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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Melting of sea ice speeds up in Arctic?

New Scientist:

Sea ice in the Arctic reached a record low this summer, accelerating a melting trend evident for a quarter-century, US government scientists have reported. The extent of Arctic sea ice typically reaches a minimum in September each year. And between 16 and 21 September this year, there were just 5.3 million square kilometres, 20% less than the average since 1978.
Hmmm, sound pretty bad.
The figure is probably the lowest for at least a century, says Julienne Stroeve of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) of the University of Colorado at Boulder, which collated satellite data supplied by NASA since 1978.
Ok, now I'm a bit confused. What happened a century ago that caused this? Or, if we don't know what it was a century ago but expect this much variation then why is this a problem? Of course the article doesn't say and blithely proceeds with:
The data reveal that the rate of disappearance of ice has now risen to an average of 8% per decade. The figures reinforce previous forecasts that the Arctic is likely to be free of ice during most summers by about 2080.
So we apparently have some degree of natural variation in the past, but are predicting a straight line in the future. Ok...
The researchers say that, after four years of record low sea ice, the trend can no longer be dismissed as a result of short-term variability. 'The one common thread is that Arctic temperatures have increased in recent decades,'” said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado. So far this year, the Arctic has been 2 to 3°C warmer than the 50-year average. And spring melting this year began 17 days earlier than usual.
How much variation is there against that average? Guess that's a secret that we don't need to know about. Of course their couldn't be any other explanations out there though.
There remains a question mark over whether the warming is tied to some natural long-term cycle, such as the Arctic Oscillation, which brings warmer air across much of the Arctic. But while the oscillation is currently in a warm phase, this has not increased during the past four years and the suspicion is growing that climate change caused by human activities is to blame.
Ok, because the oscillation has stayed in a warm phase for the past four years we can safely discount it as being the cause of this? Huh? I would think that four years of being in the warmer oscillation phase would lead to increasingly warm temperatures, but perhaps that is just my foolishness. This is exactly the sort of thing that frustrates me about global warming and the reporting about it. Almost every article I read assumes that I am an idiot. I will freely admit that I'd don't understand global climate. I will agree that their could be reasons that the things that are reported that don't seem to make any sense are in fact accurate. Could any of these reports at least try to explain it however? My basic beliefs on global warming remain unchanged. The scientific evidence that I have seen seems to pretty clearly indicate that the global climate is changing and the we are in a warming trend. How warm it will get and what the effects of that warming will be seem to me to be entirely unknown. The hypothesis that this is human caused, while not non-sensical, seems to be much weaker to me. Lastly, even if those who claim it is human caused, and that the effects will be dire indeed, are correct we don't know enough to begin to address how to combat this. Kyoto wouldn't do anything at all, (except hurt us economically) even if it was politically feasible. That doesn't mean research is a bad idea though. I think human control over global climate would be a great thing, something we should strive toward whether global warming is a problem or not.


Blogger Katinula said...

Human control over global climate is impossible. Global climate is incluenced by thousands of factors, of which only the main culprits are ever heard about. There is still so much research to be done about global warming but in particular and more important than global warming is focusing our research on the polar areas. The climate and effect of the ozone hole over Antarctica affects the entire worlds climate due to changing currents orgiginating from Antarctica. Even a slight increase in temperature and a corresponding increase in ice melt can have DRASTIC effect on ocean cirulation, currents, food levels and climate change. I'd like to see more research focused on that area.

9/29/2005 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I agree that it will be very very hard. That doesn't make it impossible however.

If we can cause global warming, then we obviously have the potential to control the climate.

I am pretty sure though that the ozone hole (which is shrinking) is unrelated to global climate change. I certainly haven't seen anyone attempting to make a correlation there.

9/29/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Katinula said...

Impact on global climate? Yes. Control, no. That would require control over the oceans, control over the atmosphere and control over our orbit in correlation with the sun and moon. Impacts to the worlds climate, positive or negative, are definitely possible.
The fact is that global climate change is inevitable. However, that is on a geologic time scale. What is frightening to many scientists today is that while these changes are small, sometimes variable and sometimes can be attributed to other things, is that relatively so much change is seen over so little time--the only difference being human impact. Look at it this way, in geologic time, our civilization as a whole will, at some point, cease to exist. It is inevitable. Thats what I call...the bright side!

9/29/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

My thoughts here

9/29/2005 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Sandcastle said...

Global climate change is natural, and we are definitely a period of warming. The only debate is to what degree we are contributing to this, and what effect that will have overall. Climate change is always "drastic". Ice ages are a nice example. If there is any way we can impact climate change one way or another I think we should definitely explore that possibility.

9/30/2005 03:59:00 PM  

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