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General · 17th May 2014
Barry Saxifrage
How bad is it? Take a look at the satellite images that rattled even the White House…

(NOTE: This article originally published May 6, 2014 on the

“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking at it with sticks” - - paleoclimatologist Dr. Wallace Broecker

The unsettling story of how global warming helped fuel two record-breaking multi-billion dollar weather disasters thousands of kilometers apart this winter highlights just how unpredictable and dangerous our CO2 turbo-charged climate system is becoming.

Western misery - - California's record drought

On the west coast, California is suffering its worst winter drought ever recorded. The failure of the rainy season left critical snowpack levels at just 30% of normal. And half of that meagre amount melted in a single week in mid-April. Take a look at the satellite images below of the California and Nevada snowpack this year vs last year.

As the Washington Post reports, the climate threat revealed by these images wasn't lost on the American President:

The satellite images viewed by President Obama before a meeting with eight Western governors were stark, showing how snowpack in California’s mountains had shrunk by 86 percent in a single year.

“It was a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ moment,” recalled White House counselor John D. Podesta, one of two aides who briefed the president that February day. Obama mentioned the images several times as he warned the governors that political leaders had no choice but to cope with global warming’s impact.

In California, extreme water rationing is being imposed on one of the world's most important food producing regions. Food prices are rising. Damage estimates exceed $7 billion ... so far. Large parts of the state broke records for the hottest January thru March in over a century of record keeping. And the emerging wildfire season threatens to be especially brutal even by California standards.

Eastern misery - - Polar Vortex winter

As California suffered record-heat and record-drought, to the east a series of frigid "polar vortex" storms hurtled down from the Arctic bringing months of snow and bitter cold to hundreds of millions of people. The Great Lakes region suffered their coldest winter on record. Ice cover on the Great Lakes broke records for March. Damage estimates top $3 billion.

Record extreme jet stream drove both

Meteorologists watched as a "remarkably extreme jet stream pattern" got stuck for months over North America driving both the record California drought and the parade of "polar vortex" storms to the east.

Now a new study in Geophysical Research Letters shows that global warming helped push this jet steam pattern to be the most extreme on record. Even more troubling, the occurrence of this highly-distorted jet stream pattern has been intensifying in recent decades and is expected to get even more extreme as the climate warms. This freak show of epic drought in the west paired with polar storms in the east is likely to become more common and more ferocious in step with our rising CO2 emissions.

Below is this year's story - - in three acts - - of how our fossil-fuelled global warming has helped fuel this double-trouble weather disaster....

Click here to continue reading the full article at the Vancouver Observer