Off The Chart!!! - Just How Bad Was this Summer's Arctic Melting?

Submitted by Charles Frost on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 22:25.

arctic sea ice loss

Chart Of Traverse Bay Freezing

Just How Bad Was this Summer's Arctic Melting?

by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 10.12.07 That bad. More about the report's executive summary after the jump.
According to Carbon Equity's latest report, the Arctic ice caps are facing a much grimmer future than that originally projected by the IPCC - which has been accused of watering down its recommendations due to political pressure. Some of the more salient findings include:
• Climate change impacts are happening at lower temperature increases and more quickly than projected.
• The Arctic's floating sea ice is headed towards rapid summer disintegration as early as 2013, a century ahead of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections.
• The rapid loss of Arctic sea ice will speed up the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet, and a rise in sea levels by even as much as 5 metres by the turn of this century is possible.

MI_Grand_Traverse_Bay_Freeze-charts001.jpg45.71 KB

Ice Caps Melting Fast: Say Goodbye to the Big Apple?

By Paul Brown, AlterNet
Posted on October 10, 2007, Printed on October 13, 2007

It is hard to shock journalists and at the same time leave them in awe of the power of nature. A group returning from a helicopter trip flying over, then landing on, the Greenland ice cap at the time of maximum ice melt last month were shaken. One shrugged and said:"It is too late already."

What they were all talking about was the moulins, not one moulin but hundreds, possibly thousands. "Moulin" is a word I had only just become familiar with. It is the name for a giant hole in a glacier through which millions of gallons of melt water cascade through to the rock below. The water has the effect of lubricating the glaciers so they move at three times the rate that they did previously.

Some of these moulins in Greenland are so big that they run on the scale of Niagra Falls. The scientists who accompanied these journalists on the trip were almost as alarmed. That is pretty significant because they are world experts on ice and Greenland in particular. We were visiting Ilulissat, Greenland, once a stronghold of Innuit hunters but now with so little ice that the dog sleds are in danger of falling through even in the depth of winter. But it is not the lack of sea ice that worries scientists and should be of serious concern to the inhabitants of coastal zones across the world. Cities like New York and states like Florida are in the front line.

Scientists know this already, but just to give you some idea of the problem, the Greenland ice cap is melting at such a fast rate it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break up.

Scientists say the acceleration of melting and subsequent speeding up of giant glaciers could be catastrophic in terms of sea level rise and make previous predictions published this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) far too low. The glacier at Ilulissat, which it is believed spawned the iceberg which sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago.

Robert Correll, chairman of the Artic Climate Impact Assessment, from Washington told me:"We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at 2 metres an hour on a front five kilometres long and 1,500 metres deep. "That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one day to provide drinking water for a city the size New York or London for a year."

Professor Correll, who is also director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report in February had been "conservative" and based on data two years old. The range of rise this century had been predicted to be 20 to 60 centimetres, but would be the upper end of this range at a minimum and some now believed it could be two metres. This would have catastrophic effects for European and US coastlines.

He said newly invented ice penetrating radar showed that the melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a melt water lake 500 metres deep causing the glacier "to float on land. "These melt water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic."

The glacier is now moving at 15 kilometres a year into the sea although in periodic surges it moves even faster. He has seen a surge, which he had measured as moving five kilometres in 90 minutes - an extraordinary event.

If all of Greenland melts, something we were previously assured would take thousands of years, but now could be hundreds, then sea level round the world would rise seven metres. That is without any contribution from the Antarctic, the glaciers of Alaska, the Rockies, the Himalayas, or the ocean water expanding as it warms.

So the talk of sea level rise should not be in centuries, it should be decades or perhaps even single years. For 10,000 years, during all of human civilisation sea level remained stable leading us to believe that coastlines remained roughly in the same place. A century ago the sea began to rise one millimetre a year, 20 years ago it had reached two millimetres and this century it has risen to 3 millimetres. This annual rise may not seem much but add hurricane storm surges and high tides and we are soon saying good bye to a lot of coastal settlements -- like the Big Apple.

Switch forward a week from the helicopter ride to George W. Bush's meeting of 16 of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in Washington last month and what do we hear. We hear lots of rhetoric about how, along with terrorism, climate change is the biggest threat to the earth -- although the catastrophic sea level rise facing our major coastal cities does not rate a mention.

But instead of decisive political action (as with terrorism) we get suggestions from the President of voluntary cuts in emissions, down to the government of each country, and then next summer another conference to discuss where we have got to -- which on past form will be nowhere at all. It did not sound like the much needed change of heart from the President, but just another delaying tactic to tide him over until his term of office ends.

Although it may sound like it, the commentators in Europe are not singling out America for criticism, although it has to be said as often as possible that the US is the world's most profligate nation when it comes to fossil fuel consumption, AND has rejected the only legally binding international agreement that could do something about it. But Europeans are not doing enough either. We need convincing that our own leaders have enough political will to reach the tiny Kyoto targets that are the minimum first step to tackling this problem. The public hears the latest scientists' warnings that an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions is needed if we are to stave off catastrophic climate change, yet wait in vain for the policies needed to achieve them.

In my book, protestors wearing George Bush masks are pictured "fiddling while the earth burns." Maybe he is just the lead violinist of the orchestra.

copyright Paul Brown 2007

Paul Brown was the environment correspondent for The Guardian newspaper for 16 years and has worked in newspaper journalism for more than 40 years. He has written extensively about climate change, population, biodiversity, pollution, energy, desertification, and ocean management, and is the author of several books on the environment.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. From:


  Bill--let's face it, no one is listening.  Don't be discouraged.  We aren't carrying around placards stating "The end is near," but we might as well do it.   What's it going to take?  Another environmental catastrophe--blackout, water shortage, gas shortage that actually hits home.  Well--never fear.  It will happen sooner than later.  I was almost without water this week.  A near disaster averted, but for how long? The existing infrastructure is not the priority.  No, we need to tear things down and build some new flimsy structures or just tear something down for the hell of it, or plow a highway through a neighborhood and now call it a "parkway".     Priorities...
Have you seen the movie Premonition?  Well--it actually has so many layers that I can't begin to explain it.  Just believe me.  Change your life.  Stock up on water and learn to live frugally.  We are going to need it.

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'

Arctic: Ice-Free by 2013?
by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 12.14.07
The passage of time has not been kind to the Arctic's fortunes: Where scientists once predicted the Arctic would be ice-free by the end of the century, they revised their estimates in recent months to 2030 and now - stunningly - to 2013. Presenting the findings of his modeling studies at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Wieslaw Maslowski, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, explained that earlier projections had low-balled the real values by not accounting for some of the processes driving the ice loss.
Even worse, he conceded that his own estimates may be on the optimistic side, explaining that the models he had run - using data from 1979 to 2004 - did not take into account the ice cover minima reached in 2005 and 2007. "Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007. So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative." said Maslowski.
Maslow believes earlier estimates missed out on some key melting processes; those issues could be partially resolved if future models incorporated more realistic representations of warm water movement into the Arctic from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University remarked that past models did not sufficiently take into account the ice-albedo feedback effect, which occurs when water is heated by solar radiation, leading to more warming and melting.
Mark Serreze, a scientist with the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), still believes 2030 is a reasonable estimate, deeming Wieslaw's projections as "a little aggressive . . . simply because the luck of the draw means natural variability can kick in to give you a few years in which the ice loss is a little less than you've had in previous years." Either way, the melting of the Arctic ice cap within our lifetimes now seems inevitable.
Via ::BBC News: Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013' (news website)
See also: ::No More Arctic Ice Cap by 2030?, ::Major Source of Atmospheric Methane Identified Near Arctic Lakes, ::Ice-Tethered Profilers: Monitoring Changes in the Arctic Ocean



The BBC Article:

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.
Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.
Professor Wieslaw Maslowski told an American Geophysical Union meeting that previous projections had underestimated the processes now driving ice loss.
Summer melting this year reduced the ice cover to 4.13 million sq km, the smallest ever extent in modern times.
Remarkably, this stunning low point was not even incorporated into the model runs of Professor Maslowski and his team, which used data sets from 1979 to 2004 to constrain their future projections.


"Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007," the researcher from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, explained to the BBC.
"So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative."
Real world
Using supercomputers to crunch through possible future outcomes has become a standard part of climate science in recent years.
Professor Maslowski's group, which includes co-workers at Nasa and the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS), is well known for producing modelled dates that are in advance of other teams.
These other teams have variously produced dates for an open summer ocean that, broadly speaking, go out from about 2040 to 2100.
But the Monterey researcher believes these models have seriously underestimated some key melting processes. In particular, Professor Maslowski is adamant that models need to incorporate more realistic representations of the way warm water is moving into the Arctic basin from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
"My claim is that the global climate models underestimate the amount of heat delivered to the sea ice by oceanic advection," Professor Maslowski said.
"The reason is that their low spatial resolution actually limits them from seeing important detailed factors.
"We use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice forced with realistic atmospheric data. This way, we get much more realistic forcing, from above by the atmosphere and from the bottom by the ocean."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN-led body which assesses the state of the Earth's climate system, uses an averaged group of models to forecast ice loss in the Arctic.
But it is has become apparent in recent years that the real, observed rate of summer ice melting is now starting to run well ahead of the models.
The minimum ice extent reached in September 2007 shattered the previous record for ice withdrawal set in 2005, of 5.32 million square km.
The long-term average minimum, based on data from 1979 to 2000, is 6.74 million square km. In comparison, 2007 was lower by 2.61 million square km, an area approximately equal to the size of Alaska and Texas combined, or the size of 10 United Kingdoms.
Diminishing returns
Professor Peter Wadhams from Cambridge University, UK, is an expert on Arctic ice. He has used sonar data collected by Royal Navy submarines to show that the volume loss is outstripping even area withdrawal, which is in agreement with the model result of Professor Maslowski.
"Some models have not been taking proper account of the physical processes that go on," he commented.
"The ice is thinning faster than it is shrinking; and some modellers have been assuming the ice was a rather thick slab.
"Wieslaw's model is more efficient because it works with data and it takes account of processes that happen internally in the ice."
He cited the ice-albedo feedback effect in which open water receives more solar radiation, which in turn leads to additional warming and further melting.
Professor Wadhams said the Arctic was now being set up for further ice loss in the coming years.
"The implication is that this is not a cycle, not just a fluctuation. The loss this year will precondition the ice for the same thing to happen again next year, only worse.
"There will be even more opening up, even more absorption and even more melting.
"In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly. It might not be as early as 2013 but it will be soon, much earlier than 2040."
The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) collects the observational data on the extent of Arctic sea ice, delivering regular status bulletins. Its research scientist Dr Mark Serreze was asked to give one of the main lectures here at this year's AGU Fall Meeting.
Discussing the possibility for an open Arctic ocean in summer months, he told the meeting: "A few years ago, even I was thinking 2050, 2070, out beyond the year 2100, because that's what our models were telling us. But as we've seen, the models aren't fast enough right now; we are losing ice at a much more rapid rate.
"My thinking on this is that 2030 is not an unreasonable date to be thinking of."
And later, to the BBC, Dr Serreze added: "I think Wieslaw is probably a little aggressive in his projections, simply because the luck of the draw means natural variability can kick in to give you a few years in which the ice loss is a little less than you've had in previous years. But Wieslaw is a smart guy and it would not surprise me if his projections came out."
Former US Vice President Al Gore cited Professor Maslowski's analysis on Monday in his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.



Would You Like Ice With That Water

****I added the chart that was with this article below the chart from the IPCC. It is amazing to me that the charts show basically the same warming trend!!!!!


Monday December 10, 2007

"You should never extrapolate about global warming from your own weather, New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman wrote last week, but it is becoming hard not to.

Indeed, the freezing trends on Grand Traverse Bay are just one indication of climate change in the Great Lakes region, according to James Nugent, a horticulturalist with Michigan State University.

The graph at the left of this post was generated at least a couple of years. But, according to a web search, it received little media attention at the time. And, since a friend recently brought it to my attention, I thought it made a worthwhile and timely post today as Al Gore accepted the Nobel Prize for his work on the climate issue.

Basically, what the graph says is that Grand Traverse Bay, a beautiful expanse of freshwater in Northwest Michigan, froze anywhere from seven to 10 times a decade from 1851 - when they started keeping records - until about 1980.

Then things started to change. The bay froze six times from 1981 to 1990. It froze just three times from 1991 to 2000. And it has frozen only once since 2001.

"This shows a rapid decline in the frequency of bay freezing during the most recent 25 year period," Mr. Nugent once wrote in a paper, concluding that "significant warming has occured in the
Grand Traverse Bay region during the winter months."

The likely long-term results of the trend are major disruptions in the nature of the waterway, some of which may already be visible. There's strong indication that lower lake levels, for instance, are a symptom of the warming trend as lack of ice cover enables year around evaportation.

I always thought of lake levels as nervous news. They go up. And they go down. It's the nature of the hydrologic cycle that's run on for millenia regardless of human things like lakefront hotels, cottages, and boat docks. But it's increasingly difficult to ignore the idea that the very nature of the Earth's weather system is changing, not just on the coral reefs off the
Florida coast or some polar bear tundra in the North Pole, but right in our own backyard.

To pull the thread back to the theme of this blog, the question is whether our region is ready and willing to anticipate the trends and respond with the sort of urgency, innovation, and collaboration that this incredible challenge demands."

Posted by Andy Guy at 12:34 PM 1 comments