Climate Change and the Outer Cape: Understanding changes in sea level, temperature, precipitation, habitat and storm events. Global temperatures may be approaching a million year high, C O2 levels have been measured at an exceptional rate of increase. What should we expect and how do we begin to understand changes we’re already witnessing, in weather patterns and invasive species? Why are scientists telling us we have to accept uncertainty when we ask for explainations? Some answers are actually coming from outer space. New satellite technology enables us to finally glimpse the planet we live on as a closed system: a responsive, organic entity.
Our Climate Change seminars include examples of the exceptional satellite imagery being used to track changes in world climate. The radar satellite image above, uses color to represent subtle differences in ocean height, which can be correlated to ocean currents. Subtle changes and differences, over tremendous areas, could represent changes in the Earth’s powerful thermal delivery systems. These patterns are tracked and referred to as “Trends”.
Scientists studying atmospheric anomalies often find correlations with other anomalies. These possible linkages, or atmospheric bridges, are referred to as teleconnections.
The Gulf Stream is an example of a powerful heat transfer current from warmer southern lattitudes to colder northern lattitudes. This is a wind driven current.
The surface map illustrates Thermohaline Circulation (THC). This type of current is driven by differences in temperature and salinity between water masses.
The above diagram integrates wind driven and thermohaline driven currents world wide.
The full scope of 3 dimensional, world ocean currents, opens our eyes to the world scale of critical inter-ocean relationships.
Irregular predictions have arisen from depictions of Ocean Only or Atmosphere Only models. A truer model is referred to as “Coupled” because it integrates both atmospheric and ocean thermal transport dynamics. Uncertainty is always a factor.
The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO): Understanding interactions between Ocean and Atmosphere
Meteorology studies atmospheric dynamics. Physical oceanography studies ocean dynamics. Ocean-atmospheric energy exchanges provide an intuitive course of study for understanding hemispheric weather patterns.
The North Atlantic Oscillation describes pressure differences between the Icelandic Low pressure area and the Azores High pressure area. This pattern switches, or oscillates, from one dominating weather system to another on a sometimes decadal but not always predictable basis. The response to global warming may be significant but is uncertain and is still being studied.
When the Icelandic and Azores pressure systems weaken or get stronger, weather patterns change.
Perhaps the most critical portion of the world’s ocean circulation exists near Greenland, where warm surface currents are super cooled, transferring heat to Western Europe. This cold water forms a bottom current which begins a two and a half year journey that ends in the central Pacific. Excessive melt water from warming Greenland glaciers has interfered with this process by reducing salinity.
The above image reflects the astounding rate of glacial melting in Greenland. The “freshening” of this zone of the North Atlantic Ocean has been correlated to changes in THC. If the THC was reduced by glacial melt, less heat would be transported north.
This past fall, Whitney Ward, who works with us from London doing formatting, design and layout for our OCEAN Newsletter, sent several dispatches documenting a six foot deep hail storm, a hundred year rainfall event and one of the earliest snow falls on record this past fall. London residents commented in the local press “if global warming was real, why was it getting colder?” See article below: