Friday, November 13, 2009

Quantized Climate?

Hello all:
The current issue of Physics Today has an article by Graham Farmelo about the physicist Paul Dirac that contained an interesting quantum idea. He quotes Dirac:"The quantum jumps now form the uncalculable part of natural phenomena, to replace the initial conditions of the old mechanistic view". Farmelo then quotes another physicist Arkani-Hamed: "This is an amazing insight. Although Dirac didn't know the details of how the universe develops . .. he got the overarching concept dead right. So he was a bit like Darwin, coming up with evolution by natural selection without knowing anything about the underlying genetics".
To that I would add that 'the old mechanistic view' of weather and climate is probably adjusting to this quantum concept as we learn more from glacial ice cores about sudden changes in state of climate over the few hundreds of thousands of years. I'm thinking about those rapid warm spikes in the Northern Hemisphere near Lower Dryas time (ca. 14,000 years ago), and how our precarious civilization would (or wouldn't) adapt to such a readjustments. Even more challenging, perhaps, is the thought of how we'll adapt to climate forcing imposed by deforestation and CO2 release.


  1. We know the Hadley cells are stretching out both north and south of the Equator. Fortunately, in the geologic short term for the Southern Hemisphere, the temperatures at Antarctica are warming very slowly, especially in comparison with the rapid warming above the Arctic.

    So, what I see as the first problem to hit us is the rapid change in weather patterns over North America and Europe -- I suppose Asia will have things going on, too, but although they may loom large in our minds, North America and Europe are really quite small and very exposed to the oceans (which rule the weather).

    After many years of abundance, I don't know how we will cope with the weather whiplash that is bound to occur, causing greatly reduced crop yields. Food prices might go up much faster than anyone has ever thought about.

  2. The old "when I was kid thing" is pretty much a cliche and it's hard to really be sure of memory, particularly since I was a kid long ago. But it just really seems that weather is different here than it was then. From 1969 to 1991 I lived in Kentucky and since I've been back it seems that the seasonal patterns are out of whack. No two years seem the same.

    I don't remember flowers being in bloom in November when I was a child here - but yesterday passing through Harvard Square on the way to work, I saw a couple of guys stringing Christmas lights on bare tree branches above a bed of chrysanthemums in full bloom. Hanging baskets of ivy geraniums were still in bloom on all the lightposts. There are geraniums and roses and impatiens still in bloom in gardens here and there. Except for one garden I saw recently, a bed of roses (some actually in bud) in the Boston Public Garden, and the mums which are a fall flower and are everywhere, the flowers are fading out. It's not like high summer by any means, but still seems very odd to me to see flowers at all in November. In one or two recent years (maybe El Nino years - I should check the timestamps on my photos) there were a few roses in bloom into December; and one year dandelions and spring-flowering trees came back into bloom in January. Not the way it's supposed to be around here.

    OK, got to go to the grocery store - out into the cold, wet, windy remnants of Hurricane Ida which has come our way after, as the local news put it, becoming extratropical and then turning into a northeaster. (A northeaster is a typical type of storm around here. The storm system itself doesn't come from the northeast, it comes from the west, southwest or up the east coast from the south, but it stalls out just offshore against a high pressure system in the North Atlantic and the circulating winds hit us from the northeast. In deep winter we get our most impressive blizzards this way.) Anyway, Ida is/was a weird storm. Weird time of year, weird trajectory.