Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Arctic keeps melting


More good news in climate change.

This article in Wired describes how exposure to warm water from continental rivers is melting Arctic ice.  A team of scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory suspected a relationship between the seasonal release of river flows and disappearing ice and did a concentrated study on the Mackenzie River delta in Canada.  The findings:

"In 1998, Beaufort Sea ice coverage was the lowest on record — and outflows from the Mackenzie River system were the largest on record. But it was 2012 when sea ice coverage was the lowest throughout the Arctic. In the early summer of that year, the Mackenzie river was kept at bay behind an icy dam. It broke through the dam sometime between June 14 and July 5, flooding the sea with water that had been collecting behind the barrier."

There are 72 rivers that flow into the Arctic from North America, Europe, and Asia, all contributing to ice melt.  Additionally, the growing expanse of darker seawater is less reflective of sunlight than ice.  Wider open seas means higher temperatures and that means less ice.  Vicious circle.

A climate change denier might point to the fact that river flow is not subject to human manipulation.  Well, it can be, such as with irrigation for crops and such but it is wholly unlikely that this is the case with all 72 rivers involved.  So therefore, the melting of the Arctic's ice is not caused by us.  In the case of warm water from rivers, they may have a point.

The problem is when you see this natural phenomena in concert with the greater whole of climate change.  Continents are growing warmer and the ice of the Arctic is getting thinner.  Add in warm water from rivers and the melting is accelerated.  One model I've seen shows the Arctic entirely free of ice in summers by 2040...which is not that far away, folks.

Despite all that, a denier might still say, "So what?  It's only bad news for polar bears and anything else dumb enough to live up there.  For me, it means winters spent driving with the windows rolled down and wearing t-shirts.  And after the hellish winter of snow and subzero temperatures this year, I'm fine with that."

I'm going to forego any discussion of the ethics of humanity causing the extinction of other species as it would probably be like talking to a wall in the previously described case.  What I will say is that, firstly, extreme weather events such as the kind we've experienced this past winter would likely be the norm in a climate affected world.  Second of all, once sea levels rise, oceans dilute with freshwater, and temperatures get especially uncomfortable in the summer, you may care.

Maybe.

There is a susurrant voice speaking to us.  It has been for a while.  It's growing louder at a steady pace.  It's telling exactly what's going to happen to us and what kind of world will all soon inhabit.

But don't let that get in the way of you making any money.

Hell if anything, I hope the deniers are right.  I hope that they come out looking like the lone prophets in the wilderness that had it right while science had it all wrong.  We'll all look stupid while the deniers and corporations rightly thumb their collective noses at us.

If it meant the preservation of the natural world, I'd be okay with that.




Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This post really wasn't popular. Guess "you can't handle the truth!"
    Yes, that was in my best Jack Nicholson voice.

    ReplyDelete