Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Amy Gehrt: A disappointing summer doesn’t undo a warming trend

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  • Summer may not officially end until Sept. 22, but for most of us, the passage of Labor Day heralds the end of the season.
    As someone whose love of bright sunshine and warm temperatures verges on addiction, itís always a day I dread. But this year, I know Iím not the only one who feels cheated by the all-too-brief respite from Mother Natureís increasingly cold, capricious clutches.
    Much of the nation experienced one of the coolest, wettest summers on record ó save for parts of the West, where residents had one of the hottest summers yet, according to meteorologists at the Weather Channel.
    That would be depressing enough on its own but, following one of the worst winters on record, it seems even more unfair. Clinging to visions of sun, fun and scorching temperatures got many of us through the brutal cold and extreme snowfall, and to have the sun set on summer without fully realizing those dreams makes the knowledge of the coming change of season far harder to swallow.
    Itís also prompted climate change skeptics to come crawling out of the woodwork once again, crowing about how the unusually cool temps of 2014 surely disprove global warming.
    What they fail to realize, though, is that the U.S. is only one small piece of the world ó not the center of the universe ó and, as a whole, 2013 was the hottest year on record worldwide ... and 2014 just may top that before the calendar rolls into 2015.
    However, even if that happens, it likely wonít translate into a warmer winter for most of us. In fact, it just may bring another polar vortex into our sphere, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that sought to investigate the origin of those blasts of icy air that drove many of us to the brink last winter.
    The research, conducted by a team of scientists in the U.S. and South Korea, points to a correlation between melting sheets of sea ice, the warming of the ocean and outbreaks of intense cold. And, the study warns, that could mean polar vortices may become increasingly commonplace for parts of North America, Europe and Asia as the earth ó and the Barents and Kara seas north of Russia in particular ó keep getting warmer. Thatís because the rising heat can weaken the jet stream, allowing the Arctic air that is normally trapped in place to travel south.
    Study co-author Seong-Joong Kim, a climate scientist at the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), told Slate writer Eric Holthaus, who is also a meteorologist, that he believes itís ďa side effect of global warming.Ē
    And, he notes, ďThis sea ice loss is related to anthropogenic effects.Ē
    The researchers based their conclusions on a comparison of historical records and computer simulations they conducted. Lead author Baek-Min Kim, a research scientist at KOPRI, told The Associated Press via email that both methods showed a strong link between melting sheets of ice and the deep freezes that migrate into traditionally warmer climates. And, Baek-Min Kim agrees, mankind is to blame for much of the melting because, by burning fossil fuels, weíre releasing greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
    Page 2 of 2 - However, unlike with climate change, where 97 percent of scientists are in agreement, the correlation between rising temperatures in the Arctic and extreme weather events elsewhere is not as widely accepted among climatologists, and some scientists say the Pacific is more likely than the Arctic to impact polar vortices.
    Either way, it seems pretty clear climate change is the root of the polar vortex problem and, like any gardener knows, the longer a weed is allowed to grow the harder it will be to eradicate it.
    So even if you donít care that the melting ice in the Arctic is threatening the very existence of polar bears, or that the rising temperatures and drier weather in the African savannah is putting the cheetahs at risk, if you lived somewhere that plunged into the polar vortex last winter Iím betting you arenít anxious to repeat that experience over and over.
    The time to act is now. We only have one earth, and if we donít all work together to turn back the tide the next superstorm could wipe us all out of existence.
    Amy Gehrt is the city editor of the Pekin (Illinois) Daily Times. She may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com, or on Twitter @AmyGehrt. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Pekin Daily Times or this publication.
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