June 2024—Climate Corner

—By Fraser Perkins

Last spring something occurred that didn’t get much press coverage:  ocean surface temperatures surged.  Though oceans have heated up by an average 0.14° F per decade since the 1960s, last spring marked a tipping point.  We are now in uncharted waters.

Water absorbs more heat than the equivalent volume of air, about four times as much.  This profoundly modulates our weather – summers are cooler and winters warmer because of the oceans’ ability to absorb heat in the summer and release it during winter months.  There are at least four consequences of the spike in ocean warming – all threatening.

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are bleaching and dying worldwide.  Corals are marine invertebrates which host algae in beautiful symbiosis – corals provide a protective environment for algae, while algae both provide food for corals and create the rainbow of coral colorations.  Raise or lower the water temperature and algae flee, leaving the coral “bleached”, followed quickly by coral death.  Coral sits at the bottom of the maritime food chain which provides fish for us all.


Rising water temperatures accelerate the transfer of energy from water to air, resulting in more category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes.   Ocean temperatures also accelerate the speed of hurricane development – a category 1 hurricane may rapidly evolve into a major hurricane.  Floridians have seen this play out as they pay increased insurance costs.  Paging Governor DeSantis…no sorry, Florida banned the term “Climate Change” from most state documents.  Therefore, of course, Climate Change must not exist.


AMOC?  Yes, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.  Note to self, when naming existential threats to humanity listen to scientists, but at all costs keep the naming away from them!  AMOC refers to the loop of water which travels across the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa, courses up the east coast of the USA as the Gulf Stream, drifts across the North Atlantic as the…wait for it, the North Atlantic Drift, and returns south to the west coast of Africa.  It’s the reason Scotland and Scandinavia are livable while the west coast of Greenland isn’t.  Increasing evidence suggests AMOC is weakening with unknown consequences for Europe.  A complicating factor is that as Greenland ice melts, meltwater drops into the Davis Straight between Greenland and Canada, heads south, and smacks into the North Atlantic Drift causing slowing.

Positive Feedback Loop

Ice reflects the sun’s rays while seawater doesn’t.  The term for this is albedo – which refers to the fraction of light that a surface reflects.  Seawater reflects less than 10% while sea ice reflects 50% – 80% of sunlight.  As oceans warm, dark sea water replaces sea ice, absorbing more energy, resulting in faster global warming.  It’s a classic positive feedback loop, like pouring gasoline on a fire.  Because water holds more heat than air, once ocean warming begins, it’s very difficult to slow and reverse.

Insanity is repeating something endlessly hoping for a better result.  Republicans have doubled down on fossil fuels for decades.  Democrats must hold them accountable.  Republicans ask all of us to pour gasoline on the fire of Climate Change; Democrats know better.  If Donald Trump and Republicans insist on lemming-like behavior, it’s up to Democrats to show leadership in mitigating the Climate Crisis.  

In the picture below, I used the word “politicians”, but a more accurate description is Republican politicians (note the red color).

Republicans follow a tiresome path when dealing with climate.

Climate Change (CC) is a hoax.

Ok, it’s not a hoax, but who knows what really causes it.

Ok, maybe it’s real.

Ok it’s real, but it’s not caused by people.

Ok it’s caused by people, but it will cost too much to fix (what’s the alternative?)

Ok, you (China, Europe, anyone else) go first.

Ok, I don’t care.

Ok, I’ll be dead when it becomes a problem, so I really don’t care.

Wait, wait!  My kids (Donny Jr., Eric, Ivanka, Tiffany, and Barron) will suffer, so quick let’s do something bold like spewing sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, you know a little bit of that geoengineering thing…and I will look strong, always número uno in my book.

Note – this picture is Climate Change v DC, part of a series of more than 50 pictures showing how Climate Change (CC) will impact each state.  

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