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Earth Science

Recent Warming of Antarctica "Unusual But Not Unprecedented" 163

Posted by timothy
from the earth-ain't-static dept.
First time accepted submitter tomhath writes with a link to the abstract (full article paywalled) in Nature of an "Ice core study that concludes that climate change and associated melting of ice in Antarctica is more the norm than the exception, including rapid warming cycles as we appear to be in today. Study concludes: 'Although warming of the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula began around 600 years ago, the high rate of warming over the past century is unusual (but not unprecedented) in the context of natural climate variability over the past two millennia. The connection shown here between past temperature and ice-shelf stability suggests that warming for several centuries rendered ice shelves on the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula vulnerable to collapse.'"
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Recent Warming of Antarctica "Unusual But Not Unprecedented"

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  • Re:Mod story down (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:05AM (#41095815) Homepage Journal

    Say what you want, but I've been having a hard time gauging Slashdot GroupThink on the subject of Climate change. It's ether:

    A) Climate Deniers are Stupid

    B) Climate Deniers are Justified

    or

    C) You're just a shill

    It really seems to come down to which group has the most Mod Points or which group has the most dedication to the thread. Each side just views the other as Trolls so it goes nowhere.

    Agreed, on top of the fact that expending energy on this particular study is wasteful. The story might as well be "water wet, sky blue", basically it's just more evidence that was already had, that temperature variations in the past have happened naturally (read: change MIGHT be non-anthropogenic.) Given that it's not proof or even indicative of anything happening in the present (since there was not a change taking place until after the point where anthropogenic affects came into being) it is particularly only useful to the deniers, so expect to see a lot of that.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:13AM (#41095951)

    Quite true, although there are some other interesting bits in the summary:

    Continued warming to temperatures that now exceed the stable conditions of most of the Holocene epoch is likely to cause ice-shelf instability to encroach farther southward along the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Another interesting tidbit:

    the Antarctic Peninsula did not experience a widespread Medieval Warm Period/Little Ice Age sequence comparable to Northern Hemisphere climate at that time.

    So it appears the peninsula did not experience the Medieval Warm Period and it's now about the maximum temperature it's been at since the last ice age (and still warming). Additionally, if there was a global MWP, then the peninsula may be so disconnected from global temperature trends that looking at it is next to useless, although the lack of a MWP/LI sequence is also evidence that the MWP/LI sequence either wasn't global or wasn't strong enough to affect the peninsula.

  • Re:Mod story down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zmooc (33175) <`ten.coomz' `ta' `coomz'> on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:14AM (#41095965) Homepage

    Climate deniers? This has nothing to do with them. No unusual warming is predicted for Antarctica for now. Global warming is expected to make the ocean currents that surround Antarctica stronger, thereby isolating it from warming factors and preventing it from heating up significantly for some time to come. It's a pity Al Gore's Unconvenient Truth has incorrectly linked the breaking up of the Ross ice shelf to global warming, leading many to believe something unusual is going on on Antarctica while it is not. Yet.

  • by SlippyToad (240532) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:19AM (#41096049)

    The planet is going to do what it will, no matter what we think or do

    Bullshit. We have the power to re-shape our world. That has been demonstrated. That our environment is ALSO capricious is not an excuse for shitting in our own water, eating our own seed corn, and befouling our own air.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:26AM (#41096179)

    Ok, look. Climate change happens naturally, no one is disputing that. The thing is, this particular climate change has a real possibility of being much more sudden than those natural variations. It takes thousands of years for the climate to change a few degrees C naturally, the rates we are seeing will have those changes in less than 100. Over 1000s of years, plants and animals can migrate, change behaviors, and even evolve, rapid change will make that much more difficult or impossible. Not to mention, this climate change is going to be laid over top of the natural changes, if the natural cycle goes up and down 4C, and we lay our 3 degree addition over top of it, all the sudden you've got a global climate that hasn't been seen since dinosaurs were the dominant life form.

    But hey, lets just keep ignoring it. After all, I survived getting hit by several dodge balls as a kid, I'm sure I can take a hit from this wrecking ball too, it's essentially the same thing after all.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:31AM (#41096275) Homepage

    Here's the problem. You're likely correct - at least to some point. However, if you are at all interested in the 'fate of mankind' i.e., everybody else, then you notice that humans a perched on a fairly narrow ledge in terms of the survivability of large swatches of population. If you preturb the climate, especially if the changes are relatively rapid, a lot of people are going to a) starve b) displaced c) not be particularly happy about a and b and try to get a resources of those who aren't so drastically affected.

    That leads to conflict, upheaval, war and pestilence - fairly typical (but generally frowned upon) human behaviors.

    Note that climate pressures on human settlements are often the driver for abandonment / downfalls of civilizations (the Diamond and Tainter arguments) - it's just with 7 billion (or whatever) of us on the planet we're capable of making some really big messes at present.

    Then there are the persons of the tree hugging persuasion who feel that it's morally indefensible to take the entire planet down so we can have iPods and Big Macs. Your personal moral codes may vary.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @11:38AM (#41096409)
    You're forgetting the fact that this planet never had a species like Humans for Millions of Years. We have done more damage to this planet in the last few hundred years, than nature could do in thousands of years. We already cut down 1/3 of the trees, and look how much live stock we have, just because we like the taste of meat. This planet has been at peace for a long time, until we infected it.
  • Re:Extinctions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tbannist (230135) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @12:43PM (#41097463)

    There's only 5 mass extinctions in the geological record and at least one may have been caused by an episode of global warming [economist.com]:

    The strong inference from all this is that the late-Triassic mass-extinction was, indeed, caused by CO2-induced global warming. Things simply got too hot for most plants to photosynthesise.

  • I hate ice ages (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rve (4436) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @02:23PM (#41098817)

    How many ice ages we've had during last couple of millenias? I remember one ended about 10,000 years ago and during it large parts of Northern hemisphere were under a few km's of ice.

    Humans, including those afraid of climate change, would not enjoy an ice age. The holocene is not the 'post-glacial', we're 10,000 years into an interglacial - about as long as the warm half of the previous interglacial lasted. [wikimedia.org]

    I'm completely convinced that human activity is influencing the climate, but I'm entirely unconvinced that a few degrees warmer climate equals disaster, famine and mass extinction. Global climate has been stuck in a rut for the past 2.5 million years, swinging wildly between ice ages and interglacials, and it can't seem to escape from the cycle. Maybe our burning of fossil fuel can give the final push, and rid the world of the permanent ice caps on the poles that have been keeping our climate hostage over the past 2.5 million years.

    Sure, low lying lands will flood, but vast amounts of land in North America and Northern Asia that are too cold today will become available for cultivation to compensate.

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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