There’s no denying the weather has been really quite screwed up of late, and this isn’t just on a local scale but a global one, affecting small and large nations alike.
Currently, large parts of SE Asia such as Beijing and Japan are suffering horrendous flooding after record-breaking precipitation falls for weeks on end, and there have been similar historical rains in many areas of Europe, the UK in particular. Alongside this, intense drought and insolation has been baking most of the entire United States for weeks, severely damaging crops across the agricultural belt of the continent and knocking food prices up globally, stirring fears of yet another food crisis if the weather is to continue.
Storms and hurricanes are of much higher magnitudes, striking with little warning to those in their paths, and regions of the globe so comfortably used to heavy snowfall and consistently cold winters are enduring some of the driest, mildest and frankly oddest seasonal variations seen in decades, perhaps centuries.
One theme slashes through all of these freak events like a warm knife through butter; the frequency and rapidity in which our weather systems are flipping from one extreme to the other is unprecedented in this day and age, and wouldn’t even fit into normal life some centuries past. Torrential rain which may have sat in place for weeks will be abruptly interrupted by beaming sunshine and glass-clear skies for yet more weeks, before thunderstorms and intense winds complete the freaky cycle. The fact these events are occurring within the same month, let alone the same season is reason to worry enough, and in many parts of the world, many are winning gold medals in trumping historical weather readings from as far back as records began.
Only recently NASA has posted studies demonstrating how far this weather screwing has gone. At some point during mid-July, the Greenland ice sheet, one of two major ice bodies on the Earth’s surface, the other being the Antarctic, experienced thawing of up to 97% of the entire ice mass, that’s 97%. For context, normal values read around 50% for the same time of year. This happens due to warming of and melting of the much thinner coastal ice and glaciers as summer comes round, and despite rates increasing steadily over recent decades, this year more than ever data fly through the roof. What makes this event so shocking, is that the normally impregnable central ice, which exceeds two miles thick in many places, melted just like any other part of the sheet, albeit to much shallower depths.
This scared scientists and followers alike as it not only flags up warnings in regards to future sea level rise and glacier loss, but such injections of fresh water can set up yet more complex and potentially devastating feedbacks in the ocean-atmosphere system, making things exponentially worse. Although much of the central meltwater will refreeze before long, it shows clear signs that the extreme weather we’ve been seeing can and potentially is having a direct effect on ice sheets globally, and the results can be incredibly quick and powerful. After further study, it’s suggested some 70% or more, perhaps even 95% of the melting can be attributed to climate warming and it’s associated impacts on weather systems.
However, it is necessary to note that this sort of abnormal melting does seem to occur in 150 year cycles, with the last in 1889, and therefore some of the alarming data can be tempered with this in mind, but this should not take away from a few key points. The fact that this sheet has experienced melt like this in the past, when man-made warming could not have been in effect, is important, but not absolute; if we see this melting occurring more commonly over the next few years, we’re seeing clear signs of breaking the natural flow of things. Even if we don’t, it’s a stark reminder of what could easily happen to the ice sheets globally if we continue to pump GHGs into the atmosphere. To ignore this, natural or not, would surely be foolish?