Better Start On That Ark

Science Daily has a piece on a new study of data gleaned from Tahitian corals laid down during the Bølling warming event around 14,000 years ago. Then, high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere warmed as much as 15 degrees Celsius in a few tens of decades and the new study indicates that freshwater from melting ice shelfs contributed to a rise of over 14 meters (45 feet) in sea levels.

Meanwhile, over at New Scientist, there’s worrying news about Artic ice melt.

The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a “tipping point” that could soon make ice-free summers a regular feature across most of the Arctic Ocean, says a British climate scientist who is setting up an early warning system for dangerous climate tipping points.

Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter has carried out a day-by-day assessment of Arctic ice-cover data collected since satellite observation began in 1979. He presented his hotly anticipated findings for the first time at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London on Monday.

Up until 2007, sea ice systematically fluctuated between extensive cover in winter and lower cover in summer. But since then, says Lenton, the difference between winter and summer ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before, as a result of unprecedented summer melting. These observations are in contrast to what models predict should have happened.

One of the consequences, according to a study by Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway, University of London, is that gas hydrates on the seabed are melting.

This could trigger landslides on steep submarine slopes in the area, unleashing tsunamis capable of hitting the UK, and releasing buried methane that could amplify global warming. Something similar happened off Norway 8000 years ago in a similar geological setting, Nisbet told New Scientist.

These studies come on the back of a 2010 one that suggests that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might be close to a tipping point at which it would rapidly disintigrate, dropping enough fresh water into the world’s oceans to quickly raise sea levels by more than ten feet.

With a crowd-sourced study involving over 10,000 simulations strongly suggesting that we’re in for more warming in decades to come than the most pessimistic “official” climate predictions, such tipping points are likely to come thick and fast. For example, an estimated 5.6 million trees have already died of drought in Texas urban areas alone, decreasing shade cover dramatically and increasing heat evaporation which will deplete scarce water resources even faster as we head towards a new dustbowl. Rising sea levels will swamp much of the Texas coast while flooding cities worldwide which are homes to 27 million people, from Mumbai to Miami.

But Rick Perry is upset about UK ‘meddling’ in his denialism. Go figure.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • is that he was stoned on painkillers during the debates.
    The fact that nobody noticed tells ua all we need to know about him.

    A 10-foot rise in the ocean will not only cause a lot of migration but will trash a lot of the capital investment of the last 150 years.

    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • The melting of Arctic ice will not increase sea level – it’s pack ice so already part of sea level. It’s Greenland and Antarctica that have to be watched.

  • (Reuters) – This year’s frenzy of oil and gas exploration in newly accessible Arctic waters could be the harbinger of even starker changes to come.

    If, as many scientists predict, currently inaccessible sea lanes across the top of the world become navigable in the coming decades, they could redraw global trading routes — and perhaps geopolitics — forever

    This summer will see more human activity in the Arctic than ever before, with oil giant Shell engaged in major exploration and an expected further rise in fishing, tourism and regional shipping. But that, experts warn, brings with it a rising risk of environmental disaster not to mention criminal activity from illegal fishing to smuggling and terrorism.

    “By bringing more human activity into the Arctic you bring both the good and the bad,” Lt Gen Walter Semianiw, head of Canada Command and one of Ottawa’s most senior military officers responsible for the Arctic, told an event at Washington DC think tank the Centre For Strategic and International Studies last week. “You will see the change whether you wish to or not.”

    With indigenous populations, researchers and military forces reporting the ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap might disappear completely during the summer season as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier.

    That could slash the journey time from Europe to Chinese and Japanese ports by well over a week, possibly taking traffic from the southern Suez Canal route. But with many of those key sea routes passing through already disputed waters believed to contain much of the world’s untapped energy reserves, some already fear a rising risk of confrontation.

    There are fledging signs of growing cooperation — the first ever meeting of Arctic defense chiefs in Canada later this month, joint tabletop exercises on polar search and rescue operations organized through the Arctic Council. But growing unease is also clear.

    Norway and Canada, for example, have spent recent years quietly re-equipping its military and moving troops and other forces to new or enlarged bases further north.

    Having largely withdrawn most of its forces from the region in the aftermath of the Cold War, officials and experts say the United States is now only just rediscovering its significance.

    But for now, Washington has no concrete plans to build even a single new icebreaker — in part because experts estimate the pricetag for a single ship could be as high as $1 billion.

    For the first time, some officers worry the United States is losing its foothold as new rivals such as China prepare to muscle in.

    “We are in many ways an Arctic nation without an Arctic strategy,” United States Coast Guard Vice Adml Brian M Salerno told the same Washington DC event.

    (More at link)

  • that the melting of land-borne ice in Greenland, Antarctica and glaciers would increase sea levels most, as ocean-borne ice displaces less than it’s volume of water.
    However, warm water does occupy more volume than cool water. As oceans warm, they rise and that would just make a bad situation worse.

    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • a lot more heat back into space compared to open water. Having an ice free arctic will only speed up the warming trend. Perhaps not by too much, but any positive reinforcement at this point is awful.

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