Holiday Football? Try Planetary Pinball!

The Pinball Machine of Climate Change


I know, I know, it's football season. Across America, millions are planning their Thanksgiving weekend TV football feasts and parties. But before you settle into the couch and start chowing down on your favorite munchies, did you know there's another, much bigger and far more exciting game being played right now? And with much bigger players and scores: Planetary Pinball.

You remember pinball, that machine of shooting balls, targets, and flippers from your childhood, yes? Well, now the whole planet is playing it!


But before we get too focused on Buffalo, one of the local targets, let's check out the entire game.

First, the layout: The moving balls are energy, both kinetic (the moving part) and heat (the ball itself) being pushed through air and water all over the spherically shaped gameboard, our planet. The flippers are the extra pulses of energy that we add to the air as we burn fossil fuels, generating ever more heat-trapping gases and global warming.

As we warm air and water worldwide, here are just some of the effects that drive the game:

* Ice melts, oceans warm, and air is storing more water vapor; poles are warming fastest.
* Winds blowing over water are picking up more of that heat energy -- fueling ever more intense storms.
* The warming, melting Arctic slows the jetstream (the windy "Ring Around the Arctic"), which is revved by the overall temperature difference between the warm tropics and the cold north pole.

With these set of effects, our gameboard is set to go -- so let's analyze the latest round.

Looking very much like the giant spinning pinball of water and energy that it is, Typhoon Nuri was just the latest in a series of storms, both Atlantic and Pacific, that have reached super status in recent years.
University of Wisconsin/CIMSS

Wind over warm western Pacific waters created a super pinball of water and energy, Typhoon Nuri. It caromed softly off the Philippines, weakening, but gathering strength again as it passed Japan and shot northeast across the Pacific into the Bering Sea. There it boinged into the jet stream, rippling the air current deep into the US. This funneled Arctic air down there, where the slowed jet stream kept it quite a while, making conditions that much colder.

In Buffalo, a local effect played out: its neighbor, warming Lake Erie (remember global warming?) sat there with little ice and plenty of water vapor above it. The Arctic air came through and presto! LOTS of snow, fast. Expect more of this "lake effect" snow there and elsewhere as the game continues on Earth.

As warming continues, the overall game will get that much more dangerous and exciting. So, go ahead, throw another planetary log on the fire, sit back, and watch the next round play out. But, just as this game far exceeds football in dimensions, it contains an outsized warning.

WARNING: This long-term effect of this game is lethal to civilization on Earth. Only WE can prevent it.


And we can, folks. Just recently, even National Public Radio broadcast that at least one form of clean energy is now becoming as cheap as dirty fossil fuels: solar power. And it's growing by leaps and bounds.

So, now we have no excuses: if you are truly thankful for what Earth has been able to provide for you and your family so far, show it. Add your push to solar power: get solar power for your home and business, and create a cleaner, safer future for your family and Earth! Get your friends and neighbors to join you. You can get started here. Your family will thank you, now -- and in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!