It's tempting to think the Democrats taking control of the US Congress opens a small door to preventing irreversible climate change, provided they can ameliorate the worst excesses of the alt-Right Trumpists.

Certainly it's a welcome glimmer of relief a week after another so-called "strong" man took over in Brazil, with Jair Bolsonaro promising to bulldoze great swathes of the Amazon rainforest for his farming and mining mates.

A Democratic House may not be able to block President Trump's choices for positions such as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, but perhaps can at least hold the line of the law to ensure the fragile protections worked in over past decades are kept intact.

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It may even be able to reverse the imminent dismantling of essential data-gathering tools such as Nasa's climate programme, without which we will have a lot less immediate information on how the Earth's climatic systems are changing.

But as much as it's a positive step, by itself it certainly won't solve the dilemma of having an increasingly grasping and recalcitrant ruling elite attempting to wring as much "value" as possible from the planet before it goes into a death-dive (as far as humans are concerned).

That human-induced dive is already well-advanced, as anyone with the courage to face reality is aware.

Which makes it all the more astounding that, the Democrats' minor victory aside, deniers continue to be elected and stifle action in all parts of the globe – as if voters believe the problems will magically go away if they bury their heads in the sand.
Sand which is becoming uncomfortably warm and may be about to get unbearably hot in a hurry, new research published this week suggests.

See, we've long known the ocean is a "heat sink", but some scientists had theorised it was absorbing more heat than officially thought, because climate change data did not show a consistent warming of the atmosphere as per predictions, fuelling denialist argument. Sure, it was warming up, but not dramatically so – even if all but two years this century have been the hottest on record.

Now it's been proven the ocean is absorbing 60 per cent more heat than was thought. Not only does the water temperature go up, the seas become more acidic and currents (and therefore also winds) begin to behave in strange anomalous ways – resulting for example in more frequent and severe hurricanes.

And while the plus-side is that has kept atmospheric temperatures tracking upwards more slowly, the new data warns the ocean is about to reach its limits for storing heat.
What happens next is anyone's guess.

But since the ocean is currently responsible for absorbing 90 per cent of the energy trapped within the atmosphere, when it can no longer do so there's a more than fair chance all hell will break loose.


That will probably include large chunks of Antarctic ice breaking off and causing sudden sea-level rise. If the Ross Sea ice-shelf – which is already fractured, and just waiting to go – breaks away, that alone may raise global sea-levels by half a metre, and by opening a path to the glaciers behind it, potentially up to 5m.

As it happens, seismic surveys have inadvertently revealed an odd phenomena with the Ross shelf – they have recorded it "singing" to itself.

Playback of years of data, modified so human ears could hear it, shows the ice making a constant droning tone which changes in pitch when a warming event occurs, as happened in January 2016.

Lately the ice has begun to repeat its lower dirge-like warming drone. Perhaps it is a farewell song.