The climate terroirist – Gladstones’ new bag

Regular listeners to The Climate Show will know that I often witter on about what I’ve been up to in my little vineyard. At Limestone Hills we grow pinot noir and syrah grapes and make small quantities of wine. It’s more than drinkable. One day it may even be very good. If we get that far, it will be because our back paddock has an interesting terroir (and because we will have worked hard). It will therefore come as no surprise that I follow how the wine business approaches climate change with more than passing interest. A few days ago a local winemaker blogged about a new book. Wine, Terroir and Climate Change by Aussie scientist Dr John Gladstones, noting that Gladstones was “sceptical about the degree of climate change that will occur and thus the degree of effect on terroir“. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects have rushed to welcome a new member to their ranks. I decided to do a little digging… Continue reading “The climate terroirist – Gladstones’ new bag”

The other side of the world

Imagine this: the country’s leading business organisation — noted for its robust espousal of free markets and business freedom — takes the government to task for not doing enough, fast enough to get emissions on a downward path. So it releases four roadmaps, for the power, industrial, energy and transport sectors designed to deliver emissions reductions of 30% by 2020 (overview here). Fantastic, eh? Sadly, it’s not happening here. The organisation in question is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI told Business Green:

“Achieving all of this in the ambitious timeframe that has been set will require massive investment of private capital, much of it from abroad,” he said. “But this will only be forthcoming if there is certainty about the direction of government policy, a robust price for carbon, a clear planning and regulatory structure, the right regime for tax and intellectual property, and the skills that will be needed to bring all this new kit to market.”

The contrast with the situation in Godzone could not be more stark. A couple of months ago, Carbon News reported on a draft of Business NZ‘s submission to the ETS Review committee:

New Zealand needs to stop ETS implementation until the rest of the world decides what it is doing, avoiding imposing an emission prices ahead of the rest of the world

We have the most “punitive” ETS in the world (all sectors and all-gases)

The Government will raise more revenue than needed to meet the actual cost of paying for any excess emissions commitment under Kyoto

The ETS is “rushed” (even though it has now been nearly 15 years since the Kyoto commitment was made and nothing major, except the ETS, has been done in response)

Agriculture will suffer if the ETS covers that sector’s gases before others in the world do so.

Couple that with the nonsense contained in the Business Roundtable’s ETS Review submission, and a clear picture emerges. The core of the New Zealand business world just doesn’t understand the climate problem — or have any real ideas for dealing with it. There are good guys in the business world — most notably the Business Council for Sustainable Development — but they struggle to be heard amongst the cacophony from the big emitters and their representatives.

Time for our business leaders to start living in the real world, not in some fantasy where their actions have no consequences, climate change is someone else’s problem, and taxpayers pay all their bills. But I’m not holding my breath.

[KT Tunstall]

Fractured air

The roots of the recent cold weather in Britain and eastern North America lie in unusual goings on high in the atmosphere above the North Pole, as this animation from NASA’s Earth Observatory demonstrates (full video here: 6MB .mov file). The left hand image shows vorticity (rotation, roughly) and the right the temperature at 20km. As the animation moves through January into February, we see the polar vortex (the red bit in the middle) split into two, and stratosphere temperatures over the Arctic jump by as much as 50C. The Earth Observatory explains:

The big change in the Arctic came when the polar vortex ripped apart. A developing weather system in the lower atmosphere traveled upward into the stratosphere. The disturbance nudged into the center of the Arctic air mass, elongating it and eventually splitting it like a cell in mitosis. By February 2, two air masses existed, each with a jet of wind circling it counterclockwise […]. Warm air filled the gap between the two colder air masses, and temperatures high over the North Pole climbed […]. Now the colder air had shifted farther south over Canada and Siberia. Over North America, this piece of the stratospheric polar vortex had a deep reach into the lower atmosphere (troposphere), which created strong winds from the north that carried cold Arctic air far south into the United States.

In Europe, the split in the air mass actually changed the direction of winds in the lower atmosphere. The second piece of the polar vortex was centered east of Western Europe […], and it too was surrounded by a jet of strong wind moving counterclockwise. Like the segment of the polar vortex over North America, this piece of the polar vortex also had a deep reach into the lower atmosphere. It caused cold continental air to blow in from the east, replacing the warmer air that typically blows in from the west. As the frigid air moved over the North Sea, it picked up moisture, which fell over the United Kingdom and parts of France as heavy snow.

There’s a full explanation of the polar circulation at the Earth Observatory page. Well worth a read. Any meteorologists care to comment on just how unusual a feature this is? Are the large blocking highs that bring cold easterlies to Western Europe often associated with polar vortex splits? This is weather, not climate, but the Arctic is experiencing rapid climate change, and this will be expressed as changing weather patterns. A new paper in Climate Dynamics examines this and found “large increases in the potential for extreme weather events […] along the entire southern rim of the Arctic Ocean, including the Barents, Bering and Beaufort Seas.”


Long hot summer

kanga.jpgThere’s record heat in Australia and deep snow in England (with more to come, say Met men), and it’s all consistent with continuing global warming. Over at Wellington’s leading public transport blog, this is enough to inspire a remarkably ill-informed diatribe:

Following the news as I do, it was delicious today to see the global warmers claiming Melbourne’s summer heatwave was proof of Pope Gore’s alarmism, while ignoring the inconvenient truth that the heaviest snowfalls in decades are falling in London, Paris and much of the north-east of North America.

The really inconvenient truth, of course, is that both weather events neatly demonstrate some of the impacts of global warming and the changes in climate that result.

Continue reading “Long hot summer”

Once upon a time there was an ocean

Oldnorthpolemap.jpg The Arctic summer sea ice cover could be reduced by 2013 to “a few outcrops on islands near Greenland and Canada between mid-July and mid-September”, according to new research reported in The Observer [UK] today. The paper also suggests that this year could still see a new record minimum. Wieslaw Maslowski, the US Navy researcher who suggested in 2007 that the Arctic could be ice free by 2013, told Observer science editor Robin McKie:

‘It does not really matter whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for Arctic ice,’ Maslowski said. ‘The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years. And when that happens, there will be consequences.’

This is the first story I’ve found in a mainstream newspaper that has picked up on what those “consequences” might be, albeit in only the most general terms:

This startling loss of Arctic sea ice has major meteorological, environmental and ecological implications. The region acts like a giant refrigerator that has a strong effect on the northern hemisphere’s meteorology. Without its cooling influence, weather patterns will be badly disrupted, including storms set to sweep over Britain.

Or a run of warm wet summers.

The paper also talked to Mark Serreze from the NSIDC about the speed up in melt over the last week:

‘[…]Beaufort Sea storms triggered steep ice losses and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic. We will only find out when the cover reaches its minimum in mid-September.’

The fat lady may just have got back into the limo and returned to her hotel for a snack.

[Update 12/8: The NSIDC has updated (11/8) its Arctic news page, commenting on the effect of storms on the ice, and noting that Amundsen’s long version of the NW Passage will be open soon.]