Study links 1,000-year Arctic storm to climate change

A study says that a howling beast of an Arctic storm that caused the worst flooding in 1,000 years backs up predictions that climate change will cause unprecedented and unpredictably violent weather.

“It’s exactly what one would predict with increased warming,” said John Smol, a Queen’s University scientist and co-author of a paper published Monday in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The full study is “Impacts of a recent storm surge on an Arctic delta ecosystem examined in the context of the last millennium” (subs. req’d).  It concludes:

What is of particular significance is that the magnitude of this recent ecological impact is unmatched over the > 1,000-year history of this lake ecosystem. We infer that no biological recovery has occurred in this lake, while large areas of terrestrial vegetation remain dramatically altered over a decade later, suggesting that these systems may be on a new ecological trajectory.

It’s an impressive piece of research that adds to the growing body of evidence that recent warming and extreme weather is both unprecedented and dangerous (see “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment“)

Here’s some background from the University’s own news story:

Scientists from Queen’s and Carleton universities head a national multidisciplinary research team that has uncovered startling new evidence of the destructive impact of global climate change on North America’s largest Arctic delta.

“One of the most ominous threats of global warming today is from rising sea levels, which can cause marine waters to inundate the land,” says the team’s co-leader, Queen’s graduate student Joshua Thienpont. “The threat is especially acute in polar regions, where shrinking sea ice increases the risk of storm surges.”

By studying growth rings from coastal shrubs and lake sediments in the Mackenzie Delta region of the Northwest Territories – the scene of a widespread and ecologically destructive storm surge in 1999 – the researchers have discovered that the impact of these salt-water surges is unprecedented in the 1,000-year history of the lake.

This had been predicted by all the models and now we have empirical evidence,” says team co-leader Michael Pisaric, a geography professor at Carleton. The Inuvialuit, who live in the northwest Arctic, identified that a major surge had occurred in 1999, and assisted with field work.

The researchers studied the impact of salt water flooding on alder bushes along the coastline. More than half of the shrubs sampled were dead within a year of the 1999 surge, while an additional 37 per cent died within five years. A decade after the flood, the soils still contained high concentrations of salt. In addition, sediment core profiles from inland lakes revealed dramatic changes in the aquatic life – with a striking shift from fresh to salt-water species following the storm surge.

Our findings show this is ecologically unprecedented over the last millennium,” says Queen’s biology professor and team member John Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and winner of the 2004 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal as Canada’s top scientist. “The Arctic is on the front line of climate change. It’s a bellwether of things to come: what affects the Arctic eventually will affect us all.”

Of course, we’re already seeing many more 100-year, 500-year, and 1000-year storms here in the United States and around the globe


11 Responses to Study links 1,000-year Arctic storm to climate change

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    The deniers have been effective in jumping on any news organization that connects extreme weather to climate change. Since this is a key area for the public to observe what is going on, there needs to be some pushback here.

    It’s an odd situation- of course absolute “proof” is not obtainable, since it’s a matter of probabilities. A concerted effort by NAS o a similar organization to communicate this evidence should be undertaken.

  2. Solar Jim says:

    All of these escalating disasters up to now appear to be on a horizontal slope of an exponentially increasing curve. Life as we know it will be barely possible when we move during the coming decades to the vertical contamination/response section. Mother Nature is “only warming up.”

    Meanwhile, the president has his climate change machine, a 747 and attendant support jets, sending out hundreds of tons of carbonic acid gas thereby exacerbating climate catastrophe. Maybe he should try a boat. Hey, but he planted one tree. Do you think “he gets it?”

    So long Joplin, do we live in misery or Missouri, or on the Mississippi. The high flyin’ pres sends his condolences. It’s a form letter for monthly use, soon to be weekly.

    Siberian forest fires are raging while the Amazon dries further in preparation. A trillion tons of ice per year are melting off of land known as ice caps. The fossil pushers demand “don’t touch those taxpayer subsidies.” We are in complete control of your TV, or rather, your military-fossil-fissile government.

    Did the apocalypse happen this weekend, or are we living in a slow motion one now? I can feel the rapture coming. It is actually an historic drop in barometric pressure, or maybe an earthquake/volcano/tsunami/shake-a-bake released by polar icecap meltdown.

    Hey, petroleum/coal is not a geologic, carbon-sequestering, mined material, it’s an “energy resource” right? Ask Orwell.

  3. sydb says:

    I traveled to this region in 2002, visiting Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk. It was obvious how vulnerable the environment was, wth one of the guides showing us where the permafrost had been melted. “It won’t come back till the next ice age,” he told us. The slow-growing vegetation was easily damaged while the low pingoes took hundreds or thousands of years to rise a few feet. Yet oil and gas exploration was the new business in the Beaufort Sea.

    At Tuktoyaktuk people had a smoke house for fish and there was, and I assume still is, a communal frezing room dug into the permafrost. As long as it was looked after, it supplied free food preservation.

    People have their dogs, which we were warned not to approach. They only took what they needed, a few bowhead whales, seals, walrus, fish and caribou. I tasted the local foods. The frugal lifestyle has been stable for a thousand years or more and the Inuvialiut people certainly understand how vulnerable they are. But one big oil CEO’s yearly bonus check could probably buy all they had and those bonuses will surely help destroy their world. Seeing this report, is a reminder that their days are numbered, but many of us will surely follow soon afterwards into the abyss of climate destabilization.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Speaking of 1,000 year events.

    The last 3 days in the neighborhood of Walmart’s HQ. , has been that and more. The water machine in the Ohio in April , has jumped the river. Picher, Oklahoma was showing 10 inches of rain in less than 5 hours today. The system yesterday put down 8.4 inches in 24 hrs. at Iola, Kansas. The day before that , it rained 4.53 inches at Nimrod Dam Ark. that was one of 8 stations in Ark. that recorded new daily records with 4 or more inches. There were 16 stations in Northern Ark. that got 3 or more inches. 19 that got 2 or more inches. This is all at the top of the Ozark water shed, and is a hell of a lot of water.
    Today’s numbers Southwest of Joplin will be mind boggling. ‘

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    That new record 8.4 inches at Iola, Kansas is an All-Time Record , a 96 year-old record of 6.8 inches set in 1915.

    This is Australian type rainfall.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    By the way , 99F degrees at Wichita Falls yesterday . 99F degrees next Fri, & Sat. at Lubbock. The High Plains cotton crop is being written of as I type.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    The top of the Western watershed of the Miss…..

    KTVQ Billings News – ‎5 hours ago‎
    BILLINGS – The flooding is causing major travel issues through many parts of southeastern Montana. In fact, on the Crow Indian Reservation, a large portion of Interstate-90 is closed to all through traffic.
    1 dead, 1 missing in Mont. flooding KGWN
    Wet and Wild: Snowmelt Contributing to Heavy Spring Runoff Snowshoe Magazine
    “For the third consecutive year, the stage is set for potential widespread, record flooding in the North Central United States,” said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, in a statement last week. “All the ingredients are in place for major flooding so this situation should be taken very seriously.”

  8. prokaryotes says:

    JOPLIN, Mo. — The death toll from Sunday’s tornado climbed to 116 on Monday as first responders continued to pull bodies from a debris field that was three-quarters of a mile wide and six miles long.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Deadliest U.S. tornado since 1953 rips through Joplin, Missouri, killing 89

    The incredibly violent tornado season of 2011 struck another sickening blow last night, when a violent tornado carved a ½ – ¾ mile-wide path of devastation through Joplin, Missouri. At least 89 people died, hundreds were injured, and huge sections of the town virtually obliterated. Damage from the tornado is so severe that pavement was ripped from the ground, which is characteristic of a top-end EF-5 tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph. This was almost certainly a least an EF-4 tornado with winds over 166 mph, and the level of damage is so extreme that this is likely to surpass last month’s Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado as the costliest tornado of all-time.

    I predict they have to modify the scale to include above E-5 tornados. Welcome to the new normals.

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Songda headed for NE Japan as CAT 4

    no comment

  11. madcity smitty says:

    solar jim at #2. Great bumper sticker. “Mother nature is only warming up.”