2012 Survival Guide: A practical planner for the worst case scenario

Climate Change, Global Warming and Natural Disasters

Cont. from Page 1

However, The Day After Tomorrow may have branched off into fiction when it depicted a superstorm that produces an ice age literally overnight. Most experts argue such a transformation would advance on the planet incrementally Then again, a 2009 study by William Patterson of the University of Saskatchewan found that a previous mini-ice age known as the Younger Dryas was triggered 13,500 years ago in a matter of a few months.

Between 1300 and 1850 A.D., the Earth also experienced what's known as the "Little Ice Age". Shorter summers and frozen lakes in the northern hemisphere caused massive starvation and facilitated the spread of the the Plague. That epidemic barreled across Asia, Europe and northern Africa twice in the course of five hundred years. The final tally of the dead amounted to a whopping third of the European population. Significantly, most of the victims didn't die from the virus but from starvation, typhoid and other diseases sparked by malnourishment.

The history lesson was not lost on the U.S. military. "Imagining the Unthinkable", a study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2004, examined the potential fallout of a famine induced by global warming. The percentage of dead estimated by the authors was linked to the figures racked up in the Little Ice Age.

But returning to the oceans, it was NASA's chief atmospheric scientist, James Hansen, who warned in 2007 that the Earth was approaching an irreversible "tipping point", one capable of wreaking multiple mayhem. In a study released that year, he and his team found that anticipated sea level rise for the 21st century may be grossly underestimated.

He was responding to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that predicted a rise of no more than 59 centimeters. The actual figure, Hansen said, could go as high as 25 meters by the time 2100 A.D. arrives. That would submerge most of Manhattan, Florida and other major cities across the world. The figure was deduced by measuring sea rise for a similar period of warming that transpired three million years ago. The study concluded:

"Civilization developed during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end."

On another front, oceanographers are warning that frozen methane beneath the oceanic crust may be thawing out as a result of warmer temperatures. If sufficient concentrations of the gas pile up in the air (or atmosphere) the methane can ignite.

Click to enlarge. Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

Plate Tectonics Shift into Overdrive

The movement of tectonic plates may also be ramping up. Nearly 45 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or higher rocked the planet in the first 10 weeks of 2010. That included 8.8 quake in Chile, the fifth largest on record. (The strongest ever measured occurred in 1960 (Chile - 9.5), 1964 (Alaska - 9.2) and 2004 (Sumatra - 9.1). Some researchers think the loss of the planet's ice caps and a higher volume of water at the equator may be triggering more robust shifting of the plates. However, most academics argue the earthquake rate of the last few decades remains unchanged. An average year will yield 134 earthquakes of 6.0 or higher, according to the U.S. Geological Service.

What amazed geologists about the 9.1 earthquake that powered the Asian tsunami was not only the momentary wobble in the planet's rotation, but the extreme lateral and vertical movements of land masses - up to 30 meters in some places. After the 2012 Chilean quake, scientists announced GPS findings that the city of Concepcion had moved ten feet, while the planetary clock lost a fraction of a second due to a slight shift of the Earth's axis.


Solar radiation may play a role in tectonics as well. In September 2005 a massive earthquake struck in Boina, Ethiopia, opening a fissure 13 feet wide and 37 miles long. The event followed a week of intense solar flares and Hurricane Katrina. Geologists believe this fissure may actually be the start of a new ocean. According to Apocalypse 2012 author Lawrence Joseph:

"Boina, at approximately 11.25 degrees north latitude, is just off the southeastern tip of the Sahel savannah strip that crosses north central Africa, separating the Sahara desert above it from the tropics below. This quasigreenbelt runs between 11 and 20 degrees north of the Equator (virtually the same latitudes that contain Mayan territory). From Africa's east coast, right about where the Red Sea feeds into the Indian Ocean, the Sahel crosses all the way west to Senegal's Atlantic coast - the spot, it turns out, where all Atlantic hurricanes are born."

Declining Magnetism and Pole Reversal

A key feature of life on Earth, magnetism is present both on the surface, at the core and in the atmosphere. Yet since the reign of dinosaurs, the total strength of the planet's magnetic field, which is measured in gauss, has decreased by 80 percent. Rock samples indicate a magnitude of 2.5 gauss 65 million years ago. Today, the figure hovers between 0.3 and 0.6 gauss.

Geophysicists think this dwindling field strength may be a portent of a coming field effect reversal, which means a compass would point south instead of north. However, they also expect this change to happen over the course of thousands of years.

For now, the low field strength means our atmospheric shield against solar storms and interstellar radiation has decreased. Holes in the Earth's magnetic shield have been discovered at both poles, and more recently over the Atlantic Ocean, in what's dubbed the South Atlantic Anomaly.

Wikimedia Commons

Artist's rendition of earth's magnetosphere as it blocks the sun's radiation. The Earth is the white spot on the neck of the blue spidery insect, portrays by the shape of the magnetic waves.


According to science writer Mary-Sue Haliburton, the predicament could have serious consequences:

"Electronic devices would all be at risk: there may be damage to, or complete loss of, all near-earth-orbiting satellites and possibly the space station itself. Effects on life forms could range from migrating birds losing their sense of direction to immune system decline and even widespread die-off from radiation-induced cancers."

The Earth's magnetic field, Halliburton notes, has dropped five percent in just the last century. However, in her 2005 article for Pure Energy Systems News, an online hub for alternative energy companies, she countered this grim prognosis with NASA's official assessment that the earth's magnetic field will likely not drop to zero. The agency argued that any decrease in the field strength would be manageable.

Stay tuned...

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Next topic: Is the Yellowstone Caldera About to Blow?

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Copyright 2009-2010 TheCityEdition.com

More Resources

Articles of Interest

Recent disaster news articles and videos

"Why Gaia is wreaking revenge on man's abuse of the environment." The Independent, U.K. 1/16/06

"7 Tipping Points That Could Transform Earth." Wired.com 12/23/09

"Global Warming Could Cool North America in a Few Decades?" National Geographic 9/14/09.

"Big Freeze Plunged Europe Into Ice Age in Months." Science Daily 11/30/09

"Climate Change and Trace Gases." (PDF) Hansen, James, et al. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 2007

"Imagining the Unthinkable." (PDF) 2005 Pentagon study of global warming's impact. By Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall.

" Polar Ice Melt Is Accelerating." BBC News Dec. 2008.

"Arctic Ice Shelves Crumbling Rapidly in Canada." National Geographic 9/3/08

"Siberian Permafrost Decomposition and Climate Change." Report by Katey Walter and Jeffrey Chanton. June 2008)

"Ocean Dead Zones Growing - May Be Linked to Warming." National Geographic 5/1/08.

"Has globalisation made us more catastrophe-prone?" By Andrew Marshall. Reuters 4/27/09.

"Magnetic-Shield Cracks Found; Big Solar Storms Expected." National Geographic 12/17/08

"Leaks Found in Earth's Protective Magnetic Field." Space.com 12/16/08

"Earth Magnetic Field Reversal." By Mary-Sue Haliburton, Pure Energy Systems News 2/27/05

"Earth's Magnetic Field Reversals Illuminated By Lava Flows Study." Science Daily 9/28/08

"Methane Releases From Arctic Shelf May Be Much Larger and Faster Than Anticipated." National Science Foundation 3/4/10.

Methane gas articles. UC Santa Barbara

"Alarm Over Dramatic Weakening of Gulf Stream." Guardian, U.K. 12/ 01/05

"Ocean Dead Zones Growing; May Be Linked to Warming." National Geographic 5/1/08

Red Tide Blooms. Discovery News 3/20/09.

"The Earth fights back." Guardian, U.K. 8/7/07


A Guide to the End of the World (2002) by Bill McGuire.

Revenge of Gaia (2006) by James Lovelock.

The Earth's Shifting Crust by Charles Hapgood.

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It by James Wesley Rawles

DVDs and TV Programs

History Channel: The Seven Signs of Apocalypse, Nostradamus 2012, Global Warning, Magnetic Storm, America's Ice Age, Yellowstone, The Crumbling of America.

"Earth 2100". Two-hour fictional drama from ABC News charts the collapse of civilization through the lifetime of a public health nurse.

"X-Ray Earth." This 2011 series from National Geographic channel tracks geologists and other scientists as they search for clues that major planetary changes are in the works.

Weather Channel: "It Could Happen Tomorrow," a series that examines the impact of potential mega-disasters throughout the United States. Episodes include an earthquake on the New Madrid Fault, an eruption on Mt. Rainier, and flash flooding in Boulder, Colorado.


Intro to Plate Tectonics Univ. of Wisconsin

Disaster monitoring links

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Arctic Report Card (NOAA)

World Meteorological Organization

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