Pop by Friday, Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. PT for some live Q&As at YouTube “Office Hours” with UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, who will “discuss the major storm sequence (yes, another one!) that will begin this weekend across CA & bring renewed rain/wind impacts.”

Swain will also continue his discussion about the small but alarming risk of an Atlantic ocean-circulation collapse, which would create a different kind of climate havoc. (You can listen in here for background from Monday’s brief “Office Hours” discussion about the AMOC, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and check out some of the key concepts below.)

YouTube ‘Office Hours’ with Daniel Swain: 

Friday, Feb. 16
10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET

Why is an AMOC collapse so concerning? What would the collapse of this ocean circulation process do? 

“It would plunge Europe into essentially a regionalized ice age while leaving the rest of the world on its continued warming path, and it would result in hugely chaotic changes in global weather patterns. The Southern Hemisphere would roast. The Pacific storm track would go kind of nuts, and there would be these extreme shifts and weather patterns that are very different from what you would expect from a more incremental or linear warming path. The big problem is that this was a largely hypothetical risk. At least at present, we know this has happened in the deep paleoclimate history of the Earth.”

What is the chance of collapse?

“There was some hope, at least for a while, that maybe this isn't even possible in the present configuration of the Earth’s system — that it’s just one thing we can at least check off of our list. But instead, what this most recent modeling suggested is, in fact, that it is absolutely plausible with the current setup of the system and that perhaps the current system is even more sensitive to perturbations that could cause it to theoretically collapse than we previously thought … In some private conversations with some of the oceanographers and ice-sheet scientists involved in some of this work, they personally estimate that there is as much as a 10% chance that this current system collapses this century.”

When could this collapse happen? 

“The problem is, we don't understand this very well. We don't really have any idea how close we are to this tipping point. We might still be really far from it, and that's why there's still a 90% to 95% chance that won't happen. But would you be willing to bet the farm on a 90% to 95% chance that something like this doesn't happen? Would you get on a plane if there were a 90% to 95% chance that it won't crash? I certainly wouldn't. So, you know, a 95% chance that it won't rain? I'll be honest with you, I'm probably not bringing an umbrella — as a meteorologist I'm not that worried about getting wet if I'm in the 5% to 10% chance that I'm wrong. But am I really concerned about a 5% to 10% chance of a collapse of a global ocean current system that would result in a completely different global climate, not only to the one we have now, but also a completely different climate than the one that we're starting to prepare for finally? Yeah.”