Liberally yours: Climate change, moss, and the polar vortex

Thom Hartmann Host, the Thom Hartmann Program
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We are standing in the middle of a climate-change driven extinction event, and while we might not understand it, we can certainly feel it.

Right now large portions of the United States are once again feeling the bone-chilling effects of the so-called “Polar Vortex.” Normally these frigid temperatures dip down from the Arctic into northern portions of Canada and that’s it. But lately they’ve been coming all the way down from the Arctic and covering much of the US.

When the first “Polar Vortex” hit earlier this month there were record low temperatures from Chicago to Florida. Why is the “Arctic Express” suddenly taking over much of the US? It has to do with the jet stream.

The jet stream is a river of air high above the Earth that usually determines what kind of weather different locations are going to get. Typically the jet stream moves quickly from west to east in a straight-line direction.

But lately the jet stream has been bouncing north and south, which causes more extreme weather events, from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to Arctic-like temperatures and blinding snowstorms. For example, back in June of last year McGrath, Alaska hit 94 degrees Fahrenheit one day, after being only 15 degrees a few weeks earlier. And thanks to a crazy jet stream, when Superstorm Sandy hit in October of 2012, it took a strange left turn from the Atlantic Ocean straight into New Jersey – something that happens once every 700 years or so.

Right now weather experts and scientists are still trying to figure out why the jet stream has been so out-of-whack, and many of them are suggesting that climate change and global warming are to blame.

Meanwhile, as weather experts are trying to figure out the jet stream, scientists in the Arctic are trying to figure out why there’s so much moss. Thanks to warming temperatures in the upper portions of the Canadian Arctic, ice that’s been frozen for thousands of years is melting – and revealing a lot – including ancient moss.

Scientists have found Polytrichum mosses in the melted ice that prove the planet’s current warming trend is unprecedented. That’s because if the moss had been exposed at any other point in time thanks to melting ice, it would have been destroyed. After analyzing the moss, scientists found that some samples were buried under the ice between 24,000 and 44,000 years ago.

That means that in some places in the Canadian Arctic, temperatures are the highest they’ve been in at least the past 44,000 years. From ancient moss in the Arctic to record low temperatures riding a crazy jet stream, the effects that global warming and climate change are having on our environment are pretty clear.

Now’s the time to fight back against the greatest threat the human race has ever faced.