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Video of San Diego Fire Damage (and other climate related stories)

Raging Wild Fires destroy San Diego suburbs
The following short video clip shows some of the destruction in the suburbs of San Diego caused by the raging wild fires in California. Already just under half a million acres have burned in one of the worst wild fire seasons in a long time. In a typical fire year for the United States, around 2 million acres could be expected to burn, and so having half a million acres burn in a matter of days is significant. According to some news reports, a lot of the trees in the mountains are dead, making them kindling for the fires, and thus these California fires might indicate the danger posed to America's Unhealthy Forests in next years fire season (no word on how many trees in the mountains are already dead, like the California trees, but given the severity of conditions in the American West, you have to expect trees to start dropping dead sooner or later...)

The video file was shot in color, but looks black and white due to the great amounts of soot in the area. The file is in Real Player format (about 166 KB)

San Diego Fires (Real Media)

Related story : The Unhealthy Forest Initiative


Other Climate related news


On Thursday, October 23rd, 2003, NASA released composite images which show the retreat of the arctic ice cap over the last two decades, in a press release titled RECENT WARMING OF ARCTIC MAY AFFECT WORLDWIDE CLIMATE.

The images show the ice cap as it was in 1979 and the ice cap in 2003.


http://www.awitness.org/eden2003/icecap79.jpg


http://www.awitness.org/eden2003/icecap2003.jpg



Ice cap shrinkage, 1979 to 2003



The shrinkage corresponds to consecutive minimal records being set throughout the 1990s, with the year 1991 being the only exception to the pattern (when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Phillipines, spewing ash into the atmosphere, which temporarily cooled the arctic - this event also illustrates just how sensitive the global climate is to emissions in the atmosphere).

In the last two decades, temperatures have been rising in the arctic at a rate 20 times faster than the warming that occured over the previous century, and the thickness of the ice sheet has decreased by about half (down from 15 feet in the 1980s to 8 feet in 2003). Springs are coming earlier, and fall is arriving later, which combined with higher summer temperatures year after year contributes to the gradual shrinking of the permanent ice sheet. Surface temperatures are increasing at a rate of 2 degrees per decade over the region, and the result is pooling of liquid water on the surface of the ice sheets. Because water absorbs heat (rather than reflecting most of the radiation, as ice does) this results in accelerated ice melt, and also causes deep fractures to develope in ice shelves and glaciers, leading to such events as the splitting of the Ward Ice Shelf last month, and eventually to ice berg calving events, as the the ice sheet splits along this fissures. Arctic sea ice set a new record for minimum size in 2002.


http://www.awitness.org/eden2003/octsst.jpg



Sea temperature anomolies, October 21st, 2003



The sea temperature anomoly map continues to show unusually warm water in arctic region at the end of October, with the scale being light yellow about a degree or less warmer than normal, the oranges representing 2 or 3 degrees warmer than normal, and the reds indicating 4 or 5 degrees warmer than normal. An archive of sea temperature anomoly maps is online which goes back to 1984. What these maps reveal is that during the 80s and early 90s, there were temperature anomolies of only about one half to one degree in scattered spots around the arctic during the month of October, and then around 1997 dramatic differentials begin to appear (as much as 4 or 5 degrees warmer than normal).

Warming in the arctic should be expected to take place with increasing speed once a certain threshold has been crossed (one can imagine rather than a smooth continuous graph, there would be a graph which for some time follows almost a straight line moving upward slowly and then once the threshold has been crossed, begins to curve upward dramatically - in short, if warming of the arctic is thought of as a curve on a graph, it should be expected to resemble the curve of a function that increases exponentially...the reason why this would be the case is that ice reflects almost all the energy it receives back into space, while water absorbs energy, and thus warms...as the ice decreases, the surface area of water increases, and thus the amount of warming increases due to this increased absorption...therefore the rate of warming begins to increase dramatically and the melting of the ice cap occurs at ever increasing speeds...given that the rate of warming has increased to 20 times the rate of the previous century, you can well imagine the exponential increase of the curve if the rate of increase was plotted on a graph, and as the ice sheet continues to retreat, this rate of warming can be expected to continue to increase - the curve would climb upward - and the real world analogue would be ever more rapid retreat of the ice cap). One of the criticism leveled at current climate change computer software is that it models climate change as taking place gradually, when the historical record indicates that climate changes suddenly. See also : Arctic Ice Melting Much Faster Than Thought.

The retreat of the arctic ice cap has global ramifications, and given the complexity of the climate, and its sensitivity to even small changes (such as the eruption of Pinatubo as just one example) it is difficult for scientists to given unqualified predictions of just what the effects on the global climate will be in response to these changes taking place in the arctic. Both the atmospheric currents and the ocean currents can be expected to change, and this is already some research would suggests that the changes in the arctic affect such weather events as rainfall in far away Africa.

It surprises me that there are those who say, 'I don't believe in Global warming.' The graph of global temperature increase shows a particularly sharp increase beginning in the 1970s (it is beginning to display the characteristics of an exponential curve, with a period of gradual increase, followed by a sharp upward turn in the graph). Global warming is a fact, and if people remain ignorant of this fact it can only be due to propaganda which originates with special interest groups. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by one third during the fossil fuel age, and I find it remarkable that there are those who would suggest that an increase in greenhouse gas of this magnitude could not possibly result in a change in the global climate. For example, they will try to suggest that this change is 'part of the natural variability of the climate' or they will blame it on 'an increase in the sun's energy level'. How could the amount of greenhouse gas increase by a third, and global warming occur, and yet still their is all this disputation concerning the cause of the warming that is occuring?

Global warming is not controversial science (or at least it should not be) and similarly the cause of the warming (increased greenhouse gases) should not be controversial, and probably would not be, if it were not for the fact that a multi-trillion dollar industry fuels and funds the controversy. What is controversial is what the effects of this ongoing global warming will be. No one can say for certain what the new climate of the planet will be like, since climate is extremely complex, as well as being extremely sensitive. Climate change is a gamble, and the unfortunate thing is that like in all gambling, if anyone suffers a loss, there is no way to begin again.

If greenhouse gases were not present in the atmosphere, the average temperature of the earth would be 0 degrees. Most of the planet would not be able to support life as we know it, with the exception of a narrow band close to the equator. Venus is a planet about the size of the earth, with an atmosphere composed almost entirely of greenhouse gases, and the temperature on Venus is about 500 degrees Celsius (which is over 900 degrees Fahrenheit), and this is a remarkable example of the Greenhouse effect run wild. Greenhouse gases allow the energy from the sun to reach the earth. Here the energy is transformed into heat (infrared radiation) which is then reflected back towards space. Greenhouse gases are not transparent to infrared radiation and so this heat energy is then reflected back to earth (the greenhouse effect) and it is this concentration of greenhouse gas that is responsible for the Earth having a climate which is conducive to life (and the extreme density of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of Venus traps so much infrared energy that Venus is a hell compared to the heaven of Earth). An increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere of one third is not insignificant, and when we see that global warming is taking place, attributing the cause to 'natural variability' or 'an increase in the sun's energy' is the least reasonable hypothesis when there has been an increase of one third in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which would result in global warming by definition, and global warming is what is taking place, as one would expect.

That the climate is changing is obvious, not only when considering one regional change taking place (in the Arctic) but when examining what is happening on a global scale (it is hardly likely that such global changes would be unrelated). For example, a similar process of disintegration of the ice cap and the ice shelves is taking place in Antarctica. It was around 1997 that the warming trend in the Arctic waters began to accelerate (as revealed by the anomolous temperature map archive). It was also at this time that changes in the climate in Northern Africa began to occur. Just as new records for minimal ice cover were set yearly in the Arctic, new records for rainfall in Northern Africa began to occur during the same decade, and this year such strange events occured as having the rivers in the region swollen with eight times as much water as would be expected. In Timbuktu on the Sahara, a United Nations heritage site, elaborate mud brick structures as much as 600 years old melted in the torrential downpours that took place this year.

Scientific surveys have indicated that the Sahara desert is retreating. One theory concerning global warming holds that one of the results should be the rejevenation of what is now the Sahara desert. The reason for this conclusion is that only 6,000 years ago, when the global climate was only a degree warmer than in the following millenia, the Sahara was fertile, rivers ran through it, and fossilized remains of a wide variety of African wildlife remain from this previous time. 'Global cooling' of only a single degree was enough to change global atmospheric and ocean currents, which resulted in a changed climate in which the Sahara became a massive desert, one of the stable features of the world's climatic regime for the last six thousand years.

Opportunistic desert grasses make the most of the opportunity presented by rains to temporarily grow, and then disappear. (These sorts of plants produce seeds that can lie dormant for a long time, making them perfectly adapted to the conditions in a desert). Now as plants live and die, the conditions are established that will eventually allow colonisation by other plants, since it is dead plants that produce humus, and thus build soils. Anyone who has ever seen the farm land on what used to be the Savannahs of the North American plains, will be familiar with the extremely thick layer of top soil that has existed on the plains, which was produced by generations of grasses and other plants over many thousands of years.

Other climate changes of note include the breaking of temperature records in the American west this fall, as well as record breaking numbers of tornadoes and wind storms earlier this year (the rising global temperatures have resulted in a ten per cent increase in global humidity levels over the last decade due to increases in evaporation- and water in the atmosphere is another potent greenhouse gas - so as the process continues it also accelerates - and increased humidity causes more tornadoes of increasing severity). Also very significant is the world wide retreat of mountain glaciers, which, over time, means the depletion of rivers (this could happen in as little as 20 years if the current rate of temperature increase continues), for you must keep in mind that these rivers and lakes are fed by mountain glaciers, and just how people plan to get by without these rivers is a good question... "The disappearance of mountain glaciers on a global scale is already affecting the supply of water to downstream natural and manmade systems. In some drier regions, glacier-sourced downstream basins have entered a potentially long-term trend of declining flows." "Changes in climate already are affecting many mountain glaciers around the world. In Montana, Glacier National Park's largest remaining glaciers are now only a third as large as they were in 1850, and one study estimates that all glaciers in the park may disappear completely in the next 30 years. Researchers have documented rapid mountain glacier retreat in Greenland, the European Alps, the Himalayas, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, New Guinea, and East Africa, among other places." But apparently they don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, and even if they did, it would require drastic action to stop the process of global warming, and thus save the planet from convulsing and dying of thirst in the times to come (to even begin to hold the climate steady and save those all important glaciers, and those ever so important rivers and lakes which are very neccesary sources of fresh drinkingwater) this would require reductions in CO2 emissions of at least 60 per cent, according to current scientific consensus.) Now given how people shot the buffalo until no buffalo were left, and how they hack down the old growth rainforests until not a spot is left (in British Columbia they are presently ruining the last habitat of the spotted owl and the rare barking salamander), well considering all this I would assume that they will just find 'economic reasons' to continue doing what they are doing, and just deal with that other problem of dying of thirst later on when it becomes a more immediate and pressing concern...

But then this is one of the problems of having people become socialized in a 'free market economy'. This type of fiercely competitive, dog eat dog, everyone for themselves, compete or die Social Darwinism, while it is always hyped as 'bringing out the best in people' (by throwing them into fierce competition with each other) actually brings out the worst in people, causes them fear for their survival, live in fear of having the economic rug pulled out from under them (at which time, they, being the losers in the battle of the 'survival of the economic fittest' can then become homeless under a bridge) well this kind of thinking causes people to bust up into feuding special interest groups,filled with anger and fury, whose only thought is to 'battle' and 'defeat' their 'competition'. Furious loggers against angered environmentalists, as just one example, and those loggers will definately do the buffalo thing on those forests, and the whole planet will definately commit suicide by dying of thirst by melting all those damn glaciers. They will do it, because they can't do anything else. They are free marketeers, and that system does not bring out the best in people, but rather the very worst. When you hear about 'ethnic cleansing' (where one group battles another over resources) what you are actually seeing is just 'free marketeering' stripped of its veneer of so called 'cvilization' (for example, the 'civilized' way of committing acts of ethnic cleansing, would be to destroy your rivals business and thus capture his market share...this will of course leave him and all his employees completely ruined, but then, to the victors go the spoils, and as to what happens to them afterwards, well that's their problem). Naturally given what a worthless system we live under, and what it does to destroy the human soul, I think we can all look forward to watching those forests burn to the ground, while the ice caps disappear and flood islands and coasts, while the rivers continue to disappear and people then feud with each other over precious water (will they finally have to shut down all barge traffic on the Mississipi next year - this year the barges are only half full to avoid scraping bottom - and the Great Lakes have dropped another foot - that one foot equals years of glacier build up, by the way, and the glaciers are not building up, they are shrinking...)

Now if anyone is looking for help from scientists on these matters, you might find yourself waiting a while, since it is often so typical for scientists, being scientists after all, to make comments such as 'we still don't have the evidence to link the shrinking ice caps with the shrinking glaciers and the retreating Sahara...' They will then introduce qualifiers such as 'possible regional change' and so on. You know, another sign of the changing climate is that animals and birds are already beginning to migrate north. For example, we are told that Robins have colonized the far north of Alaska for the first time. Now no Robin will check to see if scientists have found someway to 'definitively prove' using the 'scientific method' that it is in fact safe for Robin's to nest in Northern Alaska. Robin's use intuitive 'Robin sense' to figure out their environments. Similarly, the FAO reported in 2001 that farmers on the Sahel (which fringes the southern Sahara) had begun to move North into previously unplantable regions. Now a scientist would probably introduce all sorts of caveats if asked if that farmer should move north like that (following the retreating desert) because this is science, and science does not value intuitive sense, and that is the weakness of science. There is no place for 'intuition' in science, and that is just a fact of life. Now people can have 'Robin sense', too, and even if it takes science ten or twenty years of feuding over the scientific method before science can say anything definitive (thus allowing politicians and debunkers to point out 'the lack of science' and use it as an excuse to commit suicide) the rest of us, who are not saddled with the weaknesses of the scientific method, can use intuitiion and figure out what is going on, much like a Robin or Sahelian farmer would. I just point out to you that science is not the new religion, and scientists are not the new high priests of our culture, so I urge people to quit venerating scientists as though they were the new priesthood, and instead just use your intuition, and then get up off of your ass (unless you can live with the idea of dying of thirst when those all important lake and river feeding glaciers finish melting, not to mention having the western forests burning to the ground like California, among so many other disasters underway).

That concludes today's climate report, as well as today's rant against the cause of the intractable nature of all social problems, and the cause of the impossibility of all change (even when not changing is suicidal)...if anyone can think of someway to save the world while still keeping the mind warping, soul destroying, human values perverting, money obssessed, private profit driven 'free market' system in place, let us all know...

antarctic ice 28.Oct.2003 11:03

anon

While I more than most find the evidence for climate change very convincing... It's interesting to note that the Antarctic ice is growing while the Arctic is shrinking.

 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020130074839.htm
 http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,49815,00.html

What's really unfortunate is that a google search's first 2 hits on "antarctic ice growing" are for www.free-market.net and www.co2science.org. The first name speaks for itself. The second is a respectable looking site funded in part by ExxonMobil whose mission is to expose climate change as junk science.

abnormally cold antarctic 28.Oct.2003 12:19

brent

you know there is one theory that states that the melting of the artic ice will change the ocean currents so that the warm tropical circulation that currently reaches Europe will cease and the end result of Global warming then would be to plunge Europe into an ice box. Ironic isn't it. But then no one really understands the climate, so there is no guarantee that this will happen, but it would ironic if it did...

now if you look at the water temperature anomoly maps , you will notice that in past years there was abnormally warm water in the Antarctic just like in the arctic. Then recently this changed due to the ice melt I would imagine, and now there is this plume of extremely cold water flowing out from the antarctic. Now why would this warm water anomoly disappear in the antarctic and be replaced by this cold plume instead? It almost looks like an anomoly caused by ocean currents and melted ice. It may be possible that all the melting of recent years has released a large amount of cold water which has not moved much due to the way the ocean currents work..

II read the articles you linked to and they are full of caveats. For example, they state, 'is this just a temporary fluctuation that we don't understand?' It is possible that this plume of cold water from recent ice melts has something to do with it.
antarctic cold water plume
antarctic cold water plume

1997 28.Oct.2003 12:33

brent

here you can see the anomoly map for october 1997 and you will notice the abnormally warm water in the arctic and around anartica. that bright plume off south america is that pesky el nino. By about 2000, the warm water plume disappears around antartica and is replaced by that cold water plume, and I would assume that this might have something to do with what is going on around the south pole. In the article they state that what seems to be happening is that the ice rivers have frozen to the ground and are no long flowing, and if this continues it could cause the entire ross ice shelf to collapse. this would lower the albedo, since water does not reflect energy. What has caused the ice to thicken according to the article is that the ice rivers have stopped flowing and thus are stationary and building up ice, something that probably would not happen if they were moving, and it seems logical to assume that it might have something to do with that plume of cold water off anarctica, which I assume probably has something to do with melted ice of the last few years combined with ocean currents which has not carried this water away at great speeds but instead caused it to accumulate.

in any case, no matter how big a deal exxon wants to make about this anomoly at the south pole, I would be more worried about the glaciers in your own back yard, the source of your drinking water, unless we all plan to import water from anarctica, assuming that the ice rivers start moving again, so the ross ice sheet does not collapse
warm water plumes arctic, anarctic, october 1997
warm water plumes arctic, anarctic, october 1997

the new ice age 28.Oct.2003 12:46

brent

did you know that some scientists in Russia released a report predicting that the world is now entering a new ice age...I don't know if they received funding from exxon or not, but it wouldn't surprise me, since the oil and coal industry are constantly funding a lot of this wonderful science...there are after all trillions of dollars at stake here, and it is the policy of the United States government to burn up all the oil and gas in Iraq and in the Caspian/Caucasus region,

of course in the future we will have to fight 'water wars' and it will be in the strategic interest of the United States to occupy whatever is left of the North and South pole....Exxon will of course be heavily into the trillion dollar water business

i really feel sorry for the people of Peru and Uruguay who are one hundred per cent dependent on their glaciers for water, and are watching with alarm as they retreat by kilometers, well on the way to disappearing...

eh ice age 28.Oct.2003 13:33

anon

You'll find climate change skeptics talk about "you know, back in the 1960's, 'scientists' thought that a ice age was imminent! and now they're thinking it's going to be warming. What a bunch of idiots. Obviously they don't know what they're talking about and we shouldn't be listening to what they're saying now".

If your idea of "imminent" is millenia, then sure. Let's just hope your next date isn't "imminent". When you look at long-term glacial and solar cylces over in the past, the earth is right at the crest of it's interglacial (i.e. no glaciers) cycle and if the pattern follows, in maybe a couple thousand years, Chicago would again be covered in Ice as it was 50,000 years ago.

In time it became more evident that greenhouse gases were going to cause the climate to go into a "super interglacial" period (i.e. even less glaciers) in the short term (~20-100 years). There's no contradiction there, it's just a matter of time scales. Although I haven't read it, I suspect that's what the Russian report is talking about as well.

I'm sort of surprised that the focus on long term cooling back 40 years ago and the focus on near-term warming now is looked at as a "waffle" that irreversably damages scientists' credibility. What if they're "right" now whereas they were "wrong" before? Would you prefer they stay on message and say that it's going to keep cooling? Would you want the same message you had in Junior High? At least you'd be consistent, right? In that case, I still think Pink Floyd is the best band ever.

tomdispath.com on the california fires 29.Oct.2003 05:25

brent

 http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17066
First of all, there is an extraordinary supply of perfectly cured, tinder-dry fuel. The weather year, 2001-02, was the driest in the history of Southern California. Here in San Diego we had only three inches of rain. (The average is about 11 inches). Then last winter it rained just hard enough to sprout dense thickets of new underbrush (a.k.a. fire starter), all of which have now been desiccated for months.

Meanwhile in the local mountains, an epic drought, which may be an expression of global warming, opened the way to a bark beetle infestation which has already killed or is killing 90 percent of Southern California's pine forests. Last month, scientists grimly told members of Congress at a special hearing at Lake Arrowhead that "it is too late to save the San Bernardino National Forest." Arrowhead and other famous mountain resorts, they predicted, would soon "look like any treeless suburb of Los Angeles."

These dead forests represent an almost apocalyptic hazard to more than 100,000 mountain and foothill residents, many of whom depend on a single, narrow road for their fire escape. Earlier this year, San Bernardino county officials, despairing of the ability to evacuate all their mountain hamlets by highway, proposed a bizarre last-ditch plan to huddle residents on boats in the middle of Arrowhead and Big Bear lakes.

Now the San Bernardinos are an inferno, along with tens of thousand acres of chaparral-covered hillsides in neighboring counties...

Each new homeowner, moreover, expects heroic levels of protection from underfunded county and state fire agencies.

Fire, as a result, is politically ironic. Right now, as I watch San Diego's wealthiest new suburb, Scripps Ranch, in flames, I recall the Schwarzenegger fund-raising parties hosted there a few weeks ago. This was an epicenter of the recent recall and gilded voices roared to the skies against the oppression of an out-of-control public sector. Now Arnold's wealthy supporters are screaming for fire engines, and "big government" is the only thing standing between their $3 million homes and the ash pile.