Today’s news that we may set a new Arctic sea-ice melt record in 2008 is, along with a number of other recent stories, further indication that Climaticide is proceeding full speed ahead the Arctic.
Warming temperatures resulting from our continued emissions of greenhouse gases are causing sea ice to melt (at both poles) at ever faster rates, ice shelves to collapse, 30 degrees-above-average temperatures in areas of the Arctic, the potential migration of sea creatures from the Pacific to the Arctic and the Atlantic after a 3.5 million year hiatus, and creating a new area for global conflict as the Northwest Passage opens and polar nations scramble to lay claims for both strategic and economic reasons.
If you need to pull an all-nighter tonight, forget the caffeine. Just read on.
Scientists reacted with unusual bluntness:
“Canadian ice shelves have undergone substantial changes in the past six years, starting with the first break-up event on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, and the loss of the Ayles Ice Shelf,” said Dr. Luke Copland of the University of Ottawa. “These latest break-ups we are seeing have come after decades of warming and are irreversible,” said Dr. Derek Mueller of Trent University. [Science Daily]
Gary Stern, co-leader of an international research program on sea ice, said it’s the same story all around the Arctic.
Speaking from the Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen in Canada’s north, Stern said He hadn’t seen any ice in weeks. Plans to set up an ice camp last February had to be abandoned when usually dependable ice didn’t form for the second year in a row, he said.
“Nobody on the ship is surprised anymore,” Stern said. “We’ve been trying to get the word out for the longest time now that things are happening fast and they’re going to continue to happen fast.” [Associated Press]
A couple of days after the breakup at the Ward Hunt ice shelf, Canadian Park officials announced the evacuation of 21 tourists from Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island due to Climaticide related changes there:
Thawing permafrost, eroding lakeshores, a melting glacier and fears of flash floods at a national park on Baffin Island have forced the evacuation of 21 tourists and led officials to declare much of the wilderness reserve off-limits until geologists and ice experts can assess what appear to be the latest dramatic effects of climate change in Canada’s Arctic.
The 19,000-square-kilometre Auyuittuq National Park on the island’s northeast coast has recently experienced “record-breaking” warmth and substantial amounts of rain, Parks Canada spokeswoman Pauline Scott said Thursday.
“This summer’s events are beyond anything we’re used to,” Ms. Scott said from Iqaluit. “This is no doubt a result of climate change.” [National Post]
MSNBC also quoted Ms. Scott:
“We’ve lost huge proportions of what was formerly the trail in the park. It’s disappeared — gone,” Scott said by phone from Iqaluit, capital of the Arctic territory of Nunavut.
Most visitors walk through the park — which is slightly smaller in area than Israel — starting from the southern edge, near the town of Pangnirtung.
The problems started last month with two weeks of record temperatures on Baffin Island that reached as high as 81 Fahrenheit, well above the July average of 54 F.
That, Scott said, triggered massive melting that sent “a huge pulse of water through the park,” washing away 37 miles of a trail used by hikers and destroying a bridge over a river that is otherwise impassable.
Meanwhile the melting of Arctic sea ice continues apace. Check out the weekly updates by DK blogger and climate scientist BilllaurelMD. As recently as ten days ago, scientists at the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center were expressing doubts about whether 2008′s sea ice melt would match the record-setting levels attained in 2007.
In today’s report however, the skepticism seems to be melting along with the ice. The melt rate has increased due to storms in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas which took out large expanses of newer thin sea ice formed this past winter on the heals of last year’s thawing of thicker and older sea ice.
Once again, Canadian scientists are plain-spoken in their assessment of events:
Last year, 14 million square kilometres of Arctic Ocean ice shrank to just over four million between March and September. The minimum is typically reached in mid-September.
It’s now a “neck-and-neck race between 2007 and this year over the issue of ice loss,” Mark Serreze, a senior climate researcher at the U.S. ice data centre told Britian’s (sic) Guardian newspaper yesterday. “We thought Arctic ice cover might recover after last year’s unprecedented melting — and indeed the picture didn’t look too bad last month.”
But recent storms in the Beaufort region “triggered steep ice losses,” he said, “and it now looks as if it will be a very close call indeed whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for ice cover over the Arctic.”
The Canadian government’s chief observers of Arctic ice conditions are expressing amazement at the state of the Beaufort Sea.
“We’ve never seen any kind of opening like this in history,” senior ice forecaster Luc Desjardins said of the Beaufort’s exceptional loss of ice this summer. “It is not only record-setting, it’s unprecedented. It doesn’t resemble anything that we’ve observed before.” OttawaCitizen.com
That’s because nothing on this scale has likely happened for millions of years according to University of California marine ecologist Geerat Vermeij and California Academy of Sciences paleontologist Peter Roopnarine in an article to published today in the journal Science. Vermeij and Roopnarine are predicting the migration of marine creatures from the Pacific to the Arctic and Atlantic. Although their study focuses on mollusks because they are so well preserved in the fossil record, Roopnarine also noted that
warming “could definitely promote invasions by other aquatic species, fish included. I can’t be as certain of marine mammals and sea birds, but if food sources expand, then they will also likely expand their ranges.”
If you’re not intimidated by visions of migrating mollusks how about polar and grolar bears, which, because of the loss of their traditional hunting grounds, are already moving to new territory, as 5 scientists in northern Alaska discovered today.
And finally there is the news that that the Arctic is increasingly likely to become a target of geopolitical contention:
The great polar thaw has also prompted Canada, Russia, Denmark, the U.S. and Norway — the five nations with Arctic Ocean coastlines — to expedite efforts to claim oil-rich undersea territory and invest billions to enhance their military, scientific and economic presence in the far north.
Last week, during a visit to Alaska, U.S. Coast Guard commander Admiral Thad Allen revealed U.S. plans to recast its foreign policy in the Arctic from a focus on scientific research to “sovereignty” and “security presence.” [OttawaCitizen.com]
For background information see this news article and my diary from last December. The irony in this new emphasis on geopolitics in the Arctic is that one of the factors causing governments to scramble to position themselves as advantageously as possible is the possibility of exploiting Arctic oil deposits that have been, until now, out of reach. Offshore drilling possibilities par excellence. Or, to put it another way, the consequences of Climaticide in the Arctic may provide us with the means to continue practicing Climaticide until it’s too late for us to do anything about it.
Are you wide awake yet?
[Hat Tip to desmogblog]
Crossposted at Daily Kos