Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fire and Ice: Of AO, ENSO, Polar Vortexes, Climate Change, Heating Fuel Costs and the new "Destination Climate Refuge" : Bellingham,WA

The Windstorm this time: A "Kona Low" fuels  a vigorous "Chinook" Wind into the West Coast.

The Storm had cyclonic features resulting from draft warm southern moisture that abuts a northern cold front.
The "wavier" jet stream setting up another high ridge in the West and another southward "Polar Vortex" in the heartland of America? Thanks to the UW Atmospheric Sciences and for the satellite images.

The new "wavier" jet stream (Why can't climate professionals use amplitude and frequency to explain natural phenomena to the masses?) has been bringing those of us in Bellingham increasing "Chinooks" or "pineapple express" like rain storms for some number of years now. Ironic that Kauai should decide to visit our doorsteps here in Whatcom County. But what we may not have realized is that part of the climate change that derives from ENSO (El Nino/La Nina) and AO (Arctic Oscillation) means that our West Coast is setting up a high ridge line that dives sharply southward after it shrills its way into Northern Canada. This is the meteorological phenomena that helps draft a "Polar Vortex" that freezes the heartland of the United States. For an excellent discussion of this phenomena (and other weather phenomena) please see this "The Weather Centre" blog.

The thawing Arctic plays a big part in this. The usual Arctic centered cold has become "wobbly" (Again are we really so dumbed down that we can't understand concept terms that are more systemic: "unbalanced", "destabilized", "rotating" perhaps?) . In any event, it appears that the proximate effect of climate change will hit the heartland of the United States the worst, "freeze drying" states like Texas, Indiana, Colorado, etc. with high heat and fires in the summer and polar freezes in the winter. The economic effects of such continued "fire and ice" could result in a dramatic population shift to previously considered less habitable coastal climes like, say Bellingham, WA or Bangor, Maine. I talked briefly with a fellow hiker on the trail to Fragrance Lake last week. He described to me record amounts of 100 degree + plus days in 'hill country" Texas and what it was like to be caught in a "Texas Pine" forest during a raging wildfire. His story telling made ten months of rain we get in Bellingham sound downright pleasant to be honest. I expect we will see "climate change" migration in the next ten years. The Canadians will come here for our "retail selection". The Texans will come here because they are tired of burning up. But most of the heavily populated East Coast will be a different story.

Unlike the still lightly inhabited Pacific Northwest, large East Coast cities have significant electrical and heating fuel prices. I can't imagine that wood stove burning is much of an option for Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, etc. The mayors of these cities should subsidize the deployment of heat pump technology to their residents. Heat pump technology combats both global warming and poverty. Many think that fracked gas will solve this problem, but Arctic Oscillations will create supply shortages of natural or fracked gas and heating oil; defying gas and oil users the heat that sub-zero or hybrid heat-pumps would not. I read terrible stories about heating oil and gas users spending $300 - $500 a month to heat their homes in the winter. I haven't paid over $90 for natural gas (January) since we put in our Carrier hybrid heat pump and Renai tankless water heater nearly nine years ago no matter how savage the latest Chinook or Nor'Easter hits Bellingham, WA.

Climate change will rework the economic future of the United States.  It is doubtful that such a reworking will bring positive results in the near future; but it might bring migration from the heartland and east coast to Bellingham, WA.  Perhaps we should make all new arrivals purchase a bike, heat pump, and solar cells. Or better yet, make them mandatory for each new home in Whatcom County.

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