Disorder that’s created as the price of all the order and creative energy pent up in cities, in a recent talk about his new book, “Scale” physicist Geoffrey West described climate change as a form of entropy. A euphemism for global warming cannot be the only explanation for climate change, as some argue, in this view. The unpredictable, disorderly way global warming will affect the planet’s oceans and atmosphere is reflected in this view and thus it is much broader.
Therefore, a regular, incremental increase in the earth’s average temperature is not what we can expect to see. In its place, weather patterns that people have counted on for centuries, are witnessing rapid, erratic changes.
Consider the resultant prolonged downpours as well as droughts by the slowing down wind patterns that normally keep storms moving from place to place and this is one of the more interesting hypotheses about global warming. However, this theory is not universally accepted even though the idea has been cited in the peer-reviewed literature and featured in Scientific American.
However, Hurricane Harvey was a case in point for people who’ve looked into the slowing of wind circulation. because it got slowed down over Houston was part of the reason it was so destructive. The storm got stuck for several days, dumping 50 inches of rain over an enormous area –- a total of 19 trillion gallons as instead of rolling over the region, it was caught between two high-pressure blocking systems shortly after it made landfall in Texas. Ultimately, some parts of the state saw a year’s worth of rainfall in less than a week as the longer it lingered, the more rain fell.
Warming in the Arctic led to a slowing down of a high-altitude, circulating wind known as the jet stream, believes Charles Greene, an atmospheric scientist at Cornell University. This he argues contributed to Harvey’s lingering destruction.
It portends more such events to come if that turns out to be the case. the same phenomenon, as a more sluggish jet stream allowed masses of dry air to get locked into place, may have been behind the recent droughts in the western United States, he suspects.
Warming isn’t happening in a uniform way, Greene explains. There’s less of a difference than there used to be between Arctic and mid-latitude temperatures because the Arctic is warming faster than the earth’s temperate zones.
“These temperature differences are what drive atmospheric winds,” he said, which include the jet stream and a more northerly circulation pattern called the polar vortex.
There’s a positive feedback loop at work and therefore the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. He said that the dark ocean underneath is exposed as reflective sea ice melts. That means yet more warming in a positive feedback system is driven in as more of the sun’s energy gets absorbed into the oceans. Some of the ocean’s heat is released back into the atmosphere in the fall. The polar vortex is thus slowed down and altered by that change in Arctic temperature. An increase in the number of tropical cyclones and nor’easters has coincided with that weather phenomena.
Greene and his colleagues have more work to do to demonstrate the links between Arctic melting, wind patterns and extreme weather, says Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. But links between global warming and storms are already established.
Which consequences of global warming will wreak the most havoc and not whether global warming is contributing to extreme weather is the argument among scientists are for the most part.
(Adapted form Bloomberg)