Saturday, September 13, 2008

Alaska Notwithstanding Global Warming Accelerates

[Updated Monday, Sept. 15: See end of post]
If you were in Anchorage this summer I hope you enjoyed both days of it. Those were the only days that the National Weather Service said the temperature reached 70 degrees.
"With only two days above 70 degrees this year, that sets a new record for the fewest days to reach 70,'' the weather-watching agency reported Friday.

Add to the lack of heat and sunshine what the agency calls "an astonishing 77%" of days colder than normal, and you get the picture.

This summer was every bit as bad as you thought it was.

Gardens didn't grow. Salmon returned late. Bees didn't make honey. Swallows didn't breed.
One of those in Anchorage who commented on the story couldn’t be blamed for asking “Does anybody know the whereabouts of Al Gore?”

Alas, a day later the Anchorage Daily News also
how an ice shelf almost the size of Manhattan had broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northern Arctic indicating how warmer temperatures are shaping the Arctic frontier.
Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario, said the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf separated in early August and the 19-square-mile shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean.

"The Markham Ice Shelf was a big surprise because it suddenly disappeared. We went under cloud for a bit during our research and when the weather cleared up, all of a sudden there was no more ice shelf. It was a shocking event that underscores the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Mueller.

This comes on the heels of unusual cracks in a northern Greenland glacier, rapid melting of a southern Greenland glacier, and a near record loss for Arctic sea ice this summer. And earlier this year a 160-square mile chunk of an Antarctic ice shelf disintegrated.

Martin Jeffries of the U.S. National Science Foundation and University of Alaska Fairbanks said in a statement that the summer's ice shelf loss is equivalent to over three times the area of Manhattan, totaling 82 square miles -- losses that have reduced Arctic Ocean ice cover to its second-biggest retreat since satellite measurements began 30 years ago.

"These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present," said Mueller.

During the last century, when ice shelves would break off, thick sea ice would eventually reform in their place.

"But today, warmer temperatures and a changing climate mean there's no hope for regrowth. A scary scenario," said Mueller.
According to Warwick Vincent, director of Laval University’s Centre for Northern Studies and a researcher in the program ArcticNet, the loss of these ice shelves means that rare ecosystems that depend on them are on the brink of extinction.

While the focus of much of the world was on the Beijing Olympics, the Democratic and then the Republican conventions, William Faulk, editor of The Week magazine was looking at some important stories that were being overlooked. One was what he called “Going with the Floes”. Putting this important story in stark terms, he
Last summer, warming temperatures melted more of the Arctic ice cap than at any time since measurements have been taken. This summer’s data indicate that 2007’s melt was not a one-year anomaly. With the ice still melting, the total amount of Arctic sea ice was approaching last year’s low, and polar bears, which use ice floes as platforms on which to fish and rest, were spotted swimming in the open sea. Some were headed toward the edge of the ice shelf, 400 miles away — far beyond their endurance.

In as little as five years, said a NASA scientist, Jay Zwally, the North Pole in summer will be ice-free. “Climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting,” Dr. Zwally said. “Nobody’s really taken into account that change yet.”
I don’t know how the coldest summer on record in Anchorage relates to the summer’s warming in the Arctic, or for that matter how the hottest summer on record in Taipei, Taiwan fits into the picture. But in some great atmospheric science scheme I imagine they do.

While “change” has become the rallying cry of both campaigns for the U.S. presidency, I hope we are ready to deal with the change that is occurring in the Polar Regions at a faster rate than anyone imagined possible. Sooner than we think, like the polar bears swimming toward an ice shelf four hundred miles away, we may find ourselves reaching for solutions beyond our endurance.
- Milo
From "FundaMental Transformation" comes this explanation:
What's melting the ice -
- is not the air in Alaska, it's the warmer water that the ice is sitting in - The ice's foundations. It could be that because the warmer water has put greater levels of humidity into the air in Alaska that therefore has produced more precipitation, storms and cooler whether.

The reason the scientists are finding themselves shocked by the 'reality' overshooting the 'expectations' is that they failed to consider feedback loops that had not been fully evidenced at the time the models were made.

Ok, I know I get wordy in these explanations, but this is something I learned all the way back in '05. Here's an example of a feedback loop that appeared and hastened the collapse of an eco-system.
There was a forest in Germany whose trees began dying at a shockingly rapid rate. There were no signs of disease and parasites. So, they hired scientists to discover what was killing off the trees.
This is gonna sound wild, but remember "secret life of plants".

What the scientists in that German forest found was that the trees were sending 'suicide' signals. The trees somehow experienced danger or a threat - believed to be due to the imbalance of proper oxygen/CO2 levels - for such an extended period, that rather than wither and die slowly, they were giving up their lives to alter the system they sensed would destroy them anyway. Kamakazi trees.

Anyway, they were able to determine that there was a chemical feedback loop going on with the trees communicating, whereby the process of destruction was hastened. If someone says: What there can't be a chemical feedback loop! Think of how you speed up ripening fruit by putting it in a sealed container. That's kinda what's going on. It's own gases hastening it's demise.
I know, trees - ice, WTF? I say this to give an example of a feedback loop. Which is what I believe is the reason the warming is happening faster than originally expected. The problem is, how do you predict something like that before there are any signs?

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