Normally weather excuses are the last refuge of a scoundrel, but unless you actually desire to be ignorant you can’t deny the remarkable weather events that are happening around the world right now.First, we can start in New York City, where we just crushed the old January record for snowfall (woo!).
Then of course there’s the drought in the rest of the country, and the extreme cold in India.
But what’s really remarkable to us this morning is this Bloomberg headline: Cyclone Bianca Intensifies off Northwest Australia, Halts Some Oil Output.
Given that much of the country has been underwater for weeks and weeks now, the fact that a new cyclone is intensifying is just jaw-dropping.
If you’re denying the impact of weather on commodities right now, you have your head in the sand.
If you haven’t read it, here’s what Jeremy Grantham said in his latest letter regarding weather and commodities:
Climate and weather are hard to separate. My recommendation is to ignore everything that is not off the charts and in the book of new records. The hottest days ever recorded were all over the place last year, with 2010 equaling 2005 as the warmest year globally on record. Russian heat and Pakistani floods, both records, were clearly related in the eyes of climatologists. Perhaps most remarkable, though, is what has been happening in Australia: after seven years of fierce drought, an area the size of Germany and France is several feet under water. This is so out of the range of experience that it has been described as “a flood of biblical proportions.” More to the investment point: Russian heat affects wheat prices and Australian floods interfere with both mining and crops. Weather-induced disappointment in crop yield seems to be becoming commonplace. This pattern of weather extremes is exactly what is predicted by the scientific establishment. Snow on Capitol Hill, although cannon fodder for some truly dopey and ill-informed Congressmen, is also perfectly compatible. Weather instability will always be the most immediately obvious side effect of global warming.
One last story, which is far from hard science, but to me at least intriguing; I support research being done by the New England Aquarium on the right whale (so called because it was just perfect for catching, killing, and turning into whale oil). We had lunch with the right whale expert one month ago – hot off the press! – and were informed of a new development. Three hundred and 50 or so right whales (out of the remaining population of some 500, down from at least hundreds of thousands), have always shown up in late summer for several weeks of feeding in the Bay of Fundy. This year, for the first time in the 30 years of the study, they were “no shows.” Calling up and down the coast, they were able to locate only 100 of them (all known by sight as individuals; none of which stayed more than a day or two anywhere). It is hoped that their food supply had simply moved to another location.
The cause for this is unknown and may take years to be very confident of, but the most likely candidate is that extra cold fresh water run-off from melting ice, mainly Greenland, had shifted currents or interfered in other ways with the location of their food. If indeed the cause were accelerated run-off, then this would be completely compatible with another long- established hypothesis: that extra cold fresh water from Greenland might cool the Gulf Stream, the great conveyor of heat to Great Britain and Northern Europe. If this were in fact the case, then London would wake up and find itself feeling a lot more like Montreal – on the same latitude – than it is used to, producing, for example, the winter there that all travellers are reading about today.
You read it here first, and conservative scientists will perhaps be writing it up in a learned journal in two or more years. It is, though, a wonderfully simple example of how a warm winter in the Northern ice might have destabilized systems, ultimately resulting in a frigid Northern Europe.
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