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August 07 2012


Arctic Ice Decline Much Worse Than Expected

As the extent of Arctic sea ice declines to levels unrecorded since satellite monitoring began, the National Snow and Ice Data Center has released a new analysis that shows the situation to be worse by far than even the most pessimistic models predicted.

It's a perverse endorsement of one of the most popular denier memes - that you can't rely on climate models because the world is too complicated to be reduced to a compilation of computer data. But, thanks to the expertise (and conservative nature) of the scientists behind this work, the models have shown the direction with perfect accuracy: it's the terrifying extent that they have failed to anticipate.

In addition to the catastrophic conditions currently prevailing in the Arctic, the NSIDC has also drawn attention to the dramatic melting occurring this year in Greenland. And all this is supported and reinforced by the Polar Science Center's ongoing calculation of Arctic ice volume.

The trends are all down. Or as James Hansen put it in the Washington Post last week, "Climate change is here - and it's worse than we thought."

February 08 2011


"ArticGate" - NSIDC Confirms Schmitt, Heartland Misrepresented Data

Two scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center have written to the Santa Fe New Mexican to confirm that the wanna-be head of the New Mexico Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources was pontedly inaccurate when he claimed in a NASA white paper that "Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage."

Walt Meier and Mark Serreze, who help manage and update the daily satellite measurements of Arctic ice, point out (with patience that Schmitt hardly deserves) that there was, indeed, a moment in 2009 when sea ice extent was greater than it had been - in the same week - in 1989, but that this was in no way a fair, accurate or helpful reflection of the state of ice in the Arctic, then or since. ( The graph at left shows the fully-year comparison of 2009 and 1989 and if you click on the NSIDC graphic for yesterday, you will see that extent continues to be at its lowest level in recorded history.)

Unlike the former astronaut and New Mexican Senator Schmitt, Meier and Serreze are in no way political players in this game. You would be hard-pressed to find their names on anything other than the dozens of excellent scientific papers emanating from the NSIDC. So their measured correction is itself extraordinary.

The bottom line is that Schmitt offered advice to NASA on the basis of an unrepresentative high point in ice extent. And he either picked that high point accidentally - in which case he has clearly lost any semblance of scientific rigour and should be denied any position that demands scientific expertise - or he picked it on purpose - in which case he should be denounced as a scoundrel and dismissed from candidacy for any public position.


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February 07 2011


"ArticGate" - Heartland Backs Schmitt in Climate Misinformation

Incompetent or Dishonest - Either Way They're Wrong

The former astronaut and proud climate change denier Harrison Schmitt is not alone in making the false claim that "Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage." He has been bolstered  by the smokey hacks at the Heartland Institute, and especially by the brittle letter writer and Heartland head honcho, Joseph Bast.

If Schmitt's false statement had stood on its own (or if he had moved to correct it when it was pointed out), you could reasonably have dismissed it as an error made in good faith.  But when Bast stooped to the flagrant manipulation necessary to argue that Schmitt's assertion could have some basis in fact, well, you have to wonder - especially when there is already an established relationship between Schmitt and Heartland (check the name on the podium in the Schmitt denier video).

It's awkward always to trace climate denial back to the money trail. Some people - maybe even Schmitt - deny climate science out of ideological blindness, not greedy self-interest. But it's interesting that Heartland's two favourite projects are denying the science of climate change and arguing that tobacco is really not all that bad for you. It's relevant, too, that before they started hiding their funding sources, Heartland used to acknowledge the generous support of the tobacco and oil industries in propping up the "think" tank's operations.<!--break-->

With this kind of backing - and little evidence of having the kind of conscience that might keep you awake at night for fudging details in the creation of an argument -Heartland has also been fiercely aggressive on occasions when they think they can intimidate or outshout someone with less influence. Bast's diatribe in the Santa Fe New Mexican against the scientist Dr. Mark Boslough is typical.

But Heartland may have misjudged Boslough even as it continued to misrepresent the science. Bast, Schmitt, et al, are getting roasted today in all manner of outlets (Scott Mandia's Blog, Skeptical Science, Huffington Post, elsewhere in the DeSmogBlog, Climate Denial Crock of the Week and Climate Progress). And the worst may be yet to come.

Bast might actually invite Schmitt over to the Heartland Smokers Lounge for a puff on something a little stronger. Against this storm, they may need even more help maintaining their delusions - or they may finally have to speak directly to whether they knew what they were saying was wrong at the time that they said it.

November 03 2010


Arctic Sea Ice Trends: Down, Down Down

Two graphs, inluding the brand new one to the left, show two (mutually affirming) analyses of the trajectory of Arctic sea ice over the last 30 years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center graph (left) shows Average Monthly Sea Ice Extent. The figure below shows a Polar Science Center model-generated calculation of Sea Ice Volume. Notwithstanding that NSIDC reports Arctic temperatures in October were 4 to 6 degrees Celsius (7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal, there is something chilling in the similarity of the two graphs. 

PIOMAS Ice Volume Anomaly<!--break-->

September 17 2010


Tracking Sea Ice in the Arctic

This year's minimum level of sea ice is the third lowest ever recorded.

April 06 2010


Arctic Sea Ice: Brace Yourself for the Spin

The extent of Arctic sea ice peaked on March 31, 2010, the latest date for the maximum Arctic sea ice extent since the start of the satellite record in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Co. The ice also reached an extent that was 670,000 square kilometers (260,000 square miles) above the record low for the month, which occurred in March 2006.

From these two factoids, you may expect a round of stories in the DenierSphere trumpeting a return to global cooling - an end to the worrying decline of Arctic ice that hit a low point in 2006. Just as they have done with the unusually warm year in 1998, the campaigners for inaction will grasp onto the historic low as a new starting point for their graph - which will then show an actual increase in ice: hallelujah.

Of course, if you look at the graph to the left, you'll see the trend. If someone tries to take your attention away from that declining line, ask them to explain why.<!--break-->


January 09 2010


Feedback Accelerates Arctic Ice Melt – Canada, Alaska Most Pronounced

Scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center published research last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research based on satellite microwave data of seasonal Arctic ice thaw from 1970 to 2009. The study indicates the seasonal Arctic sea ice melt melt season is now about 20 days longer than it was 30 years ago.

The growing season of thaw is most pronounced in Arctic waters off the coasts of Alaska and Canada, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where the season is 30 days longer now than in 1979. East Greenland and the Hudson Bay also share nearly a month longer of seasonal melt. The Hudson Bay exhibits one of the fastest increases in seasonal melt on the globe.

On average, seasonal melt has increased about 2.5 days per decade and lasts 3.7 days longer – an average of just under 20 days since 1979.

"With the exception of the Sea of Okhotsk, all areas in the Arctic show a trend toward earlier melt onset and also a trend toward later freezeup," researchers said in their published report.

Scientists suggest that the longer melt season creates a feedback loop further accelerating warming in the region. When the ice melts, darker ocean water absorbs more heat from the sun. With a longer melt season there is more time for these dark waters to absorb more heat, adding further to ice loss. The delayed fall freeze also means thinner ice reforms every season, leading to increased ice loss in the coming thaw next season.

NASA has recently published research showing that average thickness of Arctic sea ice shrank 2.2 feet between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with the surface area covered by multi-year ice shrinking by more than 42 percent.

As goes the ice in the Arctic waters so goes conditions on land. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the changes observed in sea ice leads changing conditions on land. Those changes include warmer fall temperatures, making was for a northward march of trees and shrubs into areas that were once frozen tundra. The changing patterns on land and sea rise up into the atmospheric circulation patterns in northern Alaska and Canada, all the way down to mid-latitude North America.

Sources and further reading:
Climatewire (subscription)
The Star
The Energy Collective

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