Ice cap more mainstream:
I should not wish to go on record as calling the National Geographic alarmist.  I suppose such a statement invites a dirisive snort and some remark of the sort, “This from a man who screams about the extinction of humanity as if he were competing for the prize as the world’s all time greatest extremist.”  Well, alarmed, yes I am.  And if I have spent enough of my life trying to get my subject – lack of marrying cousins is sending the developed world on the track to demographic collapse – entertained by the public and the scientific community, so that if the proper minds come to bear and the conclusion is, “Not in the slightest.  You are wrong here, and here, and we will simply go into genteel decline for centuries, maybe millennia, and some day if we choose reverse it all,” I shall probably feel like a jolly fool.  But I will be a most happy, jolly fool.  I’d rather be wrong.  Besides, it’s not so much extinction as the collapse of civilization, which has happened on any number of occasions.  A global civilization must incur a global collapse, but there might well be a few pockets here and there that survive. 

And the National Geographic has always seemed sober, if enthusiastic, so I mean no criticism.  In a recent issue they announce that:
China and East Asia generally are getting rich.
They are buying cars, which need tires, which need rubber.
Massive rubber plantations have appeared in that part of the world.
Such plantations are vulnerable to a South American rubber virus.
A single spore of that virus arriving at the wrong place could bring an end to the automobile revolution.

On closer reading, it turns out that there are strains of rubber tree that are resistant, but they have not been widely developed nor used.  So that end of the automobile revolution will probably be temporary.  All of which I consider good for the magazine; if they see a problem they do not hesitate to speak.

I was recently storm bound in Chicago, while a great storm swept across North America in an arc that pretty much left us untroubled in the city itself.  On the way home to Florida I noticed that we arrived more than an hour ahead of schedule.  The only way I could account for that would be that we were getting a mighty boost from a jet stream. The North Pole is, currently, cold.  Hot air rises; cold sinks.  The sinking air draws more air at altitude behind it.  Since the eastward speed of the surface decreases as you approach the pole, there is high speed air continuing eastward relative to the surface.  Oh, it’s not so simple.  The whole system is quite complex, but the energy source is the difference between the cold pole and the temperature elsewhere on the earth’s surface.   And that stream, as we rode it, had to be going more south than east.  It always meanders, but that was ridiculous. 

I have for years said that when the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean is gone, things will be very different.  It will be hot air rising at the pole so the jet stream will be minimal and go the other direction.  So I now see (Andy Isaacson, “Into Thin Ice” National Geographic vol. 229 no. 1 January 2016 page 99) that the thinning arctic ice has gone mainstream with a nice article fit for the mass market.  There’s not much I did not know.  Snow covered ice reflects 85% of sunlight and open water 7%.  That’s close enough to my own guess of 90% and 10%. 

They say by mid century the arctic will be ice free.  The moment it becomes so is not my primary interest.  I wonder when the edge will reach the North Pole.  By then the insolation of the Arctic Ocean will be the greatest of anywhere on earth and, since other latitudes generally have significant stretches of land, more reflective than water, the energy absorbed at the pole will be the greatest on earth.  That energy will want to go south toward the South Pole.  The article mentions “extreme weather,” but nothing like the entire northern hemisphere and the southern tropics all entrained into a single thunderstorm. 

When the pole is ice free and nothing like that has happened, I shall breath a sigh of relief.  But neither science nor the magazine sees it coming.  Alas, when I first saw the article I thought that at least this was one thing off my desk. 

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