This is Our New Normal and, No, We're Not Prepared For It.


While all eyes are on Texas, the foibles of Ted Cruz, etc. there's scant mention of the heatwave over Greenland in the 24 hr. darkness of the Arctic winter. Greenland is about 20C above normal in the pitch black. The same unseasonal heating is happening in other Arctic regions. It's the very same anomaly that brought the deep freeze to the US south. Greece and Turkey are also enduring freezing conditions. It's the same deal - Hadley Cells and Rossby Waves.

Whenever some place gets hit by abnormal freezing conditions the first question should be, okay, so where's the heat? You'll find it but it's in the far north, sometimes well inside the Arctic Circle. It's the "conservation of energy" thing, the First Law of Thermodynamics.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can, however, move around and it often catches us unprepared when it shows up on our doorsteps unannounced.  

A few years ago, in late January/early February, road and highway transportation came to a halt as Atlanta, Georgia entered a deep freeze. At the same time, residents of Barrow, Alaska basked in 64F conditions. 

In February, 2018, in the 24 hour darkness of the Arctic winter, inside the Arctic Circle it was so warm that the ice began melting. At the same time, most of Europe and the Mediterranean froze from what they called the "Beast from the East."

See? If the heat is gone, it's somewhere else and it's not very hard to locate.

This is more than an interesting curiosity. It means that virtually every place in the Northern Hemisphere now must prepare for both extreme heat and extreme cold. We need a level of resilience an order of magnitude greater than anything we envisioned when most, nearly all of our critical infrastructure was designed and built. We need a level of resilience that does not yet exist. We're a lot like the first of the Three Little Pigs.

The gently undulating jet streams of the Holocene brought us predictable weather patterns that travelled west to east. Now we have these Rossby Waves that carry tropical air far into the north and Arctic air far into the south - and just park there, sometimes for several days. This phenomenon, in its summer livery, drowned Calgary when a heavy rain storm that once would have deluged the city and then moved on, instead stayed put.  The rain that inundated Calgary belonged somewhere else -  or it would have in a better, more-predictable time. 

This is our new normal.




  1. "This is our new normal."

    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse"

    And one day we'll look back to cozy 2021 with longing.

    So, enjoy it while you can ... and keep your seat belts fastened.

    This is from cozy 1983:

    Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
    Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
    Suddenly it's repression, moratorium on rights
    What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
    Person in the street shrugs -- "Security comes first"
    But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse
    But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse
    Callous men in business costume speak computerese
    Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
    Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
    And the local Third World's kept on reservations you don't see
    "It'll all go back to normal if we put our nation first"
    But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse
    But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse
    Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
    When ends don't meet it's easier to justify the means
    Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
    As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
    Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
    The trouble with normal is it always gets worse

    1. Wow, thanks NPoV. I haven't heard that - in decades. It sure is of our times though, isn't it?

      Speaking of Cockburn, he helped me prove a point with my kids. I have many hundreds of CDs and I still buy them when there's something I really like. Others mock that. Why buy when you can simply stream? I set out to find a couple of Cockburn songs I really liked. The streaming services didn't have them, probably because they're deemed obscure based on demand. They want to offer music that attracts subscribers. Why clutter up their playlists with music that has become obsolete and should be buried?

      That's why, when it is music that matters to me, I want to own it, not rent it if that's even possible. Sometimes, if it is there, it can be hard to locate. It's easier, for me at least, to buy it, transfer it onto my hard drive, and then copy it to mobile drives.

      As for 'normal,' Jared Diamond and others write of "creeping normalcy." It's our ability to forget even the recent past and accept whatever is today as the standard. Imagine if we could pluck a dozen people of various ages from the 1960s and let them experience the weather and climate today. Introduce them to today's severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. Show them what has happened to our glaciers, ice caps and sea ice. Let them see Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas paralyzed by deep freeze. Imagine how they would react.

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