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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alberta Floods and Arctic Amplification : Is There A Correlation?

The theory of Arctic Amplification, simply stated, suggests that as sea ice melts, more moisture is available for precipitation and that as the far northern latitudes warm, the jet stream's oscillation patterns tend to elongate, creating larger ridges and troughs that have the net effect of decreasing the rate of storm movement from west to east.  This essentially slows the storms down causing them to linger in place longer.  As storms linger longer and have more precipitation available to them, it follows that severe weather impact, such as flooding events, droughts, snowfall, or other consequences of strong weather related events could be more likely to occur.

As Alberta sets about learning how we could have improved our ability to forecast the recent flooding event, the one certainty we have is that more time would have been beneficial as outlined in this article in the Calgary Herald.  Also, here is an excellent primer video on Arctic Amplification and Rossby Wave elongation.

Rossby waves move storms from west to east, as they move slower due to elongation, it's evident that storms tend to persist.  In addition,the elongation of Rossby waves tend to create larger ridges and troughs which have the effect of shifting weather patterns further to the north and to the south.  As it turns out, when the storms were forming that caused the recent flood events in Alberta, I happened to be at latitude 60 experiencing hot sunny days with high temperatures in excess of 100 degrees farenheigt in the region while latitude 50 - 52 running through southeast BC and southwest AB were experiencing a jet stream ridge that may have caused precipitation to linger in the eastern range of the rocky mountains, washing away snow pack and distributing large amount of precipitation into the headwaters of the river systems that later generated large scale flooding events.

Without a doubt, this is not certain... and there are a lot of other circumstances involved to be sure.  But at the very least, this may be a like a red flag for scientists that the theory of Arctic Amplification affecting Rossby waves may be worth a hard look.  From a layman's perspective, it appears that elongation of the Rossby waves in the jet stream from 17-19 June, followed by a return to a more normal Rossby wave, may have contributed to the flooding events.

Heavy rain in the mountains, no doubt, exacerbated melt rates of high snow pack and these forces combined with rain moved into the watershed and were sufficient to create the flooding events.  If the Rossby wave elongation did contribute to the overall impact, it is certain that nothing could have been done to prevent the flooding, but perhaps a meteorological integration of the understanding of Rossby wave pattern elongation combined with precipitation analysis from satellite imagery may be enough to extend predictive capability.  Any additional amount of forewarning may have proven valuable to those responsible for emergency planning.  It is important, however, to keep in mind these theories are only now getting widespread attention.

Still, if there is anything this story should tell us it's that there should be attention paid to changing jet stream patterns and alteration of the Rossby waves.  That science has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years.  One of the more interesting videos I've seen on this was a lecture given by Dr. Francis of Rutgers University.  She explains the elongation of the Rossby waves and then goes on to analyze large storm events over the last couple of years and checked to see if there was a Rossby wave elongation over those areas.  In the storms she analyzed, Rossby wave patterns were elongated... much like the pattern we saw in Alberta.

A more extensive video on extreme weather events by Dr. Francis may be viewed here:

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Arctic Climate Change : The Big Melt

2012 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum
Climate change in the Arctic happens faster than anywhere on the planet, a scientific fact that finds little dispute from any interest group.  For many years, it has been described as the canary in the coal mine (Michaels, 2004).  As circumpolar leaders and experts met at the Arctic Imperative Summit in the Summer of 2012, the recession of Arctic ice, a.k.a. the ice melt, had exceeded 2007 levels (NSIDC, 2012), the previous record Arctic sea ice area recorded since 1979.

While the Arctic shows evidence of global climate change at a faster rate than other areas, it would present a very attractive subject for research and study.  There is room to expand the interdisciplinary aspect of the many scientific fields studying climate change impacts in the high Arctic, but this is offset by the difficulty and expense of reaching Arctic areas and then conducting research (Hinzmon, 2005).

The challenges are real, the Arctic is changing quickly, and projections of increased economic activity in the Circumpolar World are inevitable.  Recognition of the consequences of accelerating climate change for Arctic environments will aid the voices advocating for more research funding on the part of all the Circumpolar World.

Swedish researchers note a generalized loss of cold winters and cool summers while noting more extreme precipitation events.  Their understanding of the rate of climate change has led them to focus on adaptation strategy.  Like many entities, the circumpolar governments and regional stakeholders are turning more and more energy to the adaptation process (Callaghan, et al., 2010).  In the eyes of all the circumpolar nations, the debate as to if the climate is changing is long gone.  The conversation is now about how best to adapt since their part of the planet will be impacted fastest.

Reduction of Arctic Ice

The reduction of Arctic Ice creates a variety of issues and opportunities.  The issue from the standpoint of ice melting is that polar ice reflects light (and heat).  As the ice melts, the dark water surface absorbs more heat, this creates faster temperature rise which, in turn, causes the ice melt to occur at a faster rate.  This kind of feedback system, referred to as a positive feedback loop, is one of many components that impact global climate change. Water on top of the ice pack also creates more rapid heat absorption because it creates a dark area on the ice surface, absorbing more heat.  While melting Arctic ice does not cause sea levels to rise, much like a melting ice cube in a glass of water does not cause the level of liquid in the glass to rise; it does create warmer temperatures which cause other circumpolar ice to melt.  As large amounts of land based ice melt, like the Greenland Ice Shelf, that does introduce more water into the ocean, which does raise sea level. 

As Arctic ice minimums continue to advance, creating more dark water, the ramifications impact not only the acceleration of temperature change, but it also creates young ice areas which require less energy to melt.  The National Snow and Ice Data Center tracks daily changes in the Arctic ice cover.  The Arctic ice recedes yearly and melts during the warm months, typically stopping their recession around the end of September when it becomes cold enough for the ice coverage to begin extending again.  In 2012, the Arctic ice minimum was found to be at the lowest levels since this data has been tracked by satellite (NSIDC, 2012).

The Greenland Ice Sheet

The Greenland Ice Sheet is a massive land based circumpolar ice deposit.  This vast area of ice is starting to undergo rapid melting cycles.  While this has been noted by scientists for many years, the rapid acceleration of Greenland’s ice combined with additional complicating factors, are only recently emerging as an environmental issue that is starting to command global interest.

Unusual weather patterns noted in 2012 include the U.S. drought, and a sudden widespread surface melt event impacting the Greenland Ice Sheet.  This set of circumstances, known as a heat dome, occurs when the jet stream patterns keep cooler air to the north which, in turn, allows warmer air from the Gulf stream to rise up to Greenland.  The phenomena this year, in July, caused a rapid spread of surface melt in Greenland, extending the area from about 40% of Greenland’s surface to nearly complete coverage over the course of four days.

Typically, the maximum surface melt area in Greenland during the hottest point of the summer is around 50%.  The scope of these phenomena is certainly attention getting but there is also evidence this may be part of a cyclical event.  While there is not enough evidence to suggest this predicts an impending catastrophic ice loss and resultant accelerated rates of sea level rise, it certainly warrants further investigation and attention.

If instability and accelerating melting takes place on the Greenland Ice Sheet and the Antarctic, the level of sea rise could be far faster than was originally thought.  It seems like scientists continue to be surprised each year as the rate of change exceeds the predictive components of their models.

If there is a tipping point and the largest of the land based glaciers melt into the ocean, we would have sea levels that are several meters higher than they are now.  Under the most prepared scenario, it is hard to imagine to what extent such an incident would damage global trading patterns and to what extent that would impact weather.

Greenland Ice Sheet Melt July 2012

Satellite Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite taken between 2002 and 2008; demonstrate that Greenland has been losing approximately 195 cubic kilometers of ice per year.  A large section of the Pederson glacier, some 130 square kilometers, broke off due to the high temperatures, but since this section was already floating on the ocean, it will not contribute to rising sea levels.  That said, as similar weather patterns repeat in conjunction with rising average air temperatures, the rate of melt on land is likely to grow. 

Pederson Glacier Ice Melt

Ice melt rate is also affected by other factors, including airborne particulates raining out over the ice sheet causing dark spots.  Images of these dark spots evoke an interest in knowing if they are hydrologically isolated from sub surface water.  The dark holes appear to be bore holes.  These holes initially absorb solar energy at a higher rate causing an increases the rate of melt in the holes.

Black Holes on Greenland Ice Shelf
As the holes get deeper, the rate of deepening begins to rescind as the exposure angle to the sun decreases, and at some point the rate of melt equalizes with surrounding ice.  As these holes create a matrix of higher melt points, they become subject to interrelationships with under surface fissures and fractures of the major ice sheets.  To the extent these many drain into large ice sheet fractures, the rate of progression to land based ice and land contact points tends to create an opportunity for ice to shift and move, probably a lot sooner than it otherwise would have.

Particulates that absorb heat like black carbon, vanillic acid, and sulphur that fall on the Greenland ice shelf create the aforementioned dark areas creating bore holes that melt faster than the surrounding reflective white ice.  This functions like drilling holes in the ice sheet which facilitates gravity dependent water flow migration towards the bottom of the sheet, creating subsurface conditions that encourage a more rapid rate of ice migration towards the sea.

Particulate driven cryoconite holes that look like bore holes have also been widely reported by glaciologists, especially those who study the Greenland ice shelf.  It is thought, based on the chemical composition of the soot that much of it comes from coal burning plants in Asia; this is based on assumptions of wind conditions and observable fallout patterns.

Rivers of water are also noted with massive drop offs into large crevasse structures.  It’s the combination of rising surface temperatures, particulate fallout from high emission industrial output that creates what appears to be a causing accelerated migration of surface water to the ice bedrock interface (Zwally, et al., 2002).  It may also be presumed these holes contribute integrity challenges to the ice sheet, probably creating larger areas that break off as the ice sheet approaches the ocean.  Other chemical compositions suggest some of the soot is due to massive forest fires in other parts of the globe, another by-product of climate change as large forested areas undergo significant drought during the summer months, hence creating ideal conditions for large forest fires.

Ice core samples reveal coal soot particulate content in the Arctic can be correlated to the maximum effect of the industrialization of the period from 1906 to 1910 (McConnell, 2007) and note thermal temperature rises eight times larger than pre-industrialization.  Much of that, by the way, is thought to have derived from the United States and Canada.

Ice Core Samples

Ice core samples, through trapped air pockets, can be analyzed to reveal carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during previous eras.  There is ample evidence that CO2 levels in the atmosphere correlate with average mean surface temperatures due to the heat trapping ability of the material in the Earth’s atmosphere.  The projections of CO2 emissions through the remainder of the 21st century are substantial.  Even with efforts to mitigate emissions, the ramifications imply increased temperatures which mean the planet will continue to shed ice.

Ice Core CO2 Analysis & Predictions

Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf Carbon Deposits and Methane

Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf Carbon Deposits of Methane and carboniferous materials on Arctic coastal areas also represent a considerable store of materials that have potential to release greenhouse gas emissions that will accelerate the rate of climate change.  The Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) covers approximately 7,000 kilometers with significant outcroppings of complex ancient ice deposits rich in carboniferous materials in addition to shallow sub-sea permafrost.  This exists throughout the entire Arctic region to some extent, but the ESAS is by far the most proliferous.

Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf
As climate change creates larger open water areas in the Arctic for longer periods of time, erosion of these shelves increase releasing carboniferous materials into the ocean.  Microbial consumption of these materials produces carbon dioxide and methane.  The release of carbon dioxide and methane vent to the atmosphere.  Massive deposits of methane hydrates are also known to exist in the form of methane hydrates in a frozen state trapped beneath the Arctic tundra.

Coastal erosion due to increased tidal activity combined with warming will bring these coastline and seafloor deposits to the mix.  Since methane has approximately 20-23 times greater impact on warming, meaning it traps much more heat, the ramifications of large scale emissions of methane into the atmosphere further exacerbate the positive feedback loop.  Because methane dissipates relatively quickly, the overall impact of methane release may not have enormous impact on overall global average temperatures (Kvenvolden, 1988) in and of itself, taken together with other components of a positive feedback loop, the impact could be magnified.

If technology existed to easily capture methane from the Arctic tundra, the sheer quantity of deposits might help to accelerate the economic viability of methane production.  Because it is a very efficient fuel, there is little doubt that an economic model to capture methane would be of serious interest to the Arctic and to stakeholders in the Arctic, especially those who would be in a position to benefit from resource development. 

Capturing the methane before it escapes into the atmosphere would prevent a GHG some 20+ times as potent as CO2 from contributing to climate change, but the climate ramifications of getting to the resource and how it would be combusted would still have an impact, so it would be at a net cost to the environment, but that net would be somewhat less than simple emission.

Works Cited

Michaels, P., 2004. The Economist; A canary in the coal mine. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.economist.com/node/3375415
[Accessed 19 01 2013]
NSIDC, 2012. Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis. [Online] 
Available at: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
[Accessed 02 09 2012]
Hinzmon, L. D., 2005. Evidence and Implications of Recent Climate Change in Northern Alaska and Other Arctic Regions. [Online] 
Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-005-5352-2?LI=true
[Accessed 28 12 2012]
Callaghan, T. V. et al., 2010. A new climate era in the sub-Arctic: Accelerating climate changes and multiple impacts. Geophysical Research Letters, 37(14)
Zwally, H. J. et al., 2002. Surface Melt-Induced Acceleration of Greenland Ice-Sheet Flow. Science, pp. 218-222
McConnell, J. R. e. a., 2007. 20th-Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing. Science, 317(7 September 2007), pp. 1381-1384
Kvenvolden, K. A., 1988. Methane hydrate — A major reservoir of carbon in the shallow geosphere?. Chemical Geology, 71(1-3), pp. 41-51

Leadership by the numbers : a compilation of CF best practices modified for corporate application

Duty is about what we do, a leader’s duty is to serve the mission.  Honour is about how we perform our duty.  Leaders must perform their duties in accordance with the civic, legal, and ethical values embraced by our society.  . Effective leaders get the job done, look after their people, think and act in terms of the larger team, anticipate and adapt to change, and exemplify our ethos in all they do.  This is what the organization expects and it is also what the people whom we serve expect.  Altogether too often, the public is sad to learn their leaders have not lived up to an ethos of high standards.  Part of our ethos, then, should be to say that we will stand up to be moral, effective, and genuine leaders.  For it is only through a strong commitment to an ethos our people can be proud of, that we will be able to provide the characteristics of strong and capable leaders and give the people what they so rightfully expect.

~ General Rick Hillier – Chief of Defence Staff

(Taken in part and editorialized by the author)

CF Modified Effectiveness Framework

Effectiveness Framework

Emanation Paths

Emanation paths represent secondary outcomes of the Effectiveness Framework, each of which has a positive bi-directional connotation for enhanced team growth and increased probability of success.

Organizational Success

The collective planning and action of an organization with operations that span different trades, departments, crafts, and various necessary functions is paramount.  It is necessary to perform the thousands of myriad tasks that take place to keep the organization functioning smoothly.  Typically, if we are engaging correctly and moving forward as a team, the team success will be there as a result of the collective planning and the actions of an organization.

Internal Integration

The internal operations of the organization must be well organized, the functions clear, and the reporting of agreed upon metrics must be established.  The achievement of teamwork and cohesion among the people must fit together in order to work together effectively.

Member Well Being and Commitment

Respect, care, and consideration are fundamental qualities.  By engaging others with respect and acting to support their professional hopes, goals, and aspirations we show a sincere commitment from the organization toward the people.  This is a moral obligation that also happens to be highly practical.

Conduct (ethos)

Conduct or ethos encompasses values that describe and define organizational conduct.  This behavioral dimension includes the civic values of liberal democracy; values subsumed by the rule of law; ethical values governing our treatment of others and the conduct of government operations; and the traditional values of duty, loyalty, integrity, and courage.  The ethos is the essence of your honor.

The Importance of Trust

Trust in leadership is positively related to individual and group performance, persistence in the face of adversity, the ability to withstand stress, job satisfaction, and commitment to continued service.  One of the most important parts of the leader’s job is to build and maintain healthy trust relationships with subordinates, peers, and superiors. Leaders build and maintain trust through their decisions, actions, and interactions.

Leaders build and maintain trust through their decisions, actions, and interactions.  Leadership qualities exhibited by each leader of the organization is reflected onto every other leader within the organization.  As such it follows that the leaders should, at a minimum, always exhibit these traits:
  • Demonstrate high levels of proficiency in the performance of core functions and take advantage of opportunities to enhance professional expertise and competence
  • Exercise good judgment in decisions that affect others and do not expose people to unnecessary physical or emotional risks
  • Show trust and confidence in team members by giving them additional authority and involving them in decisions where circumstances allow
  • Demonstrate concern for the well-being of team members, represent their interests, and ensure they are supported and taken care of by the organization
  • Show consideration and respect for others, treating teammates fairly, without favor or discrimination
  • Focus on the mission, maintaining high standards as well as honest and open communications
  • Lead by example, sharing risks and hardships and refusing to accept or take special privileges
  • Keep your word and be counted on to honor your obligations

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is about sharing the responsibilities of leadership, vertically and horizontally within teams and the organization as a whole.  Leadership is an essential role requirement for managers but is not the same thing as management.
Leaders are involved in planning, problem-solving, decision making, organizing, informing, directing, allocating and managing resources while developing, coordinating, monitoring, and controlling the course of those efforts.  The expectation is simple; leaders will not only lead but that they will lead well.  They will always seek to develop the team around them; they will never seek to be the smartest person in the room, but rather, they will surround themselves with other strengths and leverage those strengths, constantly seeking ways to share the leadership role through a distributed environment based upon a foundation of trust.


A profession is essentially an exclusive group of people performing a service to society and unified by a common body of expertise and code of conduct.  The words of a professional cannot be just words on paper or empty commitments, they must be publicly visible consistent patterns of behavior. Leaders make the difference.

Leaders Primary Responsibilities

·         Build Teamwork and Cohesion
·         Professional Competence and Self-Improvement
·         Clarify Objectives and Intent
·         Solve Problems with Timely Decisions
·         Mentor, Educate, and Develop Team Members
·         Treat Team Members Fairly
·         Respond to Their Concerns
·         Represent Team Members' Interests
·         Maintain Situational Awareness
·         Learn From Those Who Have Experience
·         Learn From Experience
·         Exemplify the Ethos

Member Well-being and Commitment

The primary leader roles pertaining to the member well-being and commitment dimension of effectiveness are those of sustainer and developer. In the sustainer role, the leadership team is responsible for establishing a healthy organizational climate, treating people fairly, and managing interpersonal conflict.  The leader must also sustain the individual and collective interests of their people and seek to build morale wherever possible.
In the developer role, leaders foster and recognize achievement, and protect depth and continuity in teams by cultivating potential replacement leaders. They mentor people in apprenticeship positions and challenging assignments, and encourage and support subordinate participation in training, educational, and professional activities over their career span.

Enhance Situational Awareness – Explain Events and Decisions

The routine and prompt passage of information contributes to teammates’ situational awareness and their ability to respond appropriately to a changing situation.  Situational awareness is critical to anticipating future environmental conditions and identify opportunities to secure organizational advantage.  Candidly explaining events and decisions often reduces tensions created by uncertainty and is critical to maintaining the trust relationship between leaders and led.

Collective Leadership

Collective leadership refers to the combined effects and synergies when leaders at different levels synchronize their leadership actions to achieve a common purpose.  High performing collective leadership occurs when leadership processes are mutually reinforcing; the result is greater than the sum of its parts.  Leveraging collective intelligence to establish collective leadership shifts fine organizations into high performing organizations with stellar performers.