Glub, glub

How high’s the water, Mama?

James Hansen and other climate scientists have renewed their warning about almost certain catastrophe in a newly published paper. Amelia Urry, writing for Grist, reports here.

Of particular interest to Snohomish PUD customers is the paper’s prediction about storms. Their severity will surely increase, dramatically so. I like this analogy from Urry:

And as the temperature gradient between the tropic and the polar oceans gets steeper, thanks to that slowing of ocean-mixing currents, we could see stronger storms, too.

This is surprisingly intuitive: Picture a temperature gradient like a hill, with the high temperatures up at the top and the low temperatures down at the bottom. As the highs get higher and the lows get lower, that hill gets a lot steeper — and the storms are the bowling balls you chuck down the hill. A bowling ball will pick up a lot more speed on a steep hill, and hurt a lot more when it finally runs into something. Likewise, by the time these supercharged storms are slamming into coasts in the middle latitudes, they will be carrying a whole lot of deadly force with them.

Hansen, who first warned of the greenhouse effect before Congress in 1988, has witnessed repeated expressions of ho-hum since. This recent paper concludes that years of inaction will make the earth intolerable for millions of inhabitants, with coastlines being gobbled up by rising sea levels—not in hundreds of years but by the end of this century, if not sooner.

And the lights will turn off with greater frequency.