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Earth Science

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low 370

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-to-swim dept.
Titus Andronicus writes "Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters of Weather Underground analyze this year's record ongoing Arctic ice melt. Arctic sea ice extent, area, and volume are all at record lows for the post-1979 satellite era. The ice is expected to continue melting for perhaps another couple of weeks. Extreme sea ice melting might help cause greater numbers of more powerful Arctic storms, help to accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, and help to accelerate global warming itself, due to the increased absorption of solar energy into the ocean."
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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low

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  • by cunniff (264218) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @11:30PM (#41256805) Homepage

    It's here. Let's deal with it.

  • Its Happening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dakohli (1442929) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @11:34PM (#41256825)

    It is time to accept that this is happening. Time to make the most of it. There are remote communities that will be well positioned in the Canadian Arctic for incredible economical opportunities.

    High Prices for Groceries [www.cbc.ca] could become a thing of the past once the ice opens up for longer periods of time.

    The Northwest Passage has the potential to become more important than Panama

    It may well be too late to stop the warming trend, we will have to make the best of it.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @11:54PM (#41256899)

    I'm thinking of the sun's 11-year cycle and the recent larger-than-normal volcano activity

    I.e., any explanation except the actual one.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:16AM (#41256999)

    If you are measuring for only 35 years, a 35 year low does not mean only 35 years. It means at least 35 years.

    But take a look at the data. It looks like a death spiral. The trend from the data is undeniable. Calling the current extent a record low sort of misses the point because the current amount of ice is a tiny fraction of what it was two decades ago.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobileC (83699) on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:20AM (#41257023) Homepage

    The sea ice trends have been steadily downwards during the satellite era especially during the past 6 years as shown by the graphs on this page.

    Therefore...
    Satellites cause ice melt.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:25AM (#41257045)

    Yup, that's where the natural variability part comes in. The storm broke up some of the ice but it was already set up to be easily broken. That same storm in 1979 wouldn't have had nearly the same effect because the ice was much thicker back then.

  • Re:Heaven Help Us (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:33AM (#41257077)

    And a dumb fucking electorate gave the cowboy the chance.

    If we need to start blaming someone, blame the American people. They are dumb as shit and they elect idiots who don't give a shit about the planet. Given a choice between cheap gas for the SUV or a future for their grandchildren, what do you think they will pick?

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:40AM (#41257105)

    Aerosols do cause a cooling effect but some of them, in particular carbon black [wikipedia.org] can increase the melting of ice when it settles on it.

    Winter extent doesn't change much in the Arctic Ocean because it's constrained by the land around it. The only places it can grow out further is in the Bering Sea and between North America, Greenland and Europe. In contrast the sea ice around Antarctica melts nearly completely every year and reforms the again next year. It doesn't have the opportunity to build up the thick multi-year ice that exists (but not for much longer) in the Arctic Ocean. The difference between an ocean surrounded by land and land surrounded by ocean at the poles.

    Of course the Earth is rotating from Alaska toward Greenland, the same way the storm is spinning.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @12:52AM (#41257169)

    Why does everybody forget that we're still in an inter-glacial period?
    Of course it's warming. That's how we got out (and are still getting out) of the ice age.

    10,000 years ago the ice was a mile high over NYC and central Europe. Now THERE's a real disaster. If we can stop the ice coming back, that would be good, wouldn't it?

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:04AM (#41257245)

    I don't get this obsession with Al Gore. He's like a spokesmodel for global warming. Bypass him and go directly to the source. If you're making your decisions about the validity of global warming based on personal animosity you're doing it wrong.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:05AM (#41257255) Homepage Journal

    So, if it's happened sometime since the beginning of the planet, it's a situation we shouldn't worry about? Wrong. For the first 4 billion years, the planet was pretty primitive, and no state to support human life. In the remaining half-billion years there have been numerous extinction events [wikipedia.org].. Five of them have been labelled major extinction events where 50 to 80 percent of all macroscopic genera went extinct. If we screw up this planet sufficiently, we might well be looking at the so-called "sixth extinction" which could be worse than any of them.

    No big deal? We depend on other species to get clean water and eat. Or do you think food and clean water is made in factories?

    Of course, shit happens, and humanity will probably go extinct eventually. But this looks to be happening in the next century or so. Maybe you don't care whether your species outlives you, but some of do.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:12AM (#41257287) Homepage Journal

    And which cooling mechanisms are these? According to TFA, melting the polar icecap actually removes an important cooling mechanism. Other mechanisms, such as the ocean's ability to abosrb CO2, are pretty much maxed out. Do you have a planet size air conditioner nobody else knows about?

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vintermann (400722) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:18AM (#41257311) Homepage

    Just a reminder to all the "skeptics" here: There are plenty of climate markets on Intrade. If you think the anthropogenic influence is overestimated, you can make quite a bit of money betting against the prevailing opinion there.

    For some reason, "alarmists" seem a lot more willing to put their money where their mouth is than "skeptics". So far, they have also won a lot more on it.

  • by Vintermann (400722) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:22AM (#41257331) Homepage

    we get 18ft of snow

    Quick quiz: What is more effective for getting more snowfall on a given winter day?

    a) lower temperatures

    b) more moisture in the air

  • Cap and trade (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:31AM (#41257369) Homepage Journal

    Remember when there was a problem with acid rain?

    Sulfur dioxide restrictions were implemented flexibly by a cap and trade system. The economic impact was obviously manageable, and the problem got addressed.

    It's instructive to look at the political history of the idea of using market forces to distribute the effort of pollution reduction. Look up whose idea it was in the first place.

  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cryptolemur (1247988) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:21AM (#41257537)
    Sorry, but AGW is a physical, observable phenomenom, not a prediction of it's possible consequences. Please do try to keep the two as separate issues, otherwise there's a chance that you reject the observation because you don't like one possible consequence prediction...
    Or in other words, the 97% agree that AGW is the best explanation for the atmospheric observations scientists have made since the end of the 19th century. 3% disagree, but can't offer any other framework that explains all observations, or can make predictions.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:55AM (#41257921) Journal
    Yep, despite what the psuedo-skeptics would have you believe the IPCC is actually very conservative with it's claims. Which is precisely what you would expect when trying to get a large number of experts to agree on a statement. Another point to note is that not a single one of the 2-3,000 scientists get a dime for their work from the IPCC. The organization has $5-6 million budget which comes from donations by over 120 different nations representing ALL the colours of the political rainbow. Most of that is spent on airfares and conference rooms and the accounts are available for inspection on their web site.

    The incredibly robust review process of the IPCC should be held up as an outstanding example of how science should inform policy. The partially successful assassination of it's character by Luddites in the coal industry should be held up as an outstanding example of how easy it is convince people to work against their own best interest with nothing more than cheap, transparent, propaganda.
  • Re:Ice Tea... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:57AM (#41257935)

    There've been a very long period of low Sun activity, but the meltdown didn't stop.

    Sun is one parameter, like fire under a pot. But there are gases inside the pot which give inertia to Sun's heat, and most of them have a human origin.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:04AM (#41258151) Journal

    For some reason, "alarmists" seem a lot more willing to put their money where their mouth is than "skeptics". So far, they have also won a lot more on it.

    Because skeptics are um skeptical. There are many of us who don't adopt a position of belief on this subject. Its clear the climate is changing. Its also clear there is lots we don't know about how the system works, and its not entirely clear where things are headed and its even less clear that its man made.

    I am not saying it is not man made. It very well might be! I don't want to put money down that its not. I also don't want to adopt economically ruinous measures; on the possibility it is. I want to let the scientists do more science. That is really not an extreme position. Especially when its already to late to fix the problem by 'controlling emissions' if our current level of understanding does turn out to be mostly correct. The focus should be on enhancing our understanding of the climate model and figuring out how we might directly and actively control it.

  • Re:Its Happening (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jpapon (1877296) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:39AM (#41258317) Journal
    What do you mean it's a myth? Overpopulation is an observable phenomenon in almost every form of life, from yeast dying in their own alcohol to deer starving when they lack natural predators.

    The only difference is that humanity has found ways using technology to push back the population ceiling (which is mainly determined by food production). Eventually, and this is a certainty, we will not be able to produce any more food on Earth.... or some massive storm and/or drought will cause widespread crop failure. This will result in starvation, and will be a natural check on the human population.

    Saying the earth can only support so many of us is an absolute fact. Now, that number might be far, far larger than we currently believe, but that there is an absolute ceiling is without doubt. One absolute ceiling for the population of the earth would be the amount of energy arriving from the sun divided by the amount of energy consumed by a person. Of course, that would mean no energy was being used by anything else on the planet, so it is impossibly high, but it's just to prove a point.

  • Re:Its Happening (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:02AM (#41258407)

    Of course overpopulation is a myth. The Earth can support ever denser human populations. Provided, of course, that you're satisfied with less and less resources per person and less comfort for each person, and you ignore the fact that only some types of land are suitable for growing food, until they are literally standing shoulder-to-shoulder and ankle-deep in their own crap and have no where to farm anyway. At that point something might have to change, but I'm sure people would figure out a solution.

    I have to laugh at that website's argument, when jamming everyone into the space of Texas:

    "Given an average four person family, every family would have a 66' x 66' plot of land, which would comfortably provide a single family home and yard -- and all of them fit on a landmass the size of Texas. Admittedly, it'd basically be one massive subdivision, but Texas is a tiny portion of the inhabitable Earth."

    In how much of Texas could you actually feed a family of four on a 66x66-foot plot of land? That's not much bigger than my yard, and I'm lucky if I can grow tomatoes in the soil here, for 3 months of the year. It's a useful exercise in math, but it's missing the point: arable land and water are the main limitations, and that type of land isn't everywhere. Fossil fuel use to farm that land is also a huge multiplier when it comes to the effort it takes to grow food -- it's the only reason that the majority of us don't have to be farmers to survive. There are reasons that you can find places in the world where there were farming communities that people historically used to live, but have since abandoned: it was too tough to survive there compared to elsewhere, and people moved into cities to do different jobs once farming became possible on a larger scale thanks to cheap energy and mechanization. If you want a world in which people have to struggle to survive every day, sure, we can fit plenty more. If you want a world where people live with some degree of confidence that they and many others aren't going to starve next season, then there are much narrower limits. We aren't at them yet, but the further we creep up, the tougher it will get.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stdarg (456557) on Friday September 07, 2012 @07:45AM (#41258911)

    No it's more like, your house is 20 degrees warmer today than it was 8 months ago in the depths of winter. Clearly this is your fault and with that trend, by 2020 it will be uninhabitable! You better dedicate half your income to air conditioning so that the average temperature in the summer equals the average temperature in the winter, because you picked an arbitrary point and never want it to change from there.

  • by microbox (704317) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:26AM (#41259213)

    The focus should be on enhancing our understanding of the climate model and figuring out how we might directly and actively control it.

    Because a pound of cure is better then an ounce of prevention. Right?

    Because skeptics are um skeptical. There are many of us who don't adopt a position of belief on this subject.

    But those who call themselves skeptics have almost universally adopted a belief on the subject. That their 1-3 climate scientists are correct about climate science -- even thought they are creation scientists, but skeptics don't think about that.


    As for those cries of economic armageddon from the ostensibly rational skeptics: they are also not founded in any reality. We have had various carbon trading and/or tax systems in place. In America. In Germany. The evidence is in, and just like the economists said, the net effect on the economy is negligible.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:55AM (#41259511) Journal

    Ok, before I get modded Troll, I'd like to appeal to your critical thinking logical side.

    First, while I personally find this a bit saddening, lets ask a couple questions and make some observations.
    1. Why is the ice cap cited as such a barometer of global warming?
    2. Is the warming necessarily anthropogenic? Wouldn't it melt even if the warming was entirely natural?
    3. What does an ice cap (which floats on water, which is an order of magnitude better conductor of heat than air)
    3a. Where does this water get it's heat from? Hint: 75% of our surface is water. Does air affect ocean temps or something else?
    3b. What is the heating role of CO2 in water. (ignore acidification)
    4. If I showed you a temperature graph which showed temperatures are average while ice area is down, what would you infer?
      ( temperature graph [ocean.dmi.dk] )
    4a. Could the ice pack be affected by say a storm [nasa.gov] that broke up the ice which facilitated melting?

    So while the news is bad, we can't necessarily draw the conclusion that we've been told to draw. Low sea ice has nothing to with CO2. Global warming maybe, but not CO2.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blindseer (891256) <blindseer AT earthlink DOT net> on Friday September 07, 2012 @10:47AM (#41260829)

    There's two basic reasons on why we are burning fossil fuels in the quantities that we do. The first is because of the physical properties of these fuels. These fossil fuels are energy dense, easy to store and transport, and can be handled safely by humans with only minor precautions.

    The second reason we burn so much fossil fuels is because it is cheap. The article you link to states that we can replicate fuels with similar physical properties to fossil fuels but it says next to nothing about the cost. If the replacement fuels cost twice what the fossil fuels cost it might not mean economic ruin but it will certainly reduce our standard of living. The problem lies in that as of right now these replacement fuels don't cost twice as much but more like ten times as much.

    There's another issue with bio-fuels specifically. With bio-fuels we place a very direct connection between our food and our fuel. A drought could place us in the very unfortunate position of choosing between starving to death and freezing to death. I read my history and civilizations have collapsed because of being forced into that situation.

    I agree that we don't have to give up economic prosperity to avoid the burning of fossil fuels. What I disagree with is the severity of the supposed pollution that the burning of fossil fuels cause and the means by which many propose we shift away from fossil fuels to alternatives.

    The only technology that we have right now that can compete with fossil fuels on cost is nuclear power. Wind power might get there as could bio-fuels and synthetic fuels given some investment in technology and infrastructure. Until we build enough windmills and nuclear power plants we are going to have to continue burning coal. If we shut off the coal power tap now we will never have enough power at a low enough cost to build that infrastructure. We can't build nuclear power plants without burning coal or erect windmills without burning diesel fuel.

    People need to come to the realization that the transition away from fossil fuels is going to take decades. In the mean time, as we build these nuclear power plants, we need to keep digging up coal and drilling for natural gas. If we don't keep digging for coal then we just will not have the resources to transition to its replacement. If we don't keep digging for coal we will place ourselves in the position of choosing between starving to death or freezing to death.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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