The greatest environmental catastrophe in recorded history is now unfolding. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has announced that the North Atlantic Oscillation is failing, and, along with it, the Gulf Stream. The Institute has observed "the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments," in an analysis of Atlantic ocean currents from pole to pole. Woods Hole has found that salinity levels are changing in ways that they have changed in the past leading to periods of abrupt climate change. Polar waters are becoming far less saline, meaning that the "heat pump" effect that draws warm water north is failing.
Dr Ruth Curry, the study's lead scientist, says: "This has the potential to change the circulation of the ocean significantly in our lifetime. Northern Europe will likely experience a significant cooling."
The director of Woods Hole, Robert Gagosian, said: "We may be approaching a threshold that would shut down [the Gulf Stream] and cause abrupt climate changes."
Last summer, Unknowncountry.com reported an ominous sign that the North Atlantic Current was weakening, when cold northern water suddenly appeared along US coastlines as far south as Florida. This suggested that the Gulf Stream had moved farther offshore than normal, which would happen if it weakened and was not flowing north normally.
The extremes of heat and cold that the northern hemisphere has experienced over the past twelve months may be further signs of this effect. Extraordinary heat killed at least 20,000 people in Europe last summer, and extreme cold in north America this winter has been responsible for at least 35 deaths. World weather patterns have become extremely bizarre recently, exemplified by blocks of ice falling from the sky in regions as diverse as New Zealand, Spain and the American South and, within the past few months, tornadoes in Wales and, just yesterday, on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.
From now on, there is an immediate potential for abrupt climate change. The key factor in the sudden climate change scenario described in the Coming Global Superstorm and many other places is the collapse of the system of currents that equalizes heat and cold over the surface of the earth.
It is likely that climate change will take place over a single season, as the fossil record tells us. It will not be a protracted process, unfolding over hundreds or even tens of years. It will begin with an outburst of violent weather unlike anything recorded in the historical era, and then be followed by years of climactic turmoil. At some point, the climate will either return to the interglacial state it is in now, or we will slip into another ice age, but this is likely to be hundreds of years into the period of turmoil.
Mankind, for the foreseeable future, will experience the full effects of the turmoil and disaster caused by sudden climate change.
This process is going to devastate the northern hemisphere, dramatically altering growing seasons in the United States, Canada and Europe, shortening them, making them entirely unviable in northern areas, and crippling many regions such as the central-western US, with drought so intractable that it will likely result in large scale population movement out of these areas.
This unfortunate situation is in part the result of natural climactic cycling, but it has been sped up by human emissions of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and the process could have been controlled by considered worldwide attention to controlling those emissions. Proper leadership in the developed countries could have prevented this catastrophe, and without significant disruption to business activities or the lives of individuals.
Instead, nothing useful has been done, and now we will go through a significant stage of climatic upheaval that will be accompanied by the death and impoverishment of millions of the best educated and most productive people on earth. This will result in a vast diminishment of mankind and the likely collapse of many of the structures of government, business and finance that we depend upon to insure our safety, prosperity and freedom.
Even if a tremendous reduction in greenhouse gas emissions were achieved within a year, the process would still continue. What we will be able to do, if human society remains organized at a high enough level to achieve this, is to make a slide into another ice age somewhat less likely, and hasten the return of a more acceptable climate.
Questions will be asked: why has this happened? Who is responsible? Among Americans, the answer is clear: political leaders and media personalities have, at the behest of corporate sponsors who feel threatened by environmental controls, lied to the public about the problem, promoting the fallacy that the situation was a matter for debate when, in fact, nature had already cast the die.
Worldwide, various governmental and private entities have misused the threat of environmental disaster as a means of imposing a level of planning on all human activities that many found unacceptable.
In fact, government, the corporate world and environmental groups should all have faced the real and imminent problems in a clear-headed and practical manner, instead of viewing them through the crazy lens of ideology, be it left or right. Instead, ideology has been placed above need in virtually every case, with the result that the worst possible situation has become true: human activities in the form of greenhouse gas emissions have been allowed to exacerbate a natural cycle, with results that promise to be devastating beyond imagination.
It is ironic indeed that the Day After Tomorrow, the film related to the Coming Global Superstorm, will be released in May of 2004, which is likely to be the first month in the past ten thousand years at least that the extreme weather conditions described in that book could actually occur.
At present, only a few paleoclimatologists will admit to the actual violence that the fossil record reveals, and there remain questions about the degree to which the debris from these extremely violent weather events of the distant past actually relates to sudden climate change.
For example, there have been questions surrounding the cause of the quick-freezing of mammoths, whose remains have been periodically found in Alaska and Siberia, often with still undigested food in their mouths and stomachs. It has been claimed that no weather-related mechanism could possibly cause this, and therefore that the mammoths must have fallen into sinkholes and frozen there.
Recently, however, the discovery of quick-frozen plants embedded in glaciers in Peru has revealed the fact that very extreme weather changes to take place on this earth, and result in long-term effects. For example, plants that froze in the Peruvian Andes in a matter of minute ten thousand years ago are only just now being disgorged by glaciers. In other words, plants that were living in a moderate climate were plunged, over what appears to have been the course of just a few hours or even minutes, into extreme cold that held them in its grip for ten thousand years.
All mankind is now threatened by such a danger. Where and when it will strike, or if it will unfold with such super-violence at all is unknown. But the greedy and the foolish among our leadership have released the bull from the paddock, and we are not likely to see it returned anytime soon.
Two questions remain: what can we do and what are the warning signs of sudden climate change?
The primary warning sign has always been the failure of ocean currents, and Woods Hole is telling us that this is happening now. On a more detailed, day-to-day basis, any excursion of warm tropical air into far northern latitudes, from now on, is apt to trigger ferocious storms, and the farther that air penetrates, and the warmer and more humid it is, the more violent the consequences will be.
We will be making certain changes to our Quickwa tch on this website to reflect the changing situation. For example, we are going to expand the number of points from which we pick up air temperature measurements and drop the ocean current measures and observations, except for the Gulf Stream, as they have already been triggered and will not change anytime soon. We will be watching for the dissolution of the Gulf Stream. If this should happen between May and October, the immediate weather effects will stun the world. No matter when it takes place, and it is now certain that it will, it will lead in a single season to an entirely new climate of a kind that is far less viable for us than the one we have known.
Also on our Quickwatch page is an article that contains a series of simple steps that world leaders should have been aggressively asking individuals to take for the past ten years. Instead, they remained mired down in their various political and ideological issues, either claiming that there was no significant environmental problem or that there was a huge problem that could only be solved by massive government intervention, imposing draconian new levels of planning on society at every level, with special emphasis on corporate enterprise and economic development.
However, the fact remains that a great deal can be done:
To reduce individual emissions dramatically, only a few minor lifestyle changes are needed: Replace the 20-year-old fridge with an energy-saver model. CO2 savings = 3,000 pounds. Send out one fewer 30-gallon bags of garbage per week. CO2 savings = 300 pounds. Leave the car at home two days per week. CO2 savings = 1,590 pounds. Recycle cans, bottles, plastic, cardboard and newspapers. CO2 savings = 850 pounds. Switch from standard light bulbs to fluorescents. CO2 savings = 1,000 pounds. Replace the current shower head with a low-flow model. CO2 savings = 300 pounds. Turn the thermostat down two degrees for one year. CO2 savings = 500 pounds. Cut vehicle fuel use by 10 gallons in 2003. CO2 savings = 200 pounds. Switch from hot to warm or cold water for laundry. CO2 savings = 600 pounds.
If these steps were taken by just 20% of U.S., Japanese, Canadian and European inhabitants, world CO2 emission levels would drop to a point that the human factor would be vastly reduced as a source of global warming, and the upheaval that we now face would be reduced in its duration and effect, perhaps to the point that the world as we know it might be restored, not in our lifetimes, but with luck in those of our children.
NOTE: This Journal entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.