We’re getting dumped with a combination of rain, snow, ice and sleet today in the upper midwest. Not entirely unusually for leap-day weather – but just about anyone will tell you that this has been an unusual winter in the US, and around the world.  New research strengthens the case that changes in arctic ice may make wild winters, with extremes of warmth AND cold – more common in Eurasia and North America.

Georgia Tech:

A new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology provides further evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere. The study’s findings could be used to improve seasonal forecasting of snow and temperature anomalies across northern continents.

Since the level of Arctic sea ice set a new record low in 2007, significantly above-normal winter snow cover has been seen in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China. During the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the Northern Hemisphere measured its second and third largest snow cover levels on record.

“Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation,” said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”

The study was published on Feb. 27, 2012 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Carbon Brief:

You’ve probably heard a lot in recent years about how Arctic sea ice is melting. So what’s the big deal? After all, the Arctic’s a fair distance away and you’re not a polar bear.

Scientists worry that changes in the Arctic will have knock-on effects in other parts of the world, including closer to home. This includes on our winter weather, with three separate scientific studies published this year linking the loss of Arctic sea to cold and snowy winters here in Europe.

The most recent of these studies, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, comes from a team of researchers (incidentally including well-known blogging scientist Judith Curry) from Georgia Tech University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Columbia University.

The team used observational data along with climate models to examine whether there was a link between Arctic sea ice loss and the unusually large snowfall in Northern Hemisphere winters over recent years.

The research showed that when Arctic sea ice melt is unusually high in summer, the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, and northeastern Canada have a warmer winter, while northern North America, Europe, Siberia, and eastern Asia cool down and experience above average snowfall.

The graphic below is adapted from the University of Bremen sea ice images published on the indispensable Arctic Sea Ice Blog

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The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund continues to receive donations and offers of help from various stakeholders.  [Click here to donate.]

We are actively working with several organizations in order to make CSLDF a one-stop resource for scientists looking for legal resources and we are currently pursuing several educational and legal initiatives which will be made public in the future.

In the short-term, CSLDF would greatly appreciate your financial support to help Dr. Michael Mann. Funds are needed to:

  1. Fend-off ATI’s demand to take Dr. Mann’s deposition, which is a blatant attempt to harass and intimidate him for exercising his constitutional rights by petitioning to intervene in the case.
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  3. Prepare for summary judgment on the issue of the exempt status of his email correspondence under the Virginia FOIA law.

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At last month’s Town Hall meeting on Climate at the University of Michigan,  ( a goldmine of thought and inspiration) –  I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing conservative republican and former congressman Bob Inglis.  Inglis is one of a quiet but growing group of conservatives frustrated with the anti-science stonewalling of their party on the issue of climate change, and is working for solutions that he believes will not only be palatable to conservatives, but effective as well.

Vanderbilt News:

As a longtime champion of conservative causes, renowned economist Arthur B. Laffer says he’s officially neutral in the debate over climate change. But he sees a fundamentally backward system in the United States that imposes taxes on things people want more of: income and jobs. At the same time, the U.S. allows something we want less of — carbon dioxide pollution — to be emitted without penalty.

Laffer says that situation should be reversed. Instead of tax increases that are “veiled as ‘cap and trade’ schemes,” Congress should offset a simple carbon tax with a reduction in income or payroll taxes.

Laffer and (now former) Rep. Bob Inglis wrote about the plan in the New York Times, as long ago as 2008.

We need to impose a tax on the thing we want less of (carbon dioxide) and reduce taxes on the things we want more of (income and jobs). A carbon tax would attach the national security and environmental costs to carbon-based fuels like oil, causing the market to recognize the price of these negative externalities.

Nuclear power plants would then compete with coal-fired plants. Wind and solar power would have a shot against natural gas. Trains would compete with trucks. We would clean the air, create wealth and jobs through a new technology boom and drastically improve our national security.

The United States can’t solve climate change alone. The Kyoto climate treaty was rightly rejected by the Senate because China and India weren’t subject to its provisions. If China and India join the United States in attaching a price to carbon, their goods should come into this country without a carbon adjustment. But if they do not, every item they place on our shelves should be subject to the same carbon tax that we would place on our domestically produced goods, again offset by a revenue-neutral tax cut.

If World Trade Organization rules entitle members to an unwarranted exemption from such a carbon tax, then we should change them. Outliers should not be allowed to frustrate the decision-making of the countries that are trying to prevent the security and environmental train wrecks of this century.

The market-driven innovation that brought us the Internet and the personal computer could quickly bring us new, cleaner fuels. A carbon tax that was fully offset (with payroll or income taxes cut by a dollar amount equal to the revenues generated by the new tax) would be as bold as the threat that we face.

Conservatives do not have to agree that humans are causing climate change to recognize a sensible energy solution. All we need to assume is that burning less fossil fuels would be a good thing. Based on the current scientific consensus and the potential environmental benefits, it’s prudent to do what we can to reduce global carbon emissions. When you add the national security concerns, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels becomes a no-brainer.

Could this be the foundation for an emerging compromise on climate, carbon and taxes?

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I usually dislike posting opinions from just one side of the political divide, since its easy for doubters to simply consider a source they may dislike, and turn away from the ideas expressed.

So it’s great when conservative icons like George Will have a moment of insight and agree with me on a current issue.

It’s a double lightning strike when on the same weekend, exuberantly liberal Chris Hayes on MSNBC gives voice to the same position using exactly the same reasoning, and fleshes it out in what is becoming his trademark form – intelligently and in detail.  Shortened version of the discussion from the scintillating “Up With Chris Hayes” program this past weekend is posted here. Or, warm up your coffee and luxuriate in the the full version here. On a weekly basis, I can’t recommend this show more highly.

Across from the prison and beside the great lake
Below the rooftops and above the highways
The spirits pay rental on the basements they haunt
And the pages just draw pictures of the things that they want
I cook my dinner on the blacktop street
I come from the nation of heat

Outside the train station there’s a bold painted sign
It says try to be patient don’t forget to choose sides
We got the loudest explosions you ever heard
We got two dollar soldiers and ten dollar words
If I didn’t own boots I wouldn’t need feet
I come from the nation of heat

So swift and so vicious are the carnival rides
And the carnival barker yell your name for a bribe
we got billboards for love and Japanese cars
It ain’t rare to hear the streetlights call themselves stars
The more that I learn the more that I cheat
I come from the nation of heat

I seen skeleton mothers and hungry folks
Across the street from the kitchens that cookin the most
Sometimes you hear whispers by the dark of the moon
That we promised too much and gave it too soon
Even our coughs and our fevers compete
I come from the nation of heat

Blockin borders with smiles are immigrant sons
we measure loneliness and miles and misery in tons
There’s a staw-hatted man rowing away from the shore
Who says “It’s a shame they don’t let you have slaves here anymore”
I’m the ugliest man that you’ll ever meet
I come from the nation of heat

It’s not the Lorax’s fault. He’s just the latest in the series of animated films inspired by Dr. Suess children’s books that have, so far, all made me want to projectile power chuck.  Maybe this one’s different – but the record is not promising.

For those that loved the books, and worshipped the writer/illustrator as a genius, Hollywood’s treatment has been worse than shabby – its practically a sacrilege.

It’s all the more ironic that as this one gets the full bullshit greenwashing treatment from Mazda, above, the right wing is simultaneously bloviating about how it supposedly inculcates evil environmental values in young’ns.

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I’m not a huge power Facebook user, but I do announce every new posting at my own FB page.  Thanks to the viewers who put together and have been administering this page.


Most scientists, on achieving high office, keep their public remarks to the bland and reassuring. Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), broke ranks in a spectacular manner.

She confessed that she was now “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

“We are sliding back into a dark era,” she said. “And there seems little we can do about it. I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”

Inside Climate News:

A number of prominent U.S. climate scientists who identify themselves as Republican say their attempts in recent years to educate the GOP leadership on the scientific evidence of man-made climate change have been futile. Now, many have given up trying and the few who continue notice very little change after speaking with politicians and their aides.

“No GOP candidates or policymakers want to touch the issue, and those of us trying to educate them are left frustrated,”Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a registered Republican, told InsideClimate News. “Climate change has become a third rail in politics.”

….past support of policies to regulate carbon dioxide, a global warming gas, is being used to question the fitness of candidates to become the party’s nominee. During a speech this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Rick Santorum tore into his GOP presidential rival, former Gov. of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, for buying into man-made warming and supporting the nation’s first cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Romney later opposed the scheme but Massachusetts did participate, and it has benefited from the nearly $500 million in economic activity the program has brought to the state.

A Tea Party favorite, Santorum has called global warming “a facade,” “a hoax” and an example of the “politicization of science.” Both Romney and Newt Gingrich, another candidate for the party’s nomination, have stepped away from their previous stances that humans are contributing to global warming in order to convince restive voters and donors that they are conservative enough to be the party’s luminary.

We continue to see postings from  armchair climatologists trying to pretend there is some as yet undiscovered flaw in global temperature data, or some fiendish plot by the entire scientific community (even the vanishing skeptic community) to fool us about global temperature rise.

But animal and plant species know of no controversy. They are not “warmists”, or “skeptics” – like ice, ocean, and tundra – they simply respond to changes and adapt, by moving north, or moving to higher altitudes.

Christian Science Monitor:

Go north (or up), young sagebrush.

That, in effect, is the survival imperative that global warming is handing organisms worldwide, and they are responding at a pace much faster than scientists estimated about a decade ago, according to a new study published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

Researchers in Britain analyzed dozens of studies tracking changes in the ranges of some 1,376 species of plants, animals, and insects. They found that a warming climate is driving species toward higher latitudes at an average of nearly twice the pace that studies indicated in 2003. And species are migrating to higher altitudes nearly three times faster.

 They either are following food sources or are so tightly tailored to a particular temperature or precipitation regime that they are following it as conditions in their traditional ranges become more hostile to them.Moreover, the species in the regions experiencing the most significant warming over the past 40 years are the species moving the most quickly.