Newsletter 10 – Artic ice summer melt

Newsletter 10.
1st
September
2012

A Tranquility House Newsletter

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Another climate update

In this newsletter we will purely look at even more climate data for which I don’t apologise as it is crucial, but in the following one we are going to see how to radically improve the insulation around your hot water cylinder at minimum cost and with materials you can easily find. This one defines the problem, the next is a solution.

What follows may not be a surprise as it has been in the news recently, but those of us working in climate keep a close watch on Polar activity. It will anyway expand the information considerably. The plot below shows the Arctic summer sea ice surface cover on 13th August, compared with recent previous years and the mean for the years 1979 to 2000. It wasn’t good news even if not unexpected.

As we can see, through the last 2 decades of the last century the area of ice ranged between about 15m sq. kms in late Winter to about 7m sq. kms in September, but the plot this year is the mid blue line – at the bottom.

chart of rapid loss of Arctic sea ice during the melt season

It seemed likely we were going to break the record minimum sometime this year, so the following plot updates it to 26th August when that new record low was indeed set.

Arctic sea ice chart updated by Mike to include the 26th August data

There are some points I would like us to consider:

  1. I have promised not to miss-represent data but the basic plot above is not mine. It looks as though we are very close to an ice free Arctic (and we are) but the vertical axis doesn’t start at 0m kms² but at 2m kms². There is therefore another ‘box’ below the horizontal axis to get to an ice free Arctic.
  2. I would like now to focus on the pale blue nearly vertical line I have superimposed on the chart. This shows the date of the ‘minimum’ ice cover, and we see that date is quite quickly getting later. This directly demonstrates something I have covered elsewhere which involves what are called ‘feedbacks’. They can be positive or negative – positive ones reinforcing the direction in which the climate is changing with negative ones doing the opposite and damping it.In this case the less ice there is the lower the surface reflectivity and the higher the surface absorptivity (see Newsletter 4 – Is man changing the climate? for the full explanation). The less ice there is, the more heat is retained from arriving solar radiation (sunshine); so the region is warmer than it would be; which in turn means the ice continues melting later in the year giving it even more time to do so.
    It therefore seems likely the record will be broken by a substantial margin this year as there may be a further more than 3 weeks to get to minimum.
  3. The charts above are simply ‘surface ice area’ not ‘ice volume’ but it is the latter that is crucial. These charts therefore hide the true impact of the warming North Polar Region as the thickness of the ice is diminishing very fast indeed. This thinner ice will probably therefore catch at least the media by surprise, as there may well be an explosive loss of summer surface ice area from here.
  4. As recently as the 1990’s, just 20 years ago, the minimum area was close to 7m kms² but this year that figure could almost be halved. In 20 years! Astonishing.
  5. In the last IPCC report published in 2007 the scientists said the Arctic was very unlikely to go ice free in summer before 2100. They considered it would be at least 100 years before that could happen. In my estimation it is likely this event will occur before 2020, probably between 2015 and 2020, or just over 10 years from that report. I have argued many times that the climate models do not and cannot work, and would suggest this is good evidential proof of that.

The climate message being given by this melting is huge. The sad thing is that humanity will probably ignore it, failing to understand the implications so avoiding doing anything to tackle the problem. To those of us able (more or less) to interpret these changes, this is much more than a final wake up call, yet already the oil companies are welcoming it as a chance to extract even more oil and gas from the Arctic region – the reason for the problem – and the shipping companies are welcoming the shorter sea route from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific.

Man is at times great, at times compassionate but all too often we also kill each other. The Corporate world (man in a business guise) is greedy beyond belief, often ignoring any moral code and ignoring the betterment of humanity itself. The larger the size of the business, the more out of control they become and the more they ignore the wider good. Indeed I am of the opinion the Finance industry isn’t just avoiding the moral code – they don’t know one exists.

The Olympics has shown us some of the best of man working together in harmony, yet those with all forms of power seem to ignore the wider good working only for themselves. In the EU at this time 120m people (the populations of Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal) are being hung out to dry for the benefit of just a handful of politicians and financial people whose futures often depend on keeping the €. Hardly democratic, especially when we see Eurozone decisions being taken by the leaders of mostly 2 countries rather than the 17 in the Eurozone. Why have I strayed to this? Because it is the same people who will ignore the messages the Planet is screaming at us. I find an ever increasing proportion of the general population very aware of the problems, but there is that gulf between them and the political, financial and business people.

Man can therefore be great but so often incredibly stupid – and that word was chosen carefully.

[It would be wiser academically not to predict ice cover minimum, but that is the safe route – for me. Better surely for us to understand what is going on and why, and use that knowledge to predict what will happen in future. It may be wrong or it may be right – we learn from what actually happens. Taking the climate problem as a whole, waiting to see what happens would unquestionably seal our fate so isn’t an option. Working in the predictive field is absolutely necessary.

Going through these Papers we are finally going to reach the climate predictions, and each of us can then decide what store we put in them.]

Mike

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