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See Everything Bad About Climate Change in a Single California Town

See Everything Bad About Climate Change in a Single California Town 86

Montecito is coming back to life this morning. The 9,000 person town to the east of Santa Barbara has been empty since Tuesday, when mandatory evacuations forced residents out of their homes for the fifth time in four months.

This week it was a channel of tropical moisture called the Pineapple Express, dumping bands of intense rain and triggering flash floods throughout Southern California. In January it was a once-in-a-200-year storm that dropped half an inch of water in five minutes, unleashing massive mudslides that ripped houses from their foundations and killed 27. In December it was the deadly Thomas Fire that incinerated 280,000 acres—the largest wildfire in California history.

To some, Montecito might just seem like a town hit by a string of superlatively bad luck. But to people crunching the numbers it looks less like an outlier and more like an inevitability of climate change. If you want to see what California looks like in the future, you don’t need a crystal ball. You just need to hop on the 101 and drive until you hit Montecito.

Of course, you’ll have to wait until the weather clears up. For the last few days, a plume of tropical moisture carrying as much water as the Mississippi River has been wringing out between four and nine inches of water along the coast and in the foothills. According to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, that’s nothing unusual. In fact, it’s what he would call a “textbook “atmospheric river. So why all the fuss? “It’s not the strongest atmospheric river we seen in a long time,” says Swain. “But it’s aimed directly at these burn scar regions which are incredibly vulnerable to flooding and debris flows.”

GOES-East captured the Pineapple Express funneling a Mississippi River’s worth of moisture into Southern California this week.

Credit: NOAA

He’s not exaggerating. If you look at a satellite image of the plume, it’s pointing straight at the 280,000-acre bullseye left behind by the Thomas Fire. That’s bad because fires destabilize the landscape. Without vegetation to hold back the soil, even a little bit of rain on the hills can have huge consequences. A lot of rain can turn things deadly, like it did in January. Slabs of boulders, rocks, downed trees, even wrecked cars careened down the slopes, carried by waist-high mudflows. More than 100 homes were destroyed. Power was out for days.

When the new round of evacuation orders came, the town was still recovering. On Thursday Montecito sent an excavator out to clear areas where debris was still piled up from the last flow, to prevent creeks and other outflows from sending it further downstream. With the National Weather Service predicting this storm to be even worse, local officials went door to door to make sure people got out and stayed out until the flash flood and mudslide risks subsided. But the question evacuees were asking each other Thursday night wasn’t “when can I go home?” But, “how many more times is this going to happen?”

Obviously no one can know for sure. But the science suggests that every aspect of California’s drought-to-deluge cycle is intensifying in the face of climate change. Even the Pineapple Express.

“In a future world you do see an expansion of this subtropical jet, which drives these southern atmospheric rivers, based on the models we’re using” says Christine Shields, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences. “What that has meant in the projections is that these events become longer lived, carry more precipitation, and have a stronger impact.”

That’s because as the atmosphere warms up, it’s able to hold more and more water, known in weather nerd circles as the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship. This doesn’t affect the total amount of rainfall, necessarily. That’s more a function of how long the storm sticks around, which can be affected by surface wind and other pressure dynamics. But more water in the atmosphere does mean more intense precipitation—higher rainfall rates. And that’s the one that matters in California. “In these areas decimated by wildfires you may only get two inches of rain, but those two inches fall in half an hour,” says Shields. “That could be devastating.”

Understanding climate change’s impacts on precipitation intensity is an area of active research, including by Swain’s group at UCLA. He couldn’t speak to their latest findings because they’ve already been accepted for upcoming publication. But he did note that as climate change deals out more extreme weather events, scientists have a stronger financial case for running the kind of computationally expensive models groups like his use to translate global scale dynamics into regional predictions. “The present event is a really good example of why details matter,” he says. “We got the strength right but if the position is off by even 100 miles, that’s a huge difference for who gets impacted.”

This time it might have been the people of Montecito, and this time the storm might have passed without turning the hillsides into a deathtrap. But that’s the thing about California; there’s always another drought and another fire and another flood around the corner. Which means in the Golden State, it’s always evacuation season.

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Planet Earth

A new ice age: why it will begin in 2030

A new ice age: why it will begin in 2030 99

The sun is both the main source of life and the greatest threat to it. On the one hand, the star converts four million tons of matter every second into energy, which is the main source of light and heat. On the other hand, it is a source of powerful emissions that cause strong disturbances on Earth and near-earth space.

Magnetic storms and auroras are nothing more than a consequence of anomalies occurring on the luminary. Fortunately, today scientists have learned to predict these manifestations, and humanity as a whole already knows how to neutralize their negative impact.

At the same time, some of the processes occurring on the Sun cause concern among specialists. Experts around the world state an unprecedented decrease in solar activity and predict the approach of a new ice age – the fifth in the last 400 thousand years.

What are solar cycles

A lot of what happens on the Sun and, as a consequence, in the entire solar system, depends on the state of the magnetic field of the star. Its amplitude and spatial configuration are constantly changing, which, together with the formation and decay of other strong fields in the atmosphere, leads to the transformation of the wave radiation of a celestial object and the intensity of fluxes of corpuscles – particles of solar gas in a plasma state. The number of spots – relatively cold regions in its photosphere – on the surface of the Sun also changes.

Long-term studies have shown that the activity of a star associated with the appearance of spots has a cyclic structure. Scientists estimate the duration of the cycles in different ways – up to six thousand years, but most often they distinguish three periods: 11-year, 90-year and 300-400-year cycles.

The shortest of them is more pronounced and is associated with changes in the direction of the main component of the magnetic field of the star. The period is characterized by a rather rapid – for about four years – increase in the number of sunspots and its subsequent decrease, which takes about seven years. At the same time, the assessment of the cycle duration of 11 years is an average, in some cases it can last from nine to 14 years.

A new ice age: why it will begin in 2030 100

The 90-year variation is associated with a 25-50 percent periodic decrease in the number of sunspots in 11-year cycles. 300-400-year intervals are completely characterized by the appearance of long, up to several tens of years, intervals when very few sunspots appear on the Sun. The last such period was recorded quite recently – in 2017. And the most famous – the Maunder minimum – lasted from about 1645 to 1715 and coincided in time with the coldest phase of climate cooling – the Little Ice Age.

How the Sun’s cycling affects the Earth

Scientists have long formed certain ideas that the activity of a star affects the climate – both space and terrestrial. When there are many sunspots on the Sun, the probability of reconnection of magnetic lines of different polarities increases. The visible result of this process is flares, characterized by explosive energy release. This burst of radiation, reaching the Earth, causes strong disturbances in its magnetic field, disrupts satellites and increases the likelihood of aurora borealis in low geographic latitudes.

The planet’s ionosphere is also subject to fluctuations in solar activity, which manifests itself in a change in the propagation of short radio waves. It also affects the chemical processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, since it affects the intensity of galactic cosmic ray fluxes.

Moreover, it is now known that a change in the total value of the electromagnetic radiation of the Sun by only one percent can entail a noticeable change in the distribution of temperature and air currents on the Earth. An increase in the flow of particles leads to the fact that warm currents from the south rush with even greater energy to the northern latitudes, and the cold ones, carrying the Arctic air, penetrate deeper to the south.

Should we wait for a new ice age?

Each solar minimum traditionally raises concerns about the possible onset of the next global cooling, akin to that observed at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Little Ice Age, global average temperatures dropped by one to two degrees Celsius, snow lay on some of the plains all year round, and Greenland was covered with glaciers. Moreover, the waters of the Thames and Danube rivers were frozen, and the Moscow River was covered with ice every six months.

However, for such cataclysms, a simple decrease in solar activity is not enough; a significant deviation is needed. A sharp decline, according to an international group of scientists, may occur in 2030-2040. This conclusion was made by experts after analyzing solar radiation during the 1982-2002 cycles. The data they obtained made it possible to derive analytical formulas that can be used to predict the behavior of a star in the period from 1200 to 3200.

“If the existing theories about the influence of solar activity on the climate are correct, then this minimum will lead to a significant cooling, similar to that which was during the Maunder minimum. In view of the fact that our future minimum will last three solar cycles – about 30 years, perhaps the decrease in temperature will not be as deep as in the Maunder minimum. But this will need to be studied in more detail, ”the MSU website writes.

Scientists see a lot of other “bells” that foreshadow a sharp decline in solar activity. For example, Matthew Penn, an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, told Deutsche Welle that sunspots are not observed at all if the magnetic field of the star falls below 1500 gauss. Moreover, in the penultimate cycle, local fields weakened by about 50 gauss per year.

“If we extrapolate this trend, then by 2021 they will become too weak and will not be able to resist convection. The spots on the Sun will disappear,” he stated.

The director of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Frank Hill, even notes that in the new millennium, a malfunction was recorded in the formation of a plasma flow, the movement of which to the equator of the star and becomes the cause of the appearance of spots.

At the same time, the connection between disruptions in solar activity and the beginning of ice ages has not yet been reliably established, and so far experts are very cautious about this.

“My position is this: we do not yet have scientific data that could confirm or deny such a relationship,” Frank Hill emphasized. – Of course, a long minimum of solar activity, in principle, will have some effect on everything – both on space exploration and on the Earth’s climate. But I still want to emphasize: we are predicting changes in the solar cycle, and not at all the onset of a new Little Ice Age.”

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Planet Earth

A strange phenomenon in the Arctic, the cause of which is unknown

A strange phenomenon in the Arctic, the cause of which is unknown 101

In 2018, a plane flying over the Greenland glaciers noticed strange holes in the ice. NASA scientists cannot yet find the reason for their appearance.

The Arctic is a mysterious place, and as the Earth’s climate changes, it changes faster than scientists can record. So, according to NASA, strange holes began to appear in the ice, and so far no one can understand what causes them. 

The photo was taken by John Sonntag, a scientist working for NASA’s IceBridge operation, an ambitious mission to capture as much detail as possible of the North and South Poles in hopes of figuring out what is happening right now in these remote parts of the planet.

Unfortunately, this photo raises more questions than answers, at least for now. But even though scientists from IceBridge do not have an exact answer to what these holes are, they make assumptions. / These holes may be caused by ice melting due to the water warming under the ice, or they may be air pockets caused by whales or seals. However, for the latter variant the holes are somehow too big. 

NASA even asked its readers on the Internet for advice on what it might be. There were many assumptions, but it is not yet possible to say exactly why these holes formed.

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Planet Earth

Rich people from all over the world are buying submarines

Rich people from all over the world are buying submarines 102
Photo: uboatworx / YouTube

The wealthy around the world will spend millions of dollars on private submarines, following Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, The Times reports.

According to the publication, in the period from 2019 to 2020, it was about the sale of 15 to 25 submarines, however, this number is expected to double in 2021. According to representatives of the three leading submarine manufacturing companies, next year the market will be estimated at 75 million pounds.

Among the first buyers of deep-sea vessels were the owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich, the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen and the Emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan.

Roy Heijdra of the Dutch company U-Boat Worx noted that wealthy people increasingly want their yachts to be specially equipped for exploration, not just luxury holidays. According to him, ten vessels were sold in 2020 worth up to £ 2.2 million each. Among them was the Nemo model, which is estimated at 875 thousand pounds, has a height of 2.8 meters and can dive to a depth of more than 90 meters with two people on board.

In turn, the executive director of the Florida company Triton, Bruce Jones, said that compared with the previous year sales of submarines this year rose by almost a third, despite the pandemic coronavirus. At the moment, he has about five orders that need to be completed by the beginning of 2021.

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