Arctic Updates

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Arctic Updates

Postby Cosmic Cowbell » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:27 pm

Arctic sea ice drops to 2nd lowest level on record

By SETH BORENSTEIN and DAN JOLING – 2 days ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — More ominous signs Wednesday have scientists saying that a global warming "tipping point" in the Arctic seems to be happening before their eyes: Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is at its second lowest level in about 30 years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice in the Arctic now covers about 2.03 million square miles. The lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979 was 1.65 million square miles set last September.

With about three weeks left in the Arctic summer, this year could wind up breaking that previous record, scientists said.

Arctic ice always melts in summer and refreezes in winter. But over the years, more of the ice is lost to the sea with less of it recovered in winter. While ice reflects the sun's heat, the open ocean absorbs more heat and the melting accelerates warming in other parts of the world.

Sea ice also serves as primary habitat for threatened polar bears.

"We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point," said senior scientist Mark Serreze at the data center in Boulder, Colo. "It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now."

Within "five to less than 10 years," the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer, said NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally.

"It also means that climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting and nobody's really taken into account that change yet," he said.

Five climate scientists, four of them specialists on the Arctic, told The Associated Press that it is fair to call what is happening in the Arctic a "tipping point." NASA scientist James Hansen, who sounded the alarm about global warming 20 years ago before Congress, said the sea ice melt "is the best current example" of that.

Last year was an unusual year when wind currents and other weather conditions coincided with global warming to worsen sea ice melt, Serreze said. Scientists wondered if last year was an unusual event or the start of a new and disturbing trend.

This year's results suggest the latter because the ice had recovered a bit more than usual thanks to a somewhat cooler winter, Serreze said. Then this month, when the melting rate usually slows, it sped up instead, he said.

The most recent ice retreat primarily reflects melt in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast and the East Siberian Sea off the coast of eastern Russia, according to the center.

The Chukchi Sea is home to one of two populations of Alaska polar bears.

Federal observers flying for a whale survey on Aug. 16 spotted nine polar bears swimming in open ocean in the Chukchi. The bears were 15 to 65 miles off the Alaska shore. Some were swimming north, apparently trying to reach the polar ice edge, which on that day was 400 miles away.

Polar bears are powerful swimmers and have been recorded on swims of 100 miles but the ordeal can leave them exhausted and susceptible to drowning.

And the melt in sea ice has kicked in another effect, long predicted, called "Arctic amplification," Serreze said.

That's when the warming up north is increased in a feedback mechanism and the effects spill southward starting in autumn, he said. Over the last few years, the bigger melt has meant more warm water that releases more heat into the air during fall cooling, making the atmosphere warmer than normal.

On top of that, researchers were investigating "alarming" reports in the last few days of the release of methane from long frozen Arctic waters, possibly from the warming of the sea, said Greenpeace climate scientist Bill Hare, who was attending a climate conference in Ghana. Giant burps of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, is a long feared effect of warming in the Arctic that would accelerate warming even more, according to scientists.

Overall, the picture of what's happening in the Arctic is getting worse, said Bob Corell, who headed a multinational scientific assessment of Arctic conditions a few years ago: "We're moving beyond a point of no return."

Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington and Dan Joling reported from Anchorage, Alaska. AP writer Arthur Max contributed from Accra, Ghana.

link (AP)

Prescience from 2004:

Methane Burps: Ticking Time Bomb

"We can't afford to have the first sign of a failed energy policy be the mass extinction of life on Earth. ."
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Postby Penguin » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:46 pm

Also, Siberia is melting - and Siberian ground melting means lots and lots of methane into the atmosphere, as all the collected plant matter in the wet soil starts to rot. And nitrous oxide, also produced from mires.
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Postby Cosmic Cowbell » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:46 pm

Methane gas oozing up from Siberian seabed: Swedish researcher

1 hour ago

STOCKHOLM (AFP) — Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking from the permafrost under the Siberian seabed, a researcher on an international expedition in the region told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Saturday.

"The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed," Oerjan Gustafsson, the Swedish leader of the International Siberian Shelf Study, told the newspaper.

The tests were carried out in the Laptev and east Siberian seas and used much more precise measuring equipment than previous studies, he said.

Methane is more than 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping solar heat.

Scientists fear that global warming may cause Siberia's permafrost to thaw and thereby release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. The effects of global warming are already most visible in the Arctic region.

link
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Postby nathan28 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:50 pm

Penguin wrote:Also, Siberia is melting - and Siberian ground melting means lots and lots of methane into the atmosphere, as all the collected plant matter in the wet soil starts to rot. And nitrous oxide, also produced from mires.


Well, let it not go unsaid that these things don't have a sense of humor.
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Postby Penguin » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:51 pm

Yah, its too bad that the levels of nitrous arent enough to improve our collective state of mind!
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Postby Penguin » Sat Aug 30, 2008 1:59 pm

Cosmic Cowbell wrote:Methane gas oozing up from Siberian seabed: Swedish researcher

1 hour ago

STOCKHOLM (AFP) — Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking from the permafrost under the Siberian seabed, a researcher on an international expedition in the region told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Saturday.

"The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed," Oerjan Gustafsson, the Swedish leader of the International Siberian Shelf Study, told the newspaper.

The tests were carried out in the Laptev and east Siberian seas and used much more precise measuring equipment than previous studies, he said.

Methane is more than 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping solar heat.

Scientists fear that global warming may cause Siberia's permafrost to thaw and thereby release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. The effects of global warming are already most visible in the Arctic region.

link


Im a mire ecologist, so this is close to what I know most of.

Also in Indonesia, the large tropical swamps have been burning now for years. They drained large areas there, moved people forcibly in, to "farm" - which was, as any mire ecologist would tell you, impossible (grow rice on dry peat? FUCK!) - then the dry peat, at places over 10 metres thick, started burning, and continues to smolder / burn alternating with the rainy season. That area spews more CO2 than the whole Europe when its burning well. And its impossible to put it out.

Also as weather warms, its possible that the existing huge mires in Northern Hemisphere start to put out more gases, as temperature rises - so does microbial activity and breakdown of plant matter - normally mires slowly accumulate CO2 into peat, over millennia. Also, if the weather dries in mire areas, they will start to break down very fast as water table drops, and exposes more peat to aerobic conditions and faster breakdown.

These are nasty, nasty feedbacks...

As one of our professors said when asked what is the most important thing to do to save our planet now...

He said " We must absolutely protect every remaining forest, every remaining mire, and aggressively plant more forests, and return dried mires to natural wet state, and we must seed plants that can improve soil and capture CO2 into the soil, everywhere on Earth". Forests, plants, thats the lungs of our planet. And thats going fast - and as temperature rises, plant diseases and pests could potentially devastate large areas of the northern hemispheres boreal forests - from Finland to Russia to Canada and States.
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Postby Cosmic Cowbell » Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:27 pm

nathan28 wrote:Well, let it not go unsaid that these things don't have a sense of humor.


Image
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Postby Seamus OBlimey » Sat Aug 30, 2008 8:44 pm

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Postby wintler2 » Sun Aug 31, 2008 4:49 am

Penguin wrote:..As one of our professors said when asked what is the most important thing to do to save our planet now...

He said " We must absolutely protect every remaining forest, every remaining mire, and aggressively plant more forests, and return dried mires to natural wet state, and we must seed plants that can improve soil and capture CO2 into the soil, everywhere on Earth". Forests, plants, thats the lungs of our planet. And thats going fast - and as temperature rises, plant diseases and pests could potentially devastate large areas of the northern hemispheres boreal forests - from Finland to Russia to Canada and States.
Be great to sell that as cure for climate change, do a billion times more good than any carbon market.

At what point does further dialogue become impossible? Penguins professor is right about need to save all exisiting & revegetate, yet our economy still exists by degrading primary productivity. If peak oil doesn't contract human land use we are sunk.
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Postby Ben D » Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:17 am

On top of that, researchers were investigating "alarming" reports in the last few days of the release of methane from long frozen Arctic waters, possibly from the warming of the sea, said Greenpeace climate scientist Bill Hare, who was attending a climate conference in Ghana.

This really is a 'hot of the press' credible substantiation of the Greenpeace scientic approach to making a case.
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Postby wintler2 » Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:52 am

Ben D wrote:On top of that, researchers were investigating "alarming" reports in the last few days of the release of methane from long frozen Arctic waters, possibly from the warming of the sea, said Greenpeace climate scientist Bill Hare, who was attending a climate conference in Ghana.

This really is a 'hot of the press' credible substantiation of the Greenpeace scientic approach to making a case.
Greenpeace don't write AP stories, so no wonder they don't get to make a case (hot off the press). Suspect this what referring to

Methane gas oozing up from Siberian seabed: Swedish researcher
STOCKHOLM (AFP) — Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking from the permafrost under the Siberian seabed, a researcher on an international expedition in the region told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Saturday.

"The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed," Oerjan Gustafsson, the Swedish leader of the International Siberian Shelf Study, told the newspaper.

The tests were carried out in the Laptev and east Siberian seas and used much more precise measuring equipment than previous studies, he said.

Methane is more than 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping solar heat.

Scientists fear that global warming may cause Siberia's permafrost to thaw and thereby release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. The effects of global warming are already most visible in the Arctic region.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jyL ... snFtXcj_RQ

The brit TV drama Burn Up (peak oil + climate change pushes oil exec to develop concience - no lie is too big for tv) has a great scene of heros spiking ice & lighting/flaring the released methane gas (thankyou whoever invented bittorrent). Best book your flight to Siberia now for this centuries must-do thrill, at the rate we're going we'll be out of tundra before long. Since flaring methane is technically abating CO2-equivalents, i'm sure it wont be long before i see the ad, "Come to Siberia! Flare at least 10tons methane and fly free!".
"Wintler2, you are a disgusting example of a human being, the worst kind in existence on God's Earth. This is not just my personal judgement.." BenD

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Postby Jeff » Sun Aug 31, 2008 10:06 am

Not-So-Permafrost: Big Thaw of Arctic Soil May Unleash Runaway Warming

New estimates show that frozen Arctic soil contains far more potential greenhouse gas than previously recognized--and could speed climate change as it melts

Aug 26, Scientific American, By David Biello

"Drunken" trees listing wildly, cracked highways and sinkholes—all are visible signs of thawing Arctic permafrost. When this frozen soil warms, it releases carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases as microbes start to thrive on the organic material it contains—a potentially potent source of uncontrollable climate change.

Now new research published in Nature Geoscience shows that such frozen Arctic soil holds nearly twice as much of the organic material that gives rise to planet-warming greenhouse gases as previously estimated.

"When the air temperature rises two to three degrees, the Arctic tundra would switch from a carbon sink to a carbon source," says soil scientist Chien-Lu Ping of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "The greater the carbon stores, the greater the impact it causes," including even faster warming in the already changing Arctic.

Previous estimates of the amount of carbon stored in Arctic soil had relied on samples taken outside of the region or those from only the topmost layer—accessible by shovel. As a result, these surveys failed to account for organic material deeper down.

So Ping and his colleagues used portable jackhammers to chisel their way three feet (a meter) or more into a variety of landscapes in the Alaskan Arctic, 117 sites in all. Excavating these soil pits, the scientists found that permafrost areas were quickly storing plants and other organic material deep beneath the surface, as much as 10 feet (three meters) in some cases.

The key is the thawing and freezing of the surface layer as well as some of the unique soil formations of the Arctic region, according to Ping. "Frost boils"—deep soil that roils to the surface like bubbles in a boiling pot—and ground cracks allow topsoil to slip below the surface and come into contact with the deep permafrost. This keeps the soil from decomposing—and thereby traps more than 98 petagrams (98 million billion grams) of carbon, or one sixth the total in the atmosphere, according to biogeochemist Christian Beer of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany.

Warming could release most of that carbon. "Warming will increase the decomposition rate of the soil organic matter and more carbon dioxide will be generated," Ping notes. And "warming will thaw the permafrost and release the sequestered carbon," which will also decompose faster in the warmer temperatures.

It remains unclear how much of an impact such thawing permafrost will ultimately have and the sites sampled were solely in North America—leaving the vast tundra of northern Europe and Siberia to be an educated guess. But it is clear that adding even a fraction of the carbon dioxide or methane stored in Arctic soil to the atmosphere would have a "significant impact on Earth's climate," Beer says.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=arc ... al-warming
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Postby Fat Lady Singing » Sun Aug 31, 2008 11:11 am

From The Independent:

For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated

Melting ice opens up North-west and North-east passages simultaneously. Scientists warn Arctic icecap is entering a 'death spiral'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 31 August 2008

Open water now stretches all the way round the Arctic, making it possible for the first time in human history to circumnavigate the North Pole, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. New satellite images, taken only two days ago, show that melting ice last week opened up both the fabled North-west and North-east passages, in the most important geographical landmark to date to signal the unexpectedly rapid progress of global warming.

Last night Professor Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the official US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), hailed the publication of the images – on an obscure website by scientists at the University of Bremen, Germany – as "a historic event", and said that it provided further evidence that the Arctic icecap may now have entered a "death spiral". Some scientists predict that it could vanish altogether in summer within five years, a process that would, in itself, greatly accelerate.

(more at link)

http://snipurl.com/3lkfm
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Postby Fat Lady Singing » Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:24 am

Check out the dramatic photo comparison at the link. From the BBC:

Major ice-shelf loss for Canada

The ice shelves in Canada's High Arctic have lost a colossal area this year, scientists report.

The floating tongues of ice attached to Ellesmere Island, which have lasted for thousands of years, have seen almost a quarter of their cover break away.

One of them, the 50 sq km (20 sq miles) Markham shelf, has completely broken off to become floating sea-ice.

Researchers say warm air temperatures and reduced sea-ice conditions in the region have assisted the break-up.

"These substantial calving events underscore the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Trent University's Dr Derek Mueller.

"These changes are irreversible under the present climate."


(more at link)

http://snipurl.com/3ml1v
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Postby tazmic » Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:39 pm

The lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979...


For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated


:roll:
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