Year 3, Month 8, Day 5: The Mighty Quinn, Redux.

This is horrifying, in an awful kind of way. The New York Times is one of many reporting on NASA’s recent observations of Greenland, which appears to be melting very fast. Very fast:

In a scant four days this month, the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melted to an extent not witnessed in 30 years of satellite observations, NASA reported on Tuesday.

The extent of Greenland’s ice sheet surface, in white, on July 8, left, and July 12, right, based on measurements from three satellites, which pass over at different times and whose data are combined and analyzed. The deepest pink areas reflect maximal certainty that the ice has melted.

On average, about half of the surface of the ice sheet melts during the summer. But from July 8 to July 12, the ice melt expanded from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent, according to scientists who analyzed the data from satellites deployed by NASA and India’s space research institute.

“I started looking at the satellite imagery and saw something that was really unprecedented” since the advent of satellite imaging of the earth’s frozen surface, or cryosphere, said Thomas L. Mote, a climate scientist at the University of Georgia who for 20 years has been studying ice changes on Greenland detected by satellite.

While scientists described it as an “extreme event” not previously recorded from space, they hastened to add that it was normal in a broader historical context.

But Al Gore is fat. Sent July 25:

When it comes to the news on climate change, “rare” seems to be the new “often.” How often in the recent past have we heard reports of “once-in-a-century” storms suddenly happening every year? Of nearly snowless winters several times in a row — in places normally measuring the stuff in yards?

NASA’s report of unprecedented melting on Greenland’s ice sheet is just the latest and most terrifying example of this phenomenon. While the researchers studying the ice discuss it in careful scientific language, there’s no doubt they are shocked and disturbed by such extreme melting.

How much more evidence do we need to connect the accelerating greenhouse effect to these stunning disruptions of the environmental status quo? Our civilization was made possible by a mild and predictable climate — one rapidly vanishing in the rear-view mirrors of our industrial-size SUVs. Now that “bizarre” is the new “normal”, whither humanity?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 20: Dry Ice! We’ll Sprinkle Dry Ice All Around, And It’ll Freeze Everything Up Again!

The Boston Herald apparently had an empty spot on one of their pages, so they ran an article about climate change and ice melt:

LOS ANGELES — The Greenland ice sheet has a lower melting point than previously thought, with scientists saying not only that it could melt completely at a lower temperature than once believed, but also that the melting process could soon become irreversible.

“Once the process of melting the ice begins, it is very hard for it to change course even if we can lower temperatures in the future,” Alex Robertson, lead author of a new study, said in an interview by email with the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

“So even though melting the whole ice sheet could take a really long time, we will essentially decide the fate of Greenland within the next century.”

The study was published Sunday in Nature Climate Change.

How to criticize them without hurting their fee-fees? Sent March 14:

In a culture dominated by scandals du jour and the rapid-fire programming of a 24-hour news cycle, it’s no surprise that our nation seems to have a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder.  When electoral politics is carried out in sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans, our civilization’s long-term future is invariably trivialized.

Nowhere is this more problematic than in the intersection of scientific research and public policy.  By its nature, science requires rigor, attentiveness, and patience — three qualities notably lacking in our political and media environments.  The most recent study on the likely fate of the Greenland ice sheet is the result of many years of concentrated study and inquiry — and its findings likewise require more than superficial attention.  Politicians and pundits, however, will do their best to ignore its implications for our nation and our planet; it’s far, far easier just to mock what you don’t understand.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 19: Just Look At The Schmuck On That Camel!

The Broward South Beach New Times (FL) wonders about the possibility of the Southern end of their state going underwater:

A giant sheet of ice that covers most of ​Greenland might be a serious problem for South Florida in a few hundred or few thousand years, give or take.

A new study in Nature Climate Change warns that a 1.6 degree Celsius jump in global temperatures could completely melt Greenland’s ice sheet.

That’s terrible because we’re talking about ice that’s on land — not in the ocean — meaning that sea levels could rise dramatically if the sheet were to vanish.

Bloomberg reports that “the United Nations estimates the Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels by about seven meters (23 feet), threatening coastal cities from New York to London and Bangkok. Even so, the researchers said it could take thousands of years for the entire sheet to melt.”

Frederick Bloetscher, an engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University, tells New Times that a mere three-foot rise in global sea levels would permanently flood entire areas of western Broward County.

But on the other hand, as one of their commenters has helpfully pointed out, Al Gore.

Sent March 13:

While the prospect of a submerged South Florida is disturbing enough, the fact is that rising sea levels will be taking entire nations off the map; island states in Oceania are already making plans to move their entire populations elsewhere in the likely event that their homelands are lost beneath the waves.

We humans only rarely think beyond a century ahead; far more often our imaginations cannot leap more than a few years into the future. Because of this, the multi-generational threat posed by melting ice in Greenland hardly seems significant compared with more immediate concerns: jobs, wars, health care, civil rights.

But if the warming of the world’s atmosphere continues to accelerate, all of these issues will be rendered irrelevant. If we fail to address the accelerating greenhouse effect, our descendants will have far graver concerns than the petty political dramas that now occupy us so intensely.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 20: Sorry, Darling. We Didn’t Know How To Tell You Earlier.

Well. This sucks:

The population of Adélie penguins in Antarctica has declined by 50 percent in recent years, and everyone who has watched a nature movie or television show knows that the reason is the rapidly melting sea ice that has limited the size of their winter habitat. But what everyone knows may be wrong.

New research, published online Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the penguins’ real problem is the severe decline in the abundance of Antarctic krill, their main food, a problem affecting the ice-avoiding chinstrap penguins as well.

“For the last 30 years, the adults have been able to rear chicks as they always have,” said Wayne Z. Trivelpiece, the lead author. “But the young aren’t coming back. Ninety percent never make it through their first year. They are not finding the food they need.”

As an atheist, I have no available profanity that conveys my feelings. Sent April 11:

The Anthropocene Epoch looks to be one of devastation for many of the world’s other species — even those which we claim to cherish. The latest sobering example is the news that climate change is drastically reducing krill populations, and therefore condemning the penguins which feed on these tiny marine creatures to an evolutionary bottleneck. I contemplate the conversation with dread: how will I explain to my daughter that the world’s penguins are dying because human beings can’t be bothered to change their way of living? As the greenhouse effect continues its rapid heating of our atmosphere, we can expect many more such announcements; a microscopic species lost here, a few types of algae snuffed out there — gradually undermining humanity’s own food chain. The penguins’ fate may well be a preview of our own.

Warren Senders