Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End of the World as We Know It

May 21, 2011 is here and the end of the world is coming, at 6 PM to be precise, according to California preacher Harold Camping. 

I suspect the day will go by without incident, other than some complaints about the flexible hours at Snowbird today.  According to their mountain report:

"[Snowbird] will open at 8am today. There will be limited terrain accessed by Peruvian Express, Mineral Basin and Little Cloud. The skiing and riding is recommended for experts only. It is possible the mountain will close at noon, if conditions permit we will remain open until between 1:30pm-2:00pm. Lift tickets today will be $50."

Preacher Camping and other end-of-the-world types like to pick a day that the world will end,  but that "day" won't come until a few billion years in the future when the sun exhausts it's nuclear fuel and expands into a red giant.  Oh what a party that will be!

Micheal Stipe of REM, however, sings about something altogether different, the end of the world as we know it.  That's a very clever addition as the end of the world as we know it doesn't have to involve a cataclysmic event that results in the end of humankind.  

In fact, the end of the world as we know it could be happening right before our eyes.  Here I'm defining, as we know it to mean since the emergence of human civilization several thousand years ago.

Ice core records suggest a period of remarkable and rapid warming occurred about 12,000 years ago at the end of the Younger Dryas, a period of cold, dry climate that lasted about 1200 years.  Since that time, our species has experienced a relatively warm and stable climate.

Source: NOAA, NRC
But the climate is shifting and recent warming is very likely due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activity.  This warming is, to quote the IPCC, unequivocal, and evident throughout the climate system.

We're not talking about the end of the world, but are we seeing the early stages of a climate shift that will change the world as we know it?

I guess we'll find out.  

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jim, I was wondering if you could throw a vertical profile of the Joplin, MO tornado from IDV?