Humans are funny. As a certain segment of the population obsesses over how expensive it is to fill up the family Escalade, climate shock marches on.  Yet most of the stories below barely make the news and if they do, hardly register. Will snapshots from a global perspective move a few people? Here’s what’s happening now around the planet.

MAY

OUTER BANKS VACATION PROPERTIES CRASH INTO THE SEA

It’s bad enough when Cajuns, indigenous tribes and a south sea islanders find their homes and lives submerged under rising seas, but when it starts happening to rich Americans you know things are starting to get serious. That’s what’s happening in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX), as vacation homes suddenly disappear into the Atlantic, leaving owners with complicated emotions, none of them good.

“There is nothing left of our house,. We don’t know where it’s gone. But it’s just completely gone.” – former property owner, Trade Winds Beaches, NC after February 202 storm. 

North Carolina’s narrow barrier island vacation land has been under ongoing threat from sea level rise for decades, with seas rising approx. one inch every five years. The fact that the islands are prone to massive and sometimes sudden erosion is not news. This has been going on for millennia. What is “news” is that global warming is driving ocean encroachment at unprecedented rates, too quickly for sporadic (taxpayer funded) human efforts at containment to have much effect.
According to officials in NC (at one point the term climate change was banned by law for public agencies – because… Republicans), some beaches are slipping away at a rate of 14 feet  / year).
Simultaneous, coastal storms are ever more frequent and intense. Highway infrastructure is under constant barrage, with key roads buried under several feet of sand on a regular basis. Roads can be elevated, but that’s ultimately a losing game. Some communities are pursuing “beach nourishment” another one of the euphemistic terms (like climate change or natural gas) that doesn’t fully capture the process. Beach nourishment means pumping sand from somewhere else and hoping it stays there for awhile. But in the face of rapid sea level rise, odds are that it will not.
It’s not like the developers and homeowners weren’t warned. But as it the case in Miami Beach, New Jersey and coastal areas around the world. they just keep building. But even greed and foolishness have their limits. As they say: Mother Nature bats last.

 

BRAZIL RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION RAMPS UP TO NEW LEVELS

As the far right Brazilian administration accelerates the plundering of indigenous lands, Brazil’s own space agency satellites have documented a new level of forest clearing in the most remote areas of the rainforest. Many scientists now believe the critical forest carbon sink has crossed the final tipping point in terms of climate effects. The area cleared almost doubled from 579 square kilometers in April 2021 to 1012 square kilometers last month. These losses are an anomaly is that they are well  ahead of the months when most deforestation usually occurs. Usually,, the rainforest is still in the rainy season during April and fewer fires are usually lit to clear land for cattle ranching and other agriculture. 

When forests and grasslands burn, one of the most powerful climate feedback loops is triggered.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Hit By Sixth Mass Bleaching Event

Mostly hidden beneath the waves of the rapidly warming Southern Ocean, one of the planet’s most iconic natural wonders is dying…or should be say it’s being murdered? The ongoing climate emergency has now caused coral bleaching in 91% of reefs surveyed in 2022. Authorities report this was the reef’s sixth mass bleaching event and the fourth since 2016. Bleaching doesn’t sound so bad, but what it means is that the millions animals that make up the reef are so stressed by the warming waters that they turn white and die en mass. Sadly, this is happening in most coral reefs around the planet.

This event is all the more alarming because it is the first that has taken place during a La Nina cycle, normally characterized by cooler waters. 

Texas July heat wave in May as Temps Top 112°F

New records fell in Texas and parts of Colorado as wildfires continue to consume forests in New Mexico and Arizona. The “abnormal” temperatures are moving North and East and will consume much of the country’s mid-section in mid-May.

“This was predicted long ago, It’s the tip of the iceberg. We’re going to see the impacts get a lot worse.” – Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M University

 

Arizona Wildfires Torch Neighborhoods In Cocina County As Emergency is Declared

Fire season in parts of the American West now shows every sign of becoming a year round disaster as high winds drive flames through drought dried forests and neighborhoods. Hundreds have been evacuated. Fires are raging in New Mexico and Colorado.

“I’m not ready for this. Not this early!” Flagstaff resident watching her neighborhood burn.

New American Climate Refugees As Waters Close In On Louisiana Communities:

Only 15 miles south of New Orleans, the waters around Grand Island, Barataria,  Crown Pointe, and Jean Lafitte are continuing to rise, threatening long time residents of the bayou area.  The bayous are disappearing overnight, the ultimate result of 40 years of rapid rise of the waters of the Gulf. State officials estimated that 106 square miles of land were permanently lost to Hurricane Ida, and every new megastorm takes another chunk. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about a football field worth of wetland disappears every two hours.  

South Africa: Over 400 dead in “unprecedented” flooding:

Horrendous rains have brought lethal flooding and landslides that have displaced thousands the Durban, South Africa region. The humanitarian disaster, as always, is magnified by malfeasance on the part of the powers what is. More than a decade ago, poor families were relocated away from a new soccer stadium and dumped in a flood prone area, where they remain. Damages are currently estimated at $684 million and rising. The death toll will climb. 

NOAA Report indicates methane feedback cycle may be irreversible

Methane levels in the atmosphere of Earth set a new record in 2021, and the rate of increase was also historical. Concentrations have been growing rapidly for well over a decade. CH4 is 25 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Permafrost thaw is spewing previously trapped volumes into the atmosphere, as well as hundreds of thousands of gas wells around the planet. The effect is to accelerate global heating at ever increasing rates. More on feedback cycles (feedback loops). The report claims that atmospheric levels of methane reached record levels in 2021.

Idaho faces another year of critical water shortages

As the ongoing drought continues into spring of 2022, Idaho’s mountain snowpack is far below normal, with state reservoirs about two thirds full. Unless conditions change, the agricultural sector will be hit hard later in the growing season. Farmers have already been told to expect about a third of their usual allotment.  

“A lot of crops are going to have to just dry up and not get irrigated.”

Gulf Stream / AMOC continues to slow as trillions of gallons of fresh water pour into the Northern Ocean. 

The Gulf Stream carries warmer waters north, where they serve to moderate the climate of northern Europe. Look at the latitude of Western Europe and you will see how far north the nations that invaded North America are located compared to the US east coast. The global ocean current is driven by salinity changes in the northern sea, which causes surface waters to change density and sink (that’s basically how it works). When this mechanical process is disrupted, weather becomes unpredictable and extreme, extended events more common.

AUSTRALIA: The reality of calamitous sea level rise smashes into Sidney as boats are torn away from their moorings around the harbor by unprecedented tidal onslaughts. 

Bondi and Clovelly beaches seemed to be gone as shoreline clubs and hotels took a pounding from huge wind driven swells. The second major cleanup follows a major flooding event only three weeks ago. Winds in excess of 50 MPH drove the flood waters. It’s all part of Australia’s New Normal (see our video). 

MARCH:

ANOTHER ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF COLLAPSES The insane record breaking temperatures around the South Pole have apparently finished off the Conger Ice Shelf in East Antarctica. The event, which was a surprise to scientists, was triggered by temperatures that were recorded at 70 above normal. The shelf broke off from the continent in mid-March. Until recently, Attention has been on the failing shelves in the West Antarctic peninsula, which is warmer. While the Conger is not in the same league as Prince Gustav, Larsen A , Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelf, it is another significant event in the process. The Antarctic land mass contains enough frozen fresh water to raise sea levels several feet.

Coastal Ice shelves, which are also referenced as Antarctica’s safety band, are hybrid formations critical to slowing the migration of the interior land masses into the sea. They are now understood to be melting from below as warming ocean waters disintegrate the bases.

NEW HEAT WAVE ON THE WEST COAST: Records for all time high temperatures crashed on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 22-23) up and down the California coast. The temporary respite provided by late winter storms will not be enough to forestall the intensifying water emergency.

GREAT BARRIER REEF MASS BLEACHING EVENT: Another widespread die-off at the World Heritage site off the northern coast of Australia marks the sixth such catastrophe since 1998. This ongoing environmental disaster is driven by warming oceans and pollution. The most recent aerial survey shows almost no reefs across a 1,200km stretch unaffected by the elevated water temperatures. 

The right wing Australian government has approved the world’s largest coal mine and a massive new port to support exports on the coast near the reef. Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of coal. Dead corals are being recorded in aerial surveys across the Great Barrier Reef in what the marine park’s chief scientist says is a widespread and serious bleaching event on the world heritage icon. See Australia’s New Normal video. 

Drought in the West and Great Plains continues to worsen, and there is no reason not to conclude we are in for a long bumpy ride as the megadrought expands. In late March, 19000 residents were evacuated near Boulder CO as a new wildfire breakout scorched 200 acres.

An air tanker drops slurry on the NCAR Fire on March 26, 2022 in Boulder, Colorado. The wildfire, which has forced almost 20,000 people to evacuate their homes, started just a few miles away from where the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in December, 2021.

Wildfire Outbreak Prompt Evacuations in Three Texas Counties: The “Eastland Fire” combined with hundreds of other outbreaks to burn 170 sq. mi. in the center of the state.  One man is dead, hundreds of people were evacuated and 50 homes destroyed. Rains slowed the spread but the fires are far from contained on March 22 The storms left Texas and moved in Louisiana where they spawned at least two tornadoes and wrecked and unknown number of buildings.

Bomb Cyclone In the Arctic brings temperatures 50F higher than normal. The increase in rain at higher altitudes is expected to speed the already high rate of ice melt. NASA reports that Arctic sea ice is thinning at “a frightening rate” with the total being 16% over the past three years.

 

Freakishly High Temperatures At Both Poles

Arctic + 70°F over normal temperatures | Antarctic 50°F over normal temperatures

 

It is late winter in the Arctic but temperatures are nearly at the freezing mark, about 70°F above the normal average at some measurement stations. Some near North Pole stations reported the beginning of melt, far earlier in the season than normal.

On the other end of the planet, temperature records are being set on these last days of Summer. On Friday March 18, the Concordia weather (at two miles altitude) reported 10F and the Vostok station hit 0, a new all-time record by 27 degrees. Terra Nova base was at a balmy 44.6°F. As opposed to the West Antarctic Peninsula, these temps are happening on the vast frozen Eastern Antarctica land mass, the coldest place on Earth.

At the same time, Antarctic sea ice extent is at an all time record low since measurement began in 1979. 

Full story here.

BRAZIL FOREST ECOCIDE: The far right Brazilian administration has accelerated the plundering of indigenous lands with new legislation allowing increased mining in the Amazon. Not that this is anything the white folks of the North American European invasions didn’t do, but the stakes are even higher now. What environmental regulations remain are essentially gone. The critical rain forest has been under increasing assault by the looney toons Bolsonaro regime, and many scientists now believe the critical forest has cross the final tipping point in terms of climate effects.

A most recent report in the Guardian says that the Amazon has already flipped to a net carbon emitter as opposed to a sink. When forests are cleared, another climate feedback cycle (otherwise known as a positive feedback loop) is triggered. 

Forest fires release massive quantities of CO₂ into the atmosphere, trapping heat, causing temperatures to rise, producing more drought, further compromising the health of forests , causing more fires and deforestation. Repeat. 

Australia floods

“Waves of Water Just Coming Down”

Australia’s new normal crashed the New Year with a rain bomb in the northeast, followed by cataclysmic flooding that has killed dozens and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands. Another 500,000 were under warning in New South Wales.

This disaster is the worst since 2011, which was described as “once in a thousand year flooding.” But clearly that description is wishful thinking.

For perspective, Shane Stone, the coordinator general of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency told the Sydney Morning Herald that “the taxpayer and the ratepayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for these huge, catastrophic damage events”. Stone is a buddy of Scott Morrison, and offers a pithy perspective from a right winger who is supposed to be helping them. Although, in a sick way he is correct.

See our video Australia’s New Normal.

Argentina Wildfires

After a scorching heatwave, Argentina is suffering another round  of raging wildfires that torched forests and farms across its northern region. Eight separate fire zones in Argentina’s Corrientes province have devastated 2 million acre so far.

Authorities estimate early losses at a quarter billion dollars and the counting has not yet begun in earnest. Argentina has already limited exports of beef this year because of the rain shortfall.

The region has been experiencing record heat this year, baking in unprecedented temperatures up to 113°F.

Kenya: Water Shortages, Dead Livestock and Ruined Harvests as Desertification Moves In

“People are still dying by the day.”

Kenya and the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Somalia) are in the third year of failed rainy seasons as the desert takes back the land. 5.5 million children in the region are threatened by acute malnutrition and an estimated 1.4 million by severe acute malnutrition. Millions of head of livestock have died of malnutrition and in Kenya, 62 elephants have starved to death.

And the people are using their flagging strength to fight over resources. The other bookend to climate migration is climate conflict. This is especially true in semi-nomadic pastoral economies as people and animals compete for dwindling water supplies. The results do not generate excellent TV news footage in the way that major wars and missile strikes do. But the results are the same.

Forecasts indicate that below average rainfall will continue into the foreseeable future.

“We are most definitely now sitting on the brink of catastrophe. “We saw animals dying together with their farmers, and the numbers I think are quite shocking.”

– Rein Paulsen

Food and Agriculture Organization Director of Emergencies and Resilience

Things Not Great At Great Salt Lake As Toxic Dust Events Loom

The inland sea that forms the iconic core of Utah’s Latter Day culture is in danger of disappearing as it reaches the lowest level since the Mormons arrived. About half of the original lakebed area is now dry land  In the process, thousands of square miles of dry lake bed is exposed, laying open vast expanses of toxic dust. The dust poses problems for human health but also for threatens natural systems in the area and mountain snowpack. 

 

As is the case with most climate related scenarios, the rapid decline of lake levels is caused by a combination of squabbling stakeholders, diversions and global warming driven drought. 

The ongoing disaster also creates another feedback loop, similar to the sea ice albedo scenario at the poles. It works like this:

“The dust darkens the snow surface and causes it to melt earlier.”

As the lake surface area decrease, it has less and less impact on critical lake effect winter storms. Fewer storms means less total moisture in the region, increasingly drier conditions; which in turn nurtures the ongoing drought.

Polar Ice At Both Poles Is Now Melting From Below

Sea levels continue to rise and when you read this summary it’s not hard to understand why. The trillions of tons of ice on Greenland and Antarctica are being dissolved from beneath the ice mass. One process is obvious, the other not so much, but equally alarming. Link here for this reporting.

Syrians Suffer Ongoing Famine As Drought Enters Its Third Decade.

The root cause of the so called civil war in Syria was an unrelenting drought that brought farmers to their knees. The uprising began when al-Assad’s government refused to offer aid.

Ten years later, the historic drought moves into its third decade and is reported to be the worst in the Middle East for at least 1,000 years.  Conditions have worsened in the past two years, exacerbated by war and poverty. Herds have been culled and crops are generally devastated.

The iconic Khabur river is at record lows, with irrigation for starving farmers limited. The depredations of a brutal Turkish government upstream have contributed to the disaster.

Winter Rains Were Not Enough As Record Heat Returns to California

 

The west coast had record heat combined with light-to-zero precipitation in early 2022, wiping out the modest gains from freak storms late last year. The temperatures averaged 15 to 25°F over normal. San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno and LA, along with some of the Sierra Nevada all recorded their driest January-February period on record.

Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is at only 37 percent of its capacity. February ended with the news that water districts that supply Central Valley farms will allot no water from the Central Valley Project, further distressing critical agricultural areas.  The net result will be continued tapping into aquifers that are already being sucked dry.

Two decades ago, the critical Colorado River reservoir Lake Powell was full. Today it’s about 25% full. Once boat marina remains open.

The American West is in an extended megadrought, and it’s not the only region under water duress. This is what has been predicted and what is happening on the ground.