Posted by: JohnnyRook | June 19, 2008

Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt May Lead to Dramatic Rise in Arctic Temperatures

The latest data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder Colorado show Arctic sea ice melt as of June 2008 to be as great as it was a year ago in June 2007 when all previous records were shattered. This despite the fact that in January 2008, ice extension was greater than a year earlier.

Arctic Sea Ice Melt from NSIDC

Scientists on the project say much of the ice is so thin as to melt easily, and the Arctic seas may be ice-free in summer within five to 10 years.

We had a bit more ice in the winter, although we were still way below the long-term average,” said Julienne Stroeve from NSIDC in Boulder, Colorado. “So we had a partial recovery. But the real issue is that most of the pack ice has become really thin, and if we have a regular summer now, it can just melt away,” she told BBC News.

When I began to write this post I thought I would contrast the current data with the denialists’ glee from earlier in the year when sea ice cover was greater than in the previous year. I did find a few examples of “those who rush in where angels fear to tread” which you can read here, here, here and here if you are so inclined, but overall there just wasn’t that much. On the other hand there were many articles about last year’s big thaw, the projection for another large melt this year, explanations about the significance of ice thinning, and projections for a total summer melt within the next 5-10 years.

That’s when it hit me that Climaticide denialists don’t really want to talk about the melting of the Arctic ice cap because the evidence is so overwhelming that there is no way that they can twist the data to make it seem to fit the denialist party line. Worse even, from the denialist point of view, focusing on the melting of the Arctic brings up other ever more disconcerting considerations.

The rate of climate warming over northern Alaska, Canada, and Russia could more than triple during extended episodes of rapid sea ice loss, according to a new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The findings raise concerns about the thawing of permafrost, or permanently frozen soil, and the potential consequences for sensitive ecosystems, human infrastructure, and the release of additional greenhouse gases.

[snip]

The findings point to a link between rapid sea ice loss and enhanced rate of climate warming, which could penetrate as far as 900 miles inland. In areas where permafrost is already at risk, such as central Alaska, the study suggests that periods of abrupt sea ice loss can lead to rapid soil thaw.

[snip]

Thawing permafrost may have a range of impacts, including buckled highways and destabilized houses, as well as changes to the delicate balance of life in the Arctic. In addition, scientists estimate that Arctic soils hold at least 30 percent of all the carbon stored in soils worldwide. While scientists are uncertain what will happen if this permafrost thaws, it has the potential to contribute substantial amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Behind that mild-mannered bit of science-speak lies the threat of a clathrate meltdown and skyrocketing levels of greenhouse gases (particularly methane) and temperature rises.

Relationship between Arctic sea ice melt and inland temperatures

Accelerated Arctic warming. Simulations by global climate models show that when sea ice is in rapid decline, the rate of predicted Arctic warming over land can more than triple. The image at left shows simulated autumn temperature trends during periods of rapid sea-ice loss, which can last for 5 to 10 years. The accelerated warming signal (ranging from red to dark red) reaches nearly 1,000 miles inland. In contrast, the image at right shows the comparatively milder but still substantial warming rates associated with rising amounts of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and moderate sea-ice retreat that is expected during the 21st century. Most other parts of the globe (in white) still experience warming, but at a lower rate of less than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.5 Celsius) per decade. (Image by Steve Deyo, ©UCAR.)

The unwillingness of Climaticide denialists to discuss Arctic sea ice melt is another twist on the importance of True Names. The Climaticide denialists’ superstitious belief that if they don’t talk about contrary evidence, it will somehow cease to exist or have consequences, shows just far they are, both in philosophical sophistication and intellectual integrity, from the reality-based scientists whose work they attempt to discredit.

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