Mr. President: Regulate Our Emissions Now or We Face Extinction
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President Obama has decided that since Congress won’t act on anything, he’s going to get things done with his regulatory agencies. He may want to start with the EPA if he wants humans to continue living on this planet over the next few generations.
There’s a crisis in the arctic, and we’re helping cause it. And the EPA may be able to do something about it.
Here’s the situation: As greenhouse gases increase, our planet warms – and CO2 is now above 400 parts per million for the first time in the 165,000-year history of humans on this planet. This January was, worldwide, the fourth warmest on history and arctic sea ice was the fourth-lowest level in the history of satellite measurements.
As the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes, “In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth's surface.” This is fancy science-speak for “temperatures are associated with atmospheric pressure.”
You’ll recall from your fourth-grade science class that the eye of a hurricane is the point of lowest barometric pressure. And that the intensity of a storm front – like when a giant thunderstorm rolls through – is largely a function of the difference in the temperature and pressure differences behind and in front of the front.
Which takes us to one theory about why it’s so damn cold in DC and the rest of the US east of the Rockies, and so hot in Alaska and California.
The arctic is warming a lot faster than the mid-latitudes like most of the United States. The Danish Meterological Institute notes that average temperatures in the arctic have been between 9 and 27 degrees F above normal over the past few weeks.
There used to be a huge temperature difference between the US and the arctic, and that temperature difference – and the pressure difference associated with it – used to maintain a giant wall of air north of us that kept the Jet Stream in place. The Jet Stream – a river of air that runs around the world just south of the Arctic – used to keep cold polar air over the north pole. It did so because of the big difference in temperatures and pressures between us and the Arctic.
But now that the arctic has warmed so much – that 27 degrees F measured just a few weeks ago – that difference in temperature and pressure isn’t so great.
The Jet Stream is going to keep rolling along – in part it’s doing so because of the rotation of the earth, which hasn’t stopped – but without that giant wall of air to hold it in place, the main thing that’s controlling where it can go are mountains. And we have a big chain of them that runs from Alaska down to New Mexico that we generally refer to as the Rockies.
Which may well explain why it is that the Jet Stream is being kept above the area from Anchorage to Los Angeles – keeping that area very warm – while just east of the Rockies it’s drooling all the way down to Texas and Georgia. And when the Jet Stream falls, it lets the cold polar air slide off the North Pole like a man’s hat falling over his face, and that cold polar air makes it insanely frigid here.
This is a big, big problem for a bunch of reasons, like how it’s screwing with our weather, but more importantly, it may well be the beginning of a catastrophic “positive feedback loop” of warming in the arctic. When the cold polar air comes down here, warmer air from other parts of the world goes up toward the North Pole. And when it gets there, it makes the North Pole warm up even faster.