I remember having a great time during my visits to previous AGU fall meetings. Impressive organization & science.
I moved from my home in The Netherlands to Rwanda. The science community here certainly needs our support and to hook back up with the global community. But I just as certainly miss an employer supporting me to attend the AGU…
For us here “far away” in central Africa your AGU dispatches are like gems (causing less trouble than the ones found here, I might hope…)
Comment by Michiel Schaeffer — 12 Dec 2007 @ 3:12 AM
Thank you for the lively despatch. Proximity to beer is serendipitous in English, Math, Philosophy, or Classics and, as you’ve demonstrated, is kindly to climatologosts. Glad you can keep your cool so well when learning of Mark Serreze’s thinking about 2020 turning into 2007. Does Katey Walter from U of Alaska Fairbanks turn up at AGU bull sessions? Not long ago on some site or other she appeared in a photo lighting up methane burbling up from permafrost. For all one knows she may be flaming out an earth-bound aurora to rival the Northern Lights, if she ain’t careful about temperature inversions. (Or have I got my atmospheric physics all wrong?– as I usually do when the ebullience of company, like Siberian methane, tips my balance into arm-waving.) Again, for your reporting, thank you. And apologies for my fan-fare.
Comment by Juola (Joe) A. Haga — 12 Dec 2007 @ 4:15 AM
Much thanks. For the first word on what is most important to me, it’s fortunate that the beer was near.
It’s also heartening to read your evaluation of the state of Geophysist. :)
My contribution is the additional unexpected warming vector of melting oceanic methane hydrate.
There is a big big carbon reservior under the sea-an estimated ten thousand billion tons of methane trapped in ice on the ocean bottom. Most of this is in very deep water that will be very resistent to global warming’s heat pulse, but some is in vulnerable shallow water deposits.
A sudden release into the air of less than 30 billion tons of methane (CH4) would be like doubling the CO2 level.
Generally, as the Earth warms, carbon sinks will become carbon emitters. To avoid either abrupt climate change or runaway global warming, we would have to cut our emissions even further to compensate for increased natural emissions.
55 million years ago volcanic activity triggered a chain reaction of runaway global warming, but we are emitting carbon gas over 30 times faster.
The stronger the trigger, the sooner the runaway global warming chain reaction happens, the faster the runaway global warming chain reaction unfolds, and the much much more severe the warming episode.
“We now have evidence from the Earth’s history that a similar event happened fifty-five million years ago when a geological accident released into the air more than a terraton of gaseous carbon compounds. As a consequence the temperature in the arctic and temperate regions rose eight degree Celsius and in tropical regions about five degrees, and it took over one hundred thousand years before normality was restored. We have already put more than half this quantity of carbon gas into the air and now the Earth is weakened by the loss of land we took to feed and house ourselves. In addition, the sun is now warmer, and as a consequence the Earth is now returning to the hot state it was in before, millions of years ago, and as it warms, most living things will die.” (The Revenge of Gaia)
Re #8. I wonder if either Monckton or Inhofe would recognize reality if it passed them on the street. One suspects that Monckton is just relishing the fact that he has found the key to his 15 minutes of fame. He doesn’t care whether what he says is true or not. Inhofe really actually seems to be a true believer–now that’s sad!
FYI, an Associated Press article on CNN’s website quotes Mark Serreze (and in fact uses his quote as the title of the article):
An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.
Greenland’s ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer’s end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.
“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colorado.
Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.
This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”
So scientists in recent days have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst case scenarios presented by computer models?
“The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,” said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. “Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”
Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Dec 2007 @ 10:20 AM
Could you clarify the current GRACE sea level rise estimate you give? Does the 2.2mm/year include global sea level rise including thermal expansion or is it simply the contribution from melting ice (i.e. the actual increase in mass)? I think this is confusing a lot of folks, me included. The satellite estimates from 1992 to present from Colorado indicate 3.3mm/year. http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
And remember, when asked if you’re ready for another; “A beer is never more than 30 seconds from being finished”.
[Response: The 2.8mm/yr I quoted includes everything -- the thermal expansion as well as ice sheet melt. The increase relative to IPCC is largely due to Greenland ice sheet dynamics. By the way, the number Lonnie Thompson quoted Wednesday is 3.2 mm/yr rather than 2.8. There are various ways to estimate the ice sheet loss, which may account for the difference. --raypierre]
I agree on your comment about the young talent. I have been coming to Frisco AGU for many years and this year is showcasing much new talent (the poster sessions are superior), even if much of it is not American citizens. Like last year there is much discussion among those with “geophysics” in our resume education and working experiences curious of those here that don’t have those credentials. The number of non-geophysicists has been growing over the last few decades that come to Frisco, parallel to the climate hype of course, and the desire of AGU to expand far outside it’s original charter for more money and policy clout. The atmospheric group at AGU has grown like topsy over the last few decades, fueled by research dollars pouring into the field. There has also been much discussion of the activism and “framing” of incomplete and one-sided science for political purposes, like last year. Many are still uncomfortable with it, me included.
I don’t know if this is the best place to ask, but …
Roughly, how much of the predicted future warming, according to the IPCCs official stance, will be attributable to human activity?
[Response: All of it. It may be reduced slightly or enhanced by changes in solar or volcanic activity in the future, but those changes are unpredictable. Therefore, IPCC just deals with the net effect of human activity. - gavin]
thank you so much for this great reporting – hope you can keep up the pace !
“The state of ice thickness observed in 2007 is quite similar to the modelled state in 2020.”
i thought we didn’t have reliable global measurements of sea ice thickness yet?
does this refer to satellite measurements ?
[Response: We don't have long term records on ice thickness, except from nuclear subs, but Mark referred to data from IceSat in connection with the above figures. I don't know how the instrument works. It was news to me that such a thing existed. That's what we go to AGU for! (that and the sushi). --raypierre]
Related to the ongoing disappearance of arctic sea ice: How would the climate of northern continental regions, such as Finland, be affected if the summer ice disappeared right now? Or, does the unexpectedly fast melting result in unexpected changes in the climate of nearby regions?
[Response: I have been wondering about this myself. I like to go spring skiing in äkaslompolo whenever I can, and I notice I've been using klister (liisteri) more and more, where as 15 years ago it was always blue wax in mid-April. There is a lot of good local work on this but not yet related to the sea ice melt. I've started trying to formulate a plan to sort that out by model simulations. Meanwhile, I'm reading papers. I was also prompted to think about this by seeing the exhibit in the climate room at Siida in Inari last summer, which seemed singularly weak on the matter of what Sapmi would be like in 2100. --raypierre]
Comment by Janne Sinkkonen — 12 Dec 2007 @ 1:25 PM
RE “a few more years of the AGW signal rising above the background variability. This is true not just for global means, but for regional climate.”
Are there still some places in the world that are getting colder? Or are all places now either warming or staying the same?
I know in STATE OF FEAR Crichton made much of a few places that were getting colder (seems he didn’t learn about “average” or “mean” in school, as in “rise in the global mean temperature”), and I thought that sooner or later all places would be warming (or at least none would be getting colder) if the global warming trend continues (barring the halting of the thermo-haline conveyor, making the N. Atlantic colder).
[Response: If you take a small enough "region" you can still find some places that are getting colder. Perhaps the interior Antarctic surface is the largest of these. Apart from that, for anything roughly as big as Europe, basically everything is warming now. --raypierre]
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Dec 2007 @ 2:05 PM
ICE, why do you think that? You can look it up.
For example, the US Navy has published quite a bit of its older data on Arctic sea ice thickness, declassified thanks to then Senator Al Gore. The area declassified was referred to as the “Gore Box” on the Arctic ice maps. The Navy has also made scientific trips using their nuclear submarines.
Ask for more help if you can’t find the information, let us know what searches you try and how far you get.
A new study comparing the composite output of 22 leading global climate models with actual climate data finds that the models do an unsatisfactory job of mimicking climate change in key portions of the atmosphere.
This research, published online in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology, raises new concerns about the reliability of models used to forecast global warming.
Scientists from [the University of] Rochester, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and the University of Virginia compared the climate change “forecasts” from the 22 most widely-cited global circulation models with tropical temperature data collected by surface, satellite and balloon sensors. The models predicted that the lower atmosphere should warm significantly more than it actually did.
raypierre, you’re blogging deserves a Kofax. There is none better.
The reports you have given are shocking, even to those of us who follow climate change closely. Your reports are showing that not only has the Arctic sea ice just passed a tipping point, but the Arctic ocean and atmospheric circulation is beginning an irreversible change.
The thin layer of fresh water over the Pacific and Atlantic water in the Arctic appears to be getting advected out of the Arctic. Oceanic heat release to the Arctic appears to be increasing rapidly. This could be the beginning of a change of global oceanic circulation patterns. Any comments on this hypothesis?
Re #15: The effect on any locality can be highly variable and this rapid loss of sea ice was not forecast, so I would not put too much weight on local forcasts from the models.
However, the high latitudes as a whole will get much warmer and wetter as a whole as a result of less ice cover. More open ocean means more evaporation and heat transfer, which means more rain and warmth for the locations that the moisture travels to. It’ll go somewhere, the unknown is where.
Ray, properly put I think that technical term should be “shrubberyfication.” It’ll be time to get really worried when we start seeing little white picket fences appear around those patches of shrubbery. :)
Ray, thank you for the on-the-scene reporting and the excellent commentary.
According to your piece, Mark Serreze commented that:
[Factors contributing to the unusual 2007 drop include an unusual pattern of atmospheric circulation, with high pressure over the Central Arctic and low pressure over Siberia. This brings a lot of warm air into the Arctic. How does this fit into the longer term pattern? It comes back to the thinning again: the sea ice was so vulnerable to this situation (which has happened before) because it is so thin.]
What came first, the high and low pressure which amplified the meltback; or, the rapid meltback (inflow of warm Pacific) which made the high and low formation possible and thus, amplified the meltback?
Comment by John L. McCormick — 12 Dec 2007 @ 4:20 PM
Brad 6. 30 billion of 10 thousand billion tonnes. 3e10 of 1e13 -> 3 of 1e3 Now that’s only zero point three percent of the ‘known’ calthrate reserves. Do we have sensor arrays sitting over the most vulnerable deposits giving us daily temperature by depth?
With increased wind energy already turning over the southern ocean to the extent that it has diminished its ability to absorb CO2, that same overturning is, I imagine, moving energy deeper into the ocean. Recent events in the north Pacific and Arctic oceans imply similar processes leading to warming of the deeper waters. And no place is safe from this effect as ocean circulation will carry that energy away from the areas of stronger winds to other interesting places – some probably with calthrates ready to pop.
Is there a map of calthrate disposits figured by relative vulnerability? (temperature, depth, strength of benthal currents, location wrt up-stream heat sinks etc)
Is it fair to say that when this gas starts heading for the surface it will induce a convection motion in cells in the water column whereby the core of uprising water will be matched by an outer down current that will bring still more warm surface water down over the deposit which will hasten the rate of release and increase the area of release as well. So once the first bit of the calthrate deposit starts to gas, then the resulting convection system will see a rapid spread of bottom-temperature rise with consequent further release in a chain-reaction format.
This process will only come to a halt when the calthrate in an area is depleted or the lateral leap to the next deposit is outside the influence of the convection cells.
There are stories about ships disappearing in such gas bubbles. We could be looking at civilisations disappearing! Gulp.
Has this convection process been modelled at any scale?
Thank you for keeping us up to date on the presentations. The latest studies on the Arctic are particularly interesting. The situation is more critical there than originally predicted. If 2007 is the new 2020, then what will 2020 be? It’s not pleasant to contemplate.
It’s especially gratifying to hear that capable young people are entering the field. It sounds like the future of climate science will be in good hands.
[Response: It has to do with the question of how much SO2 you could build up on Early Mars. An idea that some colleagues at Harvard got me interested in. I have a handle on the infrared effects of SO2, but Kevin Zahnle thinks SO2 photolysis would wipe out the effect I'm hoping for. We shall see. --raypierre]
I’d love to hear more about “Studying Climate Dynamics with Idealized Atmospheric GCM’s”. (one thought – changing the longwave radiative properties of the atmosphere should affect the thermal damping of various kinds of waves like gravity waves and planetary waves, affecting perhaps the QBO and the occurence of sudden stratospheric warmings, and also the way energy from extratropical cyclones is exchanged between the troposphere and stratosphere (also affected by changing tropopause height and wind shear, I’d think). Anyboby working on that?)
(Also, I would be very interested in what somebody from RealClimate thinks of “With Speed and Violence”. Half way through the book now myself. So far it looks mostly accurate (and indeed alarming) as far as I know, though I suspect some clarifications and corrections could be made (in rate of global warming at end of Younger Dryas (?), attribution of x% of last century’s warming to solar effects, changes in ‘deep time’ (author mentions neoproterozoic snowball earth but skips over any paleozoic glaciations – an understandable oversimplication given the primary subject matter, but still…), etc… At the same time I’ve learned that pollution tends to persist longer in the Arctic due to low atmospheric hydroxyl levels (due to less sunlight – UV in particular).)
Shrubbification is of course in reference to our country’s leader President Bush. Molly Ivins (may the Great Spirit bless her soul) used to call him shrub when he was here in Texas. It would only be fitting for a significant feedback mechanism, a complicated little piece of climatology, to be named in reference, maybe not to the greatest climate change obfuscator of all times, but certainly to the most important.
Thanks for all the important work that you guys do. And, yes we have crossed a threshold. I had to go see for myself this summer. Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat and 2,000 miles in Alaska, and yes, things seem to have accelerated significantly.
Regarding Polar Bears during the he Eemian interglacial – I read that the modern Polar Bear evolved from the Grizzly Bears over the past 100,000 years, so they didn’t even exist during the Eemian interglacial period (which was, I think, a bit over 100,000 years ago.) So it if the Arctic Ocean was ice free, maybe some other large mammal went extinct and the polar bear moved into its niche.
Yes, I recently read in Six Degrees by Mark Lynas that polar bears have only recently separated from brown bears as a distinct species. Lynas has been reasonably careful to source his material from scientific literature.
From Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bears
“…recent genetic studies have shown that some clades of Brown Bear are more closely related to polar bears than to other brown bears, meaning that the polar bear is not a true species according to some species concepts. In addition, polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly–polar bear hybrids, indicating that they have only recently diverged and are not yet truly distinct species. But neither species can survive long in the other’s niche, and with distinctly different morphology, metabolism, social and feeding behaviors, and other phenotypic characters, the two bears are generally classified as separate species.”
Page 8 of the following document gives two estimates of the divergence of brown and polar bears based on two papers: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/pdf/Polar_Bear_%20Status_Assessment.pdf
“Age models based on molecular studies of evolutionary relationships among extant species of bears differ considerably as to the divergence time of polar bears from grizzly bears. Wayne et al. (1991) suggested this happened 70,000 – 100,000 yrs ago while Yu et al. (2004) concluded this might have happened 100,000 – 150,000 yrs ago.”
Peter Wadhams is one of the people who’s been looking into this. There’s an essay of his here which alludes to the techniques used (direct measurement by submarine) http://www.imarest.org/news/ProfWadhams.pdf
“It is very difficult to measure ice thickness from satellites. Sea ice sheets contain
cells of liquid brine which prevent satellite-based radar from penetrating to the bottom.
Methods that depend on measuring the height of the top surface above sea level (radar
and laser altimeters) suffer from our lack of knowledge of snow depths and of snow and
ice density. The best solution has proved to be measurements from below by moving
vehicles, that is, submarines. Since 1958 the US has been sending submarines under the
Arctic ice and profiling the draft of the ice using upward looking sonar. They were
joined in 1971 by UK submarines, and since that time every UK submarine voyage to the
Arctic has included a scientist in its complement, usually myself…”
“The most startling result of the work of our US colleagues and ourselves was our
independent discoveries that the Arctic ice has been undergoing a dramatic thinning.
Comparison of data from the 1970s and from the 1990s shows a mean loss of more than
40% of thickness during this period. The US and the UK data covered different regions of
the Arctic but gave the same percentage loss of thickness.”
I’ve got some more stuff of his e.g.
“Measurement of Arctic sea-ice thickness by submarine 5 years after SCICEX” Hughes/Wadhams Annals of Glaciology 44 2006. and conference proceedings from World Climate Research Programme Tromso Norway April 2002. I think I got these from Nick Hughes’ pages at http://www.sams.ac.uk/research/sams-scientific-staff/NickHughes – but that site’s down right now.
“Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.
Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.
Professor Wieslaw Maslowski told an American Geophysical Union meeting that previous projections had underestimated the processes now driving ice loss.
Summer melting this year reduced the ice cover to 4.13 million sq km, the smallest ever extent in modern times.
Remarkably, this stunning low point was not even incorporated into the model runs of Professor Maslowski and his team, which used data sets from 1979 to 2004 to constrain their future projections.”
If I am not mistaken: I still see good reason to view perennial ice as a damping factor on the summer’s powerful ice-albedo feedback. From that broad brush point of view bifurcation seems likely once the ice is thinned to a certain point. However as Mark Serreze is quoted in that article:
“I think Wieslaw is probably a little aggressive in his projections, simply because the luck of the draw means natural variability can kick in to give you a few years in which the ice loss is a little less than you’ve had in previous years. But Wieslaw is a smart guy and it would not surprise me if his projections came out.”
Re #30 I wonder how certain it is that the jawbone found is from a member of Ursus maritimus – the polar bear we know now. Ursus maritimus is very closely related to Ursus arctos, the brown (including grizzly) bear: the two produce fertile offspring and sometimes interbreed in the wild, as confirmed by DNA testing of a bear shot in Canada in 2006 (which incidentally raises the question of whether they should be regarded as separate species). Mammalian adaptation to Arctic conditions is in many ways predictable (e.g. white fur, shorter limbs, and most relevant in this case, smaller facial features), so it may be that the “polar bear” as a phenotype became extinct in the Eemian, then re-evolved. The re-evolved version would not be exactly the same, but with a single jawbone to go on, I doubt this possibility can be ruled out.
Concerning the effects of rapid Arctic sea ice melting
If Arctic sea ice is retreating much faster than projected, this might also have effects far beyond the Arctic region. Stronger Arctic sea ice retreat means a faster amplification of Arctic warming which leads to a more rapid decrease of the Pole-Equator temperature gradient. And this could have implications on other related changes (northward shift of storm tracks, northward extension of the Hadley cell), at least in summer and autumn. Thus, some of the expected related changes (e.g. more and longer droughts in subtropical regions like the Mediterranean or even more northwards) could maybe also happen much faster than expected. What do you think?
Re #13 and #31. Looks like Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University presented at AGU Cryosphere Group in SF on Tuesday. The abstract was listed as:
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness – Past, Present And Future
Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Wilberforce Road, Cambridge, CB3 0WA, United Kingdom
In November 2005 the International Workshop on Arctic Sea Ice Thickness: Past, Present and Future was held at Rungstedgaard Conference Center, near Copenhagen, Denmark. The proceedings of the Workshop were subsequently published as a book by the European Commission. In this review we summarise the conclusions of the Workshop on the techniques which show the greatest promise for thickness monitoring on different spatial and temporal scales, and for different purposes. Sonic methods, EM techniques, buoys and satellite methods will be considered. Some copies of the book will be available at the lecture, and others can be ordered from the European Commission. The paper goes on to consider early results from some of the latest measurements on Arctic sea ice thickness done in 2007. These comprise a trans-Arctic voyage by a UK submarine, HMS “Tireless”, equipped with a Kongsberg 3002 multibeam sonar which generates a 3-D digital terrain map of the ice underside; and experiments at the APLIS ice station in the Beaufort Sea carried out by the Gavia AUV equipped with a GeoSwath interferometric sonar. In both cases 3-D mapping of sea ice constitutes a new step forward in sea ice data collection, but in the case of the submarine the purpose is to map change in ice thickness (comparing results with a 2004 “Tireless” cruise and with US and UK data prior to 2000), while for the small AUV the purpose is intensive local mapping of a few ridges to improve our knowledge of their structure, as part of a multisensor programme.
Perhaps someone has a copy of his most up-to-date paper? In any case, the book he refers to, as co-editor, is available here:
In that book, there is a section titled ‘Arctic Sea Ice Thickness – A Review of Current Techniques and Future Possibilities’ by Peter Wadhams that is most interesting. You can find it on pages 12 through 21.
I read it in Mark Lynas’ book, Six Degrees. He has lots of citations, but no citation for that claim, now that I look. It would be interesting to know who is right! I’m not much of an evolutionary biologist, so I have no idea how much speciation takes place in 100,000 years, but I would think geneticists would be able to figure out how long ago brown bears and polar bears were the same species.
“Talbot and Shields (1996b) found mtDNA sequence divergence rates similar to those reported by Cronin et al. (1991), and proposed that ancestors of the Alexander Archipelago brown bears diverged from the other mtDNA lineages of brown bears 550,000� to 700,000 years ago. The mtDNA sequence divergences also suggested that polar bears branched from the Alexander Archepelago ancestral stock of brown bears about 200,000 �to 250,000 years ago, a date closely corresponding with that suggested in the fossil record (Thenius 1953; Kurt�en 1964)….”
Re. 29, 30, 37 Polar Bears.
This is somewhat frustrating as I posted a reply about polar bears 18 hours ago and its not appeared.
Basically the following document contains two published estimates of the date of divergence of polar and brown bears: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/pdf/Polar_Bear_%20Status_Assessment.pdf
“Age models based on molecular studies of evolutionary relationships among extant species of bears differ considerably as to the divergence time of polar bears from grizzly bears. Wayne et al. (1991) suggested this happened 70,000 – 100,000 yrs ago while Yu et al. (2004) concluded this might have happened 100,000 – 150,000 yrs ago.”
The refernces are:
Wayne, R.K., B.V. Valkenburgh, and S.J. O’Brien. 1991. Molecular distance and divergence time in carnivores and primates. Molecular Biology and Evolution 8(3):297-319.
Yu, L., Q-W. Li, O.S.Ryder, and Y-P. Zhang Y-P. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships within mammalian order Carnivora indicated by sequences of two nuclear DNA genes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 33: 694-705.
Re. 30. Can a jaw bone could be used to distinguish polar and grizzly bears? Even so the date is 110-130 kyr – the warmiest peak of the Eemian was around 125kyr – and speciation would first involve isolation of a sub-population of grizzly bears and then divergence. A jaw bone would not reveal whether polar bears had yet become dependent on sea ice for habitat.
Note that polar bears can interbreed with grizzlies and produce fertile offspring: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bears
“However, more recent genetic studies have shown that some clades of Brown Bear are more closely related to polar bears than to other brown bears, meaning that the polar bear is not a true species according to some species concepts.In addition, polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly–polar bear hybrids, indicating that they have only recently diverged and are not yet truly distinct species.”
The Wiki site has the date of divergence at roughly 200,000 years ago.
1) During his Arctic amplification discussion, Mark Serreze showed a 2D plot of Arctic temperature anomaly with month on the horizontal axis and year on the vertical. It clearly showed the winter temperatures increasing much more rapidly than summertime temperature. I can’t remember what he called this plot but I wonder if it can be posted here.
2) I missed Lonnie Thompson’s talk. Was it a one-time broadcast stream or is it archived somewhere?
3) There was a great question after the Serreze presentation regarding geophysical risk terminology. A seismologist (I think) pointed out that bridges and buildings in California must be constructed to take into account the most *conservative* estimate of potential seismic loading, meaning the worst case (maximum possible displacement over maximum possible length). But the *conservative* estimate of climate risk would be the most optimistic case (minumum possible change). She asked if it wasn’t time for climate scientists to use the word *conservative* the same way everybody else does when referring to risk.
#35 Urs Neu,
I think that the climate implications of a rapid transition to a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean MIGHT be the primary current issue for policy makers.
IF we can expect a detrimental impact on precipitation distribution and/or timing within a couple of decades at the outside, then in terms of infrastructure/argicultural timescales, NOW is the time to act (if Mazlowski’s correct it may be too late to anticipate – our only attainable option would be reaction).
However I am unable to get a handle on the problem, and I’m not sure this is due to my lack of a formal education in this matter. I get the impression nobody knows.
I’ve recently read Seidel et al which, to me, hammers home the point that we don’t seem to know enough to convert a broad grasp of largescale atmospheric process response into specific guidance on impacts. They discuss the widening of the tropics. Which may not seem immediately relevant to some reading this, but the tropics are in the most basic sense just the hot end of the atmospheric heat engine, the poles being the cold end.
Your suggestion of drought interests me because it’s the sort of pattern outlined in Seager et al. However that’s with respect to a projected pattern of GW, which does not seem to me to be the same as an ahead-of-schedule seasonally ice-free Arctic. One major issue is that a rapid loss of Arctic ice would cause a rapid reduction in pole-equator heat gradient. Ultimately GW would do likewise but it seems to me that this could bring elements of that issue ahead of time – large scale climatic system changes without the associated projected degree of warming. Furthermore the implications of increased latent heat from evaporation seem to me to make this a special case.
To quote from Serreze et al:
“In their modeling study,Magnusdottir et al. (36)
found that declining ice in the Atlantic sector promotes
a negative NAO-NAM atmospheric circulation
response, with a weaker, southward-shifted
storm track. Singarayer et al. (37) forced the Hadley
Centre Atmospheric Model with observed sea ice
from 1980 to 2000 and projected sea-ice reductions
until 2100. In one simulation, mid-latitude storm
tracks were intensified, increasing precipitation over
western and southern Europe in winter. Experiments
by Sewall and Sloan (38) revealed impacts on
extrapolar precipitation patterns leading to reduced
rainfall in the American West. Although results
from different experiments with different designs
vary, the common thread is that sea ice matters.”
Is there reason to start ringing the alarm bells on this?
Are our governments being appraised of the risk that the situation in the Arctic could mean much much more than just the risk of Polar Bears allegedly drowning?
Will news like this get worse more quickly than most of us fear?
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7004409.stm
“World wheat prices have risen to a 10-year high following a dramatic fall in harvests sparked by a severe drought in Australia and crop diseases across parts of Europe and the Americas. Meanwhile, demand for wheat-based produce is reaching record levels and the land once used to grow wheat is being threatened by the demand for biofuel crops.”
Boslough asked: “3) There was a great question after the Serreze presentation regarding geophysical risk terminology. A seismologist (I think) pointed out that bridges and buildings in California must be constructed to take into account the most *conservative* estimate of potential seismic loading, meaning the worst case (maximum possible displacement over maximum possible length). But the *conservative* estimate of climate risk would be the most optimistic case (minumum possible change). She asked if it wasn’t time for climate scientists to use the word *conservative* the same way everybody else does when referring to risk.”
Ooh! Excellent question! This question provides an excellent illustration of the difference between science and engineering. A scientist is interested in whether an effect is present and in how significant it could be for the physical system. A scientist is interested in HOW the system works. An engineer is interested in WHETHER it will work–or more specifically, whether it will fulfill its intended function.
This is probably one reason why the economic analyses (with the exception of the Stern Report) have tended to be rather complacent. Economics has to worry about how the system fulfills its purpose. As such, it should be done using engineering estimates, rather than scientific analyses.