Wednesday, 9 August 2023

HELL on EARTH: summer 2023

Sunglasses on Fire, by Midjourney AI
The cool and the dead.*
It may begin in the cracked throat, lips that stay dry no matter how many times they are licked. As the heat overwhelms the body, the heart throbs and vision gets blurry, before the world turns black.** 

The ‘Haves’ stay cool in air-conditioned comfort. ‘Have-nots’ are up shit-creek.

Whopping heatwaves hit the three top carbon dumpers, China (33%), America (14%), and India (7%). Per capita, the US gets the Booby prize.*** 

I spent a month in the US (CO, AZ, TX). A lot of it in cars. Public transport, except in the biggest cities, is sketchy. Approx 92% of Americans have cars, and 22% have three or more. EVs are making a dent, but gas-guzzlers rule. Air conditioning is a given, except for the poorest (for ex. migrant farm workers). Friends in Texas have been in AC - house, car, destination, for over a month. No end in sight.

Bad climate news plies in. Two Denmark university scientists warn that without action the Atlantic will be beyond repair by the end of the century - off the Florida coast the water registered 103 F. The New York Post reports the Gulfstream could collapse by 2025. Much of the Northern Hemisphere has been hit by heat. Even the ‘Haves’ have to hope electric grids won’t crap out. Owning a generator in the is a LA mode. It's not too far-fetched to think gas and electricity will be rationed, and pollutants banned. We've been warned... Will there be a crackdown? Or……Stick around and find out.

* Economist
** The Heat Will Kill You by Jeff Goodell, climate journalist

*** US: 134 .5°F / 56°C (Death Valley CA ), China: 125,5°F / 52.5°C, India: 124.8°F / 51°C

Sources: Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Internet, personal experience

Nest week. BARBIEmania 

Polar Bear In Sahara, by Midjourney AI

Note: On Monday, this summer's heat record for Finland was broken, around 92,5°F / 33,6°C. Nothing compared to the above numbers, but completely unbearable for a Finn. We do not really do AC here, except for cars and larger grocery stores, malls, etc. Most households just grin and bear it. It was a few degrees less and windy in Helsinki where I live, so outside was not too bad. But at home, top floor of a non-AC apartment building, well, hell on earth. I think the fact that our heat is not dry, but often moist and stale makes it harder to sustain.

This heat wave was not unexpected. Neither is the likely outcome that this year will set a new global temperature record. We know that the global temperature keeps rising at an alarming rate, and we also know that much of the yearly fluctuation comes from the La Nina / El Nino cycle. Very much simplified, when La Nina conditions prevail, the heat gets stored more in the ocean than usual, and the air gets (relatively) cooler. After a few years, the opposite happens with El Nino: the excess heat that was stored in the ocean gets released. The air temperatures get (relatively) hotter.

Last proper El Nino year was 2015 - obviously a record-hot year at the time. Since then, La Nina conditions have (relatively) cooled the atmosphere, masking most of the underlying warming. Even then, we've had global yearly temperature records - previously unimaginable in a La Nina year. 

This year is again an El Nino year. When this was forecasted in the spring, to me, it was a given that we will see nasty heat waves, and now that the prediction for the rest of the year is that El Nino will continue, 2023 breaking the hottest year record with a large margin is more or less certain. Global Warming pushes on unabated.

So, while this summer feels hot, don't worry, apart from some La Nina years within the next decade or so, this will be the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.

Oh, that is unless the warming breaks the Gulf Stream, the conveyor belt that brings heat to (northern) Europe. In that case, we will freeze here in Finland, and the rest of the world will heat up even more.

PS: That 2025 Gulf Stream figure is the theoretical worst of the worst cases scenario. The more likely date is sometime mid-century, and the collapse will probably be just partial. But that of course doesn't make nearly as cool headlines ;-)



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