quickly and do not present an air pollution problem”. President Reagan declared in 1981 that “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles”.  Corporations clearly have enough money to even buy democracy.

Flannery also investigates “the corrupt relationship between government and industry. And it is into this cesspit that we must now leap.” as he described Chapter Twenty-Six entitled “People in Greenhouses Shouldn’t Tell Lies”. The campaign of deceit and spreading misconceptions has been very successful though as employed by the transportation, tobacco, DDT, CFC’s, asbestos and GMO industries to name just a very few.  The result has been decades of indecision when the viable solutions are readily available. The net results being that those funding the bogus science and confusion continue to profit.

The issue returns to one of greed and power. As Flannery explained in 2006, the Act of God Defence will no longer work. The science and knowledge explaining climate change are established just as it was for the other harmful industries. Those profiting from promoting fossil fuels can be held accountable by law.

Real change though apparently needs to come from the people. Elected followers closely study the polls to ensure they remain in power. Power is paramount and it can control you like greed. When the polls tip toward green innovations as they surely must, the politicians will eventually follow. The transition to a circular green economy will not be politically supported until the polls reflect that the public want it.

The impacts of a changing climate could sway public opinion. Hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and heat waves can be very persuasive.  I always thought that becoming informed and prepared would be better than waiting for the catastrophes. That is what weather prediction is all about. Being proactive is much more affordable than simply being uninformed and reactive. Meanwhile species are going extinct as the result of our inability to act.

“The Weather Makers” is an important read if you want to have an informed opinion regarding climate change. Time for real, pre-emptive action is long past but better late than never. This needs to get done even if only to tell your children and grandchildren that you tried to make a difference. The school presentations, letters to the Editor, MP, MPP and PM have yet to bear any fruit.  But it is important to remain optimistic for the sake of the generations yet to come.

Canada has a very, very long way to catch-up on the Scandinavian countries that are leading the way forward into a greener future. Meanwhile our politicians are still debating the pros and cons of dumping billions of litres of raw sewage into the nation’s waterways. Shame.

You might also consider reading “The Optimistic Environmentalist” by David R. Boyd published in 2016. Some parts of the world are actually proving that the circular, green economy is the way forward. Indeed people and the planet can profit while preserving the environment and the habitats of the creatures that also share the globe. This almost happy note is a good book to leave until the last in your efforts to remain informed and involved for a brighter future.

These reads are very important... they are not fake.

Phil the Forecaster

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Weather Machine A Journey inside the forecast By Andrew Blum

As scientists of the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) and then Environment Canada (EC, ECCC), we all lived inside the Weather Machine. Most retirees portably even saw the “Golden Age” of meteorology first-hand. I define that as the era when meteorologists could look at new data sources, wonder what it was revealing and produce some scientifically sound answers. Satellites and Doppler came on stream just as I entered the AES. Curiosity and keenness were what it took to provide a quality service. It was fun and creative. The understanding and science of meteorology was growing exponentially. Most of us probably never even noticed when meteorology was quietly renamed “atmospheric sciences” – we were too busy learning and creating predictions. Then came the cuts of the 1990’s and beyond… Where we fit into this narrative has evolved during the Golden Age and the Weather Machine by Blum does a credible job pf describing those transitions.
The image shows the library copy that I read but this time I used sticky tabs to mark titbits that I found interesting. There is some very interesting history that soaked up a lot of tabs. Art critic John Ruskin (the very first coloured tab on page 14) wrote in 1839 about building “perfect systems of methodical and simultaneous observations” to create a vast global weather map which he called “a vast machine” aka the Weather Machine. Robert Fitzroy who captained Charles Darwin’s ship the Beagle would call later these “synoptic charts” in 1859.

The story of physicist and meteorologist Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862-1951) deserved more space. Bjerknes wrote to Arctic explore Fridtjor Nansen (featured in The Ice at the End of the World and the first to traverse Greenland) and stated “I want to solve the problem of predicting the future states of the atmosphere and ocean”. Vilhelm then constructed the seven equations of seven variables that had to be solved to make those predictions “like brushes that sketched the different ways in which air can move around.”

In the Bergen School after the Great War, assistants would gather and plot data maps of Norway. Bjerknes would ask every morning “What discoveries have we made today?” This reminded me of the operational phrase “concern du jour” which I liked to use. They were looking for patterns and they found many. Sverre Petterson arrived in Bergen in 1923 and was thrilled with this approach to meteorology. The big names in meteorology were on the job!

Another World War came and went and the essential importance of weather became even more obvious. In 1946 a camera inserted into the nose of a captured German V-2 rocket showed what the earth and weather really looked like. Weather was not the intersection of Venn Diagrams.  A 1951 United States secret report bore the title of “Weather Reconnaissance from a Satellite Vehicle”. The satellite age of global observations was about to dawn. Observational data was flowing like a fire hose.

Apparently United States President Kennedy was very keen on the weather which resulted in the 1966 opening of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Computers were also starting to advance exponentially. The creation of a simulated model of the earth-atmosphere system became feasible. Numerical weather prediction was not only practical but was growing at breath-taking speed.

Blum goes into detail about the ensuing atmospheric model race and “the Euro” forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWH). Ongoing advances in the numerical modelling of the earth-atmosphere system are certainly astonishing. These advancements when coupled with the Web and Internet have spawned the creation of weather applications. These apps know where you are and can deliver weather information suited to your needs 24/7. The provision of weather services continued to transform.

The final chapter entitled “The Weather Diplomats” details the work of the World Meteorological Organization. The tactful and congenial efforts of our own David Grimes are positively highlighted as the WMO steers towards maintaining global sharing and cooperation that is required to allow the Weather Machine to perform its vital work.

There is a thread of art and creativity woven through “The Weather Machine”. Meteorologists started as visionary dreamers of what could be. The data sources and computing tools that they created turned those imaginings into reality. The almost independent numerical prediction system now encourages meteorologists to be simply overseers of the forecast loop and to get involved only when things go bad…  Supercomputers, instant global communication and worldwide weather monitoring and weather apps have made human opinions on the evolution of the weather superfluous. The Golden Age of meteorology has created this machine and now maybe is the time for me to go and paint the weather instead…

The Weather Machine” was a quick read. I was a bit disappointed and expected more content and maybe even some philosophy. This book could have been a magazine article.

I figure if one is going to have an opinion about climate change, it had better be an informed opinion. I always thought I was well informed but there is always something to learn too.

Phil the Forecaster
Eco-artist :>))

Fine Art America

The holiday season is almost here and we have a number of promotions that we're running on Fine Art America in November. There are 1820 works on art on this site as of this morning. Here we go...

November 18th
25% Off All Greeting Cards

November 19th
50% Off All Apparel (T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, Tank Tops, Onesies, etc.)

November 20th
25% Off Home Decor (Throw Pillows, Duvet Covers, Shower Curtains, Bath Towels, Coffee Mugs, and Fleece Blankets)

November 21st
25% Off Tote Bags, Weekender Tote Bags, Zip Pouches, and Yoga Mats

November 22nd
25% Off Phone Cases

November 23rd and November 24th
Free Ground Shipping on All U.S. Orders

November 29th and December 2nd
25% Off Wall Art (Canvas Prints, Framed Prints, Posters, Wood Prints, Metal Prints, Acrylic Prints, and Tapestries)

All of the promotions begin at 12:00 AM Eastern U.S. time on the listed start date and end at 11:59 PM Eastern U.S. time on the end date.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Leeds and the Thousand Islands Township Offices

I have been showing my art in the new LTI Township offices every year since it was built. Sometimes I forget to take the pictures but not this time. Those recent paintings are on display until New Years.
For this and much more art, click on Pixels. Thank you.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dumoine River Art for Wilderness 2019

Everyone likes an acronym even though sometimes it can be carried away. This one stands for a lot of good things... art, wilderness, camaraderie, creativity, nature and CPAWS too.  Maybe some great food as well. I am taking baked beans this year to fuel the fun. This will be the third year of this plein air event envisioned by my friend Aleta Karstad. It is always a good time.

I concentrate on painting and have completed 67 plein air works there plus two more in the studio since 2017. You can find them all here. I have included #2188 "Dumoine Dances" -  one of the studio pieces.
I plan to swim more this year... maybe paint a bit less :>)
Please support the Canadian wilderness if you are able...

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Ice at the End of the World


By Jon Gertner, Published by Penguin Random House, Hardcover, 448 pages, ISBN 9780812996623, $28.00 (USD)

I do not often write book reviews but this is important.

You can’t make this stuff up! In fact, hard data and science might be the best things to really believe. “The Ice at the End of the World” is a terrific read. Historians and scientists, as well as anyone concerned about the future of the planet, would find this book fascinating. There is indeed something for everyone. The research to put this work together may have been made easier by the Web but it is still exhaustive and must have been exhausting. The notes pages add the details about where the facts originate as well.

The ice sheet of Greenland may look empty but it hides many secrets. The book chronicles the adventures and hardships of those who unlocked those mysteries. The Inuit who called coastal regions of Greenland home but feared to go into the interior, as it was a place of emptiness and death. The Inuit were instrumental though in teaching the early explorers how to travel across, and survive in, the harsh reality of Greenland.

In the 1800’s everything about Greenland was unknown. What was in the middle? A fabled oasis as envisioned by Jules Verne? Or more ice? No one knew. Early polar explorers like Fridtjof Nansen (1888), Robert Peary, Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen found a high dome of ice after they traversed the deadly crevasses on the edge of the ice sheet.

The polar explorers who evolved into scientists, such as Alfred Wegener, were in awe of the Greenland ice sheet. They asked more questions. What was the temperature of the ice? Was the ice sheet growing or shrinking? These questions required the evolving sciences of glaciology, meteorology and climatology to unravel. Science involved digging pits seven metres deep all around the ice sheet – arduous science indeed. Through the pages of this book Jon Gertner turns these historical giants into real people – some of whom you would like to call friends.

The Cold War turned Greenland into a strategic location for the United States. This interest resulted in funds for ice research. Science on the Greenland sheet boomed.

The technology of drilling ice cores thousands of feet in depth evolved. The Dye-3 ice core reached bedrock through 6,683 feet of ice. The longest ice cores would go through 400,000 years of climate history. Specific events became obvious, like the Caesar volcano that occurred close to 42 B.C. “Plinius the Elder wrote that when Caesar was killed the gods were so ashamed of what Rome did that they hid the sun behind a red veil for an entire year.” The scientists had to invent the technology and science to unlock those secrets hidden in the ancient ice.

Glaciologists turned their attention to the “big gun glaciers” that were calving ice at alarming rates. The Jakobshavn glacier of western Greenland is “perhaps faster and more productive, in fact, than any glacier in the world”. Icebergs from Jakobshavn were credited with sinking the Titanic.

Satellite technology developed so that scientists no longer had to cross the Greenland ice sheet. One pair of satellites called GRACE use variations in gravity to actually measure changes in the mass that they fly over. One really big and basic question remained. Was the ice sheet in equilibrium? If not, was it gaining or losing volume? GRACE helped answer by constantly weighing the ice sheet. Between 2002 and 2009 “Greenland had gone from losing about 137 billion tons of ice per year to losing about 286 billion tons a year”.

The Greenland ice sheet and the western Antarctic sheets are in collapse. The water has to go somewhere. As Jon Gertner writes in Note 34 “Political denials regarding the evidence of climate change seem even more absurd in light of sea level change data. A reliable tidal gauge record showing a steady upward progression goes back to about 1870; satellite readings go back to the mid-1990s. There is close agreement. See The rate of sea level rise has risen from 2.5 mm per year in the 1990s to 3.4 mm per year in 1918.”

Simply, the world is warming, the ice is melting, and sea levels are rising. Kurt Wolcken, a seismologist on Wegener’s 1930 expedition calculated that if the Greenland ice sheet was to melt “the oceans all over the world would rise by more than 25 feet…” new research suggests that his estimates might be 8 inches too high…

There is no explanation of the title to be found in this book but the double entendre seems pretty clear. Greenland might be thought to be so remote that it is at the end of the world and the melting of its ice sheet will end the world as we know it.

Any review cannot do this book justice… you will need to read it yourself. A few weeks after reading this book I thought that it needed to be brought to the attention of CMOS. I searched for some of the memorable phrases that I enjoyed in its reading… but mainly came up empty. Specific phrases can be hard to find in 400 pages. You will need to find them for yourself.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Turtles 2019

Fresh turtle eggs seem to be on everyone's menu. All of Ontario's eight turtle species are now at risk of disappearing. Biologists might be able to identify the cause. Perhaps shrinking habitat, road kills, predators? Endangered species now have little protection from developers with money.

These quiet reptiles spend a year preparing to lay their clutch of eggs. The least I can do is protect the few nests that I see. I brought in a load of limestone screenings and placed it around boulders and the foundation of the home. The screenings are heavier than sand and I am betting that the turtles will like digging in it as opposed to either sand or 3/4 inch gravel. Turtles also like to dig their nest along a hard barrier so that at least one side is secure or so I suppose. They are like ninjas and although turtles are supposed to be slow, you can't take your eye off them as they search for that perfect nesting site. They labour under often hot conditions digging a circular hole more than 6 inches deep. Once they find The Spot, it takes about an hour at least to do the rest. They cover up their nest and then leave the eggs to their own fortune. The marks left in the screenings are characteristic. The problem is they also look like the marks left by the cat covering her business. I am sure that the predators can smell the difference but I cannot.

I would estimate about 40 or more turtles use the rocky ledges around the eastern bay of Singleton. Nests average around 10 eggs but a huge snapping turtles did hatch 29 babies from a nest a few years back. I am able to protect maybe 10 clutches of eggs a year. Many nests are predated and perhaps there are a few that both the varmints and I do not find. Let's hope.

I have had to up my protection as the wily raccoons and skunks have become more determined as well. I designed a commercial turtle protector but until someone who welds comes along, I will make do with the steel grates and wooden frames. Heavy grates are placed right to the surface so as to not encourage any excavation from the sides by the varmints. These are replaced my raised grates in late August so that the baby turtles have an escape route.

Painted, northern map and snapping turtles predominate but there are a few musk turtles. They are all safe on the eastern shore of Singleton. Nests that I do not witness are typically predated and that's when I find them. Everyone needs to eat but... 

Monday, January 28, 2019

True Confessions from Singleton Philly

This ground hog has been living in lies on our national day. It is true! Seeing a shadow on Ground Hog Day is a murky predictor at its best. The truth is that global warming has robbed me of my predictive prowess. The confession is that global warming is no secret. Never was.

The science of greenhouse gases dates back to 1824 and Joseph Fourier.  In 1859 John Tyndall figured out that coal gas was a mix of methane and other vapours and that it strongly absorbed infrared radiation similar to CO2. In 1896, Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius actually calculated that doubling atmospheric CO2 would raise global temperatures by 5 or 6 degrees Celsius. Svante also determined that halving CO2 would result in another ice age.  Neither are good options. There were many brilliant scientists and together they laid the foundation for our understanding of how the world and atmosphere really  work.

But what has man been doing since the Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1840)? Burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates in an insatiable appetite for power. The impact of the greenhouse gases released on temperature had already been determined by Svante. The impacts on the globe would be witnessed as the earth became a huge science experiment.
For any meteorological rodent it was clear that the poles would warm much faster than the equator. This would turn the jet stream into a meandering trickle.
The El Nino aided warm ridge over the Rockies in turn forces a cold cut-off, ox bow over the east.  The media know this cyclonic rotating pocket of cold air as the dreaded Polar Vortex. Get used to it.

This high amplitude ridge-trough pattern has been with us more or less for several years over North America. The pattern will be there until the entire earth is hot and the ice has melted into just a memory. Sea level rises will be the big story then. The impacts of melting the polar permafrost and the resultant release of Tyndall’s methane is even scarier.

My career as a professional furcaster for 35 years has revealed these truths to me. Understanding the atmosphere and learning science was my job. The Ground Hog gig was just a media fest for me. My forecast has always been for six more weeks of winter under the Polar Vortex. I just pretended to see my shadow and race back into my Singleton burrow. The fact of the atmosphere is that Singleton will remain under the Polar Vortex and that is a good thing. We will have clouds to paint and water to drink.

Conditions will be much more turbulent under the toasty, dry west coast ridge. Forests and everything else will be strained to the brink by the ongoing droughts and lets not think of any cataclysmic earthquake that is long overdue.

The energy I use is delivered by the sun directly to my burrow most days. Storing the sun’s energy for those cloudy days is problematic. But I limit how much energy I need. My dark dirt passive solar burrow does store some of that needed energy. I am afraid to light my locally produced methane gas and rely more on geothermal heating and cooling. Staying cool is more of a trepidation for me anyway which explains my high albedo fur. 

I wish that the remaining fossil fuels would stay locked up. I wish that our energy would come directly from the sun and not through an intermediate source like the ancient fossils or even the wind. 

I wish that governments could work together using the well-established scientific knowledge to pull the world and all of its inhabitants back from the brink. I wish there was some good news. 

I am not a political rodent but realize that no one is powerful enough to mess with the laws of science. 

Singleton Philly

Friends have pointed out some informative articles on greening the economy. Here they are.
Tennessee Valley Authority.. and another that I really believe in..  Leap Manifesto
Apparently change needs to come from the citizens first.

"The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil." The quote is usually attributed to Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani in the 2005 New York Times article "The Breaking Point." The Age of Big Oil and burning fossils need to end fast.