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Arctic Ice May Melt By 2040 474

Posted by kdawson
from the what-about-Santa? dept.
Dekortage writes in with a new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggesting that the North Pole may be clear of ice in summer as soon as 2040, decades earlier than previously thought. From the article: "'As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice,' Holland said in the statement. 'This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic.'"
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Arctic Ice May Melt By 2040

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  • Skeptical. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by d2_m_viant (811261) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:28PM (#17214040)
    Who can even make heads or tails of all this global warming stuff?

    We get reports like this, within a day of getting reports like cows cause more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation put together []

    Say what you want, but I'm quite skeptical of their ability to accurately forecast this stuff...haven't there been sensationalist reports like this for the last 40 years? All of which were disproven when more accurate methods of forecasting came around?
  • Re:Oh please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Paltin (983254) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:32PM (#17214112)
    Ever notice how people that are skiing wear sunglasses?

    That's because ice reflects sunlight.

    Take all the energy that the polar regions reflect because of sunlight, and instead add it to the ocean in polar regions.

    That's the math they're saying they did, and the answer they came up with is : the polar cap melts fast!

    If you don't want to buy it, do a counter study. As is, their results seem fairly clear and robust. Not saying that they're exactly right, but a counter argument needs to be more then you saying "NOOOOOOO".
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasunt (249686) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:32PM (#17214128)

    So you would also be skeptical of the claim that I may be a billionaire by 2040?

  • kdawson vs Zonk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Knara (9377) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:34PM (#17214152)
    Am I the only one who notices that as soon as Zonk goes "off duty" for approving front page articles, the quality of the articles themselves immediately improves?
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tgd (2822) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:35PM (#17214190)
    What does that have to do with it?

    If I'm bleeding to death, the fact that the knife wounds are bleeding out faster than the gunshot wounds, and the fact that in the past I've gotten nosebleeds, so its not unusual for blood to be coming out of my body isn't really all that important. Dealing with the blood loss is.
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:43PM (#17214342)
    I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to global warming (usually arguing against it because someone has to) and I recently began to wonder what the consequence of a (very small) error would be in a computer simulation. Suppose that you (as a climate researcher) underestimated the effect that a warming trend caused by CO2 would have on plant growth, or overestimated the impact of CO2 on warming; in this situation wouldn't your model come to an equilibrium point much earlier and much higher than would be the case in reality?
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hankenstein (107201) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:43PM (#17214344) Homepage
    Who can even make heads or tails of all this global warming stuff?

    Ummmm, scientists? Just because what you want to believe doesn't fit with the
    consensus [], doesn't mean it is confusing to the rest of us.

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:01PM (#17214630)
    Because not all of the ice is floating. There is a significant amount of ice in the Greenland Ice Cap. Melting of this will cause the sea level to rise. Interestingly, it will also cause Greenland itself to rise by a small amount due to the release from the weight of the ice. There is also non-floating ice on the Canadian Shield islands. In addition, if you assume that melting of the Arctic ice cap will be accompanied by at least some melting of the Antarctic cap, there could be a sea level rise of from a few meters to several meters. This is enough to cause a severe disruption of human populations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:03PM (#17214654)
    Brushing off the livestock factor as '[non-]human caused' is really a lazy slurring over the facts. Who grows this livestock, and for who's benefit?
  • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:06PM (#17214698) Homepage Journal
    Actually, the real questions that should be asked concern why you buy that huge pile of bullshit when all of it has been disproved or proven to come from petroleum companies.

    What makes you favor this information rather than other information, given that you're not an expert in the field. Political reasons?
  • by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:11PM (#17214810)
    If the North Pole melts alone... Then no.

    But Chances are that Greenland will almost melt in the process.

    Therefore we will notice an increase in sea level if the Arctic ice melts but it will be due to Greenland ice melting.
  • by MustardMan (52102) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:12PM (#17214814)
    Wow, way to tack a COMPLETELY UNRELATED comment onto mine, since it's near the top of the discussion, and hope for an easy chance at higher moderation.

    I made no arguments for or against global warming - I made a simple statement about the physics of ice melting.

    And wow, you learned that electrical fields affect the motion of particles while studying particle physics, did you? I learned it in high school with everyone else. And you BELIEVE that Earth's magnetic field shields us from radiation? Why, that's dandy, considering the fact that scientists know this to be the case. For someone who supposedly has done "a lot of research on the side" about this stuff, you sure don't seem to have a clue as to what OTHER people already know.

    But please, don't let that stop you from playing the game that every political website with an agenda plays, linking a bunch of articles trying to lead people towards one conclusion, while making no genuine connection between said articles. Nice touch with the not-so-subtle "I don't know the answer, but I'll ask a bunch of hypothetical questions that lead you towards my own foregone conclusion" routine.
  • Re:Oh please (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cecil (37810) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:25PM (#17214998) Homepage
    You seem to know a lot more about this than the real scientists... maybe you should let them know!

    Seriously though, you're as guilty as glossing over things as those you criticize. How do you expect these "great forests" to grow without any sunlight because the sky is constantly overcast? How will our crops grow?

    But the real problem is, clouds don't just reflect sunlight, they also trap heat. And guess which one they are more effective at? You can take a look at our solar system for a clue: Mercury's peak temperature, despite being very close to the sun, with dark rock, no clouds, and no protective atmosphere, is still cooler than Venus, even though Venus is almost twice as far from the Sun and receives only 25% of the solar radiation. Clouds are part of global warming, not a solution. And even if they were a solution, they would be a very unpleasant one: almost all of our renewable energy is ultimately solar-based.
  • by Socguy (933973) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:27PM (#17215050)
    There may well be nothing we can do about the arctic now, but it doesn't mean that we should do nothing since the melting arctic is not the final effect of global warming. THe longer we do nothing = more and more drastic effects around the world.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:34PM (#17215154)
    True for floating ice, but there is also ice that is on land in the form of glaciers which will probably melt and run off into the ocean. Like in Greenland and Canada and places like that.
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:48PM (#17215442) Homepage Journal
    ...both of those news organisations are known to be the main global warming deniers in each of those countries.

    So instead we have to listen to those organizations who are the main global warming promoters in those countries?
  • by jd (1658) < minus caffeine> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @06:59PM (#17215648) Homepage Journal
    There were predictions back 40 years ago. Oh, things like ozone holes, stuff like that. NASA eventually started looking for them, but had some trouble at first. The holes were so f*** large that their computer software was rejecting them as impossible.

    I guess that 40 years ago, it would have been within the knowledge and ability of people to predict that cutting down the forests in Africa would cause a drought. Certainly, it's indisputable that humanly-deforested regions have suffered longer, more severe droughts since being deforested than at any time prior.

    In recent years, there has been strong evidence that zooplankton levels are inversely proportional to temperature - cooler weather, more plankton; hotter weather, less plankton.

    Does this mean that global warming is real? Define real. The globe is warming, that's irrefutable. Is it caused by human activity? Well, define activity - are you including deforestation, pollution, changes in the biological infrastructure of the planet, etc? Or just a select set of these? Also, and this is the billion dollar question, how much does the cause matter? If the planet is warming to the point where the current life is incapable of survival, who gives a damn about the causes? The latency inherent in the system is on the order of decades to centuries - changing the causes today won't be fast enough to stop the planet overheating, even if all causes WERE under human control. Why not take care of the problem right now and address the causes when we've got time?

    I do believe humans are the primary cause, because although natural sources are often much greater, they are much more sporadic and much more regional. Humans have generated non-local sustained inputs, and those simply didn't exist before. Nor is the process linear. Not even remotely close. Saying that X is greater than Y by a factor of Z is only useful if you can use Z to make some useful observation. If the system is non-linear with both positive feedback and negative feedback loops that are themselves non-linear, you have what is known as a chaotic system. Chaotic systems have two properties - they are acutely sensitive to initial conditions, so any error in measurement will explode out of all proportion in almost no time at all, and they are non-differentiable, so that you can't accurately solve any given step even if you DID know the initial conditions. This means that you cannot directly equate human activity with natural activity and hope to get useful results. The best you can do is equate mechanisms and distributions to see what MIGHT be comparable.

    However, my opinion of human activity is of no consequence. If humans cut out all pollution tomorrow, we would not start to see the benefits until a hundred or so years after global warming reached crisis point. If you want to do something effective, don't target the stuff that is pointless. Fixing human activity is like re-wallpapering a house that's on fire. Some things can be left to later.

  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:08PM (#17215790) Homepage
    What you're missing here is that methane has a much larger global warming effect per carbon atom than carbon dioxide does.
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiedrazer (555388) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:15PM (#17215880) Homepage
    Here's the thing. I doesn't matter if you are skeptical of the particular facts of a particular study. Even if you completely ignore global warming, the fact is that pollution is bad no matter how you slice it, and reducing it is a good thing no matter what your motivation is.

    You are buying into the Corporate PR machine that is actually keeping the focus on debating how real global warmimg may or may not be so they can continue to delay the costly adjustments that they will eventually need to make to protect the environment. The problem is that the continued delay as we continue to spend time rebuffing their continual denials and half truths about global warming will make it less and less likely that we can do anything about it.

    Global warming is real, and the only reason anyone expends energy denying it is because they don't want to pay to fix it. Do you think all these scientists from all these different countries are making up all this data just so they can stick it to the corporations? They have better things to do!

  • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:24PM (#17216040)
    2.) Tying a trend to warmer temperatures based on older data from the early 1900's is suspect at best. Good, reliable, accurate scientific equipment that measures the temperature wasn't readily available until recently (late 1900's).

    This is why we use proxies to determine the temperature back then. There multiple datasets ranging from ice cores (we match the variations in atmospheric concentrations in more recent periods, and use the cores as a proxy to earlier dates), and tree ring data and so on. We generally don't use temperature records from early 1900s for precisely the above reason.

    If more radiation hits the Earth, shouldn't that also increase the overall temperature of the Earth and can global warming be attributed to this?

    But its different kinds of radiation. Magnetic fields affect charged particles only - aka solar wind and the aurora, and these have negligible energy input, especially relative to normal EM radiation which GW is about. Now, additionally, we have good data recently on the trends in both solar radiance and temperature forcing, and numerous papers have concluded that the sun itself can explain at most 30% of the observed trend. (Google scholar for the relevant papers)

    4.) Jupitor is experiencing the same climate change that Earth is. (source: [] r.html [])

    Check out the time frames! The dates given are 1998 - about 10 years.

    Now, what do you think the orbital period of Jupiter around the sun is? Wikipedia has an answer 4333 days = 12 years. So, how interesting it is that we are seeing changes on the same time frame as Jupiter's passage around the sun, a passage that of course is not perfectly circular, in fact getting closer and further from the sun as time goes on...

    What's more, there's another major factor - Jupiter's colour. Huge tracts of Jupiter's surface are in different colours, and as these vortices move about, obviously that is going to change its irradiance. Fortunately, Earth is not one big hurricane.

    5. This is similar to Jupiter. Mars has an orbital period of 2 years, and has much greater eccentricity than Earth in its orbit. The temperature trend we have is over 3 years, a 1.5 cycles, something like between winter this year and summer next year. How mysterious that there would be a warming trend.

    Additionally, there are dust storm factors as well: See []

    6. That source doesn't say that. Go read it again. Methane is more powerful per volume, and agriculture as a whole takes up more than transport. But transport isn't everything and the total volume of methane is small. Campaigners focus on transport, because transport is easier to cut than agriculture without killing bazillions of people.

    Were those climate changes, which are no doubt more extreme than what's going on now, caused by the combustion engine?

    They aren't. They happened over thousands of years and can be explained by a variety of other factors, whilst the current change is happening over decades and there is no other observed factor that can explain it.
  • Re:Skeptical. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Loco Moped (996883) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:41PM (#17216274)
    So you would also be skeptical of the claim that I may be a billionaire by 2040?

    Not at all. I am almost certain you WILL be a billionaire by 2040. Whether that will buy a big mac with fries is another question.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:19PM (#17216726)
    i've long since learnt not to believe 3rd and 4th hand interpritations of science. this guy just sounds like he's produced a bogus model in order to get some PR and some funding. this kind of bad science is hurting us.
  • by Iron Condor (964856) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:13PM (#17217368)

    I've been following global warming for a long time now doing a lot research on the side for the last couple of years.

    No, you haven't. You are a liar. You've been listening to ultra-rightwing propaganda lies and you're happy to parrot them blindly and unreflectedly. That's a difference.

    Many have pointed out the utter absurdity of your gibberish. Here's a couple more examples:

    2.) Tying a trend to warmer temperatures based on older data from the early 1900's is suspect at best. Good, reliable, accurate scientific equipment that measures the temperature wasn't readily available until recently (late 1900's)

    Shackleton recorded the annual extent of sea ice around Antarctica. We've been doing this for close to 100 years now. This IS a measurement of global temperatures.

    Every harbor in the world keeps a record of the annual high-water mark at least since the British Empire. Every harbor in the world has seen the ocean levels rising for at least the last 100 years. This IS a measurement of global temperatures.

    Weather related damages to the US agriculture (floods, droughts, hurricanes) have been tracked since Jefferson's time. This IS a measurement of global climate.

    I'm an electrical engineer and during my studies in particle physics, I learned that a particles velocity can be affected by magnetic fields.

    You might want to call Joe's Diploma Emporium and ask for your money back: magnetic force (and thus acceleration) is always perpendicular to the velocity of a charge. No amount of magnetic fields can increase or decrease the speed of a charged particle (and certainly not an uncharged one).

    Jupitor [...]

    In all your thorough research, you've never come across the name of this planet in printed form? Even once?

    Is it possible that the warmer temperatures that Earth is experiencing are caused by cyclical natural phenomena? What about glaciers in Greenland that have been shrinking for 100 years

    Wait - didn't you just tell us not to believe any temperature indicators that are 100 years old?

    Were those climate changes, which are no doubt more extreme than what's going on now,

    You are so utterly mentally retarded that it hurts my teeth to read your drivel. NEVER in the history of the earth has anything happened that was even a tiny fraction of what we are seeing today. Not only were the ice ages NOT "more extreme", they were peanuts compared to what we see today. We have a pretty decent record of global temperatures for several hundred thousand years and there is no indication anywhere of global temperatures changing on the time-scales of decades or even centuries. Nothing like what we're seeing right now can be found anywhere in the earth's climate record.

    I recommend that you refrain from posting about issues you do not have the shimmer of a clue about.

  • Re:YES. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koreth (409849) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:15PM (#17217386)
    Translation: Climate scientists made a prediction that turned out to be false once before.

    Therefore, they are incapable of ever making any correct predictions and should be ignored.

  • Exactly what do you need to become "convinced", and afterwards, what then? If you'd just throw up your arms, then you're not adding anything to the conversation.

    Sure, there have been sensationalist *and* rational reports like this for 40 years... and now we're watching the forecasts begin to noticably pan out. The bitch of it is that back when the effects weren't far above the noise level, the powers that be claimed "we don't see it", whereas now they're saying "we can't afford to do anything about it."

    Note, the "cow" report is just dealing with methane, not carbon. Its in the nature of combusting hydrocarbons that methane is mostly burned by planes, trains, and automobiles before the byproducts exit the tailpipe, so it doesn't take many farting cows to stay ahead of the curve, nevermind 1.5 billion of them. Methane is a more efficient greenhouse gas, but for overall effect it's outpaced by the sheer bulk of carbon-based gases we add to the mix.

    Frankly, I'm pretty sure that the cause of your and very many others skepticism can be traced directly to the PR departments of ExxonMobile and their peers, who have spent big bucks on shills and astroturfing. They picked up their tactics directly from Philip Morris and their peers (using the same PR firms), who succeeded in conning at least a couple of generations of customers that there was nothing wrong with a lifetime of smoke inhailation.
  • by bill_kress (99356) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:24PM (#17217478)
    I've noticed that there are certain people (Almost always of the type that read slashdot, intelligent often engineer types) that are triggered by certain topics into discussions that start to remind me of those given by the religious (although these people tend to not be religious and are actually quite logical).

    The main subject that really gets them riled is nuclear power. They get extremely upset at the concept of nuclear bans and will tell you, in detail, exactly why no alternative can work.

    Another subject (I wonder if it's the same people, or just the same type of people with different trigger subjects) is this "we are changing/aren't changing the atmosphere). They are very passionate about how it's not us changing the world, coming up with a huge volume of reasoning (look around the threads in this discussion for some examples).

    A third is free market--how regulation is the cause of all Americas financial woes.

    The interesting thing is, in all cases nothing is really lost by being careful and taking some time to make sure we really are right. There is no reason to be so upset by the thought of keeping companies from opening nuclear plants across the US (Well, unless that's what you do for a living), but there are HUGE potential problems if not done correctly, meaning without enough regulation (we've all seen companies cut corners on safety when it effected profits).

    Same with the environment. Religious folks aside (that's not the people I'm talking about), why do some people get so insistent that it's not us changing the environment? It might hurt some companies, but just like the nuclear issue, being safe isn't going to effect the vast majority of the people, including the people I've seen make these arguments.

    Without getting into the issue at all, can anyone tell me why they feel so strongly for nuclear power, free market, or mans inability to effect his planet.

    Now I really don't care about the issues, I know there are sides, I want to know about personal motivations. Do you really think your lights will go out or your bills will be higher without nuclear power? and if so, is that really so important to you to make you evangelic about it?

    Same with the subject at hand. Maybe the facts will go one way, maybe the other (Not trying to start a fight, don't care about the facts right now), but what makes your response "Humans didn't cause it!" rather than "Damn, we better do something about it, build a solar shield or something!". (Actually, I'd guess many feel both responses, but always seem to reach for the "Humans didn't cause it" post first.

    The only thing I can guess is that these are people of very strong personal morals who, if they felt that they were contributing to such a problem, would have to do something about it, so they convince themselves of a point that lets them do what it is they want to do and not feel guilty. I can see free marketeers doing the same thing--using it as an excuse to not care about others (which they may otherwise have to do) it doesn't apply to the nuclear thing in any way I can see (Honestly, this is the one that truly baffles me)...

    Please reply if you have any insight into the issue because it drives me nuts. I'd really like to hear from an x-pro-nuke or x-free marketeer who has done some soul-searching and has some personal insight into why it was so important to them.

  • by radtea (464814) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @09:53PM (#17217742) may not.

    I'd like to nominate this for a really terrible piece of science reporting.

    Number of probabilities reported: zero.

    Number of fractional changes reported: zero.

    I'm quite willing to believe that the loss of Arctic sea ice and the shrinking ice cap are significant and we should be worried (although not, of course, about the polar bears, who have weathered far greater climate fluxuations than this.) But this article gives none of the information that a rational person would require to make a judgment on the issue.

    The science on global climate change is imperfect, but certainly not junk. The reporting on global climate change is another matter entirely...
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @12:45AM (#17218948) Journal
    The GP's post looked familiar to me (the odd spelling of Jupiter), so I checked and sure enough the format [] of his cut and paste spam is getting better but the content is still just as silly. I think alot of the crap he quotes was originally generated by the psuedo-scientific "electic universe theory".

    IMHO, the remnants of the anti-AGW crowd have now evolved into a run of the mill anti-science crowd. In the past I have found this mythbusting search [] an excellent resource, but I doubt this guy's skeptisim is motivated by science, logic or even common sense.
  • by werewolf1031 (869837) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:41AM (#17219560)
    I believe GP was merely pointing out that industrial machinery isn't the only possible source of strong temperature-affecting emissions. In either case, human activity is (theoretically) to blame, but it's not the human activity that many environmentalists want to blame.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp