Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Tipping Point

We all know indirectly about phase transitions when we see a pond freezing over. The day before, 50% of the surface of the water is ice free. The next day, ice covers the whole pond. Symmetry breaking of the same order is being predicted for the earth when the 50% tipping point of the earth being used by man becomes the point of no return regarding how life will cope in a world forever changed by us.

As man approaches this phase transition, warning signs continually pop up telling us we better change our ways or else. Consider another piece titled Arctic ice melt sets stage for cold wintersomething yours truly experienced first hand in 2010 in CT or the Winter From Hell fame.  To whit.

Negative Arctic Oscillation conditions are associated with higher pressure in the Arctic and a weakened polar vortex (yellow arrows). A weakened jet stream (black arrows) is characterized by larger-amplitude meanders in its trajectory and a reduction in the wave speed of those meanders.

A diminished latitudinal pressure gradient is linked to a weakening of the winds associated with the polar vortex and jet stream. Since the polar vortex normally retains the cold Arctic air masses up above the Arctic Circle, its weakening allows the cold air to invade lower latitudes.

With these wide swings in weather gradients happening more often and with greater intensity, CT lucked out in 2011 while Europe froze, something akin to runaway blowback or the law of unforeseen consequences writ large. The question to ask now is, when does the Northeast get hit again?

No one knows, do one. - Fats Waller
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