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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Melting Away

posted by on October 25 at 13:44 PM

For the climate change skeptics: this isn’t a bit of worst-case-scenario animation from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. It’s actual time-lapse photography taken by NASA that shows just what happened to the Arctic ice cap this summer.

Via Sullivan.

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Dan, focus on the Perky Side of Global Warming! Like Katie Couric or the new spokesliar for the White House.

Posted by Just Me | October 25, 2007 1:55 PM

My eyes grew bigger and rounder with every second that passed while watching that little clip. That's fucking scary.

Posted by Carollani | October 25, 2007 1:55 PM

oh my god... you see what we've done just by THINKING about prop 1!!!

oh noes! head for the hills!

what's the southern ice cap up to these days?

Posted by Cale | October 25, 2007 1:56 PM

At the risk of sounding like a global warming non-believer (which I am not), doesn't that happen to the Arctic ice cap EVERY summer?

Posted by Mahtli69 | October 25, 2007 1:59 PM

WOW! Snow melts in the summer?

What happens in the winter?

Posted by cochise. | October 25, 2007 2:00 PM

Whoa. I think I see me.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 25, 2007 2:05 PM

Yay for higher ocean levels! Yay! Gulp.

Posted by Michigan Matt | October 25, 2007 2:08 PM

@4: It does happen every summer. What is changing is when the ice cap begins to melt (earlier), how far the ice retreats (MUCH farther) and if the cap reaches its historically typical extent in the winter (no).

Posted by Cori | October 25, 2007 2:18 PM

@8 - I was a bit surprised at the video because of the ice that didn't melt. I thought this was one of the first summers in which the Arctic was free of ice and navigable by sea. That didn't appear to be the case in the video.

Posted by Mahtli69 | October 25, 2007 2:24 PM

Anyone remember this guy from earlier this summer?

A BRITISH yachtsman attempting the first solo Arctic sea passage across northern Russia was examining his options after heavier than expected ice blocked his route, his manager said.

Adrian Flanagan is discussing with Russian authorities the possibility of using a nuclear-powered icebreaker to lift his boat out of the water and carry it round the most icebound stretch of Russia's Northern Sea Route.

source here

Posted by chunkstyle | October 25, 2007 2:34 PM


If you pause the clip just before the end (about -:05 to - :02) you can make out a clear path running across the top of North America to the right-center of the image.

This would represent a navigable passage from Northern Russia, across the Arctic Ocean and into the North Atlantic.

In fact, the only section that appears unnavigable in the last few frames would be the strip connecting the northern tip of Siberia to the islands of Zemlya and Severnaya in the Russian Arctic.

Posted by COMTE | October 25, 2007 2:40 PM

Sorry, meant to address that to @9...

Posted by COMTE | October 25, 2007 2:40 PM

Yeah, not to sound like a disbeliever, but 1) if this happens every summer and the difference is really in how it compares to previous years, this video is pretty weak, argumentatively, and 2) if that much of the ice cap melted this summer, how much did sea levels rise?

Posted by Ben | October 25, 2007 3:36 PM
Posted by Peter | October 25, 2007 3:43 PM

@13 et al, melting occurs every summer, true. But what's melting here is multi-year ice, ice that takes years to form, usually when there are 3 or 4 colder years in a row. 3 or 4 colder years in a row is not the trend recently. Between 2006 and 2007, one million more square miles of open water were exposed than the average since satellites started measurements in 1979. (The sea level didn't rise because the Arctic Ice Sheet is already *in* the ocean -- sea levels will rise as ice on land melts.) It's expected that the Northwest Passage will be commercially navigable within a few years.

Posted by MvB | October 25, 2007 3:52 PM

Thank God I voted NO on RTID/ST2.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 25, 2007 3:54 PM

Ummm... Folks...

Does anyone here know what the ice normally looks like? Anyone do a comparison to historically "normal" ice?

Without that, the video doesn't say anything intelligible.

I'm not saying it's not saying something, but it's not saying anything intelligent to you or me (unless one of you is familiar with what is "normal").

That's my 2 cents.

That said, the wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze!

Posted by wet_suit | October 25, 2007 4:04 PM

@17, just in case you're not trolling, here's what NASA said in that link I just posted. Is this specific enough data for you about what's normal?

"The 2007 Arctic summer sea ice has reached the lowest extent of perennial ice cover on record - nearly 25% less than the previous low set in 2005. The area of the perennial ice has been steadily decreasing since the satellite record began in 1979, at a rate of about 10% per decade. But the 2007 minimum, reached on September 14, is far below the previous record made in 2005 and is about 38% lower than the climatological average. Such a dramatic loss has implications for ecology, climate and industry."

Posted by Peter | October 25, 2007 4:39 PM

@8 "It does happen every summer. What is changing is when the ice cap begins to melt (earlier), how far the ice retreats (MUCH farther) and if the cap reaches its historically typical extent in the winter (no)."

Very likely true, but this is not depicted during this animation, making the video really irrelevant to the topic without a basis for comparison.

And it has to be an animation (and not photography as "slogged") since there wasn't a cloud visible on the planet during the entire summer.

Posted by Colin | October 25, 2007 4:40 PM

I read the following today in the WSJ. John Christy, the head of the U.N.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient of this year's Nobel
Peace Prize) was questioned by CNN anchor Miles O'Brien:
O'Brien: I assume you're not happy about sharing this award with Al Gore.
You going to renounce it in some way?
Christy: Well, as a scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I
always thought that--I may sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas
here--that prizes were given for performance, and not for promotional
activities. And, when I look at the world, I see that the carbon dioxide
rate is increasing, and energy demand, of course, is increasing. And that's
because, without energy, life is brutal and short. So, I don't see very
much effect in trying to scare people into not using energy, when it is the
very basis of how we can live in our society.
O'Brien: So, what about the movie "An Inconveninent Truth" do you take issue
with, then, Dr. Christy?
Christy: Well, there's any number of things. I supose, fundamentally, it's
the fact that someone is speaking about a science that I have been very
heavily involved with and have labored so hard in, and been humiliated by,
in the sense that the climate is so difficult to understand, Mother Nature
is so complex, and so the uncertainties are great, and then to hear someone
speak with such certainty and such confidence about what the climate is
going to do is--well, I suppose I could be kind and say, it's annoying to
O'Brien: But you just got through saying that the carbon dioxide levels are
up. Temperatures are going up. There is a certain degree of certainty that
goes along with that, right?
Christy: Well, the carbon dioxide is going up. And remember that carbon
dioxide is plant food in the fundamental sense. All of life depends on the
fact carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. So, we're fortunate it's not a
toxic gas. But, on the other hand, what is the climate doing. And when we
build--and I'm one of the few people in the world that actually builds these
climate data sets--we don't see the catastrophic changes that are being
promoted all over the place.
For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the
Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the
Artic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.

Posted by Karen | October 25, 2007 7:12 PM

Hey, look at that cool northern passage. Just the thing for lots of diesel-powered freighters to import more consumer goods!

Posted by David Wright | October 25, 2007 9:56 PM

Yup, that is what is happening. The permafrost is melting too causing sinkholes in places. Permafrost typically doesn't melt much over the summer!
This is the first rainy, wet October I have ever had up here. Snow just barely started sticking yesterday but it is likely to melt and re freeze throughout the winter just like it did last year. The effects of global warming are already being felt up here! The winter before last I saw green grass poking through the melting snow on my lawn during what were supposed to be some of our coldest months. At least the garden is thriving more than it used to.

Posted by AKsnowgirl | October 26, 2007 12:41 AM

So easy to find examples of global-warming when you ignore examples of global cooling. The Antarctic sea-ice extent has reached its all-time maximum. Let's see time-lapse photography of the Antarctic so we can draw more meaningless conclusions.

Posted by Karen | October 26, 2007 8:30 AM

@23, 'Karen', are you saying that an observed "all-time minimum" (that's a direct quote from - see above link) Northern ice cap is a "meaningless conclusion"?

Posted by Peter | October 27, 2007 4:37 PM

I am just saying that the effects of the weather are too complex to be reduced to time-lapse photography of the Artic or even of the super-frozen Antarctic, and that suggesting that meaningful conclusions can be drawn from either, or from statements from NASA saying we have reached all-time minimums or maximums, is a far cry from proving that mankind is responsible for global warming. We are at the end of a Little Ice Age, so one would expect some global warming, and we have had global warming periods like this in our past, particularly around 900-1000 A.D. when the Vikings settled Greenland and later discovered North America. The debate on this question is not over, contrary to claims of master-pontificator Gore. The facts have been distorted by partisans. Take a look at this video:

Posted by Karen | October 28, 2007 3:30 PM

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