Tuesday 14 August 2018


Last blog post was about a Siberian High, causing Hammarby Sound to freeze over. This seems like a world apart today. The past month proved to be the hottest hereabouts in recorded history (dating back to the mid 1700s). If 35° weren't enough, humidity went to the extreme, envelopping us in a wet blanket day and night and leaving us no place to escape. Our apartments here in Stockholm are built with generous windows, granting the sun free access to us sun-loving Northerners. It now dawns on us that sun-flooded rooms are not what the doctor ordered. Even if my apartment is facing north, the sun starts sneaking in around 6 pm, getting up the heat just in time to prevent me from having a healty sleep.

Extreme times crave desperate measures. I discovered that a daily visit to the neighbourhood (Swedish style) Sauna was the way out of misery. After sitting about 10 minutes in it, sweating out at 90° (Celsius) of dry heat and taking a cold shower afterwards, 35° outside heat appears almost normal!

In the same spirit, I decided, in the beginning of last week, to take a quick trip to Southern Turkey. There, temperature surpassed even 40° in daytime and humidity was at its outmost; just like in a Sauna, but a Finnish one. The idea was to spend three days there and return to a more moderate Stockholm, cooler by at least a few degrees. Now, that I am back, I am glad to say that Hammarby Sjöstad has cooled off considerably during my absence. Or is it the contrast to Lykia in Turkey that makes me believe that?

The recent heat wave got me to recognosce up-to-date findings about climate change. Not bothering with reading the most recent articles in scientific journals, I contented myself with gathering insights from Youtube videos in the field. Don't ridicule me! There is quite serious knowledge to be gained there. As an example, let me point to a recent lecture by Professor Wadhams of Cambridge University. He is a convivial enough fellow, hardly prone to exaggerate.

My research, albeit sporadic, leads me to conclude that we already seem to have passed "the point of no return". Even if we drastically diminish carbon dioxide emissions forthwith, we will still surpass the red line (the 2° temperature increase) early on in the next decade. Thereafter, and with sizable methane emissions from the Arctic continental shelf and from melting Siberian permafrost, climate change will accelerate and lead to a more than 3° increase within the following decades.

An increase by more than 3° may not sound a lot, but it will most probably put an end to the main conduit of global food production, the grain belt girdling the northern hemisphere; not to speak of rendering the subtropical regions, Southern Europe among them, into deserts. So the writing is on the wall.

Interestingly enough, Scandinavia, as well as Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland, may not be exposed  to the same degree of heating as the world at large. The global deep sea current transporting warm water north-eastward is already getting weaker and will no longer lend support to the Gulf stream (which is mostly driven by wind), thus counteracting to some degree the overall heating up.

Should we find comfort in this? I fear not! Think about the hundreds of millions living south and east of our borders and getting ever more desperate, as deserts spread in Africa and Southern Europe and food supply is drying up further north. The Völkerwanderung of the 5th to 7th century AD is just an inkling of what lies ahead of us! To get an idea of what this means, look no further than to the failed states in the Middle East and the millions from there streaming into Europe just two years ago!

What can be done about this? On a global scene, probably nothing. That is, unless geo-engineering at hitherto unexperienced scale could be enacted within the near future, which is hardly likely, if even feasible. Better to look at it from a personal angle. Here we have a problem: climate change is not happening in a linear fashion. Feed-back loops are pushing to the forefront and will greatly accelerate the change, even if we at present still appear to experience only a modest and gradual warming. This makes it difficult for us humans to grasp the high probability of a timely demise of civilisation.

To fix ideas: imagine that a meteorite will strike the Earth in thirty years' time, enveloping the Earth in huge dust clouds and rendering food production infeasible over all of Earth for a number of years, except in north-eastern Europe. How would you as a person prepare for such a catastrophe? Speaking as an old-timer, my life would go on as usual, with maybe a bit more propensity to nurture friendships and family relations. For our children, they will have to be more philosophical; we all have to die, sooner or later, and it may just be a bit sooner for them. It is the grandchildren whom we should pity. They will be in the prime of their life and, instead of fulfilling all their dreams of family and career, they will be in constant war and struggle to fend off the hungering hordes invading the few territories where food can still be obtained.

This leads me to suggest a collective action that still could be taken to make life a bit more bearable for those poor grandchildren. Why not re-introduce comprehensive conscription for all 18 year olds, boys and girls, starting a decade from now. Why not borrow experts from the Israeli army to help introduce an efficient training programme involving weapon use, martial arts combat and living off the land. With an intensive training of this kind, we will at least provide these poor youngsters with a minimum of crafts to cope with the coming catastrophe! This quite apart from maintaining the regular army, manned by professional experts, as is the case at present.

Am I an extremist? Probably so, but I think that I will be considered a moderate ten years from now, when the red line of 2° warming will have been crossed and warming will accelerate. A pity that I probably won't be around then to feel righteous about it! Instead, why not enjoy the good life as long as it lasts, and let art and music come to the rescue, when my thoughts risk becoming too dire.

Wednesday 28 February 2018


Freeze-over at 6.55 am on 25 February

The above view is a very rare one indeed! Why do I say this? Well, you can expect to see it only about once in every four years. Several rare events have to coincide to result in this outcome. First, temperature the day before should not be much lower than 0° C, to prevent partial freezing over of Hammarby Canal. Second, there must be a sudden and large drop in temperature after midnight (after the last boat has passed the canal). Third, this drop of temperature has to be accompanied by a slight snowfall. Third, the snowfall must stop before dawn. And, fourth, I must have the good luck of looking out of my kitchen window just slightly before 7 am this time of the year, when dawn is already in motion, and before any ship has passed or crossed the canal.

Temperature not much lower than 0°C, the day before

Last week was a heavy one for me. On Monday, I had a jaw operation, which is preventing me from eating solid food until the stitches are taken out (will be tomorrow). As a result, I am living at the moment with a diet of cottage cheese, soup and yoghurt. This has a surprising effect on my contours, since I have lost more than 5 kilos in weight already. But it also somehow dampens vitality, with the body attempting to heal the wounds and coping with being sustained only by fluids at the same time. 

On top of that, I also caught the flu. This actually dampened my longing for fast food, but compounded the loss of vigour and caused my sleep to be troubled, short and interrupted. So it happened that I was driven out of bed already a bit after 6 am on Sunday last. A pity, since it was still dark and I had to turn on all the lights in the apartment to enliven spirit. But, gradually, as I was preparing breakfast [making coffee and opening a can of cottage cheese ;–)], dark changed to dawn and I started to glimpse a first rosy shimmer above Hammarby Sound. My kitchen table is located smack opposite, so I could watch it through the window without having to put my nose out into the cold.

And what a view it was! Silence supreme was reigning over Hammarby Sjöstad, not a sound, not even with a window slightly ajar. The lake surface looked like a newly painted hospital floor, white and even and, above it all, the perfect trimming of a rosy dusk.  

7.00 am. The first ferry disturbing peace and view

Alas, serenity did not last. As I was surpling my Nespresso, and the hour advancing versus sevenish, suddenly, the first ferry started up on the Southern Island and started its traverse towards our side of the Sound. This was no silent process, I can tell you! The vessel had to labour hard to get going! And the sound, the sound! Like a giant cracking giant hazlenuts! On and on the boat laboured, first forward a meter or two, then backward again to push off and get going again. Eventually, after 15 minutes hard work it reached the opposite berth, a traverse that usually takes only about four minutes.

This Sunday was special for yet another reason. The sun kept shining until early afternoon, a rare sight indeed in Stockholm winter time. Under a blue sky, and as the day progressed, large ship after large ship passed Hammarby Kanal in their voyage from the Baltic to Lake Mälar or vice versa, breaking up the ice and providing me with yet another view, this time smack below my balcony, and  far more common than the view shown in the head picture.

4 pm, large boats having broken the ice during the day.

How does Siberia come into the story, you may well ask. Very simple, our part of the world is at present subject to strong North Eastern currents, stemming from a high pressure zone hovering around Northern Siberia. They cause exceptionally cold air to stream over the still warm waters of the Baltic Sea, sucking up moisture as they go and unloading it in the form of very cold snow on us poor Stockholmers. Ever since last Sunday, each morning is greeting me with the picture you can see below.

Getting to my usual breakfast haunt, for a cup of coffee and a newspaper, means bulking up, wading through decimeter high snow drifts (plowing on my street is starting first later in the day) and being blasted by a storm of sharp icycles. How will this all end, I ask you! Will climate change bring consolation? I fear not! Whilst the continent down South will getting warmer, the Gulf Stream, a giant pumping action from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, and warming Scandinavia (not to forget Iceland and Greenland), will surely start to subside, changing our climate up here to become more like that of Alaska (Stockholm is at the same latitude as Kodiak after all!). So I fear that we have to see this Siberian interlude as a first sign of things to come. God help us!

Every morning the same; blizzard after blizzard!