Godzilla Dust Storm of 2020 From Low Sea Ice; Abrupt Climate Change Disrupting Food Supply

Huge & Intense “Godzilla” Dust Storm of 2020 Arose from Record Low Arctic Sea Ice: 1 of 2 // Dec 5, 2020

We all know that 2020 is a year for the record books, at least until we experience 2021, however most people are unaware of the record shattering “Godzilla” dust storm in the summer.

A new peer-reviewed paper (Ref 1 below) examines how this dust storm, covering the largest area in the satellite era, and with the largest sunlight blocking capacity (aerosol optical depth (2x thicker dust than ever before) was generated by the Sahara Desert in Africa and crossed thousands of km across the Atlantic Ocean to darken the skies in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Gulf of Mexico, into the southern USA.

I discuss how the Arctic Ocean sea ice was at a record low at the time, slowing and distorting the jet stream, creating a powerful ridge (high pressure) area just to the northwest of Africa, and a corresponding trough (low pressure) to the southwest of the ridge, and thus over Africa.

This bimodal pressure situation acted as meshed gears, driving dust thermally converted upwards from the Sahara desert, entraining it into the exceptionally powerful African Easterly Jet at about 6 km altitude. This dust was then carried thousands of km across the Atlantic to the USA, setting a new record for the area covered and also for the dust thickness (thus sunlight blocking capability).

Surprisingly, this dust did not suppress tropical storms enough to stop the record breaking tropical storm season (30 named storms, from Arthur to Iota). I think that the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) in the tropical Atlantic was so far above the threshold temperature for storm amplification (26.5 C) that the dust cooling of the SST was insufficient to suppress the 30 storms; who knows, without the dust maybe there would have been 35 storms?

Ref 1:  ‘The Atmospheric Drivers of the Major Saharan Dust Storm in June 2020‘, Francis, Fonseca, Nelli, Cuest, Weston,  Evan, Temimi. First published: 01 December 2020.  Link to Abstract and actual content, at AGU, here.

Dust is an important constituent of the Earth’s atmosphere, with a wide range of impacts ranging from human health to effects on climate. In June 2020, massive amounts of dust were lifted from the Sahara, the major dust source region in the world, and transported all the way into the Americas across the tropical Atlantic Ocean. This event was caused by the development of a subtropical high‐pressure system over northwest Africa which resulted in sustained strong northeasterlies over the Sahara generating continuous dust emissions for 4 days.

‘Due to the strong low‐level convergence along the intertropical discontinuity region, the dust was lifted to roughly 5‐6 km above the surface, and then transported westward by the stronger mid‐atmospheric winds (>20 m s‐1). At Cape Verde and over large swaths of the Atlantic Ocean, the amount of dust suspended in the atmosphere was associated with the largest aerosol optical depths on record.’
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Part two here: ‘How Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Disrupted Jet Stream Causing Huge 2020 “Godzilla” Dust Storm: 2 of 2
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The Ongoing Disruption to our Global Food Supply from Abrupt Climate System Change: Part 1 of 3 // Dec 3, 2020

Many people inexplicably think that global climate change is a future problem. In this first of a three video series, I explain clearly how our global food supply is presently being hammered by ongoing and accelerating climate system change.

While potentially opening up some new crop growing regions dependent on soil limitations, climate change is already directly impacting well established growing regions, in at least 10 direct, or primary ways and 10 indirect, or secondary ways:

Direct Impacts
1) Heat stress is reducing crop yields.
2) Heat stress toll on farmers (sometimes fatal).
3) Heat stress tolls on livestock (often fatal).
4) Altered precipitation: not enough rain; drought.
5) Altered precipitation: too much rain; flooding.
6) Weather whiplashing between drought and flooding (or heat and cold) ruining crops.
7) Extreme weather physically damaging crops: hail storms, late Spring frosts, early Fall frosts, early warmth confusing plants to bud prematurely, followed by killing frosts.
8) Wildfires physically destroying crops and livestock and polluting water supplies.
9) Smoke and other wildfire pollutants damage crops hundreds of km from the burn areas.
10) Extreme weather damaging food storage infrastructure, disrupting food transportation systems, breaking down “cold chain” systems.

All of these above effects are already cascading into a variety of secondary effects.

Secondary Impacts
1) Crop and farm failures, financing challenges, farmer migration and suicides, general strikes.
2) Loss of agricultural labour and resource conflicts.
3) Crop stress causes stress on seeds and seed viability damage, causing poor crop yields in subsequent years.
4) Drought and sea-level rise causes salinization contamination is soils and farmland, reducing crop yields for years.
5) Heat, drought, and overuse of pesticides wipes out good beetles, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
6) Changing precipitation patterns leads to increased breeding of locusts and other crop harming pests.
7) Drought dries out soils leading to wind blown soil loss and desertification.
8) Drought and decreases glacial water storage and groundwater infiltration, drying up rivers and amplifying water stress in subsequent years.
9) Torrential rain leading to flooding caused soil erosion, destroys crops and infrastructure, and carries over to subsequent growing seasons.
10) Crop losses impact feed prices and supply for the following year.

Hopefully, we do not have to take a “Soylent Green” approach to food on the near future. Remember to check the ingredients of those processed foods and cookies that you eat.
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Second video, here. Third of three videos on same subject, here.

Ref 1:  ‘Canada could be a huge climate change winner when it comes to farmland‘, Emily Chung · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2020 3:28 PM ET:

The study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, predicts about 4.2 million square kilometres of Canada that are currently too cold for farming crops like wheat will be warm enough by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb.

“It may become our bread basket for the future. In that regard, it’s good for Canada,” said co-author Krishna Bahadur KC, an adjunct professor of geography at the University of Guelph.  Currently, only a million square kilometres in Canada are warm enough for growing crops like wheat, corn and potatoes, he said.

“It’s a big, huge difference.”  The research suggests that even much of the Northwest Territories and Yukon could get warm enough to grow wheat and potatoes, while corn and soy could be grown farther north than they are now.’
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Please consider donating to support my work. I put a lot of time and effort into researching, studying and producing my videos so that you can learn how quickly our world is changing. Donating does not need a PayPal account, but simply a credit card. Please click here.
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About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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