Posts Tagged ‘Arctic Sea Ice Melt’

Happy 2009, everyone.

Imagine my surprise when I see the new issue of The Economist, now talking about the major problems global warming will be creating called The Curse of Carbon.  When even The Economist is coming around on global warming, it seems like things might be changing on the climate change debate.  Who’s next?  The Free Republic?

From the article:

Copyright The Economist 2009

If the seas continue to become less alkaline at the current rate, the time will soon come when reefs will start to lose coral faster through erosion than they gain it through calcification. How soon? Some scientists think it could be in 60 or 70 years. Many fear that half the world’s coral will be gone by 2030.

The Arctic has lost over 40% of its year-round ice since 1985, 14% in 2004-05 alone. This will not do much directly to raise sea levels, because most Arctic ice is floating, but it suggests that the melting is speeding up, and that is confirmed by the flow of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, which doubled in speed between 1997 and 2003.

Everything depends on the speed at which the ice disappears. Computer models have been predicting that the Arctic will not be ice-free, even for a short time in late summer, until 2040, and at present only icebreakers and the occasional lone yachtsman are getting through. But some people believe change is coming so fast that the northern seas will open up much earlier than expected. They may be right.

If so, it will be seen as a harbinger of a another horror: the prospect of a shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor. This is the current of water that takes enormous amounts of heat—about as much as would be generated by a million nuclear power plants—from the tropics and carries it to eastern North America and western Europe. The fear is that melting ice, along with increased snow and rain, could reduce the density and salinity of the top layers of the sea, making them more buoyant. At present, the conveyor depends on surface water sinking and travelling towards the equator, there to rise again and bring warmth back to the north (see map in the introduction). If this current stopped, the average temperature in Europe might fall by five to ten degrees Celsius.

They even have a video of the ice melt and the major problems that melting arctic sea ice will create.

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The fossil fuel industry should get a lump of coal this holiday but I’m sure they’d be happy with that. Scientists at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco this week are giving us some alarming news about polar ice cap melt, glacier loss, and other threats from climate change.

Global warming is causing massive ice melting at the poles of over 2 trillion tons of ice this year. This creates even more warming as less of the sun’s rays are reflected off the white ice cap and are absorbed by the dark ocean. Scientists are incredibly alarmed at this rate. This amount of arctic warming and ice loss was predicted to occur decades from now, meaning we are warming much faster than scientists had expected. One article in the UK Times this morning even asked Has Arctic Melt Passed the Point of No Return?

There isn’t much good news to be had, but at least melting arctic sea ice doesn’t add significantly to sea level rise. Melting ice from Greenland’s glaciers, however, does– and they lost a piece of ice last year more than twice the size of Manhattan. Scientists are concerned because Greenland lost three times more ice this year than only a few years ago, showing the speed at which warming is accelerating.

NOAA has shown just how bad this ice melt has been in the last few years:


And why is this bad news for Mr. Claus? Continued ice melt like this, will, most likely, put Santa’s workshop underwater, which I guess will look something like this:


So what do we do? The most recent climate conference in Posnan left a lot of people hoping for more. We need to plot a course that will keep climate change from under 2 degrees worldwide, which probably means stabilizing CO2 at 350 parts per million or less. That would require strong federal legislation in this next year which will cut our emissions by at least 80% by mid century and 25% by 2020.

~~Citizen Andy

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